Saturday, 28 March 2009

Chill Out

Although I haven’t done the maths, these are probably my second and third most-used words at the moment.* As I support students in Christian Unions, I seem to say it a lot. But occasionally people misunderstand what I mean, to the extent that I might be getting a reputation as a liberal, or lazy, or both. So here’s what I mean.

This isn’t about just telling students to calm down a bit, although they sometimes need to. Think about what people usually mean when they say "chill out." They usually mean stop caring, abandon your responsibilities and think about yourself more. But that’s not how Christians should chill out (which is probably why I’ve been misunderstood before now).

No, this is about the gospel. It’s about the awesome, liberating truth that Jesus died in our place so we can be reconciled to the God we rejected. We rebelled against a God who is worthy of infinite glory and honour, and so we’ve committed the ultimate crime. And the ultimate crime deserves the ultimate punishment. So there is nothing we could possibly do to save ourselves. But the brilliant news is, God loves us so much that he has sorted it out. His own Son, the Lord Jesus, willingly dies in our place and took the punishment we deserve. We don’t have to do anything, because there’s nothing we can do! And now we can have a restored relationship with the God we rejected, we’re adopted into his family, and it’s a relationship we can enjoy for eternity.

When I tell a Christian to chill out, I’m saying take everything that means – our changed status, our changed relationship, our changed future – and live your life in the light of it. If we really grasp how the gospel changes reality for us, it will turn things upside down. And it will give us room to chill out.

So “chill out” doesn’t mean it’s OK to be lazy. But it means there’s nothing we can do to earn our forgiveness or work our way into God’s good books. So we don’t have to slave away as God’s servants; we can joyfully serve him as sons and daughters.

“Chill out” doesn’t mean stop reading the Bible or praying. But it means that, through God’s grace in Jesus, we can have a restored relationship with the God who made us. So reading God’s word and speaking to God should be an exciting, joyful prospect, not a chore.

“Chill out” doesn’t mean forget about doctrine. But it means that there is space for differences of opinion. There is room to be generous as we work through the issues that diverse brings up, because we have a solid truth to stand firm on as we do it.

“Chill out” doesn’t mean don’t bother with holiness. But it means that we are made holy and blameless through the death of Jesus on the cross – we need to trust in his obedience, not ours. And when we slip up, we can go back to him for forgiveness. There is always more grace.

“Chill out” doesn’t mean don’t bother with evangelism. But it means that salvation is a gracious gift from God. We can’t save ourselves, and we can’t save anyone else. So as we do our part in sharing the gospel with people who don’t know Jesus, we can trust God to do his part in rescuing people.

Got it yet? Basically, “chill out” doesn’t mean stop being so Christian. It means be more of one – make it all about Jesus and hold on to the gospel. He said himself, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” So you can chill out.

*NB: #1 is hopefully grace.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

I ♥ Surrey too...

Apparently I blog disproportionately more about RUCU than I do about Surrey CU. So I thought I'd add this slightly gratuitous post about them to keep them sweet.

I spent yesterday with the committee, talking about their aims for the coming year. Sadly that meant I had to miss Saturday Kitchen, but I think it was worth it. It was exciting to hear them think in a Christ-centred, gospel-focussed way about what they currently do and what they can change. And it was a real joy to see their desire to be united in the gospel.

There were some amusing moments. I'm still shoecked at the amount of delight a bag of Kinder eggs can generate. And I think I proved myself a force to be reckoned with in the banter stakes... Basically, I love these guys!*

[* For the record, I love my other CUs too, obv.]

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Never Let the Gospel Get Smaller!

I guess it's a bit cheeky nicking entire blog posts, but I LOVE this from John Piper. I think out of everything I've learned from the guy, this emphasis is probably the one which has affected me most, and it's one I try to get across to students whenever I can. Anyway, it's brilliant. Print it out and stick in on your fridge!

Here is a simple exhortation that I have been trying to implement in our family:

Seek to see and feel the gospel as bigger as years go by rather than smaller.

Our temptation is to think that the gospel is for beginners and then we go on to greater things. But the real challenge is to see the gospel as the greatest thing—and getting greater all the time.

The Gospel gets bigger when, in your heart,

* grace gets bigger;
* Christ gets greater;
* his death gets more wonderful;
* his resurrection gets more astonishing;
* the work of the Spirit gets mightier;
* the power of the gospel gets more pervasive;
* its global extent gets wider;
* your own sin gets uglier;
* the devil gets more evil;
* the gospel's roots in eternity go deeper;
* its connections with everything in the Bible and in the world get stronger;
* and the magnitude of its celebration in eternity gets louder.

So keep this in mind: Never let the gospel get smaller in your heart.

Pray that it won’t. Read solid books on it. Sing about it. Tell someone about it who is ignorant or unsure about it.

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel.... For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. (1 Corinthians 15:1-4)

Saturday, 7 March 2009

The Lost Month

OK, so the blog has been on something of a hiatus for the past month. Basically, it's been crazy. Missions, training weekends, more missions... So much has happened that I can't write it all down. But it's been quality, so I thought I'd give you some highlights:

RUCU Events Week (a.k.a. Marquee, Mark and the Funky Bunch!)
You heard about day one. Things carried on pretty well for the week. We had lots of people to lunch bars each day, and we refined the soup-making method so that by Friday, it was quite nice. And we had some really good evening events too (like the curry night, pictured left, where Will interviews Olympic silver medallist and Christian Debbie Flood!) And, most importantly, lots of people got to hear about Jesus during the week! One person decided to follow Jesus during the week, and lots more are looking at Mark's gospel to find out more.

RUCU Small Group Leaders' Training Weekend
I had a great weekend with the small group leaders from RUCU at their weekend away. It was a real privilege to be able to kick of the weekend with a reminder of just how great the good news of Jesus is, and the riches of his grace. And I loved spending time helping them think through how to prepare Bible studies. My aim was to get them excited about being able to study the Bible, and to aim to get their small groups excited too.

Highlight:The Amazing Magical Bible Colouring Book Trick and waking up the chaps with some choice S Club classics. And some pretty spectacular banter too. I love these guys.

Surrey CU FREE Week
Within hours of returning from the weekend away, it was off to Surrey for their FREE week. I have to admit, my expectations were blown out of the water on this one! I arrived at the lunchbar to find a packed out lecture theatre, with about 30 non-Christians present. Attendance stayed at 70-80 all week, and at one lunchbar there were nearly 50 non-Christians there! Al MacInnes did a great job of presenting the gospel clearly at each event, and lots of people came back each day. On the Tuesday I took part in the Grill-a-Christian - not the funnest Tuesday I ever had, but it definitely forced me to rely on God's grace! Lots of people heard the gospel message during the week, and lots of people are studying Mark with friends or going along to Alpha! The whole week was a real challenge to my attitude, and it was also a LOT of fun.

Highlight: Introducing Hot Vimto to Surrey CU, and Wednesday's epic lunch!

South East New Leaders Weekend
This is probably my favourite weekend of the year so far! How could it not be? We basically got together a whole load of CU leaders from the wonderful South East region, mixed in our lovely UCCF team and other invited friends, had some great teaching from Michael and Rosemary Green, and had lots of fun too. I led seminars on being an administrator (possibly one of the coolest spiritual gifts if you ask me, or any of the people in my seminar!) and on being Motivated by Grace - good times!
Highlight: Also, Midnight Badminton accompanied by a soundtrack of showtunes and Disney songs...

'Favourite' Quote (courtesy of Becky): You remind me of humour... Humour Simpson.

Eastbourne Mission Week
And I spent 3 days last week down in Eastbourne helping with their mission week. One highlight was the 5-a-side football tournament, where 50 lads sat and listened to the testimonies of two guys in CU. Another was Pirate Adventure Golf with Ben and Nick. Technically, Nick won, but the hole-in-one I scored meant I won the moral victory!
On the Friday night I spoke on the cross from Mark 15. I'd prepared a pretty full-on talk, thinking it would be in a room in the Union. In the end, it was moved to the bar (the bar lady didn't look too pleased when I started describing crucifixion in detail...). One guy looked uncomfortable all the way through, but I kept going. I thought he was desperate to leave, but after the talk he chatted to two of his friends in the CU, and then went for a walk to think about it all. So if praying's your thing, then do be praying for him, and for the copies of Mark's gospel that were given out.

So, that was the month that was. To be honest, I still can't quite believe I have this job!