Fed up with the gospel!

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I don’t know if this is something you may well feel, have heard others say or are absolutely astounded that these very words would ever roll of the lips of a Christian. If so maybe you should stop reading right here as this is something I most certainly believed maybe a year or so after I had been saved.

I wanted something more meaty, I wanted more knowledge and craved to be known as someone who knew their bible back to front. Yet I found it tiring, I wasn’t really getting anywhere and if I’m at all honest on reflection I can see how my relationship with god was affected by it, it most certainly wasn’t helping me to see Jesus as more beautiful.

Sat here writing this now I think, how stupid! Naive and younger me really didn’t have a clue, and yet actually even now I still see myself making small of the gospel.
Which is ridiculous, and I know it’s ridiculous. The gospel isn’t just a pass to heaven, it isn’t just the thing that saves me and I move away from, it’s absolutely everything. Yes, everything!

So why do I forget it? Why is it that I turn to trying to make things better myself, why do I lean on my own strength, why am I both dishonest with myself and with others?

We’ve spent the last few days looking at Sanctification with the lovely Ellie and Paul which has been both fun and challenging. We have spent time considering how we see ourselves trying to perform, being dishonest but also the very idols of our heart that drive us in either of these directions.

Quite conveniently this week I too had the pleasure to sit down with a lovely student having read Tim Keller’s book ” The secret to self-forgetfulness”, in which both Kinna and I sat and wondered and questioned about how time and time again we forget the gospel. We know it’s such great news, we take great joy when reminded of it and yet it so easily looses centre stage.

Recently too, as part of the relay study programme, we have been thinking through our adoption as children of God, sons and co-heirs with Christ and it has struck me, even now as I’m writing, the very reason I move from the gospel is that in my heart I see myself as an orphan. The very name of this blog is “Lost now found”, yet in the depths of my heart and through that expressed via surface actions and attitudes it would seem quite the opposite. God sees me and sees Christ. I’m apart of his family, I’m loved by God my father to depths Im not even aware of, just as he loves his son and to whom he says I am pleased. Yet I say, some way some how I need to work at gaining this verdict. The irony of that being, the verdicts already in, Jesus in his perfection achieved everything I couldn’t achieve and would never achieve in all my efforts of trying to make myself holy. This is the gospel, why on earth would I want to move away from it? God in his grace, through his sacrifice and humility has defeated the very thing which separates me from him, the very wrath of God is now directed away from me and has been dealt with and not because of anything in and of myself.

The beauty of this extends further though, and this is what sometimes puzzles me and yet when reminded of it, when meditating on it causes me to take so much joy in Christ. It breaks me and allows me to drop my mess at the foot of the cross, because of my union with Christ by the same spirit I can cry “Abba, Father”. The more I see the holiness of god the greater my sin becomes and sometimes this is surprising (me a sinner!) and also frustrating (oh, not again). Yet this is what the path of a Christian is, we have that future hope of being made fully perfect, but for now the gospel centred life is repentance and faith.

So how, how do I get to a point where I don’t shrink the gospel? This is something I will think through some more tomorrow, but for now I’m left needing to repent, asking the spirit to change my wretched and self centred heart and to fix my eyes on Jesus again and left rejoicing at knowing God loves me and has open arms.

The son said to him “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you, I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” But the father said this to his servants. “Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” So they began to celebrate. Luke 15v21-24

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Brokenness

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This is a blog I’ve been wanted to write for some time but I haven’t really ever found the words. I’ve written it, edited it and then deleted it all as it didn’t seem right. So bear with me, it may not read all that well, but I do hope that it will provide an insight on some of the things I’ve been thinking through lately.

I don’t know about you but I hate to think that people would think I’m a vulnerable soul. I don’t like people to see me cry and I don’t really enjoy sharing my worries with people. Both my head and my heart have bought into this silly notion that society blinds me with, ‘Be strong, carry on, take what life throws your way and man up!’. But sometimes it all gets a bit much, I don’t have the ability to man up and more and more I find myself not wanting to.

In a recent post I said that I was going to take some time to share with you not just the joys of a recent conference but also the not so happy times. So here it goes.

Some of you will know that as of September I will be serving on an interaction team in Malta with IFES where I will have the privilege of helping out with the student ministry there. During the conference it was so great to meet with my team leader and also lots of other people who have served as part of an interaction team. As I spoke with them it was really humbling to see their readiness to serve god in what often are rather difficult places. I was also struck by their absolute honesty in how difficult it sometimes can be but also hearing testimony of how this has caused them to hold onto Jesus even more.

Very early on in the conference I began to feel more and more overwhelmed with the prospect of what being an interaction worker actually meant, to the point where all I wanted to do was cry. I wasn’t all too sure why it had got to me so much and so on the first couple of days I just put it down to tiredness and put on a stiff upper lip.

Yet I couldn’t keep wearing this mask and one evening I just broke. The conference had the theme of idolatry and was based on Psalm 86v11. This particular evening we were asked to reflect on what are we trusting above God? What are we taking comfort in above God? What are we fearing above god? There it was in black and white! FEAR. I was actually scared about going to Malta for a number of reasons which had only become apparent in the last few days.

What I conveniently forgot to tell you was that the work in Malta is very much in the early stages and as such the team and myself are trying to pioneer a movement. I’ve known this right from the off, yet I never really liked to use the word pioneering. Being amongst the IFES family however I kept hearing this word again and again and so many people loved to tell both Jon (the relay worker also coming along) and myself how it’s great to see how God has answered prayer and bought a team together.

My mind went into overdrive. Me, me what is god doing sending me? Maybe I’ve got it all wrong? Maybe I shouldn’t be going? I’m not really cut out for this! I had so many emotions whizzing around my head and I felt physically weak.

As my tears streamed I found myself embarrassed, hurting and wishing with every bone in my body that I could just pull myself together. But I couldn’t. I knew deep down that actually it was ok for me to feel this way, that actually it was probably a good thing that God had highlighted to me now some of my fears and idols before I actually leave.

But the thing that consumed my mind amongst all those tears: people can see I’m not strong. I was really vulnerable and despite having people who loved me and cared for me around me I couldn’t bare to expose my true feelings.

Why do we Christians buy into this lie? Why do we give the devil a foothold? Isn’t the message of Christ “come all who are weary”?

That week though, and at times since, God has really been teaching me a lesson about brokenness. It truly is ok. Not just for other people to be broken but for me too. I don’t need to plaster a smile on my face. Everything doesn’t have to be ok. The truth is that the more I let myself go, the less I worry about other peoples thoughts about me, the more free I am. God has been doing his wonderful work of refining me in this area and as a result I’ve been learning more of what it looks like for me to allow him to brake me, but then to start to mend me. It’s painful, but in coming to the end of myself all I can do is lean more on my saviour.

I may well have some fears, but I have a great comforter and someone who prepares the way for me. When I’m reminded and then re-reminded of this gospel perspective I can’t help then look past my fears and see the great privilege the next two years will be.

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Easter excitement

Now I know I’ve probably bored some of you already half to death with the excitement of where I got to spend Easter this year, but well traveling to Gyor(Hungary) for a 5 day conference is pretty epic.
Little did I expect that in such a short space of time so much would happen. So I’ve decided to share some of the joys and not so happy times with you all.

I can’t think of a better day to begin other than Easter day itself. Now, it may seem a little crazy but the organisers of Undivided2012 had decided that the 2500ish students and staff were to meet at 7am for an Easter service. Having had lots of early starts already during the week and not so early bedtimes it wasn’t something I was all that overexcited about. However, little did I know what was around the corner.

As we started to gather on campus heading towards the main meeting hall we were stopped by stewards who were calling out to say “we had to wait, something had happened”. At this point in time a lot of us Brits just presumed for health and safety reasons maybe we had to enter in smaller groups. Once we’d been allowed through we came to yet another stop, but this time the guy was reading from a bit of card and it all became clear as they proceeded to shout at us to “run, hurry, he’s there no longer”. A little stubborn and reserved I eventually entered into the spirit of things and jogged a little before entering down a corridor into the main hall in which students were sat silently facing toward the stage on which were the empty grave clothes and an empty tomb. Eventually sat on the floor and listening to the readings, reflecting and praying it all made sense. The Hungarians had done a great job of drawing each of us into the reality of what would have really happened. How gradually more and more people would have heard about the empty tomb.

We then had some time of sung worship together, had the joy of sharing communion with some very special people, and sung some more.

As I looked around it was a beautiful sight to behold. All of us in that room had once been enemies of God and yet in his grace and mercy he’d bought each of us into the light. What we were declaring that morning was death has been defeated, sin no longer wins, Jesus has risen! For the first time in a long while that morning my heart sung for joy at no longer being guilty. Jesus has taken all my shame away, it’s defeated, finished.

He came as flesh, blameless and perfect, so that in his death he could free us from slavery. His resurrection brings so much joy! So much hope! What a great lord we have to hold out to people and rest in ourselves!

One of my favourite easter celebrations by far!

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Who’s the fool?

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Each year we have the age old half a day of hoaxes and pranks. Some people spend time plotting and scheming in the week running up to the day whilst others spend until midday trying to ensure they don’t fall into the same traps as previous years. I’ve never really played much part in the day, other than being an onlooker. However, yesterday took on a whole new meaning of April fool. 

Having just spent a lovely few days back home during my time off work i was all packed and ready to head back up north to the smoggy town of Middlesbrough, but before i left i decided to have a cuppa with a dear friend. Unfortunately, as i stepped out of my car and shut it behind me an evening of drama began. To cut a long story short i’d managed to leave my keys in the ignition and lock them in my car. FOOL! To add insult to injury my spare key was all the way back in Middlesbrough and my paper work for my car was locked inside my car along with my bag (beautifully displayed on my passenger seat for the wandering eye, containing my purse and house keys). I couldn’t have been more careless had i tried and was parked in a rather rough area of town.

What does a girl do when in such a messy situation? Well of course i called my Dad, my Dad always knows what to do in these situations. (He has three daughters and so things like this don’t always surprise him). Yet even though i knew i could call my Dad i knew that he’d be rather angry at me with my scattyness, and he was, but nevertheless he came to my rescue.

Now, my options were limited, a hefty bill to have new locks or a trip up to Middlesborough to fetch the key. So feeling very weak, foolish and gutted at the thought of booking a return train ticket there were a few tears and wallowing in my stupidity. Just as i was trying to be all grown up and deal with my own mess my Dad and Mum came in and said i should get an early night because they were going to get up early and drive me all the way up north and come all the way back again. At first i refused, i wanted to deal with my own mess, to take responsibility, after all it was me who locked the keys in there in the first place. Nonetheless, my parents had made up their minds, they were going to save the day.

As we drove up the M1 this morning though i had a lot of time to reflect and as i was grumbling to myself for having been so stupid my attention was drawn to how sacrificial my parents had been. It was my mess, my fault and yet they decided to bail me out. They weren’t obliged to drive all that way, to give up the best part of their day, yet out of an unconditional love for me they were willing to go to that length. 

As i thought about this i was really humbled and my mind was bought back to my heavenly father. The picture that my parents had painted for me was one of sacrifice, servanthood and love. I didn’t by any means deserve any of that. That is what God does for me all the time. I don’t deserve to have his pardon for turning away from him and worshipping other idols of this world. I don’t deserve his grace time and time again. 

More than this though. My parents had highlighted to me my reluctance to lean on others. My stubbornness and longing to take charge in times of weakness. I like my independence, i like to be able to deal with what life throws at me. This left me wondering in what areas of my life i wasn’t giving over fully to God, where am i trying to be strong? 

The beauty of the gospel is that i don’t come to God with all the things i can do, i come weak, i come broken and God delights in his mercy to be my strength. I don’t deserve this, but because of Jesus i now share in his inheritance. How much more freeing when i remember the nature of the triune God who loves me.

A traumatic and humbling 24 hours but very thankful for my earthly parents that God has blessed me with and for my heavenly father. Learning to rest and trust more in Him.

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What do I love?

For a while now I’ve been thinking what on earth do I love. Don’t get me wrong, I love God and want my heart to love and know Jesus more, but what is my passion? What do I really enjoy in the world?

Lots of people have a real love of music, a sport or reading and lots of different hobbies. Whilst I enjoy doing lots of things there isn’t one thing that really sticks out.

Today however I realised a thing that I really love, that really does make me smile, makes me want to tell people about and include others in. (apart from Jesus and the great news he is).

Other cultures!

Currently I’m away in Bradford helping the Christian union here with their events week and I’m being hosted with the lovely Marie. It’s only the first day and already I have met someone from Pakistan, Lithuania, Romania, the Netherlands and a few others. Having been involved in a question board asking, “if you could ask god one question, what would it be?”, I have had the opportunity to get to know a few people, to find out where they are from and what their country is like and to ask them what people think of Christianity in their home country.

Also, a lot of the Christian union are from varying countries and it’s such a joy to have been able to spend time with some of the girls and hear how they have come to know and love Jesus themselves. We also discussed what the situation was like in their countries and how sometimes culture makes communicating Jesus and the message of the gospel really difficult.

I just love how the world isn’t just all the same nation. I love that we all live in varying parts of the world which means we have varying climates, landscapes and access to certain types of foods which changes the way we eats and cook. I love learning of all the quirky cultural things and the different ways in which communities interact. I’m probably one of those annoying people who ask one hundred and fifty questions to anyone not from my own culture because I just really enjoy learning about others.

I think the fact that we do have so many cultures is just another sign of how creative and diverse our maker is. I feel so blessed to have had many opportunities in my lifetime already where I have had the opportunity to live in and visit lots of other cultures and to share friendships with people all across the globe.

One of my favourite images within scripture is in Revelation 7,

After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes and held palm branches in their hands. And they were shouting with a great roar,
“Salvation comes from our God who sits on the throne
and from the Lamb!”

I love that in heaven there will be brothers and sisters of all kinds of cultures! The God of the bible is not exclusive.

Very much excited to spend this week partnering with fellow Christians from varying nations to tell their campus of the real Jesus.

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Lady Gaga and Jesus

So this week I’ve had the joy of spending time with Huddersfield Christian Union and partnering with them in mission to their campus, Project Red. This week has included a tea and coffee stand, wired and wonderful fancy dress costumes and questionnaires. Each evening has then been based around a particular artist, along with a free meal and then a talk on the message of these lyrics and then asking whether or not the bible has anything relevant to say about these things. Which it most certainly does.

Today began very very cold! I wasn’t at all enthused by the weather or the thought of standing in the rain whilst freezing my butt off! Yet, as the morning progressed it became apparent that actually the rain and cold were two things that really worked for us. Due to the bitterness and general soppy ness of the day students were dying for a cup of tea and something to indulge in, which we most certainly had to offer. This created many opportunities to engage with people and ask them what they thought about Lady Gaga – love or hate? Also, to then ask them what they thought maybe Jesus would have to say to Lady Gaga. Additionally, the rain seemed to be bringing along those who really were interested and wanted to take time to ask us questions. praise God for many contacts made today.

In particular was a student, Veronique, from France. She was looking at the books we had to give away and said how she just had so many questions. Having chatted for a while I asked if maybe she fancied meeting for a coffee to which she delightfully accepted. Later in the day Iona (CU student) and myself met with Veronique to have a chat and get to know her a little more. She said that she noticed something different about us, that we were really excited about Jesus and that if it was true she wanted to know him for herself. She also asked to hear Iona’s and my testimony. I then talked to her about the parable of the lost Son to which she said how beautiful. Isn’t it just! As we moved onto the evening event Iona and I really prayed that she would come to know Jesus.

As Matt spoke on where we seek identity today in our culture and how Jesus offers a new identity, one that is lasting, complete and what we were made for he also called all those who wanted this to pray. During the talk I was really moved for Veronique as it was so clear she wanted Jesus to be real in her life and as I prayed that by some means we’d know whether or not she prayed I heard her say out loud the same prayer that Matt had said. Praise God!

As Iona and I walked her back to the station we discussed what it was that moved her this evening. Veronique so clearly, and beautifully, explained how she had longed for something/someone to put her trust, hope and identity in and said now she had found it, it was Jesus! And now she just wanted more, more, more!

Hallelujah, what a saviour!

For those who pray, pray that both Veronique and Iona can grow in love for Jesus together and really rest in their identity in Christ

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Uncover

So for those not within UCCF circles it may be that the title of this blog doesn’t immediately excite you but rather leaves you asking the question, uncover what?

Well, Uncover is a series of six studies in Luke’s gospel written in partnership with Rebecca Manley Pippert. The idea being that students invite along their friends to come and examine Jesus and who he really is. To read more click HERE.

During my time as a student I would have never dreamed of inviting someone to actually come and study the bible with me, especially in such an open way ‘why don’t we examine who Jesus claims to be?”. I much preferred the idea of living out a distinctive lifestyle that was worthy of the gospel and speaking about Jesus when the opportunity arose, rather than raising it myself. Now these opportunities came rather infrequently, at least the ones I was aware of as I’m sure God provided many more of which I was ignorant, but when they did I never really felt comfortable challenging my friends to look at Jesus for themselves. Which is mental! Even looking at how God graciously bought me to himself I can see it was through engaging with the person of Jesus in scripture, in addition to seeing Christians live out their lives.

Yet this summer as I attended Forum, an annual conference for student leaders, I got so excited about this brilliant new resource, Uncover. Why? What has changed? Is it because I now have the title of ‘relay worker’ or because I’ve finally found the silver bullet in bringing people to Christ? I don’t think so. Before I was reluctant on three accounts. Firstly, more than likely I was worried about distancing my friends, what if suggesting to read the bible made them dislike me? Secondly, I didn’t trust that reading the bible with a non-believer would mean the same as it does to a Christian who has already believed. Lastly,well I’d forgotten who really does the heart changing and the role god gives me in His mission. I didn’t whole heatedly hold onto the fact that it’s only by God moving in people’s hearts that people come to know him, I’m just an empty vessel that he chooses to use in that process.

Having been reminded of these truths and praying for a more trusting heart in God wanting to use such a messy and not so well thought through person there have been lots of exciting times. During freshers week I met a wonderful young lady from Macedonia who was a complete stranger and yet God prompted me to ask her to come and examine who Jesus is, to which she accepted! Brilliant. I’ve seen god really change her heart and bring her to a point now where she is really weighing up the cost of what it would mean to follow Christ. I’ve also seen a Chinese student accept Christ as her lord and saviour and who is now learning more about what it means to be a disciple of God as we read the bible together.

I’ve been absolutely amazed at how God has worked through his word and has provided me with the ability to answer questions of the two girls. The more I study the person of Jesus with these girls the more God convicts me of how salvation is his job and I’m just the teller. How freeing!

Haven’t yet thought of opening up the gospel with an unbeliever? Pray that God will soften your heart. We have such a great message to hold out to people.

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