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Loz’s top tips for London Uni Life

Hello there, and welcome to the Christ Church Mayfair blog.  If you’re reading this post, then it's likely you're gearing up to study in London this year: congratulations!! I had fab times studying here, but some tricky times too. So, as you get ready to make the move, here are a few tips for making it work as you start out…

Be a hunter-gatherer – Food is expensive and taking up a crossbow to hunt pigeons leads to a criminal record. Nevertheless, my body is a temple and my mind is a muscle! Both must be nurtured by food if I’m going to live another day. Identify nearest supermarkets. Identify reduced-to-clear aisles, and ask when reductions occur (I’ve eaten many delicious M&S dinners for under a fiver!). Download the Too Good to Go app to snap up discount restaurant leftovers. Got this all sorted?  Share your gourmet trophies with your new uni friends by hosting a meal. You’ll be a hero. You’re welcome.

Master TfL – Using the TFL Journeyplanner online combined with the Citymapper app makes journeys a breeze. Travelling lots? Save cash with a Student Oyster card, get a 16-25 Railcard and link it with your Oyster card to save even more. Best of all, get on a bike and save loads. Your borough or university might make you eligible for free cycle training. You'll be buzzing around the city in no time.

Make friends for life – After a decade in London as a student/Students’ Union employee/ University Chaplain/Church Student Worker I think this is the most important tip I have:

Seek out and invest in costly, quality Christian friendships in church.

There are loads of wonderful things about life in London but tough times come. Good Christian friends helping me live for Jesus in those moments is something I’ll never forget. Can I welcome you along to our friendly church family? You can visit Christ Church Mayfair on Sundays at 6pm (and stick around for tasty dinner when term starts!)

In the video below you can hear a bit more from a few of our current students at Christ Church Mayfair about their experience of London life and our church family life!

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Stay Connected this Summer

Summer’s here – it’s official. And this is a great thing! But as routines change, midweek bible study groups take a break and holidays happen, let me encourage you to take some Preventative Medicine in order to avoid Summer Drift (not a brand of washing powder. Read on.).

Summer Drift /sʌmə ˈdrɪft/ n Seasonal malady afflicting a number of Christians. Symptoms may include: spiritual lassitude, lack of bible reading/prayer, drop in church attendance, fall in spiritual zeal. Causes: disruption of routine; holidays may be viewed as ‘vacations from the Christian life’; reduced regular contact with other church family members. Possible outcomes: lower resistance to sin and temptation, cold heart towards the Lord and other believers, and in the worst cases, ‘forsaking your first love’ (Revelation 2:4) completely.

Without wishing to be alarmist, things can be tougher spiritually over the summer so let me urge us all to keep going. In summary: stay connected; stay close.

Stay close to the Lord and don’t be complacent. Be on your guard (1 Peter 5:8), put on your spiritual armour (Ephesians 6:10-18), ask for the Lord’s help and protection (e.g. Psalm 141:1-4) and ask a friend to pray for you.

  • Practically, it’s important to keep feeding on God’s Word, the Bible – if Jesus needed it, how much more do we, his followers?  He said: “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Matt 4:4. You might want a break from your usual pattern of bible reading and prayer or you might be aware that the busyness of ‘normal life’ has meant you've had no usual pattern of late - why not see the summer as an opportunity to give your devotional life some CPR? Over the summer why not choose something different from what you were using or start again with something that will be refreshing and holiday-ish in a healthy way i.e. not nothing. For instance, a Psalm a day (maybe don’t start with 119. Or 117 come to that…). Or a little bible study booklet that covers a month such as The Good Book Guides on either a bible book (a good starting point is Galatians), or a topic such as Contentment or The Holy Spirit. I can’t recommend highly enough Spurgeon’s ‘Chequebook of the Bank of Faith’ –a bible promise for every day with a few encouraging thoughts from Charles himself.
  • Put a Christian book in your suitcase/on your e-reader, along with all the high-brow classics we’re sure you’ll be planning to read on the beach. It doesn’t have to be a deep and worthy (but stodgy and, frankly, heavy) theological tome. Take something you’re likely to read! How about ‘Perfect Sinners’ by Matt Fuller?  ‘Through Gates of Splendour’ by Elisabeth Elliot? ‘God’s Big Picture’ by Vaughan Roberts? ‘Loving the Way Jesus Loves’ by Phil Ryken?
  • Keep praying – wherever we are, a prayer of thanksgiving as we lay our weary heads on our pillows last thing at night and a prayer committing the day to the Lord before we open our eyes in the morning shouldn’t be beyond us at the least. For a bit of variety (and Ye Olde English), why not use a book of prayers such as ‘The Valley of Vision’? It’s, well, fab.
  • Download some sermons (ours are here) so that you can listen to one or two on the plane/by the pool/beside the seaside.

Stay close to other Christians We’re warned not to give up the habit of meeting together (Heb 10:25) – we’re pretty sure that includes summertime. Scripture tells us that as a church, we’re a body – we need each other to function properly and to help each other (1 Corinthians 12:12-27). So…

  • Keep making Sunday services a priority – it’s 10.15 and 6pm as usual at CCM and keep coming to the midweek meetings on Wednesdays in church. The ‘Summer Specials’ really are, erm, special.
  • Even if your regular midweek bible study group has stopped for the summer, it doesn’t mean your relationship with the members of that group is ended! Keep looking out for one another and having ‘holy conversation’– let’s not be embarrassed to ask one another how we’re going with the Lord/what he’s been teaching us about himself. Let’s resolve not to get the hump with one another if someone phones or emails to say ‘I haven’t seen you for a while and wanted to check you’re doing ok’ – it’s an expression of love and care among Christian brothers and sisters which is right and good. 
  • Got a bit more time over the summer? Sooper. Why not use it to invite some of the church family for a meal - it can be pasta and pesto for main and a yoghurt for pudding, it’s the getting together that counts.
  • Or, let’s be optimistic, why not arrange to meet for a picnic in one of London’s many beautiful parks (don’t forget your brolly. We’re optimistic but we’re not foolhardy).

It’s not rocket science, is it? But Summer Drift is a sneaky phenomenon that can creep up on us unawares so it’s worth resolving now not to be outwitted by it. Share concerns as well as ideas and Top Tips with other brothers and sisters. Let’s pray for one another as a church that we’ll come out of the summer in better shape spiritually than we went into it.

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Day of Judgement!

This week at CCM, we're learning a new song to help us engage with our upcoming sermon series on Amos. And it's on a topic we don't sing about much...

The theme of God's judgement is significant in Scripture. It's an uncomfortable one to speak about, let alone sing about. And as the general tone of Church music has become more joyful and celebratory over the years, we've lost some of the hymns that talk about judgement, lament over sin, and so on. The truth is, it's only by dwelling on these 'low' points of sin and judgement that we can understand and appreciate the 'high' points of the cross and eternal life.

The Olney Hymn book, published in 1779, contains the hymns of pastor John Newton and William Cowper (pronounced 'Cooper'), a poet in his congregation. Newton often wrote hymns to go with his sermons, and the Olney Hymns preserves the best of those, including  Amazing Grace and Cowper's God moves in a mysterious way. These hymns contain a great variety of topics presented with Newton's typical pastoral sensitivity.

This Sunday, we'll be learning an updated version of Newton's hymn Day of Judgement, day of wonders, which helps us feel the dread of that great final Day, and points us to the mercy we so desperately need in Christ. The lyrics are below, and you can find the lead sheet on our CCM Music page:

Day of judgment, day of wonders!
Hear the awful sound,
Louder than a thousand thunders,
Shakes the vast creation round!
 
2. Jesus calls: the dead awaken,
Rise from earth and sea;
All the pow’rs of nature shaken
by his look, prepares to flee:
 
When all earth and heaven melt away,
Gracious Saviour, own me in that Day!

 
3. Every knee shall bow before Him,
Every heart exposed;
All the stains of our rebellion
Clear before His judgement throne.
 
Under earth and heaven’s blackened sky,
Gracious Saviour, You were lifted high,
Bearing all the curse that my sin deserved
As You bled upon that tree:
God the judge hangs cursed for me.
 
4. Rise now, sinner: come to Jesus
Pardoning grace to know.
Meet Him now as gracious Saviour,
Not just then as Judge alone.
Original words by John Newton. Additional words & music by Ben Slee. © Ben Slee 2017.

 

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The Glory and the Crown: 18 months on

It's been about 18 months since CCM released it's first EP, The Glory and the Crown, so I was asked to put together a little update on some of the encouragements we've heard about since it's launch...

The vision was simple: we wanted to share some songs written by people at CCM, which we thought would be an encouragement to our church family and others who hear them. We long for the word of Christ to dwell in us richly; we recorded 5 songs which we hoped would help us do that.

Although most of the team involved with the project had been involved in various recording projects before, we'd never attempted anything quite like this. But, spurred on by that vision, we put together the EP over the course of about 6 months. We learned a lot and, even though it isn't perfect, we hope and pray it will serve the church: both CCM and further afield.

In God's kindness, He's taken our efforts and used them for His glory!

The songs from the EP are now being sung around the world. We've received messages from American and Australian churches passing on their thanks for the songs, and saying they're using them regularly. Lots of churches all over the UK are singing them, too.

Some of the songs from The Glory and the Crown have been re-recorded for live albums last year, including the Word Alive 2016 album New Again and The first Co-Mission album, See Him Face to Face.

We also launched a brand new music page on our website, packed with resources to help churches sing the songs; including free sheet music, how-to videos, acoustic demos and devotionals to do with your band, small group of family.

Will you join us in giving thanks to God for all He has done! We want to keep serving the church like this - not building a name for ourselves, but building the kingdom of Jesus and serving His church. Please pray for us!

 

 

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Why We’re Giving Thanks for Mike Ovey

"Your theological knowledge isn't like Gollum with the ring." That was one of Mike Ovey's warnings to me and my cohort as we started our time at Oak Hill CollegeHe went on to explain: "Theological knowledge isn't 'My precious', as if it's something you've got that no-one else can have. You are stewards entrusted with the mysteries of God, like Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:1 - and your job is to pass on what's been entrusted to you."

Mike Ovey's thanksgiving service

Mike had been Principal of Oak Hill for ten years, and died suddenly on 7th January, aged 58. All three of our current pastors at Christ Church Mayfair were taught by him, and four of our congregation are currently training there. We all considered Mike a mentor, an advisor and a friend. On 13th March we gathered with hundreds of other Oak Hill alumni at All Souls Church near Oxford Circus to give thanks to God for his life.

Many moving tributes have been shared, including Vice-Principal Dan Strange's Just Mike, and it's not our intention to add another personal tribute here. Rather, we wanted to take this opportunity to highlight why we believe in rigorous theological education for pastors, and why we invest a lot of time, prayer and money in sending people to train at Oak Hill.

The Best Possible Gift

At every Oak Hill open morning for prospective students Mike would tell them: "We want you to be God's gift to the Church."

That sounds like it was designed to puff potential pastors up with pride, but Mike would proceed to pop our bubble by pointing out that it was thoroughly biblical: in Ephesians 4:11-13 we're told Christ gave pastors and those with teaching gifts to the Church in order to build them up. "And I want you to be the best possible gift to Christ's Church", he would say. In terms of his Gollum analogy: it's not your knowledge. It's for you to pass on!

Shepherds Feed and Defend the Sheep

For Mike, passing it on meant pastors who were utterly faithful to the Scriptures. The word 'pastor' comes from 'shepherd', and this analogy is developed often in the Bible (e.g. John 21:15-17, Acts 20:28, 1 Peter 5:1-2). And a shepherds' job is to feed and defend the sheep.

Mike taught us to gently and consistently feed our 'flock' with the mysteries of God: all the broken-hearted, scattered, hopeful people of God, wherever we might find them, who needed to know God through the Bible. In his doctrine lectures he would often pause and enjoy something about God, and encourage us to pray and thank Him for it ourselves. Our habit of savouring the Bible and adoring God at Christ Church Mayfair was strengthened by Mike Ovey's example here.

But Mike also put steel in our spines and taught us to defend the flock against error. He knew that theological error isn't always flagrant and obvious, but often insidious and hard to distinguish. It never trots into church and announces itself as error, because it would never win a hearing that way (Acts 20:30). Defending against it therefore requires a deep knowledge of the whole Bible, an ability to think theologically and an understanding of church history.

Lay people simply don't have time to do that deep thinking and fighting, so it should fall to the pastors to take a lead on it. And Mike had a vision of churches across the UK and the world led by shepherd-pastors who could do that. He knew we wouldn't suddenly wake up one day with an ability to defend against savage wolves (Acts 20:29), so he trained us in it. He wanted us to be good at it, for the sake of the flock. He wanted all of his students, including Matt Fuller, Phil Allcock and Pete Snow, to be the best possible gift to Christ's Church.

We Grieve... but Not Without Hope

We were all shocked when Mike's death was announced, and the news has left us reeling and wondering about God's plan in it all. While we can't claim to fathom the riches of the wisdom of God, it occurs to us that Mike must be pleased with his legacy. In seventeen years at Oak Hill, ten of which were as Principal, he trained hundreds of students to be good shepherds. Last year 43 students graduated from Oak Hill in the class of 2016: that's 43 pastors or church workers last year alone sent out to minister to people. And Mike was at Oak Hill for seventeen years! Moreover, the College is in good health going forwards and looking to build on Mike's vision.

So we grieve for Mike Ovey, but not without hope. We'll see him again one day, resurrected and enjoying the God he taught us about, and we'll continue the work he trained us in: feeding and defending Christ's flock with the Word of God.

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He will hold me fast

We really enjoyed learning this new song on Sunday Night. It speaks of the assurance we have in Christ, that he'll never let go of those He's died for:
When I fear my faith will fail,
Christ will hold me fast;
When the tempter would prevail,
He will hold me fast.
I could never keep my hold
Through life’s fearful path;
For my love is often cold;
He must hold me fast.

He will hold me fast,
He will hold me fast;
For my Savior loves me so,
He will hold me fast.

Those He saves are His delight,
Christ will hold me fast;
Precious in His holy sight,
He will hold me fast.
He’ll not let my soul be lost;
His promises shall last;
Bought by Him at such a cost,
He will hold me fast.

For my life He bled and died,
Christ will hold me fast;
Justice has been satisfied;
He will hold me fast.
Raised with Him to endless life,
He will hold me fast
‘Till our faith is turned to sight
When He comes at last!
Words: vv. 1-2 Ada Habershon (1861-1918), Public Domain.
Alt. words, new words (v.3), and music: Matthew Merker
© 2013 Getty Music (BMI)/Matthew Merker Music (BMI) (adm. by Music Services)
All Rights Reserved. Used by permission.

Here's the story behind the song from it's author, Matt Merker (source: gettymusic.com)

A member of our church had sent the original words to “He Will Hold Me Fast” to me and our senior pastor, suggesting that this could be a good song for us to learn as a church. I forgot about the song for a while, but later pulled it out again when I was walking through a difficult personal season of doubt and uncertainty. I was wrestling with the hard questions of the faith and struggling to place my trust in the enduring power of God’s preserving grace. John Piper’s sermon from T4G 2012 on Jude vv. 20-25 was a lifeline for me, and Jude 24 became an anchor for my soul in that trying time: “Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy...” It was at this time that I was beginning to try my hand at writing new tunes for old texts, mainly as a personal devotional exercise to help aid my own soul in seeking Christ. I pulled out “He Will Hold Me Fast” again and the words ministered to me deeply. I wanted to see the resurrection and return of Christ featured in the lyrics, since our hope is guaranteed by the reality that Christ has risen and is coming again.

I first shared the song with my wife and then with our pastor, and he suggested we should try singing it as a congregation. We introduced the song to CHBC early in 2013 and the church quickly owned the song and began singing it with joy (and really loud voices!) For anyone who is discouraged by the enormity of the work or by the apparent lack of fruit in any particular missions context, it reinvigorates us to know that God is in control and he will preserve us to the end!

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