Monday, July 16, 2012

A New Name: Cadaver cloaked in sequins

The face of anorexia is not a glossy model in a perfume ad. It’s a starving animal, circling the empty cupboards, blank-eyed and vacant. It’s a face frozen in a rictus grin, mouthing lies. ‘I’m fine,’ it says. ‘Everything is under control.’ ‘I have always felt hungry,’ says Emma Scrivener.

Emma Scriverner's book is out on July 20th. It's called A New Name.

‘Not just for food, but for everything: from money to recognition. I’m a human chasm, a vortex of insatiable longing.’ Rescued from a disorder that nearly killed her, Emma is now passionate about warning others about the dark and hidden world she inhabited for too long.

Harrowing, heart-breaking, human and humorous, this book will grip you from start to finish. Wonder with Emma as God’s grace breaks through and reshapes her heart and thinking, redeeming that which had seemed lost. Emma's personal story of the God who is for the good girls as well as the bad.

‘A moving and beautifully written book for all who want to think through what it is to be human. Utterly enthralling and eye-opening, it exposes just how very deep our problems go, and yet how healing is Christ. This is going to turn lives around.’ — Mike Reeves, Head of Theology, UCCF.

‘Beautifully written, shocking, searingly honest, inspiring. This book made me laugh and weep. I recommend this book for those struggling with eating disorders and for those who try to support them. The most helpful book on anorexia I have read’. — John Wyatt, Emeritus Professor of Neonatal Paediatrics at University College London#

Get yourself a copy: Emma Scrivener - A New Name

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Sibbesian Books

I've edited and modernised three books by Richard Sibbes and Jeremiah Burroughs. They're English puritans which means people will probably assume they're stern and cold, but nothing could be farther from the truth.  The puritans were a divided house and some were hard and moralistic, but some where of a different class.
The Sunshine of the Gospel - Richard Sibbes, is the place to to start. Catch his vision of the Christ who changes hearts from a collection of his sermons.

A Fire Kindled from Heaven - Richard Sibbes, more of Sibbes' portrayal of Christ, our great husband, particularly from The Song of Songs.

Of Lovers and Whores - Jeremiah Burroughs, the sermons of Burroughs on Hosea 2:14-23, where you'll see how the LORD allures us back to himself as we run hard away from him.

You'll be able to tell they're old books but the language has been modernised and updated for today, with footnotes added. The voice of Sibbes and Burroughs lightly edited for today.

Buy from - check the lulu homepage for a 15-25% discount code also carry Richard Sibbes' God's Spreading Goodness by Ronald Frost which is a great introduction to the puritans.

Photo: Jonathan Black used by permission.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Students need church

It's claimed that most Christian students fail to connect to church at University. But, University isn't dangerous for a Christians. I see students thriving in Christian Unions and same students are highly committed to their church.

When you come out as a Christian at University it's harder to avoid church than it is to find it. The road is well trodden.

Christian Unions are the witnessing communities of Christian students, gathered together to support one another and to give the rest of their University the opportunity to hear of Jesus, and to respond and join them as members of the church for eternity. 

At the start of a new year the Christian Union has to rebuild its team and a vital part of that is to connect new arrivals to a church in their city. The average Christian student arriving at University will find that there is a 2nd year student connected to their hall whose purpose is to find them, to connect them to a church and get them started in the life of a disciple-making disciple at University.

In most student towns/cities there are at least 5-6 evangelical churches that students belong too - often many more. Even in the difficult geography of Cornwall, students are members of six or more churches, spanning a broad spectrum. Without encouraging consumerism, you pretty much can find the church you want.

The Christian Union is the partnership between those churches - an expression of their unity. At the first CU meeting Christ will be preached, and opportunity to get information on how to find a local church will be available (and in subsequent weeks). Usually transport or someone to walk with will be offered.

Overwhelming choice?
The idea of choosing church might seem overwhelming, but its not so bad. Some principles.
1. No church is perfect. You don't need to see every church. Get some advice, do some research... visit 2-3 over a few Sundays. If you're not sure visit two the first week, maybe two the next... get down to a choice of two... then decide by the next Sunday. Doesn't have to take til Christmas. Visit 2-3. Pick ONE!
2. If the church's Sunday meeting is about the gospel of Jesus you need an reason of epic proportions not to make that your home and family. Be asking - if I had a friend who was interested in Jesus would bringing them here move them on in that journey? Because as a Christian at University you'll have the opportunity to make that IF into a WHEN.
3. Church is family, if you've not started to get to know some non-student Christians by the end of October in your first year you should feel somewhat orphaned... You have brothers and sisters in church and they have dinning room tables and sofa's waiting for you to receive their hospitality. Unlike most students at Uni, you have family in the city.
4. If you're serious about mission at Uni, then you need a church to invite friends to, saying "This is my church, this is my family, these are my people, there's nothing I wouldn't do for them... come get to know Jesus with us" 

How it actually works...
For all the help offered people are very sheeplike. So many students choose a church like their home church, or its extreme opposite... or they end up at the same church as a friend they've made. Either the CU Hall Group leader or another Christian fresher. Shock: friends influence one another!

My own experience, fifteen years ago, was that I settled in the first church I visited at the end of freshers week. My new best mate at Uni went to a different church that week, and then followed me the next week on my recommendation - and two weeks into Uni two of the most geeky introverted maths students joined the biggest loudest evangelical charismatic church in town... fifteen years later he (and his wife and daughter) are still members there... I left the city three months after graduation, having only ever visited other churches when friends (including new Christians!!) were being baptised.

Three Disclaimers:
a. Yes, a small minority slip through the net.
b. Yes, a few ignore all the advice and keep shopping around all year.
c. Yes, a few change church at the end of their first year because a decision that seemed good in October didn't seem so good six months later.. people change a lot in their first year. No point being overly dogmatic on this, I'd rather people didn't move but one change followed by a more mature commitment is ok.
Basic Message? When going to University, its easy to find a new church. Churches know students are coming and wait with open arms to receive them. Plus, many students (with their parents) do their research in advance - even back as far as the application stage! Since churches use facebook and twitter its really easy to connect ahead of time. I think that means more students make it to church on the Sunday at the start of freshers week than probably did 15 years ago.
Church matters so being proactive is great. Plan to find church and you'll find church.
  • Commit relationally to church like it'll be home for the rest of your life. 
  • Decide in your 2nd year, if not sooner, is this church my main church - could I be here post-Uni... might I stay here in the Uni holidays for the sake of church?
  • Get a mentor - ask your church leader to link you with someone who can work for your progress and joy in the faith...
  • Serve practically.
  • Grow the church by inviting friends who aren't Christians to come.
In Sticky Church Larry Osbourne likens us to a lego brick. We have limited capacity for connections. A student is possibly a bigger brick than later in life - because life is so integrated for a student - but nonetheless, when at University connect to a few non-student Christians (in your church), a few Christian students (probably in your Hall/Department) and then connect to as many non-Christian students as you possibly can.  

Watch this video with thoughts from Krish Kandiah, Cathy Burton, Andy Croft, Tim Chester, Graham Daniels and others...  BE PART OF A CHURCH.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Our great desire is to be characterised by generosity

"It is our great desire that in pursuing our own strategic goals of establishing a Christian centre of excellence we develop relationships with those around us that are characterised by courtesy and generosity."

The Oxford Mail, reports on the opening of a new centre for global student mission in Oxford, quotes UCCF's Director Richard Cunningham expressing our desire - generosity.

Stated desires make me ask the question of myself... cos there's my ideal and desire, and then there's me!

I've been involved with this work for 15 years since just after I became a Christian - first as a student, then an intern, and then on the staff team. The ministry of the UCCF and IFES is the fruit of a move of God through students like Norman Grubb at Cambridge in 1919 which has grown and borne fruit all over the world, gathering evangelical churches together for student mission for nearly a century... a legacy carried by subsequent generations who've given themselves to seeing the Universities reached. Real people who together form a family known as UCCF.

Richard leads the UCCF and has done for about the last eight years, having worked with us in the 1990s. When Mark Driscoll shouted across the ocean earlier this year that the British church hadn't got any high calibre Bible teachers Don Carson responded that for starters we have Richard Cunningham. Richard is an outstanding Bible man, evangelist and leader, a member of a church in Oxfordshire with a wide ranging ministry across the UK and beyond. Richard models generosity in his home - a place of outstanding hospitality, in his work - the fellowship feeling increasingly happy, and in the wider church - building fruitful partnerships with all who love the gospel.

Who can I share with? Who can I bless?

Now, UCCF is the establishment when it comes to churches working together in student mission. And it's big. 120+ staff & interns team working with 10,000+ Christian students in Britain. That means we bump into everyone everywhere and we have an opportunity to set the tone of unity among students for good or bad, and to some extent the wider church scene.

Who can I welcome? Who can I include?

Often we fail to do this well - and so need the generosity of others with us too! - but the foundational desire has to be as Richard says, generosity.We're people whose only hope is in the generosity of our God to us in Christ, the fruit of which in us will be a generosity to others. It's not our rule "be generous" but our desire, flowing from the generous heart of our God. For me generosity looks at least like this... and then much more...
  • Generosity in student mission means we believe the gospel is really for all students. Our vision to give every student the opportunity to respond to Jesus is right - any other vision is smaller. The gospel is generous enough for any and every student. If Christ can be for me, he can be for you too.
  • Generosity means I'm always seeking to involve others in what we're doing.
  • Generosity means always releasing the next generation to take responsibility, to carry the vision forward into halls and lectures and societies and nights out and sports clubs.
  • Generosity means having open arms to the church - we're just part of the church together anyway - but to always be asking, how can we strengthen our partnerships, who can we bring into the work, how can we do you good and how can you do us good. It means serving and admitting our need, and drawing on others.
  • Generosity means my team are available to serve the church, and that it should be good for their own churches that they're on the UCCF team - granted they're not a freebie staff member for their church, and do have a work to do on campus!
  • Generosity means if I can't bless with lavish finances I want to be honest about that and seek to serve in other ways.
  • Generosity means an open door. When Steve Timmis visited my team last December we hosted an evening for students and churches and a breakfast for church leaders. We'll have Mike Reeves and Becky Pippert with us in 2012/13 and will make similar arrangements to bless others.
  • Generosity means assuming the best of others and the worst of myself when conflict arises.
  • Generosity means assuming there are people who know better than me who I'm going to seek to learn from.
  • Generosity means being generous with encouragment, positive feedback and thankfulness.
  • Generosity means availability. I'm not hidden away, but can be contacted and known.
  • Generosity means openness - not just available but opening my heart to others.
I'm still learning what this means, but I desire to be like my generous Saviour.
What does generosity look like for you?

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Some days I'm not sure I know the first thing about Jesus

Last month a friend shared that he'd been teaching explicitly on grace but had implicitly taught the opposite of grace by making it too heavy and difficult, leaving his listener feeling unable to grasp it.

He'd been heartbroken to see how he'd inadvertantly perverted grace.

My friend humbly and helpfully challenged a sermon I'd preached where I'd used an overly intellectual introduction. I'd implicitly preached that the gospel is for smart people.

Heartbreaking. How does one preach the overwhelming love of Jesus while simultaneously saying that love isn't for everyone...

Some disclaimers help. I say this because I found this interesting. This might not help you and that's ok. You don't need to understand this. Self-deprecation helps - because really who am I! I'm the oddball in the room, not you...

It's not just what I say, it is the way that I say it.
Jesus didn't turn children away so why should my sermon do that?

Like Paul said in 1 Timothy 1, All I have is the mercy I've received.

I'm not a clever person who has solved a gospel puzzle. Yet my words can suggest that.

What kind of gospel do my words convey?

What kind of gospel does my life preach?

When I fail to have a generous attitude to other believers or when I fail to be finanically generous... what am I saying: I'm not generous because my god isn't? Or that I'm ok to receive divine generosity but then not show the same to others?

What kind of gospel are my words and my life preaching?

When I fail to be compassionate to my three year old son as he wrestles with his sinful heart (not that he'd describe it that way) what am I saying... it's ok for God to be my Heavenly Father to show compassion to me, but unnecessary for me to be a compassionate father?

Some days I'm not sure I know the first thing about the gospel. Or at least that's how it looks.

I want to know Jesus.

Monday, July 02, 2012

Bobby Moore's Muddy Hands

Bobby Moore had muddy hands as he approached The Queen to collect the 1966 World Cup... He tried to clean his hands but just spread the mud around.

Last week a rat jumped out of our dustbin and into our house, for hours afterwards we felt unclean and defiled by the vermin... there are things that make us feel that way... but what if the problem goes deeper?

If our hands are muddy we can clean them, if our hearts are muddy we have a real problem.
If it's not just a rat in the house but a rat in our hearts, what then can we do?
Jesus speaks to the Pharisees and says Isaiah is right.
They say "Keep your distance, we're holier than thou" (Isaiah 65:5), Isaiah is right: your hearts are far from God. 

They're relationally estranged from God.

Jesus says: If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.
If your eyes cause you to sin, pluck them out.
Hands and eyes aren't the problem, hearts are.
If your heart causes you to sin... cut it out and you die?
Our heart-deep distance from God is a death sentence.

What if there was a clean one? 
What if there was one who wasn't defiled? 
What if there was one whose heart was pure? 
One who didn't keep his distance but moved toward us? 
What if he died instead of us? 
What if he could be put off instead of us? 
What if The Clean One would become Unclean for us? 
What if he took our place? 

Then, Immanuel. God would move into our new hearts.

If it's about your hands then God is for the educated, and the respectable... If it's a heart thing then the playing field is level... anyone can come. Anyone can receive Christ.

Muddy Bobby approached The Queen and she thrust out her arm and took hold of his muddy hands. Much more, the Purifying King thrusts out both arms, in death, and takes hold of us.

Download: The Purifying King - Mark 7 (Dave Bish) - Arborfield Church, July 1st 2012, 25mins