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Showing posts from January, 2013

Rend Collective: Brothers and sisters, come to the campfire

UCCF's training director Jason Clarke talks about us being marked by centred unity rather than boundaried. Centred on the gospel rather than with a fenced boundary. People sometimes say we gather around the flag of the gospel. Rend Collective who were guests at our national student leaders conference a couple of years ago, andKrish Kandiah's reflections tell this in terms of the image of campfire. It's a much better image.
@krishk Jason Clarke always talks of @uccf as centred not boundaried, campfire is a great image, warmth, inclusion, friendly, attractive.
— Dave Bish (@davebish) January 30, 2013 It's an appealing vision - and often we get it wrong, but Jesus is a fire worth gathering around - especially for the kind of people who get it wrong.
The fire of the gospel, of life in Christ is the greatest place to be, a place to which everyone is invited, everyone is welcome to come, where t…

News from Newcastle CU: Definite Interest Created

Durham University is divided into two sections. The Durham Colleges, eight in number; they are residential and grouped around the Cathedral and Castle, near what is certainly one of the finest river views in any English city, forming a kind of miniature Oxford or Cambridge. Then there are the Newcastle Colleges (Armstrong and Medicals) which are non-residential and most modern. The E.U. were separate until June 1933, when they were united, in the belief that official recognition and other benefits would accrue.

There are fourteen miles between the two sections, and apart from the sports club the E.U.'s are the only societies which have had any real fellowship and joint work.
The present report considers the Newcastle section. 

When in 1932, Dr. Howard Guinness addressed over two hundred students at one of the City's most fashionable restaurants, it was a strange contrast to the modest beginnings of the Newcastle Christian Union.

For, only seven years previously, the Union had b…

Sir Ken Robinson: Anaesthetics and Aesthetics

This afternoon I watched my little boy slip under the influence of a general anaesthetic. I've never seen that happen before - at least not in the real world. It's been a bit like living in an episode of House this week, and we're not through yet.

In a moment of restbite this afternoon I stumbled across this video. A refreshing distraction. I'm a little late to the party, 9.46 million people have watched this before me.
Anaesthetics deaden us to what's around us, aesthetics make us fully alive:… (Sir Ken Robinson)
— Dave Bish (@davebish) January 30, 2013 There's something very striking in this play with words. We need ideas, imagination, beauty. Why is that? And how can we have more of it? I'm enjoying a bit of Sir Ken Robinson this week. His TED talks are TED at its very best, and this is a great animated version of his key idea.

What do you think? What do you see? Are you awake?

News from Manchester CU: Answered Prayer

In 1925 there entered the University an Arts student (Miss E. Kenadjian) who for two years prayed for some definite witness for God such as she had heard was given by the CU at Cambridge.

She knew of no one who sympathised with her in this, so during her second year she arranged a Scripture Union Meeting, to which five men and two women came. She was wondering whether to repeat this, when she saw in the press an announcement of the aims and work of the UCCF.

She now began to pray even more earnestly that God would open the way to form an evangelical union in her own University.

The same year a medical student, C.F. Stott, returned to college filled with a desire to make a definite stand for Christ among his fellow students. By a coincidence, as it might seem, he had been given the UCCF Summer Term Prayer leaflet. This he felt to be a confirmation of his idea of starting an evangelical union.

To do this, he prayed that he might be put in touch with just one other student in sympathy with…

Video: Expect. Pray. Invite.

Michael Ots has recorded these great videos to help us prepare to share Jesus with people:




News from Reading CU: Faithful and fearless witness

In University life, generations are short; and, though our Union is but six years old, we have had to set to as historians rather than as writers of reminiscences, to read behind the lines of the somewhat limited records that our predecessors have left us of a movement, which, directly and indirectly, has helped to change the lives of more than we can ever know.

Our history falls into two parts: the early struggles of the years 1927-1930 culminating in the Rev. Bryan Green's mission in 1931, and the period after the mission.

Let us begin our story with the beginning of the organisation. In the autumn of 1927, a group of ten students (one man and nine women) who desired an opportunity for Christian fellowship and corporate witness, banded themselves together as the Association of Christians, a title replaced almost at once by Evangelical Union.

During the next three years, though numbers did not increase, activity and interest did. Weekly meetings were held for prayer and Bible st…

Brian Cox's Galaxy Song: What is life?

It's good to have Brian Cox back on TV again.

Confident. Cool. And doing little science experiments in beautiful locations.

Asking questions about the similarity of DNA of all the living beings on the planet - are we all related? Perhaps we just live on the same planet...  How confident can we be about what happend 4.6 billions years ago... where's the line between science and faith on something like that?

I like questions. And, so I liked Wonders of Life. #wonders

Photo: Anna Hopkins

Cox's gospel supposes science can explain everything, offering a universe destined for cold disorder... in which the laws of physics exercise their totalitarian rule.

It's doubtless part of the picture - though I can't help but think he missed the final few pages of the story... Yes, I think there'll be a wedding at the end of the universe, and that'll be the first page of something new.

Cox concluded, Riffing on a re-write of Eric Idle's Galaxy Song. (Original version of Ga…

Lance Armstrong: The Death Penalty

Lance Armstrong said being banned from sport was a death penalty.

Overstatement? Perhaps, but I can believe it.  Winning is his god. And to lose our gods kills us.
To tell us our god is 'sin' is offensive for all of us. Because we love our gods, define ourselves by them. They make us happy.
Taking my sin from me would kill me.  And it does. 
The question is whether you can come out the other side of death? Could death's sting be taken?
Dodging death doesn't work. Lance beat death. He was the poster boy for a theology of glory, for human triumph. Live strong, inspire a generation?
We need a champion, but our best attempts are just faking it. 
Taking away Armstrong's Beloved would destroy him, like taking my sin and idols kills me.
But if there was a better love?  A Love to kill me, to kill death, to bring me to life.  That'd be a story.
Thoughts derivative from this morning's sermon and spending Saturday morning with some good friends. Photo: Anna Hopkins, u…

News from Exeter CU: Members of an immense family

"There are many difficulties, but it is a thousand times worth while," is the remark often heard as search is made again and again in the time table for a spare quarter of an hour when all are free to hold a meeting. It is worth while, and College life is worth while now that it is possible to meet together for the much valued prayer meetings, and times of conference over the Bible.

The Union began, without doubt, at God's distinct direction; for, in May, 1932, a second year woman student became very troubled by the lack of interest and consideration shown in the things of God among the students. At that time she received a set of [UCCF] booklets and a letter from three different people one of them was entirely unknown to her, and all three wrote independently of one another.

She could not but obey this three-fold call to witness. During the last week of that term, after thoroughly investigating the Word of God, she approached a few women students as to the possibilities o…

Adoration brings Revelation (Various, on Psalm 45)

This is a song of a heart bursting out in praise.  A heart shaped by the gospel. A song of the Lilies - a song of Spring time - of Passover. It is a song of Korah's sons, those dead but resurrected temple singers.

As Andrew Bonar noted Psalm 45"is Earth taught by Heaven to sing heaven's infinite love to man. Every clause is melody, every thought sublimity" 

The song's subject:
Psalm 45 expresses a good matter, the good spell, or gospel. Christopher Wordsworth. A heart that receives the gospel, sings the gospel. It sings of Christ. The Psalm speaks of "You"... The Christ:
Hero worship in his case alone is commendable. Our precious Christ can never be made too much of. Spurgeon.
"I have a passion, and it is He - He only." Count Zinzendorf. There is a great connection between singing and seeing: A loving heart has the power to realise its object. The eyes of a true heart see more than the eyes of the head. Moreover, Jesus reveals himself when we a…

News from Bristol CU: The Lord called for further advance

The University of Bristol had not been without a Christian witness before the inception of the Evangelical Union in 1921. In addition to those who must have been witnessing alone it is known that Sunday evening services for students had been organised as far back as 1910.

Confession: This post isn't new news but old news... a faith building testimony from 80 years ago... do read on.

Those present at the first meeting were privileged to hear a message from Dan Crawford(1870-1926), in which he vividly described the earnest endeavours of the heathen of Central Africa to approach and appease an angry ‘unknown’ god. “They ignorantly worship – but we so often not at all,” he pointed out, and then continued to preach Jesus.

These services were organised by Mr Rendle Short and Dr Frank Bergin; and, with the exception of the years of the War, were continued until 1921. During that year, five or six medical students felt the need in the University of a united witness of those who loved the…

Is monologue dead?

Preaching is finished, some would have us think. It's the internet age of short attention spans. It's the cinema age where you can hold someone for 180 minutes... if you do it with a huge audio-visual experience.

But, bucking the trend is TED. Inspirational talks between three and eighteen minutes long that are crafted to capture their audience. Speakers are used to saying more but the 18 minute maximum requires speakers to refine their material rigorously and say only what needs to be said. A lesson for preachers to consider!

When you experience good communication it makes everything else look amateur and clunky.

When you read Andy Stanley's Communicating for a change you discover story telling that carries you along. When you read Donald Miller you experience imagination and creativity that makes you realise you're often quite dull. Bad monologues can't compete.

Spirit-filled congregations will tolerate unengaging preaching for a while because they're hungry…

No love like this! (John Owen on Psalm 45)

"There is no love like the love of Christ to his church in the day of espousals. There is no love like to the love between Christ and the souls of believers."

John Owen unpacks this theme in preaching on Psalm 45:
The whole Book of Psalms gives a particular attention Jesus Christ. This 45th Psalm is a prophecy and description of his person, his kingly office and the marriage between him and his church. The song tells of the love of Christ to the church, and of the church to Christ. This love is our story. This is the story. Let us learn it:
The Psalm is a Maskil, a song to make wise or give instruction. There are things of Christ in this Psalm designed to instruct the church. The song expresses a "good matter, touching the King". The subject of this song is the King. No ordinary person. Rather, Messiah, Christ the Lord, in the Old Testament. And let us sing, as Christ's life springs up in us:
The song refers to the bubbling up of water in a fountain or spring.

Two Kinds of Community

The test of what matters in a community can often be best seen when there is trouble. In Christian terms,  what happens in the community when someone sins?

Some brief reflections from Galatians 6:

The Non-Gospel Church
My sin is scandalous or swept under the carpet. 
My sin is rule-breaking.
My sin is my effort to be holy.
My sin is an opportunity for you to trample me under foot. My sin is why I want to avoid the cross.
My sin is overcome by effort.

The Gospel Church
My sin is to be expected. 
My sin is relational betrayal and return to slavery. 
My sin is when I follow the flesh instead of the Spirit.
My sin is an opportunity to restore you, to carry your burdens as Christ bore mine to Calvary.
My sin is, therefore, why I need the cross.
My sin is overcome by God's work of new creation.

You're beautiful (John Flavel on Psalm 45)

Ye olde affectionate (charismatic?) puritan John Flavel preached on Psalm 45. Like Sibbes and Owen he was captured by the espousal theology of the gospel, the love of God for us in Christ. He preached:
Psalm 45 is an excellent song of love. A heavenly wedding song. It tells, figuratively, with elegant celebration, of the marriage of Christ and the church.  It's subject is the same as the Song of Songs. The Psalm speaks of Christ and of his bride:
Among it's rapturous and elegant expressions in praise of the glorious bridegroom Christ is this: "God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness above your fellows."  This Anointed One (Messiah/Christ) is enriched and filled supremely with the Spirit's fulness. He is consecrated to his office and out-shines and excels all the saints. Yet, every Christian is anointed with the same grace. It is the saints' dignity to be Christ's fellows. Whatever grace and excellence is in Christ is not just for Christ …

Preach the gospel, die and be forgotten

A lot was said about legacy in 2012. Especially, the Olympic Legacy. A call to inspire a generation. Time will tell whether more athletes follow, health improves and the Olympic park stands tall. Given every football tournament failure leads for an overhaul of youth development it's easy to be a bit cynical. People chase celebrity, fifteen minutes of fame...

Equally, there are people who have lasting legacy and impact on our lives...

What about the Christian? What's our legacy? What's the right legacy for a CU leader to pursue from their year of serving the CU? I saw this yesterdya:
“Preach the Gospel, die and be forgotten.” Count Zinzendorf
— Brett Landry (@BrettLandry) January 15, 2013 Ironically, Zinzendorf is well remembered. I think the actual quote from Count Nicholas Zinzendorf - the original 24/7 prayer leader... missionary movement leader... influential in the lives of the Wesley's:
 "The missionary... must be content to suffer, to die and be forgotten.…

God is love. And we're invited.

We become like what we worship....
A sketch.

1. God is power. And we are his subjects. Religious style? We must obey him. Distance and fear - 'reverence'Leadership style? Over people. Key word: authority. Relational style? Formal, cold even. Cautious of guilt by association.Missional style? If any, to stand against people.2. God is love. And we're invited. Religious style? Invited into the family. Doctrine is for delight. Key question: How is your worship life?Leadership style? Self-giving love. Key word: service.Relational style? Generous assumptions about others, seeking to win others. Missional style? Mobility towards people, all kinds of people. Conversation, listening, asking and offering Christ. "Sound doctrine is evidenced by delight in Christ, love and generosity towards other Christians and by mobility in mission..."
— Dave Bish (@davebish) January 16, 2013

Me too?

CS Lewis wrote of friendship:
 “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: "What! You too? I thought I was the only one”  Those moments are great.

Randy Newman in Questioning Evangelism adds:
 "Resisting the 'me, too' response can free you to focus in the feelings behind the words of the other person, keeping attention on them" Both are good of course and are proverbial wisdom - say me too and don't say me too. Or rather, sometimes instead of saying me too - show your me-too-ness by asking a question that draws someone else out. Still learning the basics and glad of Newman's help.

What about you?

Questions: Learning some basic social skills, aged 33 and a half.

We were eating dinner and my friend Sean said to me... "what have been the highlights of the year for you guys?" It was a great question and yet I found myself fumbling for an answer. Last year wasn't without highlights I just didn't know what to say, I fumbled my way to some kinds of an answer...

The question exposed something in me: that I'd not taken good time to reflect on the year or to be thankful.

The question served me well because I was subsequently able to go away and take time to reflect, and have many things to be thankful for, many memories to treasure. The kinds of things that dominate people's blogs in late December

The question served me because it got me thinking about questions. Sean's question was about information gathering, but it was - I think - as much about getting to know us, and to share in our lives.

Jesus said the heart is revealed by the mouth - or, what comes out of the mouth comes form the heart.
So, if you want to know som…

FEUER: Raising up a new generation of men and women as Evangelists for Europe

Feuer is a network of evangelists working in the Universities of Europe. As Lindsay Brown stepped back from leading the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students (IFES) a few years ago he was convicted of the need to raise up a new generation of evangelists. The first step was a gathering in Austria from across Europe which I attended about four years ago - and much more has followed.

The 20th Century saw the ministry of greats in student evangelism like Martyn Lloyd-Jones, John Stott, Michael Green (still very much active!), Francis Schaeffer and David Watson but who had come after them?

Lindsay has, alongside Directing the Lausanne Movement, been developing a network of evangelists - people involved in public evangelism in Europe's Universities.

This weekend Owen Brown and myself gathered 21 for 21 hours for the first FEUER STUDENT NETWORK. Not another conference, but a gathering of friends involved in front-line student mission. Aspiring evangelists from Wales and the Sout…

Video: Stories expand our lives

Escaping into a story expands our lives, shows us that we matter. I want my boys to be people who don't have their lives reduced by computer games but have them expanded by great stories. A daunting but exciting task and I'm only a few years in - any tips from parents who are further along? Or from your own memories of childhood? [Comment]

Video  Via Together for Adoption
See also: Tolkien: On Fairy Stories
And Follow @donaldmiller

Doug Wilson, N.D. Wilson and Alan Jacobs on The Imagination of CS Lewis:

 And Follow @ndwilsonmutters

Three Questions on Prioritising Mission in CU

These observations are drawing on the work of Tim Chester and Steve Timmis in Total Church, and Steve Tibbert & Val Taylor inGood to Grow. Two books I'd highly recommend. The latter is a particularly easy read and is full of leadership gems.

1. What's our primary focus as a CU? 
Hopefully for a CU (and a church) the answer is obviously mission... but is it in reality? Tibbert says:
“The church exists to grow. Mission must take centre-stage, we must build mission-focused communities.”  Jesus came into the world so that we could know him. Mission is about that. And as CU is a subset of the local churches in a particular town or city, mission first too. There's a room focus on numbers but bottom line: numbers are people, and Christ died for people. He continues:
“Prioritising mission requires sustained, focussed leadership otherwise we will drift towards a pastoral mode.” This drift is easy to observe in many CUs and local churches, in my life. Many default to an inward p…

"Stop worrying and Enjoy Your Life"

It's about four years since I saw my first 'Atheist bus' climbing Park St. in Bristol. I remember referring to it in a talk I gave in the Physics Building at Bristol University that term.

It was tempting to speak of it's a misnomer, to retort:
There probably is a God and that's why we can have joy. I think I probably said that at some point. I definitely thought it.

And we can have joy.

The logic of the absence of god meaning joy is really the triumph of the rebel who says - Actually we think there is a god but we've made it acceptable to ignore him... so all those things you enjoy that you think you're not meant to you can go on and enjoy. It's the cry of someone who thinks they've pulled the wool over the headmasters eyes.

Joy is a real concern. The Bible speaks of joy as part of the Spirit's fruit in the life of a Christian, and that there is joy everlasting in the presence of God. I spent several years being schooled by the Christian Hedonist…

Christians say Atheists are right

I've spoken in the past, and I'm due to do so again later this term, about the subject:

How Atheists Are Right

The basic thought here is that there is a god that some people don't believe in. And some of the people who don't believe in this god are very vocal about the god they don't believe in. The late Christopher Hitchins was a particularly strong example of this, with a flare for brilliance with language.

The existence of God would be a bad thing. It would be like living in North Korea.  This is god as Kim Jung Il - who as it happens died in the same week as Hitchins in late 2011. A god of power and supervision and invigilation and suspicion.
A Christians hears of the god being described - or invites the question:
Can tell me about the god you don't believe in?

And almost always has to say: I don't believe in that god either.

The Atheist is Right. But the conversation is not over. We've talked at cross purposes. Hitchins …

Your love outbids!

It's funny to hear someone take something you've preached and put it into a song. It's happened a few times, a word or phrase sticks. And it did last February. Olly Knight lyricised, in his great new song The Father's Love:

"Your love outbids, your love outshines them all."

Songwriters are the most influential theologians in churches - and the pulpit needs to think hard about pastoring such people well. Pastor the songwriters and worship leaders and they'll serve the church by embedding the gospel in the hearts of the people.

We need to capture imaginations, we need to consider our phrasing and language.

Where does this word "outbids" come from?

I got it from puritan hero Jeremiah Burroughs who unpacks the idea of the LORD alluring us like this as he preached from Hosea 2:14:

The Lord says, firstly, I will unfold the beauty and excellency of the infiniteness of my goodness and loving-kindness and set in array before their souls the exceeding glor…