So. Reading. So. Ah man, on four hours sleep i really really can't sort out three years of grace and growing, most of what i want to say is already written in my head, but thats not *quite* the same as it being written here i guess. But here are some things i learnt about Jesus today which made me happy.
My mum had just arrived to help me finish packing my stuff, which meant everything suddenly started to go a lot quicker, and i got really sad, and bummed, as three years of life dissapeared into boxes and bags. But, first; my life doesn't actually consist of my possesions, and secondly, look at how great Jesus is: He is my strength my shield my portion my delieverer my refuge my tower my present help in times of trouble He is holy and sinless and righteous and just ...in fact, He Himself defines those last four things His steadfast love is better than life He has redeemed me absolutely He is stronger than the enemy by the Holy Spirit He lives in me He has conquered death He rules for eternity, this King of mine.
I think one of the most noticable things thats changed about me in Reading is this. I used to think Kurt Cobain spoke for me and to me, and understood me. When he ragefully sneers 'my favourite inside source' on 'Frances Farmer' he knows what its like when my friends let me down. This guy gets me. Not any more. Now i want to seek out and be improved by people like Paul, or Jonathan Edwards, or Sam Storms or John Piper, or any other number of authors who have replaced recording artists in my wallets affections. And thats cool. Reading is excellent. And so is Reading come to that!
Pictures from the CEx day away (featuring Nicola's inferior Corsa) and Cell Bar-b-q are here...
Also, you can now comment without having a blog yourself, but if you do A)keep within the bounds of Christian civility eh? These are Eds fallible thoughts afterall B) let me know who you are. My narcisism is out of control. More exciting changes to follow. Maybe.
So will i shortly be blogging about me three years at Reading? Probably. Will this be a theme post based around 1920s Leninist propaganda cartoons and my own obscure affection for the modern art of Sandra Blows? No.
So, we finally lost the internet at home, some weeks after cancelling the BT line, so i'm stuck in the library, which is not that bad i guess.
Reading Family Church Students Day.
Man, this was so good. First of all Scott spoke about Finances, which is obviously going to be useful for doing Relay next year...that was really cool. Then Bish on grace from Romans 9, and loving the church from Ephesians 4. It was so good. Gospel parternership is so cool, and so important. It was great to see people from NewFrontiers and UCCF get together for the good of the Gospel. Especially for me, as someone who loves both of those venarable institutions. It was also really good to hang out with the guy's who'll still be around next year, to see their passion for God's glory, their heart for the lost and their ideas for evangelism. It was great to see, and challenging, and encouraging.
So, when Craig, one of the Elders at my church asked if i could head up a team of people to unload 2000 flyers in the next ten days, i definatly should have said no. Me and my happy gang of 'volunteers' have probably done about half of them, but i really don't know when i'm going to have the time to do the rest... The thing is, i love flyering. I love going to places, especially places in Whitley where i'd never have gone before, being vulnrable and overcoming my fear every time i walk up a drive. There are so many places in Reading that almost seem hidden. Places where no one ever really goes, certainly places which probably don't have a very high number of people who go to church. So it was great to be there today...even if Andy did nearly get his fingers bitten off by a dog!
I love the Gospel. I love its power, its simplicity, the fact that the wisdom of God totally shames the wisdom of man. Its great. It was cool to be walking around Reading today, flyers in hand, knowing that however far away from God some people seemed thet Gospel was powerful enough to bridge the gap. And that we are justified by faith alone! How good is that? Faith in Christ alone gives us peace with God...this is brilliant news... and i love it!
Christianity Explored away day.
Tomorrow in leafy Lacey Green. Please pray for me, Hoops, Anna, Becki, Mandy and Nicola as we look together at Christian life, especially the church, the Bible, the Holy Spirit and prayer. It's going to be cool.
I went ot see a house in Guildford yesterday. It was a nice house, good location and parking with decent rent and 2 mb internet, but also i'm not sure i want to live with non Chrisitian students as it means i pretty much never get any time off! I'm going to be emailing churches in the next couple of days, so please pray for me. I really really like the way that driving round Guildford (mostly lost) felt like coming home though...praise the Lord!
Oh the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable are His judgements and how inscrutable His ways.
Me and Anna have coined the phrase 'shutdown moments' where we try and comprehend the goodness of the Gospel or something like that, and our minds can't cope, and they say, in effect 'i can't cope, i'm off, so see you later body'. And that kind of happened tonight at the church prayer meeting. Except this was a bit different. Normally my own mind kind of instigates it by thinking about the Gospel, but tonight, oh man, by the grace of God, tonight it was different. We were praying and worshipping as normal, focussing on witnessing to people we know and then boom! I was on my knees. Now normally in these situations i can't talk, but this time, it was all i could do to breathe, let alone talk. Anna blogged about the interceeding work of the Holy Spirit recently, and i really experienced that tonight.
I can't really explain it. I knew i was praying and in some ways i knew what i was praying. But i sure wasn't speaking. Praise the Lord for a Gospel which silences our minds as well as our voices. Praise Jesus was His work on the cross which means we can pray, and know that He will work for His glory! Praise God for leaving the Holy Spirit, the Helper, the Counciller, who will pray for us and with us when we are simply overwhelmed.
Just read Challies' Credo...do check it out. I can't wait until i know and believe fully. It really struck me today how amazing it is that one day we really really will see Jesus face to face. In some ways that is a terrifying thought. Here is someone who knows me inside out, better than i know myself. Now, that would be bad enough if it was another broken sinner like me, but its not, its Jesus, the perfect, sinless God. Thank God for the completed work of the Cross, that by faith alone i am forgiven and counted righteous. Wash me savior or i die. Yes indeed. But its cool. One day we will see Him face to face. Those piercing eyes, that double edged sword of a tongue, the light...oh the light that the Lord must dwell in. But what a day. No more striving, no more worry, NO MORE SIN! What a day. Can we find anything else in life that is so simultaneously joy inspiring and terrifying? But Heaven will be awesome, and makes the suffering and the pain all so much more worth it. I think thats a shuddering understatement!
'Not that i am speaking of being in need, for i have learnt whatever situation i am in, to be content' Phil 4:11
I read this the other day and was really challenged about my contentness in God. That is what this is bourne out if. Now *i'm no expert*, i'm just trying to work it out myself, and also write down and process some of what the Lord was saying to me this morning, so they're embedded in my memory (hopefully).
'Are we ok?' A question i ask sometimes, a question we all ask of our friends from time to time, and a question i was/still am planning on asking today (that'll be fun eh?) but this morning, God challenged me to ask that question of Him. It's a question borne out of a lack of contentment. If we never had any insecurities in our relationships we'd never have to ask. So how can we be content in our relationship with God, how can we make sure that above all things, it is our foundation?
Well, how not to do is to judge it by you're quiet times/Bible reading times. Because that's legalism and legalism is rubbish. I'm going to have to start turning round the clock in my room because subconsciously and very sinfully i find myself with one eye on it while i read. And thats ridiculous because i'm loving John at the moment. Man! So how?
Remember the past. Look at the cross. An objective historical event. Not something that can be changed if we don't read our Bibles every day. Not something that is subject to our broken feelings. The cross happened. As did the resurrection. So, our sin? Propitiated. Our relationship with God? Restored. Our status before Him? Counted righteous. Anything we can do to change that? No. This is the truth. This is our relationship with God. Christ has died for our sins. He needn't again. Our sin has been punished, it needn't be punished again. Here is contentment surely, that there is nothing we can do to better our relationship with God, because He sees us as sons and daughters. And man, thats great. If we can't be content here...well. We need to be content here! We are redeemed. Christ has died that we might have our realtionship with the Father restored. This is good news. This is news that stills complaints and quiets disent. This is news that should make us not just content, but overjoyed. This is news that meant that Paul counted all he suffered in His life as nothing, and all the vast benefits of life he had beforehand as loss.
Look at the future. Remember God's promises. Habbakuk had a terrible lot in life on the face of it. He was a man of God in a corrupt generation. His country was about to be invaded and exiled to Babylon. And yet still He rejoiced in the Lord. Looking at the end of chapter three i thinks its fair to say he was content to say the least. Jesus promises that those who come to Him will not die but have eternal life. That though they kill our bodies they will not harm a hair on own heads. That He is the Way and the Gate to heaven. These truths, like the cross should lead us to rejoice in the Lord, to be content at least. We need to remember these. The criminal who got saved in Luke 23, moments before He died. He would have died in agony, but content, because He knew that that very day He would dine in paradise with Jesus. This is true of all of us. 'restore to me the joy of my salvation'. Cultivating joy in the Lord is the only way to finding contentment with Him. Believing those promises and dwelling on them. Because Jesus' words are all we've got.
Do it now. Live to the glory of God. Don't forsake contentment in other relationships, but persure them to the glory of God. Get out of bed to His glory. Eat and drink to His glory. Worship with your whole life. Live the new life, the righteous clothed life that Christ has bought for you. Not the old life with it's sin, but the new life, with its joy hope and worship. I don't know in a practical sense how to do this, but i know its the best thing to do. Because its the only thing to do. Because it's what we were created to do. Love the Lord with all your heart mind and soul. Give Him everything, as Paul was when he wrote those verse. Look at life through the cross, because away from that, we're nothing, and because that is the key to our contentment.
(This is more or less the talk i gave at Alpha on wednesday, i ad libbed a bit but not very much)
Lots of important questions we ask in life: will you go out with me? will you marry me? will you employ me? what degree will i get? Perhaps two important questions at the moment are; will England win the world cup? what will i wear to the summer ball?
But i want to suggest that the question of Who Is Jesus is one of the most important questions you will ever ask.
Before we look at this question maybe we should start with another question...the question of 'Was Jesus?', did He exist? A soviet dictionary once defined Jesus as 'a mythical charecter of no importance', i don't think any serious historian would hold that view today. Alongside tall the evidence for the existance of Jesus of Nazareth in the Bible there are also reports of Him from outside the Bible. The Roman historian Josephus, born 4 years after Jesus time spoke of Jesus as: 'a man, if it is lawful to call Him a man, a doer of wonderful works, who taught men who received the truth with pleasure. When He was condemned to the cross those that oved Him did not at first forsake Him for three days after He appeared to them alive, as the divine prophets foretold...and is there still not a tribe of His followers called 'Christians' to this day?'
So we have evidence from outside the Bible as well as from the Bible itself. But some argue that the New Testament can not be trusted as it was written a long time ago and its hard to believe that it's not been changed over time. The science of textual criticism answers this claim. Essentially the more copies we have, the less doubt we can have about their validity. Professor Bruce who was a Bible Professor at the University of Manchester shows the credibility of the New Testament by comparing it to other historical texts.
For Caesars Gallic Wars we have just nine copies, the earliest of which was written 900 years after Caesars day. For Livy's Roman History there are less than twenty copies surviving, again with the earliest being more than 900 years more recent than Livy. For Thucydides, who is known as 'the father of history' there are only eight copies of his work surviving, with a time gap of around 1300 years! For the Bible, however we have 25000 copies with the earliest just 300 years after the event. Now, no one doubts the validity of the other works, so why doubt the validity of the Bible? Bruce concludes that the gap between the originals and the copies are so small as the be negligible, and thus we can be sure that the Bible we have now is as it was originally, and the integrity and authenticity of the Bible is firmly established.
Some people think that Jesus was a wonderful man or good teacher, but they can't believe in Christianity. Christians claim that Jesus was the unique Son of God, the only way to have a relationship with God. So what evidence is there for this claim? What evidence is there for the claim that Jesus was more than just a good moral teacher? The answer is that there is a great deal of evidence, from what Jesus said about Himself, what he did, what His charecter was like, His fulfilment of Old Testament prophecy and lastly, the ressurection.
People say that Jesus never claimed to be God, but there are plenty of times when, directly and indirectly, He claimed just that. One of Jesus most famous claims was 'I am the way, the truth and the life'. Do these sounds like the words of a man who was just a good teacher or decent man? Lets look at it a bit. Imagine if i came up to you and said 'Hi i'm ed, i am the truth.' 'Hi, my names Ed, i am the life'. 'Hi, my names Ed, i am the only way to God'. Imagine it. You'd be appalled, and rightly so, because i am none of those things. You're first reaction would certainly not be...'oh yeh, there goes a good man'
This reflects the self centred nature of Jesus' teaching. Every prophet in the Bible points away from Himself towards God, Jesus points TO Himself AS God. Jesus says basically if you want satisfaction come to me, if you want fulfillment come to me, if you want a relationship with God come to me, if you want LIFE come to me. Again these are direct claims that no good teacher of prophet would make. Certainly claims that no one else in the Bible makes.
People live in darkness and despair and dissolusionment. This was as true in biblical times as it is now. Jesus said that He was the light of the world. He claimed to be able to open people's eyes to life and to God...yet another extraordinary claim. People are scared of death and dying. Jesus claimed that He was the ressurection and the life and that those who came to Him would never die. He said that to receive and welcome Him was to receive and welcome God.
Are these claims that a teacher or prophet would make?
Perhaps His best known claim was the ability to forgive sins. [here i used a famous Lewis quote from the Alpha book, my notes just say 'Lewis quote' so i'll try and paraphrase it as best i can!] If i step on your foot, you forgive me, if i break your car you forgive me, but what are we to make of someone, un stepped on, and with car fully in tact that forgives the stepping and the breaking? What are we to make of someone who acts as if He was the main injured party as a result of every sin? As if every murder and theft was an affront just to Him? There would only be two conclusions we could raw. Either we would be facing a facetiousness and self centred delusion unmatched in human history, from a man who could be dismissed instantly, or, we are faced with the fact that Jesus really was the person who He claimed to me.
Jesus said that He would one day return to judge everyone. He basically said 'on judgement day you'll appear before me and i''ll decide where you'll spend eternity. My decision will be based on how you've treated me and what i've offered you'. Imagine if someone you respected as a man or a teacher said that. It would be utterly preposterous. This is yet another of His claims to be God.
So what about his direct claims? During His trial He was asked 'are you the Christ, the son of God?' He answered 'I am'. The priests started to tear at their clothes and demand an end to the trial. It was clear that in their view Jesus had claimed to be God. When Jesus asked why people were stoning Him their reply was 'becuase you, a mere man, claim to be God. It is clear what His enemies thought of Him and His claims. When one of His followers called Him 'my Lord and my God' Jesus didn't say, 'no no, thats not me', He said that Thomas has seen and believed. He even rebuked Him for not getting it sooner!
So how can we test people's claims? Jesus claimed to be the unique son of God, God made flesh. There are three logical possibilities that Jesus claims lead us to. If His claims were untrue either He didn't know they were untrue, so He was mad, a man who thought He was God but was deluded. Or He knew they were untrue and therefore was a conman, someone who knew what He was doing and was an evil imposter. The third possibility is that His claims were true.
So what evidence is there? His teaching is some of the greatest teaching ever. People say that they live by His teaching, and by the Sermon on the Mount in particular. Now, this may not be possible, and may miss the point, but they say it nonetheless. His teaching is loved more, quoted more, translated more and believed more than any other simply because they are the greatest words ever spoken. They lucidly and clearly deal with the greatest problems that ever face man. They are the sort of answers one would expect a God to give. His teaching is the centrepiece for our civilisation. may of our laws are based on His teaching and surely that demonstrates that in nearly 200 years no one has has come along who has improved on His teaching. Could these words have come from someone who was mad, or deluded? Jesus said that when He did a miracle He did it in, by and through God the Father. The Bible tells us that Jesus turned water into wine, that He fed 5000 people with a boy's lunch, that He stopped storms with just His words, that He cured people from illness and that He bought people back to life from the dead. But one thing shines above everything else in Jesus' teaching...His love for people. He ate and lived with tax collectors and sinners, its hard for us to find a level of comparison today for this level of society today, these people were totcal outcasts. It was on the cross that Jesus ultimately and completly demonstrated His love for people, as we'll see later. But love for people was clearly behind His works. Could they really have been done by someone who was deluded about his own identity?
His character has impressed both Christians and non Christians. He was unselfish but not self pitying. Humble but not weak. He had joy but never at anyone's expense. He was kind but not indulgent. His enemies couldn't find any fault in His and those who knew Him said He was without sin. Bernard Levin said of Jesus that His charecter would pierce the soul of anyone who had a sould to be pierced. He is loved all over the world, His message clear, His pity infinite, His consolation effective, His words full of love, glory and wisdom. Surely no one with these characteristics could be described as mad or evil.
Old Testament prophecy. Jesus fulfilled over 300 different prophecies written over 500 years. Many would say that this simply proves He was an effective conman, but the sheer weight of prophecy makes that impossible. He also fulfilled prophecies that He had no control over about His birth and death. It would have been a bit late at the age of thurty when He started teaching to go back and find out where He was supposed to be born!
Finally the resurrection. This is the centrepiece of the Chrisitian faith. The Bible itself says that if the resurrection didn't happen then Chrisitians are to be pitied above all people. But what evidence is there for the resurrection? It can be broken down into four main elements.
First of all the absence from the tomb... many other theories have been forward as to why Jesus' body was not in the tomb on the first easter sunday, but none of them are very convincing. Some have suggested that Jesus wasn;t dead when He was taken from the cross and put in the tomb, and that He later recovered. Jesus had undergone a Roman flogging and been nailed to a cross for six hours. Bearing in mind crucifixion was eventually stopped for being too brutal even for the Romans, could a man who had undergone such physical punishment really have been able to roll away a stone and escape from a tomb?
Also, when the soldiers allowed Jesus to be taken down off the cross, they pierced Him with a spear, and the Bible reports that a mixture of blood and water flowed out from the wound. This was a seperation of serum and a blood clot, which is medical evidence for someones death. John didn't know this when He wrote that, he was just recording eyewitness accounts of the event. This is powerful medical evidence that Jesus was indeed dead when they took Him down from the cross. The second objection is that the disciples stole His body and then made up a rumour that Jesus was alive again. Apart from the fact the tomb was heavily guarded this seems psychologically unlikely. The disciples were depressed and disillusioned after the crucifixion of the man they thought was the Messaih. It would have taken something remarkable for Peter to go from this to a man who preached so powerfully a few days later that 3000 people were saved. Also given the torture and continual threats of death the disciples suffered it seems unlikely that they would all die for something they knew not to be true. The last objection is that the disciples stole the body. This seems to be the least likely of all. If they had stolen the body why didn't they present it when the disciples were claiming that Jesus was alive again? In some ways the term 'empty tomb' is a misnomer. What Peter and John saw when they went to the tomb were the grave clothes folded and empty. They were like a chrysalis after a butterfly had passed though. No wonder John 'saw and believed'.
What about His appearances to the disciples? Some people say that these were simply hallucinations, but hallucinations happen to emotional, highly strung people, not burley weather beaten fishermen, tax collectors and sceptics. Also people who hallucinate don't suddenly stop doing so. Jesus appeared to His desciples eleven times in six weeks and then stopped. The number and the sudden ceasaeation make it unlikely. Jesus also appeared to over five hundred people at one time...is it likely that all these people shared the same hallucination. Also hallucinations are not real, they're subjective. When Jesus appeared to the disciples he ate and drank with them, cooked for them. He told Thomas to put his hands in His wounds.
The immediate effect of the ressurection was amazing. In just three hundred years the church spread from a small group of fisherman in the middle east across the world. It was a peaceful revolution the world has not seen before or since. It grew because people were able to say 'Jesus is not dead, come and meet Him and see what we're talking about. The church, from that first Easter sunday spread everywhere.
There is also the question of personal experience. People from every tribe, caste, race, country and tongue can say today that they have experienced a relationship with Jesus. People from all over the world unite in the their experience of the risen Jesus. I can talk about the relationship i have with the risen Jesus. There is no way this man is dead...he is alive!
As i said earlier what Jesus said about Himself leaves us to three possible conclusions. Either He was and is the Son of God or He was evil or simply deluded. The weight of His teaching, His works, charecter, fulifillment of prophecy and conquest of death make the latter two suggestions seem illogical and unbeliveable. On the other hand they lend the strongest possibility to the claim that Jesus was and is a man who's conscience identity was God. We are left then with the alternative that either Jesus was and is exactly what He said He was, or else He was insane or something worse. To CS Lewis is seems clear that He was neither evil or insane. He concludes that however strange or terrifying is may seem the logical view is that Jesus was, and is, God.
So, i got a 2:2. But thats pretty cool. I was thinking today, in fact, i pretty much woke up thinking that if i could swap a 2:2 for a 2:1 or a first and it meant that none of the people i've seen get saved in the last three years got saved...there's no way i'd swap. Knowing what i've gots cool, and its pretty good to be at the end of six years of constant assesment.
I know that when i look back at Uni, i won't be remembering much about medieval England, or the Hundred Years war, or the Russian Revolution, but it'll all be about what God has done here whilst i've been here. And thats been pretty cool. So hurrah! God is Holy and Just and Merciful and He saves. Thats all the good news i need on a monday!
Two things that i've read recently i want to share. One potentially life changing, one that made me smile and go 'hmm'...i'll you decide which one is which.
'All sports can be enjoyed for the sake of themselves, as well as with a noisy one-eyed partizanship because we want one side to win. At the World Cup we switch from one mode to the other with effortless contradiction. For three days you are a professor of football, as aesthete of the beautiful game, a scientist seeking new specimens of brilliance [Ed intejects: Torres's goal against Ukraine, Argentina Vs Ivory Coast, Cahill's brace Vs Japan] and then on the fourth day, when England play again, you become a frenzied supporter, seeing a world filled with imaginary injustices. Happy to win by any means possible untroubled by thoughts of beauty or for that matter, justice.' -Simon Barnes The Game P9 14/6.
'Not surprisingly, the New Testament does not see Christians starting with the Gospel and then graduating to higher mysteries. Whether it speaks specifically of the Gospel or of Christ, it strongly exhorts leaders to live in accordance with the Gospel, to advance its cause, to relate to other Christians in its terms and to find in it all wisdom and knowledge. Whether the problem be Judaizing Christians who try to add law to the Gospel, or the Colossian heresy with its intellectual additions, the gospel remains the standard for truth. So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord continue to live in Him, rootedand built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness (Col 2:6-7)-The Revelation of God, Peter Jensen, P87 (emphasis mine)
In case you're not fully awake this morning, the second one is the important one. I'm enjoying the World Cup. I've seen all or some of every game, and with the exception of the England games enjoyed them all (not because i feel England are playing poorly, although since they're the most talented group we've had since 1970 i think there's a lot more to come, i just never really actively enjoy watching England or Wycombe play competitively...too much one eyed partizanship), but its not what life is about. The World Cup will end. My enjoyment of it is temepered by the fact that by July 10th it will be a rapidly receeding memory. The reign of Jesus will never end. There is nothing to temper our enjoyment of Him, as long as we run after Him, persue Him, and out our joy and our trust on Him. Our enjoyment of Heaven as we worship God will be infinite. It will never end. Jesus is the Gate, He is the Way. I pray i won't be distracted from the sun by looking at the bonfire...
I think atonement is one of my favourite words. At-one-ment...its very cool. Us and God, bought into relationship by the awesome work of Jesus on the cross. It's amazing. I'm doing the 'Who is Jesus' talk at ChurchCellAlpha tonight, so please pray for me. It's been great to prepare it, great to examine the truth claims of Jesus once more. I mean, He has to has to be who He claimed to be. There is no other logical, sensible conlusion to come to. Jesus is God. This is excellent news!
I've been reading 'Cross Examined' by Mark Meynell this week. One of the three free books to come with my 'Preparing For Relay' pack (thankyou UCCF!), it's really good and vey helpful. Something i read yesterday struck me though.
In the year King Uzziah died, Isaiah saw the LORD (Is 6), and he described Him as being exulted by the Seraphs with cries of 'holy, holy, holy.' In the Old Testament when an idea is being emphasised or it's totality expressed a word will be used twice. So in Genesis 14:10 the literal translation for 'full of pits' is 'pits pits', an idea we lose totally in the translation. But notice that the hebrew way of making something a superlative is to duplicate it, not to say it three times. So what of the refrain of 'holy, holy, holy'? God is so Holy that a 'super-' superlative has to be used to describe Him. Putting Him one level up the scale simply isn't good enough. God's Holiness is off the scale; He is 'holy holy holy', not holy holy.
God is not just the best sort of man. True, Jesus was the greatest human that ever lived, or will ever live, but to reduce God to being determined according to our scale simply will not do. God is not just the best Being that we can conceieve of, He is inconceievable in His goodness and holiness, and in every other way. He is off the scale...Holy Holy Holy.
The World Cup is an interesting marker. A chance to remember and reflect where i was four years ago. I've been reading Phillipians recently, and been really hit by Paul talking about counting all things loss for the sake of knowing Christ and about being content in all situations, two things that i've had to fight for recently. I've also been praying in a kind of half-hearted 'i suppose i should' kind of way about not becoming consumed with the World Cup over the next five weeks, not to let it take my energy and my thoughts away from the LORD, knowing Him.
Four years ago, when the World Cup was last staged, i had been a Christian for maybe six weeks. Hardly any time at all. Im those days football consumed me completly. I remember thinking at the start of the Lower Sixth that life was worth living for a change because Wycombe had signed some decent players and might actually go somewhere that season (we didn't). There's a picture of me taken shortly after we'd beaten Argentina in 2002 just looking so happy so overjoyed. I think that photo sums up what football meant to me then.
Football still means a lot to me today, but it's interesting to note the changes in my attitude towards it. I think now, its a very poor second on my list to knowing Jesus. I think today i counted watching Germany-Costa Rica as loss in a very real sense, which surprised me (what a game though). Surprised me, but encouraged me. And i have just enjoyed Ecuador-Poland, and probably will still take in games like Iran-Angola and Togo-South Korea. But today, in 2006, because of Jesus, there is more meaning in my life. I don't just view the weeks as the boring bit between 5pm saturday and 3pm saturday. And i thank God for that. It was great to sit in my sunny garden today and read The Cross Examined, and to be thinking about the biggest things in life, the best things in life. To not be distracted by 'The Greatest Show on Earth' but to be preparing myself for 'The Greatest Coming on Earth'. It's great, really great to be a Christian. I thank God for abnswering my prayers that i would not idol worship service, but that my service would come out of a love for Him. I pray that would continue, that His light would blind me to any others.
Also really cool to hear Pete Lowman spend ten minutes talking about his time withIFES Russia before speaking at RUCU on thursday, got me excited about HomeStart. Man, if i think God is calling me to France to work with students, there no way i can't go. Just no way. I just need to work out whether its a calling for next year or sometime after that...
When i was in the Up In Arms tonight i was thinking to myself, 'thats a interesting thought...i'll write something about that'. Can i remember what that thought was? I can not.
But i will say this. I think its a bit weird that in the winter i long for days of hot, unbroken sunshine, and then when those days arrive i find myself looking at winter photos, pining for slate grey skies and coats up to your ears. But we're off to the beach on thursday, so slate grey skies wouldn't really be appreciated then. I wonder if this weather disatisfaction is a metaphor for the rest of my life. I hope not.
I have terrible amounts of unbelief. Today, i really needed some quick, good advice about something. But Drew was at work, Bish away, and Dave P and T were both in London. But why did i think of them first. Sure, they're great friends and would have given sound advice, but why did i not talk to God about it straight away. Jesus shed blood on the cross that i might be won for Him, have a relationship with Him. I didn't need to explain the situation to Him, or ramble on trying to explain myself...'cos He's God. And yes, He was right, His ways are perfect, and that is good news. But who has the loudest voice in my life? Whose advice will i always seek out on every situation? I hope it's His, but days like today make me wonder whether it really is.
Where will i be in ten years? France? Africa? The Middle East? Reading? I think all these are possible with varying degrees of likelyhood. I know it'll either be France or Reading after my year in Guildford, and then if France almost certainly Reading after that again. But what has drawn me to these conclusions? The advice of others, or God's call. Do i just want to go the Middle East because of some sort of bravado about doing evangelism in closed countries (i don't think so) Do i want to go to Africa because i like the songs (maybe, but, man, what an exciting place to be) and what about Reading, is that just because i love my church and am love there. This place sure does need the Gospel though. Am i getting too caught up in serving the Lord, rather than just focussing my attention on Him alone. But this i know with all my heart. That God's plan for every area of my life so far has been perfect, and so i see no reason for that to change any time soon. Which is great.
Anyway, its 0315, so i feel i should go to bed before: A) It gets light B) Bish sees fit to repudiate me upon his return from Quinta.
At the RFC mens breakfast on Saturday, our speaker, whose name i've forgotten, touched upon the letter to the church in Ephesus in his talk. I guess the letters in Revelation are about the easiest things to understand in the book, but apart from that they're also full of really good truth (funilly enough, this being the Bible!).
The church in Ephesus is obviously one place where Paul wrote a letter to, and it seems from these verses in Revelation, initially at least that they had come through the struggle that prompted Paul to write to them. It says that God knows their works, how they toil, how they struggle for the truth, how they test the apostles. It all seems good so far. The letter even commends them on how they are patiently enduring and bearing up for Jesus' sake without growing weary. Again, so far it this certainly seems like a letter of comendation, and i suppose up to this point it it. It seems that at this point the Church in Ephesus is one that can be held up as an example to the churches around it. In verse seven they are further commended for 'hating the Nicolatians' as God does. So what was the problem? Verse four is the problem.
The Ephesian Christians had lost their first love. They had stopped doing the things they did at first. They had lost the joy of their salvation. They are told to remember from where they had fallen, and repent, unless God punish them. I think it's interesting that a church can still look good on the outside, indeed it seems still be effective on the outside if the first four verses are anything to go by, and yet still have lost thier first love. Perhaps they had put service above Jesus, or patience, or apostle testing or Nicolatian hating above Jesus. These things were all good and right in themselves, and are commended as being such. But they had lost their first love, the reason they were saved, the reason their lungs were filled with air. They had forgotten the things they did at first, whether intentionally (by thinking there was some kind of other level of sanctification) or not. There's a warning to all of us here.
'Repent, and do the things you did at first' they are commanded. 'The things they did at first'. I love hanging out with Becki and Anna at the moment. They are doing the things they do at first right now, that first rush, that real and unshakeable breathless gratitude to the Lord for all He has done. It's a joy to see. This is where we must never move from. This is where we must stay. Joyfull and greatful just for belonging to Jesus. All we do in service of Him must must be an overflow, an expression of our love for Him. Or we, like the church in Ephesus have lost our first oove and must repent. There is nothing apart from Jesus, nothing outside of Him, nothing beyond or behind Him, no higher state into which we can push. Just more of Him, our first love. There are times in life when we lose sight of that. When Christian life becomes about meetings, or quiet times, or putting chairs out...and i know because i've been there. And it's a tragedy. Jesus is all there is. We must not, we must never move from Him, from His completed work on the cross, from the things that have saved us. We are justified and then sanctified. It will never work the other way around. And why must be work at it? Because he who conquers will eat of the tree of life in paradise.
Oh the wonderful grace of God, which gave John a revelation and the church in Ephesus a letter. That He calls them to repent according to His love and mercy rather than just leaving them to it or letting them burn for an eternity in hell. What an awesome God we worship...how amazing is His grace, and His ways. We must watch ourselves. We must strive to keep Jesus at the centre, keep the main thing the main thing, or it's all going to be a tragic waste of a life.