- Stories from Sweden
- Epidemic Life
- Shadwell Mission Trip
Can’t see the video? View it on YouTube.
My good friend Joshua Smith tells the men it’s time to stand up and do something about this horrendous problem.
For ten years Bill Watterson entertained the world through his cartoon series, Calvin and Hobbes. In these cartoons Calvin – an intrepid little boy – is always off on some grand adventure with his faithful sidekick, Hobbes.
Calvin’s father – a hybrid of Watterson’s own father and himself – is often seen trying to help little Calvin “build character”, usually in the middle of a camping trip gone wrong. Yeah, you may have been there too.
Calvin regularly fails to see the point of this character building exercise, often noting how the lessons in life his father so eagerly dishes out seem to save his father some expense.
For many of us, we can relate to little Calvin when we experience suffering. It may be personal and felt, it may be trivial and inconvenient, it may be grotesque and life-altering.
Calvin felt left alone to suffer without meaning and without support.
There is a difference however between the world of Calvin and Hobbes and this life. His name is Jesus. Christianity says that there’s nothing man can do to make it to God. Instead, God came to man. His name is Jesus.
When it comes to suffering Jesus suffers alongside us. We do not have a God indifferent to the human condition. He has been there. And he is with us in our pain, no matter the circumstances.
More than that too, Jesus suffered for us. He willingly, lovingly and purposefully laid down his own life to pay a price that was around our necks. He suffered in agony, alone for hours and he did it thinking of each of us.
There is a present, felt reality about suffering in this world. Some of us will go through more than others but all of us will suffer and all will die.
Jesus’ suffering wasn’t pointless. It had a purpose. More than that, it had ultimate purpose that speaks into this life as well as the next. And there’s more good news: Jesus can use your pain and your suffering and turn it for good.
Suffering and pain can devastate joy, tear up hope, bring the strong to their knees and cause us to cry out, “Why?” In this world gone bad Jesus came to bring healing. He came that we might be saved out of despair and into a living, lasting hope. He’s done it all for us.
Jesus suffered and died that we might see him through our suffering and live.
For more Calvin and Hobbes go here: http://www.gocomics.com/calvinandhobbes/
And so I found myself on one typically damp and overcast English afternoon, standing on a busy street in southeast Oxford inviting people to come to an ‘Alpha Launch Party’ – step one on the Alpha Course. Aside from the internal moral deliberation/dilemma – is it wrong to invite people to a “free meal” and then hit them sideways with the gospel? – I enthusiastically and creatively tried to grab people’s attention and, with a smile, invite them to the meal.
I was brand new to the city. I was brand new to these people. The experience was actually fairly fun, probably in no small part because everything was so new to me.
Some people came to that launch party. Some even came because I handed them a flyer (much to my astonishment – yeah, that led to repentance). And after our meal and chit-chat a few left and a few signed up for the forthcoming Alpha course. We had our beginning.
Over the next few weeks we did the Alpha thing: food, talk, questions. As a basic format it’s great. It’s informal (helped because we held it in a home – not an awkward church hall), it’s relaxed, and it’s inviting. Alpha has known tremendous success as a programme and is continuing to work well in many places. But it didn’t work stonkingly well for us this time.
For a start, we had students. Now, I’m a student currently so I’d like to think I can see it both ways. The reality is students aren’t like normal people. We don’t hold normal schedules and working out how we prioritise tasks is as perplexing as wondering why the number 1 ranked test cricket side in the world suddenly forgot how to play cricket. So asking students to turn up at 7:30pm every Thursday was never going to work; let alone get them away for an entire weekend.
But one big question about my Alpha experience emerged after a period of reflection and contrast. As you may know, I started rowing last term and have had an absolute blast so far. I’m a bit gutted I came to love this sport so late in life (yeah – I’m only 28, but that feels ancient compared to these freshers). The group of lads I row with are great. Highly committed, motivated and a lot of fun.
There are four of us from good old Wycliffe that currently row for Queen’s. Inspired by Mr. Gwyn-Thomas (remember that name) – who made quite a splash with Queen’s Rowing last year (no pun intended) – we have got stuck in and had a blast. We’re making friends and looking to tell people about Jesus. Naturally a rowing movie, pizza and beer are on the agenda here.
And here is the contrast with Alpha. With Alpha I spent one day getting trying to get to know some people and then 3 months talking about Jesus. With my rowing buddies I’ve spent 3 months getting to know them and we’re going to put on just one day to talk about Jesus. Sure, Jesus comes up in conversation at the boathouse sometimes – but He isn’t introduced through a topic for the evening with bullet points to direct the conversation.
My friend Carl Beech has a few good things to say about running an outreach course (be it Alpha, Christianity Explored etc.). One of the key tips – noted especially so for men – is to do stuff that you’re good at. Get alongside people. Keep it real. Carl rides bikes up and down stupidly large mountains in foreign lands. But it works. People talk, they open up.
Now I’m far from a competent rower. But I’m learning all the time and giving it my all in every training session. That builds trust, friendship and opportunities.
It’s well worth asking the question: what are we inviting people to? A friendship with Jesus that manifests itself in programmes without friendship? Or do we seek to build real relationships, genuine friendships and then invite our friends to know our best friend? Life is relationships. We reflect God be being made for relationships. Let’s keep this in mind as we build our programmes.
Alpha is a fantastic course but for God’s sake, make it work for your friends rather than stuffing your friends into your programme. Let’s make sure our evangelistic efforts mirror the relationship that’s transformed our lives in the first place.
And finally, please pray that we have an opportunity over the beer and pizza coming up to show Jesus to our rowing friends well. It’s part of the wider Oxford University Mission Week coming up. Thanks! For more see thisisjesus.org
Pride and fear. Dream robbers. They usually go hand in hand these two. I’ve known both in my life and looking back on the memories they’ve produced is about as much fun as a naked paintball session in Scotland, in February.
I live with my regrets. My failures threaten to haunt me if given half the chance. “If only …”
Here’s the good news. I don’t have an overweight statue as the head of my faith. I get the guy all the great Westerns have – the man on the big horse riding into town to save the day.*
Jesus: he’s more of a man than I am, in every way. Submission to him kills pride. Done. And yet the ultimate warrior, the King of Kings, is also tender. “A bruised reed he would not crush.”** There is no fear when Jesus is in control.
And there’s more …
Think you’ve missed it? There’s further good news. Jesus is in the business of restoration. Yes, this means you too. While you have breath you must choose: waste away sighing over what you think you lost, or, accept Jesus’ most-powerful grace to change and start afresh. Again.
The choice is yours. The means to give you this choice was completely out of your control and completely down to the sacrifice Jesus made. He offers redemption. He offers hope.
What will you yield to this year? Pride? Fear? … or Jesus?
* Revelation 19:11
** Isaiah 42:3 and Matthew 12:20
The opening verses of the Bible establish the bedrock upon which the rest of scripture and the Christian faith is anchored. Many Christians, however, find these verses in Genesis difficult to digest and even harder to interpret. Over time, people’s confidence in the text has been eroded by a combination of modern scientific discoveries and assaults against the authority of the Bible by groups such as the new atheists. Do believers really have to make a choice between science and religion? When it comes to philosophy, is Christianity simply ‘beyond the pale’?
‘In the beginning’ is a training day designed to help believers grapple with these difficult topics, so that they might be able to communicate and defend the gospel message more effectively and with a greater confidence.
Here they are. The top 11 posts from 2011 from jonathansherwin.net
One of the greatest delights of the programme I’m studying right now are my fellow students. It truly is an honour to be surrounded by such an extraordinary bunch of people who all have a certain joie de vivre.
Here are some of their blogs. Well worth following.
I have just returned from one of my favourite weddings of all time. My best friend married his new best friend in a beautiful ceremony with a fantastic reception in Bristol.
The church was packed out with friends and family keen not to miss this couple, loved by many, make their vows before God. Everyone I talked to agreed it was a top-class wedding, with lots of fun and a deep sense of purpose about the proceedings.
The day belonged to the happy couple; the glory belonged to God.
From the readings in the church, to the message during the service, to the toasts (yes, Jesus got a toast at this wedding) to the speeches,much was made of what God had done and will do through my friends.
It was my honour as Best Man to offer a speech. What could I say of my friend? What should be said? It’s not hard to see the central point of his life as that time when he took Jesus seriously. That decision had serious consequences and marks his whole person. So it was clear, by making much of my friend, I was making much of Jesus and His transformative power.
As an apologist I love to make much of Jesus. The wonderful thing is that this time it went hand in hand with honouring my friend.
In an age when weddings have greater significance that marriages, when money is splashed around in the name of good times with scant regard for the significance of the proceedings there is an opportunity to go with it all, or return to the core and give thanks to God.
People are marked by what they choose to celebrate. It was such an honour to be a part of a very special day where God came first and we could all rejoice together!