Song: O Praise The Name (Anástasis)

This choice might be surprising. My general preference for hymns and songs is that they are traditional. And most usually don’t have choruses. And most aren’t written by Hillsong.

To be fair, this song has a lot of what makes a good hymn or song. Words that speak of the Gospel. A song through which we can praise and worship God. A strong tune and harmony that is more interesting than many modern worship songs (*ducks*)

There are four verses. The first tells of Jesus’ death. The second of the dark days between Good Friday and Easter Sunday. The third is perhaps my favourite; after the darkness and pain of Jesus’ death, it tells of His glorious resurrection. It probably helps that the tune is transposed up in this verse, which just helps to add to the joy. The final verse hopes for Jesus’ return. And in between, a chorus of praise.

On reflection, I think this is a worship song I prefer to listen to. And I don’t mean to say I don’t enjoy singing it; I just think that whilst it’s an excellent song, I prefer singing other things. But I could listen to it on repeat for days, using it as a tool to worship God.

Music as Worship

It’s important to remember that worship is not exclusively singing and music-making. However, music plays a hugely important part in worship and in praising God.

I’m much more likely to use traditional hymns to worship. Knowing that they’ve got a background – having been sung for generations, knowing that they’ve been used to praise and worship God for a long time – is one reason. Another being the fact that I prefer the music… (ducks).

The Psalms are a great example of singing God’s praises. Many of them are themselves songs, others, like Psalm 150, encouraging singing, dancing, and playing instruments to praise God.

And when a full congregation is singing their heart out, lifting up their voices to worship God, it’s so uplifting and so joyous. Even more so because we are all singing with one purpose: to bring praise and glory to God.

Prayer Meetings, or, Why I Get Up On Monday Mornings

Do all this in prayer, asking for God’s help. Pray on every occasion, as the Spirit leads. For this reason keep alert and never give up; pray always for all God’s people.” – Ephesians 6:18

Prayer meetings are great. There’s something so powerful, so refreshing, so equipping to have people praying together at 8am on a Monday morning. Leading prayer meetings is a bit more of a challenge (especially as a quieter person), but nonetheless rewarding.

I really enjoyed leading our CU prayer meeting today, especially planning it. Digging out the right Bible passages, deciding how we were praying and what we were praying for. Creating something that people could take away and pray on over the week.

We started with worship – I know many of my friends find that worship helps them concentrate on prayer, and we don’t often start a prayer meeting with worship. So I decided to start by singing. Worshipping God together is such a joyful activity!

The running theme of the prayer meetings this term is the Lord’s Prayer. We’re looking at it line-by-line, and so I was given “Give us this day our daily bread”. It’s hugely important to remember that God provides for us. God is gracious and giving. We can receive spiritual nourishment from the Bible, but God also provides us with more practical things. The first example that comes to mind is the house I’m currently living in. One of my housemates said at one point, and I definitely agree, “God put our house together.” I’ll probably explain that in a sentimental post when I’m moving out.

Anyway. This line also reminds us that all things come from God, and so we should give thanks for them. I found a great part of Deuteronomy that unfortunately we didn’t get time to read in the prayer meeting, but it was a great reminder of how good God is and how much we have to thank Him for.

I chose to do this section as one big group so that, in thanking God for His goodness, we could hear exactly how great He is. It was great to have so many people thanking God for so many things.

One of the things I took away from Forum was the importance of prayer. Just how amazing it is that we can talk with God and know that He will answer our prayers. And that it’s so important to keep on praying. So it was important to me that there was something to take away. Something to remind us during the week to keep praying. And, indeed, what to pray for. Taking half a minute before praying to write down our prayer points on a piece of paper (divided into sections so we know what we’re praying for!) turned out to be a useful focus during the meeting, and it created a take-away that people can pray for over the course of the week.

When I was younger I hated prayers. They seemed so boring, so long. Every “Amen” was said in hope that it was the last one. But now I love prayers. It’s definitely a duty to pray. But it’s also a real privilege.

Hymns: Like a Mighty River Flowing

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:7

Like a mighty river flowing
Like a flower in beauty growing
Far beyond all human knowing
Is the perfect peace of God.”

Music often reminds me of certain situations. So it is with this music. I love the tune, and the harmonies. I love the words. But it takes me back to a point last year where I wasn’t in the best of places. When I just felt a deep longing and melancholy. When I was counting down the weeks until my parents came to visit. When I was going on walks at night just to feel some of God’s peace and presence. So it should really be no surprise that, when this piece came to mind earlier today, I started to feel just a little homesick.

When my parents came up to visit, I stayed with them for a night in the Yorkshire Dales.

Like the hills serene and even
Like the coursing clouds of heaven
Like a heart that’s been forgiven
Is the perfect peace of God.”

This piece is so evocative of the beauty I found there, and often crave. If I start to feel homesick, sad, lonely, or isolated, I look to where I experience God the most. In creation, and in tradition. I love worshipping in the same building as people from hundreds of years ago. Singing the same hymns as people from hundreds of years ago. And knowing that I worship the same, unchanging God as them.

But I also experience God in creation. And that’s something I don’t see too much of during term time. So weirdly I’m currently a little bit “homesick” for that.

The hymn is so evocative of everything that I crave so much. Yet it has the answer as well. I know I’m at uni and don’t have the chance to experience everything it suggests. But everything it suggests is in comparison to the amazing presence and peace of God. The peace that passes all understanding. I guess this means a little re-evaluation. What do I really want?

It’s all pointing to my need of God. His peace, His love, His compassion. Something so vast, so valuable, and so unimaginable.

Like the azure ocean swelling
Like the jewel all-excelling
Far beyond our human telling
Is the perfect peace of God”

Toasties: Thoughts, Trust and Encouragement

God is so good.

The first few weeks of term have been so encouraging from a CU point of view. We’ve had freshers turn up who are enthusiastic about sharing the Gospel. We’ve had freshers turn up who desperately needed the Gospel and are beginning to find it. And then we had tonight.

I really should be in bed right now – it’s been a fairly long day and it’s already gone midnight. But I have to get this into writing before bed. Then I feel I can properly reflect on, and thank God for, such a wonderful evening.

The day passed off normally. I went to the Church Bible study, then had a couple of seminars, and then started setting up for the café we have at CU. In everything we do at CU, we aim to love, to serve, and to spread the Gospel. The café is our way of loving and serving, and hopefully the Gospel shines through that – we don’t want it to be too evangelistic, but we want to build up a healthy relationship with the college so that our evangelism can be more effective.

After the café we had a Bible study. There were over 20 of us there. We started in prayer and worship. The passage was from John, and the study was interesting and I feel like I got a lot out of it. We concluded in prayer and, excited after the Bible study, started to prepare for Toasties.

We got, relative to other weeks, a lot of orders. There were a lot of questions. Thankfully there was a lot of people on hand to answer them. And from those half-baked questions that just came up in discussion with flatmates, we were able to have some fantastic conversations. There were questions about misogyny, LGBT, and even about dinosaurs (although I doubt that was a serious question, and was just an excuse to have a toastie…)

And from those conversations it was hugely encouraging to see some genuine interest. I’ll talk in a later article about someone who wanted to know more.

As we were setting down, we realised there were a lot of flyers for our event tomorrow left over, so we figured it would be a good idea to put them into as many postboxes as we could this evening. I managed to get round about 10 houses before I got to a house where there were people smoking outside. I explained that I was delivering flyers for the CU, and they seemed interested. I had a long conversation about music with someone, and invited them to CU.

Thinking back about earlier on in the day, it had seemed so normal. But little things happened during the day. As part of my French seminar, I had to explain the relevance of the birth of Jesus to Christianity (it was in comparison to the importance of the French Revolution in the history of Republican France, although naturally Jesus is far more important than revolutionary Frenchpeople. No offence to the French, bien sûr!). I was pretty excited that I was asked that particular question. And then things improved immeasurably at CU.

One of the things that I really felt made a difference was our attitude. Our College Reps were stressed, dealing with life and work, and so it felt like we were putting more and more in God’s hands. It is something we try to do anyway, but it is often so hard to let go and put our trust completely in God.

This week, I feel, we left so much up to God. The questions we got asked were not easy questions to answer. But we spent time in prayer, with faith that God would speak through us and that we might sow seeds in people’s minds, that we might intrigue and inspire them to know God a little more.

And I am so glad we did.

Today was better than I could have ever hoped. I will probably be crying tonight as I thank God for all His power, His love, His goodness. I will be praying for every person I met. Every person who has heard some of the Gospel tonight. Anyone who still wishes to learn more, or who didn’t have the confidence to ask this week. For those people considering coming to the lunchbar. For everyone that God used in whatever way.

Tonight was so special. I pray that we could continue to trust in God, and continue to be a blessing to the members of our college. I pray that we could continue to answer questions thoughtfully, prayerfully and in a Bible- and Gospel-focussed way. I pray that we could continue to form relationships with our college, so that many more may come to know His glory.

Perhaps the Lord…

Hymns: The Day Thou Gavest

It’s been a very long and hectic few days. I’ve packed and unpacked and packed again, and now I’m in Shropshire at Forum, having moved into my house for the next year two days ago. Being back at my uni church was really good, and seeing how much God has blessed my friends there over the holidays has been really encouraging.

Another thing that’s encouraged me recently is this hymn. The day thou gavest is often used in the evening or in remembrance. But I also find it pretty encouraging during the day.

It reminds us that everything is God’s gift to us. But that’s not all. It speaks of constant praise to God, both our own, and of brothers and sisters in Christ around the world. Knowing that there are so many people across the world living and breathing God’s love all the time is just so encouraging and inspiring.

Hymns: May the Mind of Christ, My Saviour

Remember that I commanded you to be strong and brave. Don’t be afraid, because the Lord your God will be with you everywhere you go.” – Joshua 1:9

May the Mind of Christ, My Saviour is another of my favourite hymns. As with many of my favourite hymns, it is prayerful. It asks for God’s help so we can help others, as well as asking for God’s love, peace and power. It reminds me of God’s importance; “so that all may see I triumph only through His power.” This phrase, for me, underlines how important God is, and how easy it is to forget that. How easy it is for others to see my achievements as my own, rather than God’s. And, indeed, just how much God has given me.

Whilst I love the whole hymn, I particularly like the final verse:

May we run the race before us,
strong and brave to face the foe,
looking only unto Jesus
as we onward go.

For me, it serves as a reminder that we should not be afraid of anything that we will face; we should instead be focussed on Jesus. We know that God will be with us; and that’s quite easy for me to forget.

And as always, the music is just as important to me as the words. A simple yet beautiful tune and harmony make this hymn one of my favourites.