Where My Bereans At?

Yesterday morning I took another turn at leading a Bible Study at church.

If you’re interested in reading what I said, you can do so here.

And here are some links to what some other people have to say on the same subject:

Rev Kev DeYoung writes:

How to Be Better Bereans, parts 1, 2 & 3, and The Preacher At His Best.

and Jason Meyer discusses Pastoral Preaching.

My title is taken from the opening line of Stephen the Levite’s What’s Your Proof?

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It Breaks My Heart (well, that may be exaggerating slightly…)

So, Steve, how do you feel about having to leave Bath CU soon?

I’d say the song Prague (preferably the Muse version found below) gives a reasonable idea of my thoughts on that prospect.

Ok maybe it’s not quite like that, it’s more that I just like the song more every time I listen to it 🙂

However, while I do sometimes struggle to feel properly united, the CU is still easily my favourite part of my uni life, and I am gonna miss it a lot.

[[Warning: This post could possibly be described as a bit ‘feelings-y’. It’s pretty much just me thinking out loud (or on a keyboard) about where my life is going, which is probably not very interesting to read.]]

I assumed when I started uni that 5 years would be long enough to work out what to do afterwards, but apparently not. In fact, while I’ve progressed at the same rate as my course mates, I’ve got to know new freshers in the CU each year. And particularly this year, this has meant that despite my own first year being a distant memory, I still kind of feel like I’m just getting started, when actually, in a couple of months it’ll all be over.

In some ways it’s ok, even quite exciting, that I don’t know what’s next, because God knows… but I would still like to have some idea. Until now, my route through education has pretty much come about without me having to think about it. I now need to go out and find something to do next, but don’t know what I want, or what God wants. At the moment it kind of feels like my life is being cleared out, and I’m intrigued to see what’s going to replace the things that are being taken away.

It’s not exactly making me more pleased to leave the CU that people have recently been thanking me for being so helpful and encouraging. These comments, ranging from the somewhat believeable “just the fact you’re at pretty much every event is really encouraging”, to the plain ridiculous “you’re an amazing man of God”, remind me of something Joel Beeke said at the Aber conference last year:

Joel’s son wrote about his dad for a school report, saying that, while he has flaws, “he loves Jesus more than anyone I know”. Joel admitted that when he read this, he “wept like a baby”, because he feels like he loves the Lord so little.

It’s encouraging to hear that people can see things like that, even if we can’t see it in ourselves, and it’s nice to find that people are encouraged by me even though I feel like I’m doing very little that’s useful.

So in conclusion, to quote the Foo Fighters: “I wish you only knew how good it is to CU.”

…ok, so the actual words are “See You”, but this is how I hear it 🙂

CU Weekend Away! Yay!

I’m the one eating a guy’s arm

13th-15th November was Bath CU Weekend Away. Until now I’ve somehow managed to find plenty of other ways to put off doing coursework rather than write this.

Spinning Plates & Road Deaths

The main speaker, a guy called Pete Greasley, started out by saying that while he comes away from a lot of Christian conferences feeling guilty and burdened with all the things he should be doing or needs to change in his life, this weekend he was just going to talk about Jesus. I don’t think other conferences are necessarily bad for pricking our consciences and maybe making us think about things we should or shouldn’t be doing that we wouldn’t otherwise have thought about, but I was very happy with his approach.

Two illustrations particularly stood out for me.

One was related to the introductory statement where we are bombarded with the things we should be doing as Christians. Things can easily add up like more and more spinning plates and it’s a struggle to keep them all going. Well, since there’s nothing we need to do to be saved, stop worrying about them. Just concentrate on loving God, and the rest will happen naturally. I don’t think that means we don’t need to put any effort into living a life of consistent Christian integrity (I’ve been listening to Joel Beeke again), but if a plate falls occasionally, it’s not a disaster, thankfully there’s nothing we can do to stop God loving us.

The other challenged how we think about the sacrifice Christ made for us. Particularly for those of us brought up to go to church every Sunday, it’s easy to forget just how much our salvation cost and take it for granted. Pete spoke of a person crossing the road who’s about to get hit by a car, but another man pushes him out of the way and dies himself. All the onlookers would be very impressed by the way the man put someone else’s life before his own, but that feeling would be nothing compared to the man who was saved. For him it’s personal, that man died for ME. He would think about it every day for the rest of his life, “I wouldn’t be here, if it wasn’t for that man’s sacrifice”. Jesus deserves that kind of appreciation from us.

Comparing Cadbury’s & A Ceilidh

Last year was the first time I went on the weekend away. One of the highlights that made me feel stupid for not going the previous 3 years was the games in the afternoon. That didn’t happen this year, so no Wotsit Face, no chance to see the CU President (at the time) eating a banana through a pair of tights pulled over his head, nor the VP eating mars bars out of baked beans using just her teeth to pick them up. 😦 Something was supposed to happen in the afternoon, but was cancelled due to the weather, so whatever was planned remains a mystery.

Instead we had a Ceilidh in the evening (more middle of the night, really, started at 11.30pm). I’m really not into dancing but will have a go if I’m told exactly what to do, and even – dare I admit it? – find it quite enjoyable. Apologies to anyone I might have kicked, or made a total mess of whatever I was supposed to be doing with them.

The Cabaret was again brilliant, James & Matt’s Fantabulous Band were predictably brilliantly predictable, the Fletch Sketch was hilariously weird, and the juggling and eating simultaneously was very impressive. It was slightly disappointing that 5 West Life couldn’t put in another performance this time around (although the band name wouldn’t make much sense to freshers now anyway), but CU Blind Date made up for it. Genius.

Aber

No, it’s not a Wurzels tribute to the group of Swedes that brought us Mamma Mia. It is in fact a Christian conference that takes place in Aberystwyth.

I could just direct you to other people’s blogs about the week, Gary Brady and Guy Davies have both written a fair bit about it. However, although it’s gonna require more thought than a lot of my posts, I actually feel it would be wrong not to write something about a week that I found so challenging and simultaneously so encouraging.

So, Sunday we went for the usual Geoff Thomas option, arrived at the church 50mins before the service started and there was already a queue of about 100* people outside. The stand-out memory I have of the preaching was the brilliantly succint “HE DIE; WE NO DIE.” You can read the sermons in written form here, personally I keep checking the Alfred Place MP3 page hoping to download the audio, especially the Monday morning one that I missed.

*100 is a very rough guess, it could have been less, but I did a more precise estimate of how many people were inside when it was full and reckon it was around 550. Hymn singing sounded better in the church than in the Great Hall, despite the Great Hall containing roughly double the number of people.

Monday evening was Jonathan Thomas. I thought he was good, probably my favourite of the evening sessions, we’ll come back to him in extratime.

Tuesday morning the conference was fully underway with the first of Joel Beeke’s addresses on Contagious Christian Living. Each morning he spoke on a different person in the Bible who’s life was a contagious example of a different aspect of how a Christian should live.

Tuesday was Jephthah & his daughter (Judges 11:34-40) and their Sacrificial Submission. I don’t remember hearing before of the theory that Jephthah didn’t actually kill his daughter, I thought he made a convincing argument. It does annoy me though (I’m sure there’s a more appropriate word than annoy, but I can’t think of it right now) that if the hebrew word translated ‘burnt offering’ does not necessarily mean burnt offering, the translators seem to me to have done a pretty poor job on this passage, which begs the question, what else have they screwed up on?

Wednesday was Bartimaeus’ Christ-Centredness (Mark 10:46-52), overall I found this one less helpful than the other days, but in the last 15mins or so it was very encouraging to hear that Joel isn’t quite the super-confident evangelist that might have been expected.

Thursday was Jacob’s wrestle with God (Genesis 32:22-32) leading to Contagious Blessing and Friday was Daniel‘s Consistent Integrity.

I bought the CDs of these main addresses, and spent Saturday afternoon when I got back home turning them into audiobooks for my iPod. So far I’ve listened to the first two again, maybe I’ll add to the above when I’ve listened to Jacob and Daniel again.

I only went to one of the extratime sessions (for 15-25 year olds), but it was a good ‘un, a question panel featuring Joel Beeke and Jonathan Thomas (and a woman I forget the name of). Someone had submitted a question about whether Christians should go to the cinema.

The question was addressed to Joel first, Joel does not watch any films, doesn’t even own a TV and suggested that there are much better things a Christian can do with their time. The question was then passed over to Jonathan, who had mentioned a few films in his Monday evening talk, he describes his thinking here (there’s some amusing stuff afterwards too). Basically the conclusion was that watching films is not necessarily bad, but we shouldn’t be filling our minds with rubbish. I personally know that my head does contain a lot of rubbish (lines from Simpsons episodes, Bill Bailey jokes, song lyrics…), Joel spoke of the thousands of Bible verses his head contains. I’m certainly thinking a lot more about how I’m spending my time than I was before.