I’ve spent the past week in Romania, working with a Bible College in Oradea that specialises in media education. As you may expect, the opportunity came about through a combination of face-to-face and social media conversations over the past couple of years. It’s been encouraging to see students opening their eyes to new opportunities in a country where the average wage (if you have a job) is around 120 Euro, although it may be a while until the advice on smart phones is required.
On Tuesday evening, I was taken for dinner at the home of the Directeur, who lived through the revolution of 1989, and talked of the way that study of God’s word was so cherished, with people risking their lives to share Bibles and Bible notes. He asked if I would ‘give devotions’ on Thursday morning. As I thought about what to say, David Wilkinson’s words from #MediaLit10 came back to me as he drew on Genesis 1:1 and John 1:1: “In the beginning… God created the heavens and the earth// was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God .” David emphasized that God is a communicating God, a God who is extravagant in communication – not a silent God who has to be tempted into communicating with people.
This inspired me to think about giving my testimony through a journey of Bible verses – some that have encouraged me for a long time, and some that resulted from a hunt from Google on Wednesday evening. Here are some of the thoughts emerged from my testimony, as I sought to explain why I now do the work that I do.
1) I referred to having been brought up in a Christian home, within the Open Brethren – where the TV was banned because it brought uncontrolled messages into the home. This partly explains why I am so strong on encouraging people to understand that every form of media can bring “bad” messages, but also good, and we need to be in spaces to allow the good to be heard.
2) At around the age of 15, after a Billy Graham event, I was challenged by John 14:2, as I wanted a room “in my Father’s house” (was that consumerist?), but didn’t believe that I ‘deserved’ one, so sought to work for it.
3) We were brought up with a ‘strong Protestant work ethic’ – where you are is where God has put you, so you must fight to be good at it. As I sought to “achieve”, Matthew 6:34 was constantly brought to my attention.
4) On an Oak Hall holiday, the speaker spoke on ‘grace’ the entire week, and arriving at church on Sunday, the theme was also ‘grace’, and the trust of John 14:6 fell into place, which has led to a sense of peace (sometimes stronger than others) as Hebrews 6:19 makes sense. Also here I quoted C.S.Lewis “I believe in Christ like I believe in the sun – not because I can see it, but because by it I can see everything else.”
5) Over the past few years, there’s been a lot of difficult times, again, I referred to C.S. Lewis “Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God do you learn.” This week I have also been reading some more of Andy Byers Faith Without Illusions: Following Jesus as a Cynic-Saint, where he talks about how 1 John 4:4 “He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world” has been used by many to inspire an ‘idealistic Christianity’, in which there is no sense of suffering. Technology such as the iPod has allowed us to cut out much of the suffering in the world – we turn the music up & turn the other way. When faced with suffering such as Tsunamis (and I’ve just been to see The Impossible), we simply offer platitudes such as ‘this happens for a reason’ which sound completely banal to those we say it to… as we implore them to ‘live victoriously in Christ’. We, however, live in a fallen world, and our victory does not necessarily mean ‘escape from suffering’ but instead the ‘strength to endure suffering’. This reminded me of Philippians 4:11, and another thought from C.S. Lewis: “ Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars. You have to let go at some point in order to move forward.”
6) Out of the difficult times I have become more convinced that the skills we have, the passions we have, are all gifted from God, and that we should use those for him – whether we use them in the secular world, or for the church/Christian organisations. (Exodus 35:31-34). I was convinced after the LICC Toolbox course that I would have a secular job, outside of academia…
7) … and doesn’t God have a sense of humour?! Ever since I returned from my travels I have worked in Universities, and on ‘The Big Read’ since 2010! I talked more about what CODEC is, David Wilkinson’s thoughts, and our desire to encourage more people to engage with the Bible, using free resources provided online, inspired by 2 Timothy 3:16, and how this has developed into a community of people discussing what it means to be a disciple (especially in the online spaces) in a digital age. We questioned how do we learn to use the digital tools well to be ambassadors for God – not necessarily by throwing Bible verses around, but by BEING who we say we are, inspired by Matthew 5:14-16.
8) I finished by saying that some of the values that we seek to have Big Bible represent:
- Encouraging & Respectful
- Open to discussion from a range of voices
- Theological basis to discussions (not necessarily formal)
- Giving insights to ‘real life’ – online & offline
- Encouraging community & discussion
- Generous in listening to & supporting each other
- Seeking to be ethical, morally & legally in all that we do
- Responsive – both challenging & opening our own minds
And that Galatians 5: 22-23 inspires us: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
How would your testimony be woven through with Bible verses? How would you seek to tell your story – how you were created as a unique child of God?
 Apologies to Andy if I’ve misunderstood any of his text!