Brothers and sisters, let us pray.

man-person-taking-photo-photographer

If you consider yourself a Christian, this blog is for you. If you don’t yet know and love Jesus Christ, now is a great time to ask yourself who you believe Jesus to be, and more importantly why you hold those beliefs.

I am a Christian. I unashamedly declare my deep, passionate love for Jesus. Coming to know him has already radically transformed my life over the past seven years. However words would utterly fail me if I tried to describe to you how much God really loves you. Language is woefully inadequate to explain how much his heart aches and burns for this fallen, broken world which has been under siege by the powers of darkness since time immemorial.

Syria is on my heart as I write. At the moment, I am attending university as a part time theology student, doing one of the residential elements to my course. One of the tutors is an Anglican priest, who just happens to be Syrian. He led us all in prayer for his nation and we have also taken time to pray in classes. It was a very powerful, and moving time. (That’s right, we talk to God as part of our formal education during lectures. It’s theology, go figure.)

Over the past 24 hours, there have been  dramatic developments regarding the UK involvement in the Syria crisis. Our parliament has voted against direct military intervention at this time. I strongly believe that this is a result of earnest prayer from a multitude of believers across the globe, coupled with the cries of the afflicted and the oppressed.

God hears us.

As I’ve been pondering this, it struck me that many of the people I have joined in prayer with won’t hold identical theology to me. In fact, we may not see eye to eye on a vast range of doctrinal perspectives. Despite this obvious fact, God listens. He acts.

Jesus didn’t save me because I had good doctrine. In fact, he rescued me from a sinful, destructive, sad and lonely lifestyle that was becoming increasingly desperate and negative. He saved me. Since then, we’ve been working on my doctrine. We still are.

I haven’t always modeled a healthy, loving, respectful and gentle way of disagreeing with many of you over points of doctrine. I’m sure that I have wound up and offended too many people over the past two years despite knowing that the Bible says plainly that God hates it when somebody stirs up discord amongst brothers.

Instead of building bridges I have dug out trenches and fired potshots at what I perceive to be liberal theology on Twitter and Facebook. Quite frankly, this behavior has been pathetic. Where I have offended and/or hurt any of you in this way, I am sorry and I repent. If I have implied that you are guilty by association with particular writers, thinkers, theologians, denominations and/or movements, I am genuinely sorry.

In the meantime, the world burns and we argue. This is not a good response to the incredible love, grace, and mercy of Jesus Christ. Creation needs us to cry out to God. It’s our responsibility to intercede on behalf of the nations. Including our own.

Brothers and Sisters, will you join with me in praying for Syria? I know that with many of you, I may not see eye to eye theologically. We may disagree on many issues. Yet Christ prayed for unity in the church. It may take generations to see that hope realised. We can participate in making that reality transpire. Jesus promised to build his church. He is more than capable.

There is a time and a place for thrashing out theology. Yet our allegiance to particular doctrines, traditions and ideologies must be trumped by our allegiance to the Kingdom of God, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and his mission on the earth. Let’s call a ceasefire and focus our energies on more important issues. Right now, let’s cry out for Syria, and Egypt, and our own nation. All countries need Jesus.

Brothers and Sisters, let us pray.

Reading across the lines: broadening your perspectives as a student

black-and-white-man-person-hands

I am on the verge of becoming a mature student. In just under three weeks, I shall embark on a course of formal theological study. As excited as I am about this prospect, I also realise that it has been exactly ten years since I graduated from my university.

Consequently, I have been exploring the notion of how to maximise my learning potential. Looking back at my first degree, I am reminded of how much I underachieved. I didn’t make the most of the amazing opportunity that was presented to me. I have often said that if I could do it again, I would do things differently.

Now, with the benefit of hindsight, I can return to academic study with the advantage of experience, and hopefully a more sober appreciation of what I’m taking on.

One of the areas which I have been thinking about recently, is the breadth of study required to develop a well rounded understanding of a subject matter. Virtually every topic of study imaginable has been, and is being examined at length from a remarkably diverse range of perspectives, by extraordinarily gifted and diligent people across the globe at any given time.

This poses a challenge for any prospective student, as the faculty with whom they shall study at university obviously has limitations, biases, and dare I say it, blind spots. So my question today is, how do you guard against developing a narrow perspective, and get the most out of your course of study?

My suggestion is this, read widely. If you’re a musician, listen widely. Know your subject area, explore it, don’t stop at the recommended reading lists, find alternative perspectives, research your faculty and engage with their research, as well as that of their contemporaries. Don’t assume that your lecturers area of expertise represents the final say on the subject.

Some more practical advice from my own university experience would be to plan ahead, eat and sleep well, exercise regularly, avoid frittering away valuable time and money in the bar, (Or a late night pool hall which shall remain nameless), don’t miss lectures, be humble, work hard, take nothing for granted, don’t leave your assignments until the week they’re due in, or worse yet the night before. Avoid all nighters, and resist the urge to start your dissertation or final project from scratch three weeks before it’s due in.

Definitely don’t leave yourself with fifty four minutes to run a mile to the university library, spend considerable time photocopying, get your dissertation bound and then hand it in five minutes before the final deadline. Don’t do that, whatever you do.

Read across the lines. In other words, engage with the broadest possible range of perspectives on your subject area, and try your best to leave no stone unturned.

M

Learning?

Startup Stock Photos

Startup Stock Photos

I have tried at points over the past few years to keep a regular journal, and yet have not managed to be consistent. Invariably these have been handwritten, which perhaps has been a factor. Technology has moved on since then.

Now, I’m attempting once again to put my thoughts down into words. This time, the focus is learning. More specifically, learning theology. As of late August this year, I shall be a part time student of Kingdom Theology with Westminster Theological Centre; a Christian organisation specialising in distance learning degrees, presumably with an emphasis on the Kingdom of God, which is something Jesus preached about extensively throughout his time on earth.

Why write? Well, apparently it’s a great way of reflecting on the learning process. So the study guide tells me, anyway. I must confess that this is something I have never really attempted to do, and so I’m hopeful that it will be a valuable endeavour.

My first thoughts are around the question of how to define learning. Is it, for example, the acquisition of information? Do we simply aim to be well informed and knowledgeable about a particular subject? Is it the acquisition of a skill, or a number of skills, which require practical application? Is it both information plus practical application? Is learning all of the above plus something more? How do we measure what constitutes learning?

Perhaps more importantly, what motivates us to want to learn, particularly at a university?

Why learn?

I’m not expecting clear cut answers or definitions here. I’m just thinking, writing and wondering. A kind of thinking out loud, yet in a silent way. (After all, you can’t hear me saying this, can you?)

I’ll leave you with that for an introduction.

M