Category Blog

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.

 

Tags,

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

 

Tags,

Conversations with students September 2019

A conversation about life after death

It was a nice sunny September day and I went to have a few conversations with students at the campus in Delft. “What do you believe happens to people after they die?” was one of the questions in the questionnaire I was using.

The student said, “we don’t live forever, it is the end.” He explained, “it is like a book that has a beginning and an end.” Then he added, “it is the scientific method.” I asked him then why he thinks this is the scientific method. Does science prove that life ends after death? “No, no,” he said, “we cannot prove it.”

This was a good moment in the conversation I thought. It was just a question I had to ask to help the student admit that science cannot prove if life continues or not after death. And this is the lesson I want to leave with you, my reader. Sometimes we don’t need to explain things. A simple question may be enough to help people clarify their thinking.

Another student that was in this conversation said, “maybe there is something there, life after death.” But he added, “it is possible but uncertain.”

Well, is there life after death and how can we know? Is it possible to find an answer to this question? I think there is a way to find a satisfying answer to this important question. It may not be conclusive, but it will be sufficient. At least this is what I think. If you want to know more then leave a message and I will try to respond within a week. 

 

An unlikely witness for Jesus

A doable but challenging task

Christianity, like all other worldviews, claims to be true. It presents a way of living that makes sense, or as someone said “a life worth living.” Christianity is not unique in this sense because all worldviews try to present “a life worth living.” Moreover, Christians cannot but speak and tell others about their faith. They know that it works, at least for them.

Furthermore, Jesus gave the mandate to go and tell everyone about the good news. This includes their friends, fellow students, and wherever God has placed them. But how can I reach my friends and the world around me? It seems a daunting task.

In this post, we will have a look at how a woman became a successful communicator.

A successful woman communicator

In the gospel of John chapter 4, we read about a woman. Yes, she was an outcast and therefore a lonely person. But she also was well-informed about the latest interpretations of her society on matters of truth and meaning in life. This woman was dissatisfied with the life she was living. She knew that there is more to life than this. Moreover, she was thirsty for love and justice. Plus, she was continuously thinking and hoping about a new and better way forward, a new and better society where love for God and our neighbour would be a reality, not just a dream. Finally, she had enough time to think, she was after all forced to be a loner. Let’s have a look at how she finally became a successful and bold witness for Jesus.

Wonder inspired by an encounter with a stranger

Little did she know that something really big was waiting for her that day. She was about to have the most amazing encounter. This encounter was with Jesus, who in the gospel of John is described as God in the flesh. Meeting with the Messiah was not a small thing. It filled her heart with a real sense of wonder! She left her jar and ran to the city and boldly and unashamedly proclaimed what she had experienced. We should never lose that wonder! Have you lost the wonder?

Witness inspired by truth

We also see that she was inspired by truth! Jesus knew the reality of her brokenness and situation. He knows your reality as well. Jesus is not only interested in nice conversations about reality and truth. He comes uncomfortably close to us and reveals our true condition. Someone said that “Jesus disturbs the comfortable and comforts the disturbed.” But his main reason to disturb you is to comfort you.

Moreover, the woman was amazed that Jesus was knowledgeable and spoke truth related to the world around them. He had a good grasp of the actual history of the place and its different religious and political interpretations. But more than this, he was able to give the true meaning, to explain the true essence of what faith in God really means. Truth was coming to this woman from different directions. The truth about herself, about her peoples’ history, and about real worship. Truth that corresponded to reality like nothing else she knew before. It was an encounter with truth in the person of Jesus. Jesus is the truth! A truth that is supported by the Old Testament prophesies.

Worship that satisfies the deepest desires of the human heart

Jesus then explained what true worship means. It is a person-to-person encounter with the living God. It is worship in spirit and in truth. They would no longer worship in a particular place. A time was coming when worship would be done in many different places. Not only in one or two particular places. But in the whole world. Later in our passage, the men who came to faith testified that Jesus is “the saviour of the world,” not only a tribal deity limited in one or two places. But the saviour of the whole world!

Nothing but true worship can satisfy the deepest longings of the human heart. This reminds us of C.S.Lewis’ argument from desire. For the woman at the well, the deepest longings of her heart were satisfied. She was able to drink living water because of her encounter with Jesus. We were made to be worshipers. This should be our first priority. This will keep you going in good and not so good times. It will also make you a good witness of Jesus Christ. You cannot give what you don’t have.

Fulfilment by doing God’s will

Finally, Jesus replied to the disciples by saying that “my food is to do the will of him who sent me.” Living in the will of God satisfies! It is like being in our element, just like a fish is in the water of its own element. When Jesus said these words he was also partly referring to the conversation he had with this woman. He was evangelizing, witnessing about the truth. Bringing people to Jesus satisfies! It is a clear mandate, go and make disciples of all nations! The harvest is ready. People are hungry for reality! It is a hunger that only Jesus can satisfy. By going we experience a sense of satisfaction.

This woman became one of the most successful witnesses for Jesus Christ. What are the one or two things that appeal most to you from her story? Take a few moments to reflect on the following questions.

Reflections

  • Are you satisfied with the life you are living?
  • Are you a true worshipper?
  • Are you living in the will of God?
  • Are you witnessing for Jesus?
  • Have you lost the wonder?
  • Have you had an encounter with Jesus and his claims?
  • What is God saying to you through this story?

Feel free to leave a reply, I will be happy to hear from you.

Notes

  • The Gospel of John, chapter 4:1-42.
  • Proofreading Dan Truitt.

Christian faith: It really makes sense

It really makes sense!

The author of “The Chronicles of Narnia,” C.S.Lewis, once said, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.” His point is clear: the Christian faith illuminates the landscape of reality and helps us see it as it is. As the sun rises we can see the landscape; we can see things as they really are.

The Christian faith is a worldview that adequately explains reality as it is, both the universe “outside” of us and our experience “inside” of us. In other words, it is a coherent whole that makes sense of reality as we observe it and experience it as human beings. I would say that the Christian faith has the capacity to explain things as they really are much better than other worldviews. But how can we show that this is really the case? This brings us to the question of methodology.

A reliable method and a toolbox

Let us start with “hypotheses testing.” This is a good way to form and test a theory or a worldview. In our case, we want to test the Christian worldview and find out if it makes sense. More than this, if it makes better sense than other worldviews. Moreover, we want to use some reliable criteria that can test a worldview. Our toolbox contains the following tools: hypotheses testing, criteria to test a worldview, principles of logic, understanding of truth and knowledge, and the scientific method. For now, that’s enough.

Two ways that show that the Christian faith makes sense

We can show that the Christian faith makes sense in two different ways. One complements the other.

  1. By showing there are good arguments and evidence for the Christian faith. (We will mention some of these.)
  2. By showing that the Christian faith makes more sense than alternative views. We will use a case study and compare two worldviews, Atheism and Christianity. This is the Two Story Idea. Ultimate purpose and fulfilment.

Pointers and evidence for the Christian faith

These arguments are better understood as pointers for the existence of God. We don’t use them in a rigorous mathematical way. Rather, we use them as reasonable and good explanations of reality.

There are many such pointers for God’s existence. I’ll mention two of them that are also supported by recent scientific discoveries.

A universe fine-tuned for life

The fine-tuning of the universe is one of these pointers. The astonishing thing is that the universe is fine-tuned with an amazing amount of precision to make life possible on planet earth. There are three options to explain this discovery: chance, necessity, or design.

The following clip from “Reasonable Faith” presents the fine-tuning argument in just about 6 minutes and it is worthwhile to watch. You can watch here. This argument, as presented in this clip, is a strong pointer towards the existence of God. What it does not do is prove in a rigorous mathematical way that a theistic God exists. But it does give the best explanation possible, an explanation that resonates with what we read in the Bible. David, one of the authors of the Bible said three thousand years ago “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.”

A universe that had a beginning

The Kalam cosmological argument is another pointer to the existence of a theistic God. The simple form of this argument goes like this. Everything that begins to exist has a cause. The universe began to exist. Therefore, the universe has a cause. The cause of the universe is God. The strength of this argument is that it is supported by both philosophical reasoning and the scientific discovery of the big-bang theory. This theory makes the point that there was a beginning of the universe. This short four-minute clip is a good presentation of this argument. You can watch it here.

Again, this is a strong pointer towards a theistic God. It is an explanation that makes sense, and that is the point here. It is reasonable and points to what another biblical author mentioned three and a half thousand years ago, that the universe had a beginning. The first line of the Bible says, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

Reliable historical documents

Furthermore, there is good historical evidence that the Christian faith is true. There are reliable historical sources, such as the writings of the New Testament. It is generally accepted that these writings are some of the most reliable ancient documents that exist. The gospels, the four books that speak about Jesus’ life and teaching, are indisputably accepted as authentic historical documents. It is supported by the science of textual criticism, a science that investigates the authenticity of ancient documents.

Christianity compared to other worldviews

Finally, let us open our toolbox again and compare two worldviews. Let us take the question of “is a fulfilling life possible without ultimate purpose?” Read here a short post I wrote about theism and atheism in relation to the question of purpose and fulfilment in life.

Conclusion

Christianity makes sense! That was our main point in the beginning. It better explains the universe and the human experience. In this blog, I present a way, a method, to investigate the belief of the Christian faith. I did not come up with this approach but have embraced it because it is helpful. It is an example that can be used to further search and hopefully come to a meaningful conclusion. What is your worldview? And, does it make sense? Is it helping you to live a “life worth living” in good and not so good times? Does it explain things as they really are? Leave your thoughts and I will be happy to reply.

 

Notes

  • Mere Apologetics, Alister McGrath. The “two ways” I mentioned above are from McGrath’s book. His chapter on “Reasonableness of the Christian faith” is worthwhile to read the book.
  • Reasonable faith, Win Corduan
  • Christian Apologetics, Douglas Groothuis
  • Reasonable Faith Animated Videos
  • Psalm 19:1, Genesis 1:1.
  • Proofreading, Dan Truitt

Tags