Tuesday, 15 May 2012

New Life

At the start of this academic year my team leader challenged us as a staff and relay team to try and study Uncover with someone seeking to find out more about Jesus.

I must admit that I was a little skeptical that I'd either a) have time to do it or b) be able to find someone to do it with.
Anyway, in freshers' week my relay worker Emma took the plunge and boldly invite a Macedonian student to look at it with her (see previous post). They began and as a met with Emma for supervision each week it was wonderful see how they were both learning about Jesus and growing in different ways.

A few weeks later, through the CU, I was introduced to Y from Malaysia. We had a bit of a chat and I asked if he wanted to meet up for coffee. He agreed. We met and got to know one another a little and decided to study Uncover together. As we progressed through the studies, straddling the Christmas break (we started in Nov and finished early March), it was clear that he was intellectually ascenting to the truth the Jesus is the Son of God, but he didn't think he had enough faith to step out and become a Christian.

His brother had become a Christian a few years ago and Y himself had been along to church a few times, and since moving to Teesside Uni for study had been attending the local Chinese Methodist Church where he was regularly hearing from the Bible and studying it.

At the end of the Uncover course I asked him where he thought he was in terms of becoming a Christian and he said he believed it all but wasn't ready to commit. So we decided we would keep meeting and as he read the Bible in his own time he would note down any questions and we would them chat about them when we next met up. By this time it was nearing the Easter break. We met a couple of times like this, but due to holidays and assignments for Y as well as holidays and busyness for me, we had a few weeks without meeting.

Just last week we met once again to chat. But this we mainly spoke about his course finishing, his plans between now and heading home to Malaysia, job prospects and the future. I finally asked him where he now thought he was in terms of trusting Jesus. He smiled and began to tell me that he had been challenged to commit to following Jesus a couple of weeks previous at his church and he had prayed with a friend.
I didn't quite catch what he said the first time, but had caught enough that I ask more directly whether he had prayed to trust Jesus and become a Christian. He had!

I was so excited, and told him that I was too!!! God had been working all along, in my weakness, in my skepticism, and while I wasn't even meeting up with Y. God has it all in His hands. New life is a work of the Spirit, not my efforts.

He worries that His parents think he is just trying to be like his elder brother. He believes they will be supportive of his decision, but wonders if they think he has just jumped on a bandwagon, to use a western phrase. He knows what he believes.

Pray for our new brother in Christ. Praise God for new life. Pray for deep roots to be put down into gospel truth and the character of God. Pray for Y to grow in love for Jesus and find a good church to be part of when he gets back to Malaysia.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Shocking Statistic

I have seen and heard an incredible statistic a couple of times in recent weeks.
The fact that 73% of students professing to be Christians before they head to University don't get plugged into a church or any other Christian group once they get there.
That is pretty shocking, even if some of those who make up that statistic were merely religious church attendees rather than followers of Jesus.

Hearing the statistic has made me more thankful for the work of UCCF. Not because I work for them but because without their work with students in Christian Unions, I fear the statistic would be much higher.
This is because UCCF as an organisation is committed to the local church, working in partnership, across denominations, to reach the universities of this land with the good news of Jesus. They seek to plug students in to churches as this is their primary place of life-long discipleship. (To find out more go to www.uccf.org.uk)

It has also reminded me of the challenges we face to love Jesus and love people in an increasingly hostile environment. Having a big Christian presence on campus is in Freshers' week is key to finding, engaging with, and encouraging these young believers to keep running the race of faith during their time at university.

Praise God for keeping UCCF going over the last 80 odd years. By His grace they have remained firmly evangelical, committed to the task of living and speak for Jesus, and training students to do just that.
Pray that the Lord would stir people by His Spirit over the coming months to really make a stand for Christ in this academic year, get plugged into a local church and join others in reaching their campuses with the love of Jesus.

If you know of a Christian student heading to university, why not get them linked up?
*image courtesy of Canterbury CU
*statistic from CUE project research in 2011

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

What's Next? May/June Prayer Update

Not long until I finish working with UCCF. Here is my penultimate prayer letter.

Plenty to be thankful for including: a mini-mission week, planning days, a new job (all being well), an exciting year ahead for CUs etc!

God is good.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Planning fun but serious thinking done

A quick post featuring some of the things Sunderland and Teesside got up to on our planning day at the end of April.

Gathering pictures and phrases from newspapers and magazines to build a profile of the type of students they are seeking to reach with the good news of Jesus on their campus. Also at the same time getting a feel for the university culture as a whole. You need to know who you are reaching in order to most effective relate to them.

One of the profiles, along with a map of the university campus with coloured dots indicating where students spend their time studying, hanging out in both the day and the night and also where most students live. The aim of this was to get them to think about where they run events, what time of day they run them as well as practical ways they can really care for those on their campus.

Honesty and humility was required for this section. The CU health-check. Not to make them feel proud or despairing, but in light of the gospel analyse where they feel their CU is doing well and other areas where work is needed. They also spent time praying, thanking God for His work in and through them and for the Spirit to help them change in the areas where they are weakest.

Here we have the stadium model which helps CUs to see where the balance of their outreach has been. It has 5 sections: 1.Hospitality tents where the aim is to introduce people to Christians to show that we are normal human beings and not weird! 2. Back of the Stands. This type of event is aimed at answering questions people may have which are really far back, may question like "Could thee even be a God?" or "Isn't Christianity totally irrelavant?" 3. Front of the Stands. These are events answering deeper questions which the gospel speaks into: "How could a loving God allow suffering?" "Is Jesus the only way to be saved?" 4. On the Track. At this point people believe the gospel is true, but need to be challenged to respond to Jesus and hear what is means to follow Him. 5. In the Race. Opportunities for people to begin studying the Bible, meeting with other Christians and getting support as they take the first steps in their walk with Jesus.
We don't emphasise events as the only ting to do, we wholeheartedly believe that evangelism is a way of life and that we must live distinctive and integrated lives building real friendships and loving people. But we do also know that events help people along the way and are key for reaching those without any Christian contact.

This is just a bit of fun. Post the planning and dinner together, a couple of the students were testing their logical skills using my daughter's toys! The concentration was etched all over their faces and provide much entertainment for the rest of us as we observed.

Suffice to say it was a very enjoyable and productive day. I pray the Lord will use is for the furthering of His Kingdom and that the Spirit would bring many to know Jesus through the CUs next year.

Friday, 4 May 2012

What is Love?

Not the Haddaway song from the early 90s, but one of the questions Teesside posed to their campus last week.
It is a very interesting question, as the range of answers they received proved.

The most popular answers, perhaps unsurprisingly, were along the lines of feelings and relationships, each of those received about 20 answers. They varied in complexity but the main thrust of the opinion was along the respective line.
But a couple of answers that you may not have expected to feature so prominently were:

Unconditional - 7
Don't Know - 15
Sex - 8
Chemicals - 6

I imagine some of the 'don't know' responses may have been due to the pressure of thinking of an answer on the spot, but it does show that love is something we speak about daily and yet find very difficult to define. It isn't a huge surprise that 'sex' featured, as many of the most popular TV shows and magazines lead us to believe that sex=love.

The other two answers I have featured lend themselves to a little more analysing.

Is love just a chemical reaction in our brains? Or as one student put it "my favourite chemical reaction". Is it possible that what I feel for my wife and daughter, for example, is merely down to chemicals? Well, if we live in universe without the God of the Bible, then that's exactly what I would have to conclude. There is no rhyme or reason behind love, everything is chance, time and processes. Can we really live like that? For example, I don't think any spouse would like to hear their partner say "I chemical reaction you!"

Unconditional is a totally different type of answer. It gives the sense of wanting someone who will accept you as you are, warts and all. Someone who will always be there for you, care for you, do what is best for you and never leave you. Someone who will love us at our best and our worst. This resonates with us doesn't it. But can we really find that in another human being?
We can make love into our God and our search for perfect love can be relentless and ultimately fruitless. In doing that we often place unreal expectations upon the people we seek to find this love in.
But there is a solution.

The answer the Bible gives to the question "What is love?" is staggering.

1 John 4:8-10 - "Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins."

God is love. Father, Son and Holy Spirit define what love is. Love is outward focussed. Love looks to the interests of other above self. The love of God is most clearly and wonderfully displayed at the cross as Jesus Christ lays down His life so that those who would trust in Him might come to know the living God, being found in Him and enjoy Him forever.

If yo know this love, you know it to be truly satisfying. If you don't know this love, look to Jesus, check Him out.