Thursday, 8 December 2016

Thursday's Reflection

Emmanuel Bishopston and Westbury: Read 2 Corinthians 8:9. Spend some time gathering up all the ways in which Jesus has made us rich. How does that ignite generosity in us?



Emmanuel City Centre: Read Philippians 2:5-11. What should Christmas be teaching us to think and do?

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Wednesday's Reflection

Emmanuel Bishopston and Westbury: Read 2 Cor. 8:9. Spend time gathering up all the ways in which Jesus was rich.  And then all the ways in which He made himself poor for us.  If this is the one we follow, how does that ignite generosity in us?


Emmanuel City Centre: Read 2 Corinthians 8: 1-9. What should Christmas be teaching us to think and do?

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

The lowdown on Life Explored

In the New Year members of Emmanuel Westbury and Bishopston are going to be running the Life Explored course. 

The course is similar to the Christianity Explored.  Each session builds on the one before and contains Bible interaction, discussion time and watching a talk given Rico Tice and one or two others.  We’ll sit around tables in groups of around 8 people.  Each session will be no longer than an hour and a half.

The new thing about Life Explored is its starting point. Each week begins with a 10 minute, beautifully produced, wordless film that’s intended to engage with the longings we have for fulfilment and happiness – the sort of longings we all have but always find are unmet.  Each opening film simply intends to provoke thought rather than provide any concrete answers.  For a sneak preview of some of the film go here.

From that basis there’s an opportunity for discussion around tables followed by another talk. The evening ends with a short Bible study looking at a passage that sheds light on the topic of the evening.

As the weeks go by we’ll hopefully see that all of us, whether we are religious or not, are all living for something and that life in all its fullness can only ever be found in Jesus Christ.

Join us, or bring a friend…  All details about the course are here.

Friday, 2 December 2016

Dethroning Mammon

Is the title of the Archbishop of Canterbury's first book - which the Governor of the Bank of England was recently photographed reading on the tube...

You can read an introductory article by the BBC Religious Affairs correspondent Martin Bashir here.

You can get hold of an e-book version here.

You can order a paper copy here.

Friday, 25 November 2016

Exclusive author interview

Church family member Alice Ievins (ECC) has just had her first book published: Sarah's Footsteps. We've managed to get this exclusive interview: 

How long have you been writing for?

I have always been a writer in my spare time as it helps me unwind and I really enjoy it! I have copies of books I wrote when I was four. My first full scale novel was written when I was 11 and was about a magician's apprentice who was bad at magic. However Sarah's Footsteps is the first novel that I've got published and also the first book I've written for other people rather than myself. 

What made you decide to write Sarah's Footsteps?

I have often thought that fiction is a very powerful tool and can greatly influence our thoughts and perspectives in life. However it seems to be greatly lacking in Christian evangelism and encouragement. I have read very few good Christian fiction books and none which have encouraged me to read the Bible more. I wanted to change that. Especially when I know so many people who struggle to read non- fiction. I tried to keep Sarah's Footsteps very short (for me at least!) so that it could be accessible to as many people as possible.

I also come across the same problems again and again with my conversations with students, especially those on the cusp of becoming Christians, which make them hesitate before taking the last step. These often revolve around the lack of a sign or 'spiritual experience' which they expected from God to either prove He was true, or to show they were accepted by Him. Many student new-Christians feel inferior to their brothers and sisters in CU if they have not had special experiences or individual revelations. I desperately wanted to address that and decided to feature the book of Esther to help me.

Personally, in the fourth year of my own university experience I started to have doubts about my own faith for the first time and had a massive 'wobble' in what I believed. There was no lightning bolt moment that fixed that and it has been a gradual regain of faith, but I decided to start writing Sarah's Footsteps to help remind me why Christianity was true and what amazing things I'd seen in my uni days to confirm this.

And finally I have seen so many students come to faith both during my uni days and after. I wanted to both urge Christians at university to seize this unique opportunity to evangelise, but also encourage those far away from the uni bubble that people are still becoming Christians and that God is still moving powerfully in this country. I know so many older people who love so dearly to hear of those who have recently become Christians.

What is Sarah's Footsteps about?

The novel follows a year in the life of 'Izzy' who becomes a fresher at Bristol University. Despite having a close Christian friend in her past, she's very anti and ignorant of Christianity, mostly because she doesn't like being told what to do. At Bristol she starts to see many hypocrisies in our culture and her friends around her which make her question everything about her own identity and the way she wants to live her life. Through her flat mate Anna, a Christian who feels frequently out of her depth, and her Hall CU reps Josh and Fran, Izzy investigates the Christian faith through Bible studies and discussion. Finally she realises that Jesus' cross changes everything and that is something she wants to live by.

Who would you recommend Sarah's Footsteps to?

Anyone over the age of 15. I wouldn't recommend it to children under that age due to some of the mature themes that are discussed. It is predominantly aimed at school sixth formers, and students, but is certainly not limited to those groups. It is aimed to be both encouraging to Christians and accessible to non-Christians.

Is there anything we can do to help?

Yes! Please pray that people will use it as a tool to build up faith in others. Please also pray that it will push non-Christians to become Christians.Finally if you read it and enjoy it, please write me a review on amazon or goodreads. I am always happy to be contacted about any issues in my book that people want to discuss.

You can buy your copy here.

Monday, 21 November 2016

Living with Doubt

We touched on the whole issues of doubt in our series in Luke's Gospel yesterday. If you'd like some more help you might like to listen to this old sermon that focused entirely on the issue here.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church

North Korea:  Growth from a mustard seed
Leader: Kim Jong-un
Population: 25.3 million (300,000 Christians)
Main Religion: Atheism/traditional beliefs 
Government: Communist dictatorship
World Watch List Rank: 1
Source of Persecution: Dictatorial paranoia

North Korea is the most dangerous place in the world to be a Christian for the 14th year in a row.

Christians face arrest, torture, imprisonment and death for daring to believe there is a higher authority than the nation's leader, Kim Jong-un. Many follow Jesus in secret; parents often don't even tell their children about their faith for fear they will be revealed. Thousands of other Christians are trapped in horrific labour camps and isolated closed villages. But despite the risks, North Koreans are still choosing to follow Christ.



Let's pray our North Korean brothers and sisters, and those persecuted across the world, would be faithful:
‘To the angel of the church in Smyrna write:
These are the words of him who is the First and the Last, who died and came to life again. I know your afflictions and your poverty – yet you are rich! I know about the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. 10 Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you life as your victor’s crown.
11 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who is victorious will not be hurt at all by the second death.
Revelation 2

Friday, 18 November 2016

Pray for the persecuted church: The Maldives

Image result for the maldivesWhat do you think of when you picture the Maldives?  I guess for most of us it's a dream holiday destination.  Yet it ranks 13 on the Open Doors World Watch List, the 13th most persecuted country in the world.  From the Open Doors website:

Leader: President Abdulla Yameen
Population: 370,000 (A few hundred Christians)
Main Religion: Islam
Government: Islamic republic


Officially, there is not a single Maldivian Christian.  The constitution refers to the Maldives as '100 per cent Muslim' and being Maldivian is equated with being a Muslim; anyone who chooses to leave Islam is likely to lose their Maldivian citizenship. It is also illegal to 'propagate any religion other than Islam'; this can be punished with two to five years in prison. Maldivian Christians must keep their faith completely secret. Migrant Christians living in the Maldives can only practise their faith privately and are closely monitored.

The government sees itself as the protector of Islam, and the judicial system increasingly reflects Sharia (Islamic law); the death penalty has been introduced as punishment for murder, even for children, and a law banning marital rape was vetoed by the president as 'un-Islamic'. Converting to another religion means losing your citizenship, and being found to own a Bible would result in a prison sentence.

Pray:

  • For comfort for isolated secret believers, and for them to find ways to safely make contact with other Christians
  • The government controls the media and always portrays Christians negatively. Pray that the non-verbal witness of migrant Christians and technology such as the internet will show Maldivians a true picture of what it means to follow Jesus
  • That against all odds, many Maldivians will come to faith.

A prayer to pray:
Heavenly Father, we ask that you would make us ever mindful of our brothers and sisters around the world who need us to stand with them as they suffer in your name. Teach us what it means to overcome by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of our testimony; we pray that we would not love our lives so much as to shrink from death.

For more information, visit www.opendoorsuk.org

5 Reasons You Need Fiction


I love this article over at the Gospel Coalition: 5 Reasons You Need Fiction You really do! I know I do. It ties in a lot with this observation from the English novelist Penelope Lively:

"What we have read makes us what we are - quite as much as what we have experienced and where we have been and who we have known. To read is to experience."
Penelope Lively, Ammonites and Leaping Fish, p.161. 

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Pray for the persecuted church: Bangladesh



Christian persecution in Bangladesh

Context:
• Situated in Asia
• Total population 159,555,000
• 89% Muslim, 0.4% Christian
• Government is a Parliamentary democracy
• Constitution guarantees freedom of religion, but also confirms that the state religion is Islam, and the government often gives in to Islamic pressure.

Type of persecution:
Persecution is driven by radical Islamic beliefs within society. Christians converts from Islam have long faced pressure from families and religious leaders, but now those born into Christian communities are also at risk. Some owners of shops and businesses have received death threats if they do not comply with a list of eight Islamic rules. Violence has also increased: as well as the shooting in a Dhaka cafe, in the past year several Christians were killed for their faith, the names of church leaders appeared on a list with death threats, and a pastor was stabbed. Nine churches had to close in 2015 due to security concerns.


A prayer to pray:
O Lord God,
your Son Jesus Christ suffered and died for us.
In his resurrection
he restores life and peace in all creation.
Comfort, we pray, all victims of intolerance
and those oppressed by their fellow humans.
Remember in your kingdom those who have died.
Lead the oppressors towards compassion
and give hope to the suffering.
Through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

For more information, visit www.opendoorsuk.org