The Visa Course blog

Welcome to the Visa Course blog.
The Visa course is another course we run. This blog is available for you to take a look at to see what is covered each week, and if you are doing the course it's a useful place to come and catch up if you miss any weeks.  

What is the Visa Course?

A visa in your passport gives you access to another place.  It allows you to go into a country, to look around, to observe the culture and the way people do things, to meet the people, to ask questions and to understand the language.  It gives you an opportunity to find out for yourself about the place you are visiting.

Likewise, the Visa Course is designed to help you begin to understand the Christian faith and the Bible.  It is an opportunity for you to listen, to discuss and to ask questions in a relaxed atmosphere.  Over the nine week course we will look at what Christians believe, and study some passages from the Bible.




Week 10: What does it mean to follow Jesus?

posted 13 Jan 2012, 10:06 by Peter Booth

In the final week of the Visa course just before Christmas we looked back over the previous weeks and considered what it could mean to follow Jesus.

We looked at a story in John's gospel, chapter 9 - it's a great story to read and think about. This tells the story of a man born blind who is healed from his blindness by Jesus. The religious leaders weren't happy about this though, and were angry with the blind man because he believed in Jesus. Many Christians in the world have problems and find people around them angry or upset with them for believing in Jesus - you may know someone who has had this experience. 

There are some important things to remember though for those who do follow Jesus Christ that help us through times of trouble:

1. God the Father is with you
2. God the Son, Jesus, died for you and is alive
3. God the Ho|y Spirit will help you
4. We have been given a great book to read, the Bible, inspired by God the Father
5. We can speak to the Father through the Son, since we are in a new relationship with the Father
6. We can meet with others who believe in Jesus for support and encouragement
 
Most of all, remember that God the Father loves you and will never leave you. In Matthew's gospel, 28:20 it says: "I will be with you always, even until the end of the world."

by Andy Gray

Week 8: How do Christians view the Bible?

posted 29 Nov 2011, 11:45 by Peter Booth

This week we looked at the Bible. Our understanding of who Jesus is comes from the Bible so its important to understand why we can trust the Bible. However, no number of facts will convince us that the Bible is true. The only way we can be convinced of the Bible being true is if the Holy Spirit convinces us that its true. We did three things, we firstly looked at the historical reasons for why we can trust the Bible, then we looked at the whole story of the Bible and then we studied a particular passage of the Bible, praying that the Holy Spirit would convince us that it is trustworthy. We saw how the Bible had been writen by Jesus' closest friends, people who would know if the miracles were true or not. These people died for what they knew to be true and so we can trust what they said. We also looked at a number of other books which were written around the same time as the Bible; for other books there are between 10 and 500 copies in existence today but for the Bible there are over 24000 copies and these date back to only 25 years after it was written whereas the other books date to hundreds of years after they were originally written. Therefore we can trust that the Bible we read today is the Bible that was actually written and that it hasn't been changed as stories are passed down generations.
 
Secondly we looked at the whole story of the Bible from when God created to the Earth to when Jesus will come back and the Earth as we know it will end. We saw how people rejected God and God disciplined them but still loved them. Many people rejected God but God chose a special nation who would be a blessing to everyone on Earth. It was from this nation (Israel) that Jesus came, to restore our relationship with God by dying on the cross and rising to life again. Our job is now to tell this great news to everyone all over the world. One day Jesus will return and we will have a perfect relationship with God. We will live in the new creation; a perfect place where there is no sin, no death and no pain. God will restore us into perfect relationship with him if we accept the forgiveness Jesus offers.
 
Finally we looked at Colossians 1:15-23. This passage speaks of how Jesus is God, of how he created the world for his enjoyment and wants us to enjoy it with him. One day we will reign with him if we accept the forgiveness he offers.

by Paul Zealey

Week 7: Who is the Holy Spirit?

posted 18 Nov 2011, 04:03 by Peter Booth

Jesus on earth was “God with us.”   His followers could see him, talk to him and learn from him.  Jesus died on the cross to take the punishment for our sins.  This restored our relationship with a holy God.  The Bible tells us how Jesus rose from the dead and spent time again with his followers.  But he did not stay on earth for long.  He said “I will ask the Father and he will give you another Helper who will stay with you forever – the Spirit of truth.”

The Holy Spirit is mentioned right at the beginning of the Bible – watching over the creation of the world.  He is eternal, existing before time and space and matter.

When Jesus was baptised, the Holy Spirit came down on him like a dove.  Jesus had given up his divine glory and power to come to earth in the form of a human being.  He humbly received guidance and power of the Holy Spirit for his work.  A dove suggests peace and gentleness – God is not forcing his way into people’s lives, but we can willingly receive his peace and power to do his work.

The Holy Spirit is described as like the wind – invisible but with visible effects.

The Holy Spirit is described as like water springing up to give life, refreshment and joy.

The Holy Spirit is described as like fire – bringing energy and light, and burning away what is impure.

The Holy Spirit is a person.  Although he has no body, he has the identity and character of a person.  He loves, guides, helps.  Because he is God, he can be everywhere and close to each one of us.

He is a helper.  He helps us to understand the Bible, helps us to pray, and helps us to help others with God’s power.

The Holy Spirit makes us spiritually alive and can bring good fruit in our lives – love, joy peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

If we have received God’s forgiveness through faith in Jesus, we can ask God our Father to give us the Holy Spirit.

Jesus said that God his Father would send his Spirit.  Father, Son and Holy Spirit are distinct and yet are all the one true God.  They are totally united in a relationship of love.

by Rod Lawrence

Week 6: What is a Christian?

posted 17 Nov 2011, 07:25 by Peter Booth   [ updated 17 Nov 2011, 16:07 ]

What is a Christian?
 
During this chapter we looked at what it means to be a Christian. We saw that we all have a problem called 'sin.' Sin causes our relationship with God to be broken. God is the rightful ruler of the universe but we have made ourselves kings and queens of our lives; we have decided to do whatever we want to do and live with no regard to God and what would have us do. Because of our disregard for God and our dishonouring and shaming of God, we deserve to be punished. God is angry when the people he has lovingly created and given so much to, live with no regard to him - in the same way that a parent would be angry if their children didn't listen to them and didn't honour and obey them.
 
However, Jesus died on the cross to take the punishment we deserve. All the anger of God was put on Jesus when he died so that we could be saved from it. Jesus rose from the dead to show us that he had forgiven us and that by accepting the forgiveness he is offering we can repair the relationship with God and we can become his sons and daughters as we were created to be. We can know God and be known by him - that is what it is to be a Christian. A Christian is someone who recognises that they are a sinner, but that God has provided a Saviour and that God wants to use them to tell others about Jesus.

by Paul Zealey

Week 5: Did Jesus come alive again?

posted 6 Nov 2011, 15:24 by Peter Booth

Did Jesus really rise from the dead? 

The accounts of Jesus in the Bible teach us that Jesus died, that He was buried, and that the tomb (where Jesus was buried) was empty. After 40 days Jesus rose to heaven to be with God, his father. Jesus left his Spirit with us and he is still with us today. You can read about this in the Bible in John 19:38 to 20:23. 

There are many challenges that can be thrown at the claim that Jesus came back to life but when we think about these they don't make sense. What we know is that no-one ever produced a dead body of Jesus (and yet the religious authorities would have wanted to in order to prevent the spread of Christianity) and we also know that many followers of Jesus who saw him alive again after his death, died because they told the truth that Jesus came back to life - it seems unlikely that so many would have claimed this to their death if they had made it up.

Jesus coming back to life is important because it gives hope in suffering, pain and death to those who believe and trust in Jesus. In the Bible, Romans 8:11 says "God raised Jesus to life! God's Spirit now lives in you and he will raise you to life by his Spirit." When we face pain, suffering and death we know that Jesus is with us through his Spirit, and that he has led the way to a better place - heaven; a place where there is no more pain, suffering and death, and where we will be in God's presence forever. 

Believing that Jesus came to life again is a fundamental part of Christianity. It is something we believe and something we can test. As we keep on believing and testing our belief grows. The first step is to start believing it is true.

by Andy Gray

There are some extra PDFs which you can download on the resources page, which further think about the resurrection in varying degrees of detail. 

Week 4: Why did Jesus die?

posted 1 Nov 2011, 01:11 by Peter Booth   [ updated 1 Nov 2011, 01:15 ]

An unnecessary death?

Jesus died a horrific death; he was betrayed by one of his closest companions, his trial was unfair and based on lies, and his brutal killing was carried out publicly in the most shameful way for a Jewish person to die - on a wooden Roman cross. But why did Jesus die in this way? We've already looked at the evidence that shows he was the Son of God, so surely he should not have died like this? Well the truth is that God sent Jesus to die!

There are three reasons that God sent Jesus to die:
1. To Forgive us. We can read in 1 John 4:10: "This is what love is: it is not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the means by which our sins are forgiven." It is through Jesus' death that our sins can be forgiven (see week 2 for more about sin).
2. To Free us...from sin. Sin traps us and spoils our lives, making us a slave without us even knowing. But Jesus takes our sin on to himself and in doing so he sets us free from sin. We can put on a new life away from sin. You can read more about this in Ephesians 4:22-24.
3. To Father us. When we are forgiven, and set free from sin we can come into God's presence. So Jesus' death makes it possible for God to be our heavenly Father - which is what God wants. In 2 Corinthians 6:18 it says: "I will be your Father, and you shall be my sons and daughters."

In summary then Jesus died because:
"Christ never sinned! But God treated him as a sinner, so that Christ could make us acceptable to God." 2 Corinthians 5:21.
"Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me." John 14:6.

by Andy Gray

Week 3: Who is Jesus?

posted 25 Oct 2011, 16:31 by Peter Booth   [ updated 1 Nov 2011, 01:13 ]

A question which demands a response... 

On Thursday evening we were looking at who Jesus is. We saw that he was a man who lived 2000 years ago, he grew up in a normal family and worked as a carpenter. For 3 years he went around Israel teaching about God and performing miracles. We saw that he had the power to walk on water and to raise someone from the dead. We asked the question 'why did Jesus do these things?' From looking at what people said about him and what he said about himself it becomes clear that these miracles were performed so that people may believe that Jesus was God. It seemed the most effective way for God to communicate with us.
 
God wants to offer us a way to be made right with him. We have broken the relationship with God by choosing not to live his way but to do what we want. God sent Jesus to show us who he is and to offer us a way to escape the punishment we deserve for our rejection of God. Jesus proved to us that he was God through the miracles he did. He then died and rose again; taking on himself the punishment for our rejection of God and rising from the dead to prove that he is God and has saved us. The question is, 'who is Jesus?' It is a question which demands a response from all of us. If he is God then we need to accept that he has taken our punishment and accept the forgiveness he is offering us.

by Paul Zealey

Week 2: God is good, so what's wrong with the world?

posted 15 Oct 2011, 14:30 by Peter Booth   [ updated 15 Oct 2011, 14:38 ]

This week we looked at the puzzle: God is good, so what's wrong with the world? 

Christians believe that God is all powerful and God is good, so why doesn't he stop all the suffering and bad things that happen in the world? This is something we have to understand as Christians. What we believe as Christians is:
 
1. God created a perfect world. We read in the Bible, in Genesis, chapter 1, verse 31: "God saw all that He had made and it was very good". So when God first created the world there wasn't anything wrong with the world.
2. People spoilt the world. SIN came into the world, and the perfect balance in God's world disappeared. In the middle of the word sin, is the word "I". Sin is being centred around "I" or me, rather than living your life centred on God and following him. So sin is more than breaking a set of rules, it's living in a way that dishonours God, living in a way that does not meet His standards. In the Bible we can read about the first sin, in Genesis Chapter 3. This tells the story of Adam and Eve in the perfect garden God had created. God tells them they can eat the fruit of any tree, except the tree in the middle of the garden. But then a snake deceives them into eating the fruit from the tree in the middle of the garden. In doing this they disobeyed God to please themselves. Because of this the world was no longer perfect, as the perfect relationship between God and mankind was broken. From this point suffering and bad things entered the world.
 
3. The problem in the world is sin separating people from God. Because of sin, relationships are broken between God and people, people and people, and between people and nature.
 
This is the big problem in the world. So how does God deal with this? Well God is powerful enough to remove evil form the world, but since we are part of the problem through our sin He would have to remove us as well. He loves us though, so He has chosen another way. This is what we will study in the rest of the course; we will see that God works in suffering, that there is a special hope for Christians of a place called heaven, and that God also suffered when Jesus died.

by Andy Gray

Week 1: How do we know there is a God?

posted 8 Oct 2011, 03:12 by Peter Booth   [ updated 15 Oct 2011, 14:31 ]

There are three things we can "look" at which help us to answer this question:

1. Look out -  Nature: In the natural world around us we see a detailed and beautiful design; this points to there being a designer and a maker. Nature tells us there is a God.
2. Look in - Experience: Through the experience we have in our lives we often find ourselves longing for a purpose. We can fill that purpose through work, study, having a family...etc. But when we achieve those things there is still a gap. Since I started having a relationship with God, that longing for a purpose has been filled in my life - I now know that I was made by God to live for God and to have a relationship with God. Experience in our lives tells us there is a God.
3. Look back - History: The Bible is a great record of the historical events between God and people. More than that, the Bible is a way God communicated with us. The Bible also records the life of Jesus. Look at Mark 1:1 - "The beginning of the Gospel about Jesus Christ the Son of God." Mark's book is a Gospel (which means 'good news') about the life of Jesus. Mark starts by telling us that Jesus is the Son of God. For us to really know there is a God, God has to come and see us. That is what He did, through Jesus. God came to earth, and we can read about the real historical accounts of this written 2000 years ago in the Bible, that are as relevant today as hey were then. History tells us there is a God.
 
If there was no God then we are all just some kind of accident with no real purpose. But, if there is a God, then it is very important to find out about Him, what He is like, what He says, and how we should relate to Him. That's what we'll do in the following few weeks.

by Andy Gray

Introductory week 0

posted 4 Oct 2011, 02:02 by Peter Booth   [ updated 8 Oct 2011, 03:31 ]

An Introduction to the Bible

The Bible is the world's best selling book, has been translated in 2018 languages (Shakespeare's works have been translated into 50), it was written over a period of about 1500 years by about 40 different authors, making up a library of 66 books. It contains history, drama, songs, poetry, prophecy, eye-witness accounts and real letters written to real people. 

The Bible is made up of two halves; the Old Testament and the New Testament. (Testament = a promise made between humans and God. It is something serving as proof or evidence). The Old Testament shows God's promises and is looking forward to the future and these promises being fulfilled. The New Testament shows God's promises are fulfilled through God sending his son, Jesus, into the world. 

The Bible is a collection of 66 smaller books but collectively it makes one big book. Christians believe that God speaks to us through his actions and words as they are written down in the Bible. If this is true, then it is an extremely important book!

Writers in the Bible often used place names, names of people, Kings and rulers. To see if the Bible is the truth, we can check this in other pieces of historical evidence. Other writers at the time mention events that took place as they are recorded in the Bible. If these parts are true, then we have reason to believe the rest of the Bible.

The Bible can also be used for us in our lives today. It offers help, peace and comfort. It tells us of God's love and care for us. In life we can find ourselves in all kinds of situations, whether good or bad, but the Bible can be a source of help and bring us closer to God. 

We will be studying more about the Bible and what it says in the coming weeks in The Visa Course. 

by Rachel Brown

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