Transition: Mission Weeks

PlymCUMission weeks or events week are where the CU puts on a week of events that give everyone on campus the opportunity to hear about Jesus. It is an intense week. You spend most of the year planning for it, making sure you have speakers, venues, themes, talk titles and fliers.

I think I have been involved in about 12 mission weeks since being a student. This includes going as a student, staff worker and going along as a guest to a mission week in another Uni. It is a hard week and you end up really tired but it is totally worth it. Here are some reasons why I love it:

  • Seeing students really step out in faith and invite their friends along to hear about Jesus
  • Hearing great talks from mission speakers
  • Meeting to pray every morning and seeing prayers answered
  • Seeing students accept Jesus for the first time
  • Reaching people who may of never have come across a Christian or CU or church before
  • The energy from the students
  • The way the students work together in unity to achieve a week of events
  • Watching things go wrong but then discover that the Lord has used it for good
  • Fliering in the rain… (ok that isn’t one of my favourites…)

I think University provides a great platform for events week and it has been wonderful to be a part of these weeks. I remember it was during a mission week that I led a student to Christ – it was amazing and such an exciting time. I learnt so much through that.

It is strange to think that I won’t really be a part of that process any more, but it is probably a good thing as I don’t think that kind of pattern of ministry is sustainable for the whole life of the church. The model works well at University where terms are short, it’s a quick fire paced life and people are living in very close quarters.

But church is a much slower pace, inviting people in from all walks of life and backgrounds, different situations and questions. The whole CU model of mission couldn’t be mapped on to church life, some of it would, but not all of it and I am looking forward to a different pace of life, with different people, rhythms and questions.

I have learnt so much through mission weeks and I have seen the goodness of the Lord where he has sustained me and provided when we have been in need. If you ever get a chance to be a guest in one, then do – it will open your eyes to some exciting student mission that the CU’s are doing across the UK and the world!

Frozen: True Love

frozen When I was a kid watching Disney films was a real treat. I grew up with the magic of Lion King, Beauty and the Beast and Jungle Book. Singing along and enjoying the classic boy meets girl story. I have written before about how Disney gets the heart of the universal story that we all ache for.

A prince rescuing a princess.

*Spoilers Alert

But the other day I watched the film Frozen, and I must say I was pleasantly surprised. Unlike most other Disney films, Frozen captured more of the Gospel story then ever before.

Salvation plays a big part in the stories we tell. Go to the movies and you will find the story is telling you that salvation is necessary – to be rescued, to be taken from poverty, ugliness, captivity into riches, beauty and freedom. And there is always a saviour, whether that is prince charming or some inner person/ courage in your heart that you just have to find. With salvation, true love is not far behind.

For Disney, salvation is true love. And that true love must be shown as a kiss.

  • trueloveskissAriel’s salvation from being captured in the prison of silence was broken by a true love’s kiss.
  • Snow white is awoken and saved from eternal sleep by true love’s kiss.
  • In Beauty and the Beast, the beast is free from eternal hairiness by true love’s kiss.

Disney is right, only true love can save. Love does indeed win.

However it is not through a kiss that true love is shown:

…but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us…. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. (Romans 5:8,10)

True love is sacrifice. It is through death and giving up ones life for another. The bible tells us that in order for us to be rescued, Christ stooped down and died for us (while we hated him), saving us and reconciling us to His Father.

Death is far more powerful than a kiss and it brings a better salvation. 

In the film Frozen, Disney shows this reality. Salvation doesn’t come through a True Love’s kiss but through a True Love’s sacrifice.

Elsa has magical powers (she can freeze people) and it causes relationships to break, she feels guilty and she runs away ashamed. She wraps herself in her own castle of ice and tries to hide, pushing everyone away.

Her sister Anna pursues her. She doesn’t give up.

This is a Hosea moment.

“Therefore, behold, I will allure her,
    and bring her into the wilderness,
    and speak tenderly to her.” (Hosea 2:14)

Anna pursues and woos her.

Later on there comes a moment where Elsa has to die, but Anna steps out and takes her place. Anna sacrifices herself for Elsa and Elsa is saved because of the death of another has taken her place.

Then Anna is resurrected, showing the strength and power of her love.

As with anything, of course it isn’t a perfect representation of the Gospel – but it is a glimpse and a better glimpse then a kiss.

This film would be a good one to explain what true love really is, the cost of true freedom and the love that Christ has for us.

Jesus + Nothing = Everything

JesusNothingEverythingThis catchy book title was written by Tullian Tchividjian. This is a book about the Gospel and what Jesus has done for us. It is a refreshing book to read as it sits on the bookshelf amongst books that mostly tell you how to be a better Christian, leader, minister, pop star etc. I found it helpful to have my eyes cast away from myself and come back to Jesus. Tullian explains the heart of what it means to follow Jesus and what Jesus did on the cross was enough not just for salvation but for living as a Christian, every day.

Let me tell you 3 things I learnt / enjoyed about this book:

1. The Gospel isn’t just for non/new Christians. The Gospel is for the Christian, every single day. It is for the Christian that has been following Christ for 30 years, 30 days or 30 mins. The truth of the Gospel, what Jesus has done on the cross is something we need to hear and sink into our hearts everyday. It is too easy for me as I walk this road with Jesus to think that I now need to move on to “higher” and “better” things after I have grasped the basics of the Gospel, yet it seems that these basics are what I most need to hear because I easily forget them.

2. Your works can’t add to what Jesus has done. It seems we often believe the lie that the Gospel is enough for salvation but after that happens, we then need to work really hard to keep God happy or to stay in salvation. This is a lie. What Jesus has done on the cross is enough – we can’t add to it and we don’t “work hard” to pay back God. We rest in his salvation and when we do that, with our hearts being changed, we begin to produce fruit and good works.

We can rest in assurance that this equation is really true: Jesus + Nothing = Everything

3. Focus on what Christ has done for you, rather than looking inwards all the time: “To focus on how I’m doing more than what Christ has done is Christian narcissism” 

I would really recommend this book as it provides a great reminder of who we are in Christ and most importantly what Christ has done for us. It is a short read and really accessible for any reader.

The Lies We Listen to

It is easy to listen to the lies that are whispered to us. Often we believe these lies because we don’t always realise they are lies, our hearts sometimes think they are true and we cannot always see how much they are destroying us. Do you know what lies I mean?

Lies like this:

You aren’t really forgiven
You aren’t really loved
You are nothing
You can’t ever forgive that
You are better than her
She is much prettier than you
You are smarter than her

You don’t need to go to church today
It would be better if you stayed in bed
No one likes you
No one wants to hang out with you

You are way too messed up to be here
Look, all those perfect people
You need to be a better Christian
Pretend to be ok
No one wants to listen to you

You are not good enough to serve here
It would be better to be at the pub then at church
No one cares
No one wants to be your friend

You have no gifts
Jesus isn’t enough
You can’t trust these people
Don’t be vulnerable

They are so disappointed in you
You have let them down
You should feel shame

Work harder
Do better
Be Better

Do you recognise them? Lies that swirl around in your head and if they stay there too long, they will eat away at you and destroy you. The truth is what you need to hear.

The truth:

Jesus loves you
Jesus wants you in his church
He died for you
You are forgiven
He knows your mess and still loves you
Come to him and find rest
He will never reject you
He will give you peace
Jesus accepts you
Your worth can only be found in Him
Everyone around you is as messed up as you are
Everyone around you is as lost as you are
Everyone around you needs Jesus as much as you do
Jesus is enough
The Cross is enough:

Jesus carried all the disappointments
Jesus carried all the bitterness
Jesus carried all the shame
Jesus carried all the hurt
Jesus carried all the failure you feel
Jesus carried all the sorrow
Jesus carried all the mess you feel
Jesus carried all the brokenness inside you

He carried them to make you free and to bring you the Father.

Remind yourselves of these things when you start hearing those lies begin to surface. Squish them down with the truth of the Gospel.

The Tenderness of Your Heavenly Father

Louisa_May_Alcott_headshot“My child, the troubles and temptations of your life are beginning, and may be many; but you can overcome and outlive them all if you learn to feel the strength and tenderness of your Heavenly Father as you do that of your earthly one. The more you love and trust Him, the nearer you will feel to Him, and the less you will depend on human power and wisdom. His love and care never tire or change, can never be taken from you, but may become the source of lifelong peace, happiness, and strength. Believe this heartily, and go to God with all your little cares, and hopes, and sins, and sorrows, as freely and confidingly as you come to your mother.”
— Louisa May Alcott (Little Women (Little Women, #1))

I read this quote and just thought it was wonderful. I find it so easy to worry about the future, whether that’s next week, next year or in 10 years. It’s easy for me to be tempted into anxiety and stay there until I feel sorry for myself. This little quote is a wonderful reminded that our Heavenly Father is tender towards us and the more we come to love him and trust him, the less we will want to depend on human wisdom and power. Because I know that my wisdom and power is nothing compared to his.

I love how Jesus always points us to the Father and he shows us that if the Father cares for little birds and flowers then he will care for us. There are times when I really don’t believe it and I act like he doesn’t care and he won’t provide. Yet the alternative is to rely only on myself and I just don’t really have that kind of control or energy.

The truth is that we can come to our Father with all our cares and worries and he will never send us away or be tired of us. Isn’t that good news? I feel like I need to hear that daily. My heart forgets because the world says that I can do it, that there is a hero inside myself and a self-help book on the shelf and sometimes I want to believe that more because it looks impressive and shiny. But it smells like death. Its tragic.

I need to hear that I have a caring heavenly Father who really does love me. Really does listen to me. Really does care. And he wont ever leave.

My prayer is that this will soak into our hearts.

A Story Repeated

Reading a book at the beachHuman beings are story tellers. We all love stories. Its seems that christians have been telling the same story for over 2000 years. Over and over again, every Sunday, every midweek meeting and every evangelistic event.

It is the story of salvation, of bloodshed and sacrifice. The story of love, light and darkness. The story of a loving Father and his Son through the Spirit saving  the people who is the bride and the adopted son.

It is a story we repeat over and over again. Which means sometimes we think we know it. We mutter that we have heard it all before. We think we know this story and so we want talk about something else. We ask, do we have to listen to the Gospel AGAIN at church?

I firmly believe the answer to that is: Yes. Even if you don’t realise it, your heart and my heart needs to hear this story again. We need this story repeated again and again.

The funny thing is, this story is older than 2000 years. This is a story that is embedded in the Old testament. The story of liberation and salvation. The story of darkness and light, of sacrifice and blood. The story of Exodus. That story where God freed his people from slavery and led them into the promise land.

As I read through my bible I have noticed something. We are told the same story over and over again in the OT. God is constantly telling his people the same story of the Exodus…

“For I am the Lord who brought you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God.” Lev 11v45…

Here are some other examples although there are lots more:

Deuteronomy 20:1, Leviticus 25:38 , Amos 2:10 ,Psalm 81:10 ,Jeremiah 2:6 ,2 Kings 17:7

This story is repeated over and over again. At first I thought – they know this! I know this! Stop repeating it. But then it struck me. They are a forgetful people. They forget who God is, they forget what God has done and they go after idols and think those idols saved them.

So the Lord in his patience and grace repeats the story again. This is who I am, this is what I did, this is the story – I saved you, I freed you, you are my people, I love you, blood was shed for you. No other god or thing can do that.

The story of the Exodus in the OT was pointing to the Cross and its this story we share now. And it struck me that I am the same. I forget this story.

I am like the Israelites who need to be told again and again and again who God is, where salvation comes from and what God has done and will do.

When I forget this story I go after idols and say to them, “these are my salvation and they will help me in time of need“, which is rubbish. I need to hear the Gospel again. When I tempted to rely on anything other than Jesus, I need to hear the Gospel again. When I tempted to worry or complain, I need to hear the Gospel again. And so forth.

The story being repeated is one of the most gracious things the Lord does for us, because if He didn’t we would be lost and going after cheap substitutes that lead to death.

Let’s never be someone who says “I have heard it all before”, but rather be someone who says “I need to hear this again!”.

So then, lets keep sharing that story over and over again to each other, to the world and in the pulpit. Let’s never get tired of this story because it is a beautiful story and our hearts need to hear of the wonderful salvation through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ every day.

**Photo: By Simon Cocks (Flickr: Creative Commons licence)