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Showing posts from February, 2013

If God is good and all powerful, why is there suffering?

I get to speak on suffering at Universities from time to time. The last one I should've given I had to pull out of because my son was in hospital. I might write about that another day.

Personally, I don't tend to frame The Suffering Question philosophically because I'm not sure that's the right way to approach it. I want to speak to those who suffer. I want to be compassionate more than clever. I want to win a person today and tomorrow and bring them to know Jesus.  The question comes:
I can't believe in God because I've suffered.. How can there be a God when he doesn't stop that from happening.  There are philosophical answers to that kind of question and they're probably pretty secure and solid. However, they don't necessarily help. I could, on a good day, win the argument. But where does that get me? I'm reasonably sharp intellectually but delivering a few knock out lines just leaves someone on the floor.  It's even less great when you…

Religion for Atheists (Alain de Botton's TED Talk)

It's important to engage with the anti-theists of North Oxford, but Alain de Botton invites us to engage with another kind of atheism. The kind of atheism that forms the Sunday Assembly. The assumption of no god that wants to borrow the best bits of outward religion:

What would you say to Alain and his friends? You can get more from his book Religion for Atheists though the TED talk gives the core thought. What to make of the desire for ritual, for beauty, for relationship, for community, for significant moments... That inconsolable longing?

What should I do after University?

"Picture this: you're an up-and-coming manager with a FTSE company. In light of your stellar performance, your employer offers you a promotion. On the table sits more responsibility and a 25% raise. The catch? You have to move to another city 300 miles away."

Oliver Balch had a fascinating article in The Guardian on Monday on the importance of relationships to business and life. It begins with a senario. What would you do?

It's a real prospect for many students I work with, if you fast forward the clock a few years. The air breathed by today's student says go to London, follow the Money.

Balch draws on Michael Schluter's views in his article to suggest a different approach.
Relationships, Schluter argues, are what make humans tick. We feel better, work better, live better when our personal relationships are in sync.... For Schluter, the importance of relationships goes back to the Bible. The Christian notion of God, expressed through the Trinity of Father, S…

The Song of Songs is about Jesus...

I had the opportunity to preach at the Exeter University Evangelical Christian Union meeting last night. I love the opportunity to speak to a mission minded community, and especially as they've just concluded three weeks unpacking Glen Scrivener's 321 gospel.

Download MP3: I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine - Song 5:10-6:3. It's the brilliant news that Christianity isn't just a lifestyle choice or a system of beliefs, it's Jesus. You get Jesus!

The weekly CU meeting is a great opportunity to gather students together, to share stories from mission, to pray, to look to Christ again. It was great last night to hear Charlie's story, she'd become a Christian 12 months ago, through the witness of friends.

In my three years at University the 90 CU meetings I attended laid a great foundation for my life, a life-changing gospel education alongside my degree. It could be said that going to church does this - and being part of my local church is a non-negoti…

Take back your city with paint (Edi Rama)

Can you transform a city with paint? Edi Rama, former mayor of Tirana claims to have done just that:

Beauty changes us. Ultimately I think the paint peels, the colour fades and mess returns... but if beauty itself was marred for us, and took us down to death, and could cause us not just to be redecorated but reborn and made truly beautiful then that could last forever...

"The UCCF was born in prayer!"

Geraint Fielder, Lord of the years:

"Again Elijah prayed, and the heavens gave rain, and the earth produced its crops' (james 5:18).

'The [UCCF] was born in prayer' wrote Douglas Johnson in 1953, quoting this text in the report for the year. 

We echo and reinforce it thirty-five years on. 'Those undergraduates who met for prayer at Mrs C.T.Studd's house at the 1919 Keswick Convention prayed until two in the morning. They affirmed, 'We had never before known such assurance in prayer.' 

A few months later one of them was praying again in Trinity College, Cambridge when the vision came to him of the future UCCF. Norman Grabb wrote, 'I saw that not only must there be this witness in every university, but that God was going to do it...' 

'It is evident that God has answered these prayers. But we cannot be complacent. The need for the witness of the CUs is greater than ever. 

The problems we now face are more complex and the calls upon our resources mo…

Video: The Lost Thing

News from Leeds CU: Witnesses to the ends of the earth

In December 1924 a small group of students met together iwth the object of forming an evangelical section of the Leeds University Christian Union (affiliated to SCM). Meetings for Bible Study and Prayer were held each week at Woodhouse Lane Methodist Church for a time, but these activities ceased after the members mentioned above graduated.

Early in 1929 there was a growing conviction among various members of the University, including a few staff, that there was a need for a society or union of a definitely evangelical character. On June 20th a preliminary meeting was held to consider the desirability of forming a University Evangelical Union.

A constitution along the lines of the IVFEU (UCCF) was submitted and approved, and an Executive Committee was appointed to draw up a programme of activities. The next few meetings were largely in the nature of committee meetings, and were concerned chiefly with the discussion of the proposed constitution.

Through the kindness of the President of…

News from Southampton CU: Students convinced of the need

The Southampton University College Evangelical Union was formed in October 1931 with six members at the suggestion of the president of the Students Union.

Its inception was an answer to the continued prayer of the two or three students who were convinced of the need of such a witness to Christ in the College.

Their mission continues today.

They met to pray and to discuss the formation of the constitution in various rooms (including labs) until they were recognised by the College Union, and allowed the daily use of a lecture room. Having decided that a president was not necessary they elected Mr K.A. Lewis as secretary.

About a fortnight after the foundation of the Union, Dr. Howard Guinness came down for an afternoon, to encourage and give them suggestions as to how to carry on.

They continued daily Prayer Meetings and started weekly Bible Readings, taking the Epistle to the Romans as their subject.

The first public effort was made in March, when Coffee Squashes were held in both men&#…

The gospel roots of Jazz

Part of the Cambridge CU events week this week was an event with William Edgar on Jazz.
He's done it elsewhere here:

mp3: Heaven in a night club - William Edgar

News from Durham CU: Then revival came

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 Durham section.

Its history begin in the early twenties and a somewhat shadowy institution known as the Durham University Bible Union. It did not last long. Durham is very religious. Its theological degree is widely known. In such an atmosphere the Bible Union seems to have di…

News from Hull CU: A good tradition

When old College friends meet anything may happen, but when two old London E.U. men meet in a provincial University College the formation of a new E.U. is the only thing that can happen. When an experienced ex-Cambridge CU man - now a professor - throws his lot in with them it is certainly an auspicious beginning for that Union.

This is what happened at Hull. Since that first surprise meeting in the autumn of 1931, the Union has passed through infancy to early adolescence. Its short history has been quiet and entirely unspectacular, but growth there has been.

Numerically the Union is still small, but its members have been alive to their responsibility and are establishing a good tradition of personal evangelism. Throughout this period, the Union has enjoyed official College recognition.

Even at the risk of being commonplace, it is necessary to mention one activity which has loomed large in the Union's programmes - the Squash. These have been the occasions par excellence, when the…

Simon Sinek: How great leaders inspire action

Why is Apple successful? Because 'We make computers?'...
Why did Martin Luther King lead the line? I have a plan, or I have a dream?
Why did the Wright brothers fly first? Why them and not Simon Pierpont Langley? (Who?)
It's one thing to lead with what we do... it's quite another to lead with why.

Simon Sinek's 18 minute TED talk on How Great Leaders Inspire Action:

Provoking isn't it? Do I know why I do what I do? Or am I fuzzy about it? Am I trying to win people with what, and wondering why it feels like hitting my head against a brick wall?

Why is where the heart is. Why is the interesting question. Why gets to motivation and desire and aspiration and hope. I might not want someone else's why but I'll be drawn to them if they're clear on their why.

In my work with students we produce copies of gospels, we gather people to pray and read the Bible, we invite people to join with us. Not to build student societies. Not to get popular. Not to …

More News from Bristol CU: Renewed Visibility

From Geraint Fielder'sLord of the Years:

1960s: THE SPIRIT OF WESLEY Prayer and perseverance saw an extraordinary turn around. The picture in the CUs in the mid 1960s was one of unbounded opportunity, against a background of moral flux. 'It is doubtful if CUs have ever been in such real touch with non-Christians.' 

Bristol CU was a good example. Take this account which appeared in the student newspaper.
'A graduate student from another university was making his first visit to the Students Union, but soon after entering the building he was found recumbent on the slab in the union bar... staring fixedly into the middle distance and sipping a small lime juice.' Was he drunk? No, what then was the matter? He was suffering from 'severe shock'. Asking some humourist the way to the bar he had been misdirected to the hall next door to it, where the CU held its regular Saturday Night Bible Readings. Bursting in upon 250 people enthusiastically engaged in this activit…

Disney's Oscar-Nominated Short Film: Paperman

Here's a beautiful short story:

Saints of old still line the way: reflections on the early Christian Unions

I've posted news from the beginnings of the CUs at Bristol and Reading, Exeter, Newcastle and Sheffield Universities in the 1930s.  More stories to come next week.

In each CU we catch the story of a grassroots movement, students finding one another by the providence of God, and banding together for mission. Stories of people like Arts students, 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. Similar stories are heard elsewhere. The story is the same today - there's a legacy to inherit, but the Christian Unions are built on Christian freshers turning up in halls and standing together. We stand on the foundation of home churches and youth work, we stand on the work of God in people.

Seems to me we catch these values in action:

Newcastle reflected: "The Union is deeply indebted to Christian business men of the city, through whose kindness such large numbers have…

Bill Hybels: Courageous Leadership is Generous

I posted this 18 months ago, but it bears watching again. The video shows Bill Hybels responding to Starbucks CEO Howard Schultze withdrawing from speaking at a leaders conference. Schultze denied himself the opportunity to invest in leaders out of fear and pressure from others, and Hybels responds with grace, modelling the ways we can out do people with our generosity and love:

News from Sheffield CU: God's quiet work

The origins of Sheffield University Evangelical Union provide yet another illustration of the marvellous workings of our God.

His instruments for the founding of the E.U. were remarkably brought together in such a quiet, unostentatious way that the Union, as it were, just happened, and yet there was not the least doubt in anyone's mind that the power of God was behind it.

A Methodist minister who was taking a degree course at the University, a Church of England vicar of the city, a University lecturer, a doctor of medicine, and two students, one at the end of his third year and the other at the end of his first, united in this venture.

Neither of the students knew each other before June, 1932, but God had been working beforehand and the way was prepared. Both had been led to pray for an E.U. in Sheffield some time before. Then at the beginning of 1932, the third year student met the Rev J.I. Brice of Cliff College, Calver, in the Varsity, and spoke to him about the possibility of …