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Managing Work, Life & Rest as a Student

by Chris Morgan

The management of our own time is probably something most people never feel fully satisfied with. In a society that pushes for greater efficiency and immediacy I regularly know the sense of I should be doing “something better”. When I rest I hear the voice of “you should be working” and when I work I often feel the tiredness in my body that comes from not resting well.

Part of this will definitely come from the practical side of how I do balance my life, but I there is a huge part that comes from my own understanding of what work is and what rest is.

Even before the fall in Genesis we see God’s intention for work. Immediately we see the rhythm of 6 days work and one day rest in creation, this flies in the face of 24/7 culture. Also God put man to work in the garden before the fall.
Work is good.

The toil of work is as a result of the fall, but ultimately that toil should be put in the perspective of work intrinsically having worth. The work you do, either for your studies or for money, has worth and is not just toil.

God’s design in rest is for it to be a day given over to God. There are lots of different interpretations of what we mean by Sabbath rest. But I think it’s clear from how Jesus deals with the Pharisees it doesn’t mean sitting on your backside all day watching sport (note to self).

Flowing from a deeper understanding of work and rest comes the practicalities of how to manage the two in Durham as a student. There are a million and one opportunities as a student, everyone from the Chess Society, Hulahooping Society and the Origami Society could suck your life away. But more realistically you’ll have to walk the line of how much Christian activities do you do in a week, how much time do you give over to studying, how much do you hang out with your mates, how many sports teams are involved with. It can feel overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be.

Don’t do a Christian Activity Every Night

There is the opportunity to be at one of a prayer evening, Alpha, cell group, CU activity every night in the week in Durham. With churches, CU, Just Love and others Durham is saturated (in a good way) with Christian groups. Don’t get yourself into a Christian bubble. As a student at Kings commit to the church, come regularly on a Sunday, get stuck into a cell group and serve on a team. CU and Just Love are both great, we love them both lots, but your number one priority should be the local church.

Worship God in your Academic Studies

University isn’t just an opportunity to have fun, parties, play sport & make friends. You are here to study. But as we’ve seen in Genesis work isn’t just something that has come into the world as a punishment for sin, but God has designed us to work. Give your all to your studies, seek God in them, see what you can learn about God as you study Maths, Anthropology, English Literature. What do these academic pursuits teach you about our creative, generous, intricate God? Out of this worship others on your courses will see that God is not a tag on to your life on Sundays but he influences your every day. Ultimately everything you do should point others to God.

Rest Well

Where you get rest, where you get your energy from will differ. But commit time to God as part of your rest. That will look different for different ones of you, but do spend time in the Bible, praying for friends, family, situations around the world. You might want to use the KCD Bible Reading Plan to help you with that. Also spend time with your mates as you rest, hang out, watch sport or Bake Off. Do ensure that in your weeks rest isn’t an optional tag on, it’s good for you physically and mentally, and God commands us to do it.

Have Christian & non-Christian friends

As I mentioned earlier it is so easy to do Christian things all the time in Durham. Doing that will ensure you only have Christian friends. Don’t be Amish. Get involved in sports team or a society, actually spend time with your mates at those beyond the meetings or matches. And please don’t treat your non-Christian friends as evangelism projects, they are your friends regardless of their relationship with God. One of the saddest things I’ve seen over many years in Durham is that when students from Kings graduate they are far, far more likely to stay in touch with their Christian friends than their non-Christian friends. Buck the trend.

I’m not going to write you a hour by hour schedule for how to manage your life, that’s your job, but live deeply what God has designed you to do. He wants you to work, he expects you rest. Do both well.

New Book: Psalms

by Chrissie Law

This week we start dipping into a new book: the Psalms. These are a collection of songs, poems and prayers from the days of ancient Israel, many are traditionally associated with David. Although these were written a long time ago, they are still deeply relevant to our lives today. The Psalms speak from a place of honest human experience, covering with the full range of emotion: anger despair, guilt, joy, praise and adoration.They can teach us the value of baring our souls open before God, bringing our troubles to him, and facing issues in the light of the Lord’s sovereignty.

When reading the Psalms, a helpful view is to see each Psalm as falling into one of three categories: orientation, disorientation and reorientation.1

In Psalms of orientation, we look to God and see his glory, ‘When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?’ (Psalm 8.3-4) These are oriented towards God, full of his majesty.

By contrast, Psalms of disorientation are rooted in times of difficulty – times when the answers aren’t obvious and faith isn’t so simple. In these times the Psalmist cries out, disoriented, full of questions and doubt, ‘Why, Lord, do you stand far off? Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?’ (Psalm 10.1)

Thankfully, disorientation is not where it ends. Often in reflection we can take joy in reorienting ourselves back towards God. ‘When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you. Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand.’ (Psalm 73.21-23) We are not imprisoned in a state of disorientation but are free to turn around and delight in God once again.

As we read the Psalms we can reflect on how each Psalm fits with our relationship with God and benefit from discovering how generations before us related to God.

Feel free to have a look at The Bible Project’s outline of the Psalms below, for 8 minutes and 58 seconds of further detail!

[1] – Bruggemann, Spirituality of the Psalms

Week 1 as an Intern

by Izzy Chia

Last week, six of us in the 2017/18 Kings Intern team started off induction in a whirlwind of colour-coded timetables, self-introductions, administrative information, and yummy staff lunches. (Our seventh member, Justin, is currently in Japan, where he is sorting out his visa and hopes to join us in late September.) This year, the team is excitingly diverse – we represent six different countries (some of us more than one each!), studied everything from biomedical science to English literature, and have an age range spanning about twelve years. It’s wonderful to see how we’ve all come together with the common goal of deepening our relationship with God, and learning how to better serve His people.

Beginning induction has been wonderful in many ways, but most importantly in its focus on our walk with God. We were reminded that the year ahead will not simply be one of placements and busyness, but a time in which we learn more about being and making disciples. On Friday, Ruth led us in a thought-provoking session on Being a Disciple, where we looked at the qualities of good disciples and identified the areas we need to work on for ourselves. My favourite part of the morning was when Ruth made us award Jesus’ disciples points out of 10 based on their behaviour in selected passages, and we charted out the high and low points in their discipleship journey.

I was struck by how the disciples did not progress steadily towards Christ-likeness without faltering, but experienced many setbacks along the way. Ruth reminded us that this was normal and challenged us to be brave during the internship, as this year will bring both triumphs and tribulations. I was comforted by the knowledge that God knows I will mess up time and again, but that the overall trajectory of my Christian walk can still be one of increasing closeness to Jesus. Ruth’s lesson was inspiring and challenging, and has made me really excited for the rest of the teaching coming up this year.

On the practical side of things, we found out about our various exciting placements, went through the Kings vision and values with Mark Bonnington, and even had a sunny day out with Brian Bonnington, learning about the life of Bede in the Northeast. Our welcome to the Kings family as interns has been brilliant – we’ve been showered with love from the Kings staff and leaders and the wider Kings family. We’ve also received many dinner invitations and words of encouragement and are so grateful!

In the coming week, we will start our School of Theology sessions, as well as begin preparing for our first mission trip to Hunstanton, in Norfolk. The other interns and I would love if you joined us in praying for energy and good rest amidst our busy days, as well as safety during our travels, and Godly insight during our work and studies. Please also pray that Justin’s visa will be processed smoothly and speedily, and that he will be able to join us as soon as possible. Watch this space for more updates from the other interns in the weeks to come!

Our first week in numbers:

Minutes early on Day One: 20

Colours on induction timetable: 6

Cups of tea and coffee consumed: 42

Times someone described themselves as “excited” or “nervous”: too many to count

Blue polo shirts worn: 6

Chairs stacked: 300+

New Book: Jonah

by Sophie Bolton

Unlike the other prophetic books, the book of Jonah is a story about a prophet, rather than God’s word spoken through a prophet.  The date of writing is not certain although 2 Kings 14:25 is often taken to describe the historical context of Jonah meaning the book is probably set during the reign of Jeroboam II (793 – 753 BC). However, some scholars would suggest it was written later than this date. The book of Jonah may or may not be a historical account, with some preferring to call it a parable or allegory. However, this does not subtract from the meaning and relevance which can be drawn from this short and punchy story.

The prophet Jonah is the central focus of the book which opens with God sending him to preach to Nineveh, the capital of the Assyrian Empire. The book of Nahum gives us an idea of what Nineveh was like, with chapter 3 describing it as ‘a city of blood, full of lies, full of plunder’. It is no surprise that on hearing God’s command to preach against the city of Nineveh, Jonah turned his back and ran in the opposite direction.

However, later on in the book, we learn that fear of the Ninevites is not the motivation for Jonah running away, but rather a knowledge of God’s graciousness and compassion. Jonah knows the wickedness of the Ninevites and so can’t stand the idea that God would show mercy to them. Jonah was right; God did indeed show compassion to the Ninevites, something which Jonah did not take well at all.

 

The book ends suddenly with God asking Jonah what right he has to question his mercy to the people of Nineveh – not forgetting all the cows! We don’t find out how Jonah responded to this, but that’s not the point. The point is that we, in turn reflect on how we respond to God’s love for our own enemies, and in turn, reflect on the mercy that God has shown to each one of us.

 

Take a look at this video by The Bible Project which nicely summarises the book:

New Book: 1 Corinthians

by Chris Morgan

Paul knew the Corinthian church pretty well. He had served there as a church planter (1 Cor 3:6) for what is estimated to be around one and a half years. Corinth was deliberately chosen by Paul as it was a strategic port and economic hub for the area. It had a mixed population of Romans, Greeks and Jews. You can read a summary of this part of the story of Paul’s ministry in Acts 18: 1-11.

Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthian Church was written in AD53-54 from Ephesus (1 Cor 16:8) and he was responding to bad reports he had heard from Chloe’s people (1 Cor 1:11; 11:18), presumably members of family headed up by a women named Chloe, and the Corinthians had also written to Paul himself asking for advice (1 Cor 7:1) regarding how the church was getting on. The letter is aimed to be a stopgap measure until Paul is able to visit in person.1

Paul separates the book into 5 areas: Divisions within the church (ch 1-4), sex (ch 5-7), food (ch 8-10), what happens in their gatherings (ch 11-14) and the resurrection (ch 15). In each of these areas Paul defines the problem that he has heard of and shows the Corinthians that they’re not living for God in each of these areas and how to live it in line with the Gospel, which is something Paul reiterates through the book.

The book of 1 Corinthians is great for getting into understanding how the heart of the Gospel message is translated into church life and in the life of personal discipleship through the lens of the key areas (listed above) and is good for us personally to think about how we translate these issues and broader issues around church life and personal discipleship into the 21st Century.

One key thing that comes through in this book is Paul’s attention on the primacy of love. Where the Corinthians have put a lot trust and overemphasis on knowledge and wisdom, Paul wants to remind them on several ocassions that love must rule over all (1 Cor 8:1-13; 12:31b-13:13; 16:14). This claim, is of course, grounded in the story of Jesus and his love for all of us.

 

[1] Hays, Richard, B., First Corinthians, 5 (1997)

Week 1: Turn 180

by Chris Morgan

We all have moments in our life where we realise we’re deliberately sinning, doing something that doesn’t honour God, and still plough on. Jonah is a classic example of this, a man hearing a calling from God, doesn’t like the sound of it and runs in the complete opposite direction. But when God puts his finger on your case what is your reaction? Do you keep running away or do you realise what you’ve done, do a 180 and turn back to Him? For me as I read this section of scripture I hope and pray that the latter would be my reaction.

In our New Testament readings this week we engage with the opening chapters of 1 Corinthians. Paul encourages us to understand that we don’t need to be the most amazing orator or persuasive preacher to communicate the glories of His Gospel message but he uses people like you and me to demonstrate His power through His Spirit. It’s great to know this, allow it to sink deep as you read the first couple of chapters. Throughout the rest of the book Paul uses various pastoral aspects of church ministry to point towards Gospel Inclusivity, that the Gospel is for all and all have a place in serving the church, and all have gifts to glorify and point people to God. This Gospel is as much for you as it is for anyone in history. Praise the Lord.

But back to Jonah. In it is the classic Sunday School story of Jonah and the whale; did it really happen, or is it just imagery? I’m not going to try and even pretend to answer that question but needless to say there are parallels of Christ in this story who took a punishment of death and was restored back to life. As we mess up in life know that we should follow the example of Jonah and repent but also know that there is one in Christ who has already taken our punishment.

Here are some questions to be thinking of as you read this week:

  • What sticks out to you most from the readings about God’s character?
  • How do you react when God points out sin in your life? Do you keep running away or do you run back to God? [Jonah]
  • How are you being used by God in the ordinary things of life? [1 Corinthians 1-2]
  • What does it look like for you to be that ‘person is like a tree planted by streams of water’? [Psalm 1:3]

The Bible Reading Plan

by Chris Morgan

One of the regular questions I get asked in my role, and I know it is the same for other members of staff, is “Have you got any advice on how to get into a good rhythm with reading the Bible?”

Out of this we’ve spent some time thinking about how we could help this and what to do in response.

We will have bible readings every weekday, both Old and New Testament, which will be accompanied by a weekly blog post helping and guiding us in some key areas that come up through the reading with additional blog posts at the beginning of each new book to help with identifying where it fits into the broader narrative of scripture.

One of our hopes is that as a broad church community, youth, residents & students we are able to have accountability and therefore create perseverance in reading God’s Word. It’s not supposed to take you away from your regular diet of reading if you have a rhythm that is working for you at the moment but to aid those who don’t have that routine.

Each month we’ll publish the readings for coming month, both here on the website and a paper copy at church on Sundays.

Come and join us in this journey as we seek to get to know God better through his Word.

Daily Decisions to Live Distinctively

by Sophie Bolton

When I think about living distinctively, my mind often wanders towards Leviticus. I picture the Israelites not wearing clothes made out of different cloths, not eating unclean food and observing the Sabbath – the Israelites were called to be a holy nation, God’s treasured possession (Exodus 19:6) set apart for God’s glory. The Israelites were a distinctive nation – they definitely stood out for their faith – and so should we! As Christians, we are called to this same holiness. We should stand out, not because our salvation depends on it, but because we are saved, and so we should want to live lives worthy of our salvation.

Often, however, we want to just blend in, not to stand out from the crowd, to go along with what everyone else is doing because it’s easier that way, right? The thing is, university presents us with countless daily decisions which eventually amount to the person that we are: the decision to have one more drink; the decision to watch what everyone else is watching; the decision to avoid that person sitting on their own at dinner. There are temptations to blend in everywhere you look as a Christian at university but we need to make a conscious decision to stick our head above the parapet and not let ourselves be conformed to the way of this world.

The familiar story of the Good Samaritan comes to mind. I’m sure that the Levite and the Priest thought they were good people who outwardly followed God’s law to the letter, but when the choice to help the man left for dead presented itself, they both walked on by. The Samaritan man was different. He didn’t follow the crowd, but he made a decision to stop and help, throwing away all social norms at the same time. We can all be like the Good Samaritan – not just those ‘super holy Christians’ who seem to have it all sorted and never mess up*, but each one of us because we can each make those daily decisions to take a stand and live distinctively.

As you start a new year at university, be mindful of these daily decisions to live distinctively which will inevitably present themselves.  Before telling the parable of the good Samaritan, Jesus tells those listening that to inherit eternal life we must love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. Our love for God should saturate every aspect of our lives and should overflow out of everything we do. Our distinctive living should not be the result of dutiful obligation but rather a joyful outpouring of our love for God in response to his everlasting love for us.

*There’s no such thing!

Celebrating Gospel Faith @ 500

by Mark Bonnington

When, 500 years ago this coming Halloween, in a university city in eastern Germany, a non-descript, thirty-something monk took an evening walk and nailed a notice to the doors of the local Abbey church, no-one took much notice. Martin Luther was outraged that the local diocese had authorised the sale of post-mortem forgiveness in the form of ‘indulgences’. An indulgence was (and is) an advanced payment for a priest to say mass for the person after their death (or for another dead person) to speed the passage of their soul through purgatory and into heaven. As the ditty went: ‘as soon as the coin in coffer rings, so the soul to heaven springs’. Worse, the money was being exported from Germany to build St Peter’s basilica in Rome (yes, the one on the postcards). It was lucrative business but terrible theology.

Luther objected that this was terrible distortion of Biblical faith. He also had a good eye for publicity. He knew that the next day would be a big one. Queues of pilgrims would file past his notice as they came to venerate the saints whose bones went on display in Wittenberg Abbey church on All Saints Day. So he posted things like this (and 94 other ‘theses’): ‘Christians are to be taught that he who sees a needy man and passes him by, yet gives his money for indulgences, does not buy papal indulgences but God’s wrath.’ This is typical Luther—simple, witty, hard-hitting and direct. But the notice was in Latin.

It took another couple of years for Luther’s teachings to emerge from the swirling sea of ideas challenging the corrupt and confused church of his day.  Reform took off when he published his ‘95 theses’ and other works in German. He distributed them widely and so  appealed to the rulers and ordinary people for change in the church over the heads of clergy and theologians. Three years later, Luther was being censured (he burned the official papal letter in public) and excommunicated as a heretic, but it was too late and the reforming cat was out of the ecclesiastical bag. Soon Luther had to hide for 18 months in fear of his life. As well as writing, he used the time to translate the newly-published Greek New Testament into German so that everyone could read the Word of God for themselves. He emerged urging the establishment of new schools for men and women and theological education for all.

The English Reformation and British evangelicalism were influenced more directly by the more radical Reformation in Switzerland that followed Luther by just a few years. This came first through Zwingli and his theological offspring in Zurich, and later Calvin in Geneva. But all the key foundations of evangelical faith were laid by Martin Luther. For sure, Luther was a child of his time. He was reacting against some terrible excesses and desperate to keep the church together, and he got many things wrong. But the key principles of reform were laid down by Luther and he ignited the fire of change across Europe.

In recognition of Luther’s courage and contribution we will spend our ‘vision and values’ month in September 2017 looking at five of the key principles of Luther’s reform that still shape evangelical faith today. With time these have been distilled as the ‘five solas’. ‘Sola’ refers to the Latin for ‘alone’ in phrases that we translate as: by scripture alone (sola Scriptura), by grace alone (sola gratia) by faith alone (you get the idea), through Christ alone and for the glory of God alone. To put it differently: Luther wanted to put the Bible before tradition, grace before sacraments, faith before works, Christ before the Church and God’s glory above all else. Luther saw that the church had become the master of the gospel not its servant.  His teaching turned the tables, calling the church back to the Bible and (re-)establishing its life on gospel principles.

Some have described the Reformation as ‘a disaster’—for dividing the church—or as ‘a sad necessity’. Luther had no intention of splitting the church—he wanted it to reform—but once the principle of gospel truth before church authority was established change was inexorable. Evangelicals gladly celebrate Luther’s Reformation and what has flowed from it as a rediscovery of the Archimedean point for the life of the church: the gospel of God’s grace in Christ set out in Holy Scripture. The key directions of this gospel trajectory were set by Luther—he challenged the control of the church over grace, the record of the church on holiness and the understanding of the church on doctrine.

As a person Luther is a humane and attractive figure. Calvin the lawyer was probably a better exegete, logician and systematiser but just nothing like as much fun. Luther conversed and wrote in lively, witty German. He tried out his thinking at the table as he ate and drank. People around him laughed as they talked theology and rethought the implications of the gospel for the life of the church. Luther was someone you’d want to sit down with just to see what provocative and challenging conversation he would draw you into next. He is someone from whom to imbibe deep and centred theological conviction, consistent concern for the health of the Church and a passion for the gospel, for the Lord Jesus Christ and for the glory of God above all else.

So this Autumn we turn as a church to celebrate 500 years of gospel faith. To recall Martin Luther is not to rest from Scripture for five Sundays. Indeed his Reformation is largely the reason we focus on preaching on Scripture systematically. Instead we want to hear the Bible afresh in the company of one of the great interpreters of Scripture – one to whom we owe a continued debt of gratitude for his contribution to shaping gospel faith for the last half millennium.

New Website

by Chris Juby

We launched a first version of the new website today!

We’ll be continuing to develop the site significantly over the coming weeks. Many of the pages that are currently just text will become fully-fledged sections, and we’ll be adding archive content from the old site.

One of the things we’re looking to do with the new site is increase the amount of blog content we put out on a regular basis. You’ll see the latest posts on the front page, and we’ll develop the Blogs section in September for easier navigation.

Behind the scenes, we’re also developing a ‘Hub’ area for people who are part of the church. That’s where you’ll be able to find resources like cell notes and the latest in-house news. We’ll be linking the Hub with the administration software we’ve begun using in the office to make it much easier to know what’s going on at Kings and to get involved.

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