So I wanted to come back to the theme of ‘alone time’ with God after the blog about camp and I thought for a while about what exactly I wanted to say, but kept coming back to the same thing, prayer. At first I thought it perhaps wasn’t worth writing a post about something so obviously part of a Christian life, but then I reflected on my own prayer life and realized how easy it is for prayer to sit on the fringes of our daily lives, only making an appearance in times of real need or even want. Something so obvious, I guess it can sometimes be overlooked, so I figured I would write a little about prayer.

The first thing to say is that God answers prayers. I remember as a kid, growing up, I was never convinced that God would actually answer things that I asked of Him, so I was always a little scared to actually ask. I can vividly remember going to bed every night, closing my eyes and putting my hands together, but not once did I ask God to help me with something I was struggling with or help someone I knew was in need. I think I figured that if I never asked for anything, then God couldn’t let me down and then I wouldn’t have to question my belief in Him. I doubted a lot as a kid, up until I was about 14, but that’s something I’ll talk about in the next blog post. So anyway, I certainly wasn’t convinced that God really would answer my prayers and that’s something that probably carried on into my early teens. Now I feel I must add some clarification here; it wasn’t that I didn’t trust God or doubted His ability, I simply doubted that what I would ask for was worth asking for and therefore wouldn’t be answered. Thankfully this was something that I learnt not to be true as I grew older, but if I still had any doubts at all, they were taken away with my acceptance into Oxford.

A story to be told on its own, I won’t go into the full details, but I will say that up to that point I had still never really asked God to give me anything. I had prayed for the health of relatives who had recovered from illness, I had prayed for situations to be resolved, but never really for Him to give me something, something I knew I couldn’t manage on my own. As you will know that prayer was answered, but in such a phenomenal way that I could be left in no doubt that God’s hand had been over the entire process from application to results day and it all hit me after a solid hour of asking God for this opportunity and a morning containing 3 A’s and an acceptance email! When we take to time to prayerfully consider our aspirations in life God sets his plans and our plans in sync. God answered my prayer because he had laid on my heart 9 months before that I needed to be in Oxford and He answered my prayer because it was worth answering, because I wasn’t asking for my will, I was asking for His! It all comes down to consistently spending time with God, allowing Him to guide your path and asking Him to do so! I’m not far enough into my theology degree to fully understand it all yet, but maybe a big part of prayer is God molding our heats towards His will. When we ask for things that God grants, maybe that’s God’s way of pushing us in the right direction, not us pushing Him.

But don’t just take my word for it! At Elim festival there were so many amazing stories of the power of prayer leading to healing and changed circumstances and actually to many of us realizing how God always knows what He’s doing!

The second thing I wanted to mention was something that I struggled with myself for quite a while and that’s praying for other people. Every time I tried it just felt like there were far to many people and far to many things to pray about and I had no idea where to start, so I just didn’t bother. I realized later that, that wasn’t the correct response when faced with this difficulty! Instead we should really try to spend as much time as possibly praying for others as its part of our role within a Christian community, to protect one another and cover each other in prayer. Not only this, but the joy of seeing that prayer answered and peoples lives made better is something that simply can’t be matched. As humans we are wired to enjoy giving more than receiving… the same principle should be applied to our prayer lives.


Elim Festival Special

So I’ve just come back from 10 days in the North of Yorkshire as part of the amazing Liveset team at Elim Festival 2016, so I thought I would use this blog post to share with you a little of what I got up to!

It’s the third year now that I’ve been on the team and the first thing to say is what an awesome team of people they are! I have to give a massive shout out to every single person working in the live set marquee who, for the last three years, have made me feel like a member of the family and who put so much work and energy into helping to change the lives of the young people every year. For me it’s such a fun 10 days where I get to enjoy some time with an amazing group of friends, spend some time myself meeting with God and every year come away feeling incredibly encouraged by the work that God is doing in the next generation of young Christians!

I guess that’s what this post is for really… A little bit of encouragement to share with you the work that God is doing in the lives of some of the young people I have the privilege of working with!

The week started off with the same craziness from the team, but a rather timid seventy or so Livesetters, walking through the entrance to the wonderfully decorated, Jungle themed marquee, seemingly overawed by the madness. But that didn’t last long. After a slightly quieter than usual first night from a much younger Liveset than previous years the young people really started to come out of their shells. After some challenging talks early on in the week a large majority felt that they wanted to be courageous for God, with an overwhelming number praying for the bravery to really connect with God, lose themselves in worship and not care what others thought about their physical displays of praise. This was amazing to see! By day 3 or 4 it felt like we had a whole new group dancing in at 7:30! The previously apprehensive approach was gone and each night we saw the entire room (now 100 strong) come forward to worship, hands raised and hearts open to the tangible presence of God. And it didn’t stop there. Later on in the week several of the Kids had encounters with the spirit, some falling down, some being healed and others simply feeling a warm, comforting hand at a time when they really needed it!

Watching the growth of these amazing young people has been so encouraging and each one of them has genuinely inspired me! The hunger that some of them had to meet with God was incredible, from not knowing God at all to meeting with him in a new way, taking away lists of worship songs to worship in their tents and opening themselves up to encounters with the spirit. I’ll be honest I was exhausted by the end of the 10 days, but what a 10 days it was!

Once again, a huge shout out to the awesome team and a massive thank you to the kids who are such incredible young people of God and I think we could all learn a thing or two from. Until next year…


Topic 4 – Worship

So as I’ve said, spending time alone with God is really important, in fact it’s invaluable, but what should that time consist of?

Well really it can consist of anything that helps you to feel connected to God and helps you to better understand His character and the plans He has for you, but one of the best ways I find of connecting and spending that time is worshipping. I love to just get out my guitar and play some of my favorite worship songs and lose myself for a while. Often for me that leads to writing as that is my way of really expressing my love, but playing guitar isn’t the only way to worship God. I know that we are all so used to corporate worship being lead by keys or a guitarist at the front of the church, but that doesn’t mean you have to have to be a graded musician to worship on your own. Listen through your favorite worship album and reflect on the words, sing along or just go for it a capella. Not only that but tell God how you feel. Even thanking Him for the things He has done is an act of worship and all just as valid as following a chord sheet.

This is so important, because we serve a God that deserves our unending praise! As one of my favorite worship songs growing up said ‘If we could see how much you’re worth, your power, your might, your endless love, then surely we would never cease to praise!’ and it’s so true. If only we could grasp the enormity of God and the incredibly things He has done. To humble himself as a man and die for us, all so that we may walk free from death and suffering… I hope one day I am able to understand just what that meant, but until then I’m going to spend every minute I can in worship of the man who did it all!

Worship doesn’t stop when that alone time is finished either. The Bible tells us in 1 Chronicles 16:23-24 ‘Sing to the LORD, all the earth; proclaim his salvation day after day. Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples.’ Therefore everything we do can and should be an act of worship. The way that we act and speak to people should all reflect out relationship with God and share something of His love. It is our task to try to show something of that amazing love through the people we are and every time we act in a way that brings Glory to God, that is an act of worship. So lets make the most of our opportunities to share that love, not only in our actions, but also directly! I realized far too recently than when you really ask God to provide opportunities to share your faith, he provides them. So let’s get out there, live as people of God and get talking about our faith, all as acts of worship that glorify the big man! And we’ll talk about how to strike up those conversations soon!

Time Along With God

Topic 3 – Time alone with God

It wasn’t until I got to the second year of my A-levels that I realized just how important taking time out to be with God and work on that relationship was. I was in the midst of 5 hour revision session 7 days a week only stopping to eat and occasionally leave the house for air, but whilst most of my time was spent buried in revision books, I only felt like I was sinking deeper into the whole I was digging. I knew I was learning the information but I still felt like I hadn’t done enough at the end of each day and quite frankly like I wasn’t good enough… So one afternoon I went for a walk with the pastor of my church at the time and he reminded me about how the relationship we have with God is like any other relationship. You can’t expect to have a best friend of years, completely ignore them and their attempts to reach out and contact you for six weeks and then come back expecting things to be exactly as they were. It works the same with God… If we go about our own lives ignoring Him and not making time for Him then it’s only natural that we are going to drift away and begin to feel distant. I began to understand why nothing felt enough, because that relationship was the only thing giving me purpose. I was never sure I even wanted to go to Uni, but I applied because I felt it was where God was sending me. I certainly didn’t expect to get into Oxford, but I did because once and only once I started to make time in that crazy schedule just to sit and be with God, I found the strength, patience and the confidence to get the grades I needed.

This was a lesson I needed to learn and one that has served me well at Uni. Don’t get me wrong, I really struggled in my first term with much the same issues, again allowing my work and commitments to block out any time for God in my day to day life, but I soon reminded myself of the importance of working on that relationship and remaining connected. And you know the best part is, even when we drift away God never gives up and never moves in the opposite direction, but instead tries to pull us back in and receives us with open arms when we return home. Sure, it takes time and effort to build up and maintain that relationship, but no time or energy is more beautifully or enjoyably spent than growing in a loving relationship with a God that makes me feel 100 times the person I am without Him.

I know our days can be busy, so here is some practical advice. God is always there and always willing to talk, so make the most of the time you have, when you have it. I love talking to God and spending some time praying in the car when I’m travelling too and from gigs. It’s time I have alone to reflect and, to be honest, the company makes the journeys go much quicker. At Uni I found myself working in the library or coffee shops a lot and I tended to spend my breaks on my phone of ordering another vanilla late, but a friend of mine chose to use that time to be with God, read His Bible and reflect. Needless to say I took inspiration and found it incredibly useful!

I suppose I’ve spent a lot of this blog talking about how I have and haven’t at times connected with God, but not so much that connection itself, how it feels and why I find it so necessary in my life. Well that’s because I really struggled to put into words the difference I feel when I’m really connected with God. It’s like I’m an entirely different person and the way I see things is totally different. So I guess if that’s all I have to say, your just gonna have to find out for yourselves!


Topic 2 – Relationships

I’ve personally found that the importance of having a good group of mates at uni is invaluable. Going into a new environment with a new way of life and for many of us, being away from home for the first time; it can be really difficult to feel comfortable at first, but having some good friends around you early on can make this a whole lot easier!

I think comfortable is probably the right feeling to dwell on with this topic, especially when talking about friends at uni, but also with any kind of relationship, perhaps at school or even at work. We are often told that new situations present us with the opportunity to ‘reinvent’ ourselves and become the person we always wanted to be, but I think this can often be quite a misguided thought process. Whilst I think any change in life is the perfect opportunity to try new things and broaden your horizons, this shouldn’t be confused with changing who you are! It sounds clichéd, but being yourself is so important when it comes to making good, lasting relationships. I know that the first week or so at uni was so fast paced, with new things and different experiences constantly flashing by and it would have been so easy to forget who I was and ‘fit in’ but I know that, had that been the case, I wouldn’t have the friends I have now, because whilst I wasn’t perfect and looking back would probably change a few things, I was still true to the person I am and most importantly was true to my faith. This was reflected in the things I did and most importantly the people I met, meaning that it didn’t take long to have a group of reliable friends that I was comfortable around, not people who I felt I needed to impress or change to be accepted by.

Please don’t hear this as a call to isolate yourself to one group of people. For anyone who read the last blog post you will know that here I am talking mainly of non-Christian friends, due to my lack of involvement in CU and church for the first term at uni. However, whilst I strongly advice against avoiding church and CU, that does not mean that all of your mates have to know the Bible inside out and be able to quote the Psalms! Diversity in our friendships is so important and so natural due to the fact we all have a host of different interests and hobbies. Not only this, but having a group of non-Christian friends allows me to talk to them and share elements of my faith, as well as constantly being challenged by them, forcing me to grow and mature in my convictions!

So, when approaching new situations, be yourself and don’t be afraid to mix and mingle with lots of different groups and individuals, just never make friends that your not comfortable around and you feel you can’t be yourself with and be thankful when you find genuine, reliable mates!

So I Haven’t Disappeared… I’ve Just Gone To Uni

Guys, its been a while… It probably seems like I’ve been a little bit absent lately and that’s because I have. But its ok, I haven’t disappeared, I’ve just gone to Uni and that’s what I want to tell you about. I felt like it was time to fill you all in on what’s been going on over the past few months where all has gone quite in the world of Jacob Lloyd… so here it is: the first of a series of fortnightly blog posts to come about things I have loved, loathed, laughed at and learned from at Uni so far…

Topic 1: Church

So for those of you that don’t know, I’m studying theology at Oxford University. I love my course, I’ve made some great friends and I’m part of an incredible church community at St Ebbes church, just a stone throw away from my college, Christ Church. However, this list of positive experiences has not necessarily been there from day one for one simple reason, I didn’t throw myself into church life.

I came to Oxford determined to get involved with the CU and find a great church, but after an overwhelming lack of CU presence in college and a seemingly overwhelming amount of work to do in my first term, I got to a position after about 3 or 4 weeks where I had only been to church once, I hadn’t settled into any kind of routine of regularly receiving scripture and church didn’t feel like a necessity that I was missing out on. This seems strange coming from someone who had grown up going to church week in week out, but I found myself with a worrying lack of urge to get up and head to church on a Sunday morning. I think I convinced myself that studying theology and occasionally going to our college cathedral to read during evensong was enough, but it really wasn’t and for some reason I couldn’t see that. In fact all I could see was a strange environment a long way from home, full of very different people than I was used too and a workload that felt like far more than I could handle. So I missed home, I missed my family, but I what I was really missing was a closeness with God that is very difficult to encounter without a constant refreshing and refilling of His word and His spirit, something that is hard to come by without attending church and being involved in a solid Christian community.

I would love to tell you things changed rapidly after the stresses of first term, but that would be a lie. Unlike most other degrees at Oxford, Theology students do exams in second term and so my workload that I had got used to and realized was far more manageable than I had told myself just got a whole lot bigger. Drastically trying to grasp translations of Biblical Greek, write essays and revise old essays at the same time took up the majority of my week and even though I was coping much better with my schedule, it still didn’t have time for church. I look back now and can’t comprehend what on earth was running through my mind and by what logic I rationalized my seemingly adamant belief that Church was not a necessity. Perhaps it was due to the fact that I was leading evening worship at a church outside of oxford a few times a term, or maybe because I was discussing my faith and entering into heavy theological debates on a regular with friends that somehow convinced me I was doing just fine without a sermon, but it all made no sense at all; because the process of realization that has lead to me throwing absolutely everything I have into church life has been one amazing lesson into just how important church is!

I’m happy to say that I now never miss church, as well as attending mid-week bible studies and I am also a college CU rep, which is amazing, because OICCU is awesome!! The difference I feel is incredible. I’m part of an amazing group of Christian friends; I thoroughly enjoy my time at the many church events that St Ebbes put on throughout the terms here and most importantly, my relationship with God has grown massively! I have found that this term I have been so much happier, a lot less stressed and in everyway it has been more enjoyable. I am fully convinced that all of this is solely down to my commitment to an amazing church, full of amazing people, there to serve an amazing God. Not only do I feel less alone in my faith and my evangelistic mission as a Christian, but also my spiritual life has burst into something far beyond my expectations. Studying the bible with friends, gaining insight into different interpretations of scripture and praying together as a church family are such essential things that you just can’t do when reading and praying alone. My love for the written word of God has just taken on a whole new level and I have found that my prayers are far less selfish and focused on others, just as I know I am constantly covered in prayer. In short, throwing myself into church has changed my experience of University totally and helped me fall deeper in love with the God that put me here.

So guys, wherever you are in the world and wherever you are in your walk with Christ, don’t underestimate the importance and the amazing power of Church. Church has changed my life more than once… but that story is for another day.

So I haven’t disappeared, I’ve just gone to Uni.