Christmas season – God is not distant – a conversation with a university student

Making room to think about Christmas

It is an opportunity to make some room during this Christmas season and reflect about the meaning of Christmas. What is Christmas all about? What are you thoughts on the meaning of Christmas? What follows is a conversation I had with a student a few weeks ago.

What do you think about God and the meaning of life?

Meaning in life for that student is to improve other people’s lives, help them become better. He values honesty, being happy in life, and equality. About life after death, he thought life just ends the moment someone dies. The body is a vessel of the brain. About God, he thought that there are many different interpretations and misinterpretations. Therefore he is at the moment more of an agnostic.

Who was Jesus?

An amusing moment came when I asked him what he thinks about Jesus. How can we know what is true after 2000 years, he said. But Jesus came across to him as hot-headed, getting easily angry for small things, like talking to a fig tree and then cursing it. I laughed and agreed that this is an interesting moment in Jesus’ life. I think he was surprised that I responded in a relaxed way.

He also said that people say that Jesus was the Son of God. But this is more what people said about him and not how Jesus identified himself. It just became a good story. We shortly talked about how much and on what basis we can trust history since he loved reading it. He mentioned that historiography- the study of the writing of history and of historical texts- helps uncover historical truths. I agreed and noted that we can do the same with the Bible as a document and find out how reliable it is.

What do you think Jesus was trying to do?

He had a good insight into the question “what do you think Jesus was trying to do?” He said, “people were focused too much on rules. Jesus helped them understand the spirit behind these rules.” I told him that some of his thoughts show that he has more knowledge about the Bible than many students I talk to. I became curious about his background. He said that his father is a full-time Christian minister, someone that teaches the Bible weekly in a church.

The last question in the questionnaire was this, “if it were possible, would you want to know God in a personal way? Why?” He said, “I think God’s attention will go more to other people, maybe other people need him more than me.” I asked him to explain more about this. What he said shows his understanding of who God is and how God relates to human beings. He said clear and short, “I don’t think I am worthy enough or miserable enough to have God’s attention.”

God is love!

God is love! Anyone who struggles with this phrase may have a picture of God in his mind as distant, cold, and impersonal. Not the God Jesus came to reveal. Luke reminds us what Jesus said about God, that God is loving and reaching out to lost people. “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:10

During this Christmas season make some room in your life to think about God. Christmas means that God became a man in the person of Jesus. Jesus came to reveal the love of God. Here you can read more about the God Jesus came to present. Leave your thoughts, I will try to reply within a week.

 

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Training for speakers in the university setting: some reflections

Passionweeks is a movement in The Netherlands that allows students to hear a message from a Christian point of view. I participated in one of the training days in October. Benno van den Toren gave a workshop on how to prepare a talk in a university setting. Here are some highlights of this workshop. 

  • Christians sometimes feel they have to keep their faith in the private sphere. But the Christian faith is a worldview that attempts to explain all of reality. Therefore Christians should bring their faith to the public square and not just keep it private. 
  • Christians could make an effort to built bridges with people outside the Christian faith. A good approach is to invite non-Christians into our world so they can see that the Christian faith is meaningful and reasonable. 
  • First, introduce people to Christ. Show them that Christ is attractive, trustworthy, and meaningful to you as a speaker. After you have done this you can remove some of the barriers, things that keep non-Christians away from considering the Christian faith as a life option. Benno said that “a witness from someone trustworthy makes a huge difference.” 
  • Furthermore, show why Christ is both the answer to issues like guilt, shame, overcoming evil, and also that he is a solid foundation for our lives. 
  • Finally, as a speaker find your voice. Don’t be afraid to stand and speak with your vulnerabilities and questions. Even then we have a reason to trust our message. 

It was a good and helpful workshop for people who give talks in the university setting. 

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Living with Hope and Courage in All Circumstances

Talk at ICF Delft Sunday, October the 6th 2019

Talk theme: living with hope and courage whatever may come

We all live our lives without knowing what may happen in the future. All humans are fragile in one way or another. For instance, we cannot avoid death or the death of loved ones. Furthermore, we need to know who we are to be able to live a life free from wrong expectations or the trap of performing to be accepted. We want to live with values that will help us live a life worth living. Who can help us live with hope and courage during our short and fragile lives? The Christian faith has an answer to these questions. Our passage this coming Sunday from 1 Thessalonians 4 and 5 talks about certainty in death, a meeting with the King, the courage to live with kingdom values and an identity rooted in a love relationship with God.

Click below to listen to the talk from about minute 29.

Outline: A Creed. A Meeting. An Identity. A lifestyle.

New Church (Nieuwe Kerk) in Delft.

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Student Leaders and Their Potential Impact on Campus

StudentLife, the organization I am working with, believes that students can be positive influencers on their campuses. They can make a difference and impact others with the good news. What follows is some points related to the importance of student leaders for campus work and why students should consider becoming one. 

First, a student leader gives hands and feet to the Great Commission. 

You may have heard that Christians should go and make disciples of all nations, Mark 16:15 comes to mind. A student leader can partly help students give hands and feet to this commission. 

Christians sometimes know what they are supposed to do but don’t know exactly how to do it. Someone who came to StudentLife in Delft a few weeks ago said exactly this, “I know I have to share the good news with others but I don’t know how to do this.” 

Student leaders facilitate the moments to go and have conversations. They also arrange training on how to lead conversations and have follow-up meetings. 

Second, a student leader learns about spiritual leadership hands-on. 

There are different reasons why someone would not become a student leader: limited time, fear of the unknown (“what am I getting into now?”) failures, weaknesses, feelings of inadequacy (“I am not good enough, or not ready”) some doubts about faith, lack of courage, and the list can go on. What would you add to this list? Here some thoughts about the above reasons. 

Time is always a challenge. But how much time does it take to be a student leader? In StudentLife not more than 2 hours per week! Yes, you have to learn about time management and also stick with these two hours. We always can do more. But we have to learn to set limits and boundaries in our lives. 

It also has to do with priorities and values. What are the things that you are doing at the moment that you could either postpone or avoid doing for the next three months, or stop doing because they don’t help you become a better person? 

Furthermore, we all can feel a sense of inadequacy: we’re not ready, we’re not good enough, or we’re not able enough. The apostle Paul felt like this many times, such as in 2 Corinthians 3:5-6. Read and reflect on these verses. And Paul was not the only one to feel like this! Jeremiah as a young man felt overwhelmed with the idea of becoming a prophet for God, read and reflect on Jeremiah 1:4-10. Write your thoughts down and pray about your feelings of inadequacy. 

Third, you will learn what it means to depend on God and trust him to do his work

God is asking us to share the good news. He also expects us to be good leaders in our lives and our service for Him. But He also gives us the strength, wisdom, love, mercy, and power to do it. 

To join a StudentLife team and go for conversations with the purpose to help others think about the big questions of life is pleasing to God. To go a step further and become a student leader and lead a movement in your campus is also pleasing to God, good for others, and good for you. You will learn what it means to press on and not give up easily because God will sustain you. He will teach you the value of prayer in your life. A student leader once said, “Going for conversations is a training school/ground to share the good news and make disciples.” A training ground! And you can facilitate, you can make it happen with God’s enablement. 

Finally, some points about what a student leader does

  • A student leader organizes once a week, or biweekly, to go out for conversations on the campus. 
  • He arranges some training for the students. StudentLife staff or student leaders are available to give the training. 
  • He gives the signal in the WhatsApp group when they go for conversations and leads the time they meet for this purpose. 
  • He always has StudentLife staff in reach to help out. He is never alone! 

Would you prayerfully consider becoming a student leader? Feel free to contact me or one of my Studentlife colleagues. 

KV brochure A4 March 2019

 

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Reasons why people may reject faith in God

Here are some reasons why people reject faith in God. I mention four of them. What could be some reasons you are rejecting faith in God? leave a message and I will try to respond in about a week.

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