Priorities

“Leaders understand that activity is not necessarily accomplishment” – John C. Maxwell.

This morning I was reading through The Acts of the Apostles and stumbled upon this verse:

It is not desirable that we should leave the word of God and serve tables…we will give ourselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word”

It made me think of priorities and what do we do.

I’m currently feel slowly being nudged back into “church ministry” after a 9+ month withdrawal. It’s been a refreshing and revealing season, with several challenges, unexpected accomplishments and a lot of heart work.

And now, I’m being presented with several opportunities to serve in different ways. From preaching, to mentoring. From youth groups to small groups. I’m still establishing myself in the habit of writing and learning new things in that area.

So how do I choose what to engage with and what not? (See Life Purpose)

In this Bible reading, I realised there is another solution when presented with an opportunity. Another solution aside from engage or not engaging. A solution called: delegation.

Delegation: Frees me to focus on my calling, allows others to step into leadership, encourages me to pass on what I know, affirms the gifts and passions of others.

Sunday Summary – 20th September 2020 “DIY Desk”

Am going to post a little rapid fire this week:

DIY Desk improvements – Every now and again I do some DIY that isn’t too complex, but that gives me an immense amount of pride. This week I tackled my desk. Since lockdown began, I’ve been working from home and my desk set-up has undergone a series of transitions:

Well, I’ve now taken a saw to my desk and cut in up so it fits at a different angle in my room. It does mean I’ve got less space on my desk now to actually work (well done Paul), but it also means I’ve got more room in the office.

Fingers crossed, it can still support the weight!

LOTR Marathon – Saturday, also saw me put on my productivity hat and watch the whole of Fellowship of the Ring and the first DVD of Two Towers special extended editions. Interestingly, wife joined me in the lounge but “was not watching”. (Her first real exposure to middle earth without sleeping!)

Costa Meetings – Met with another two friends after work on Tuesday and Thursday at my new favourite local drive-thru Costa. (Again, no pictures, still trying to get in the habit of remembering). Great friends and was really encouraged after both catch ups!

AirPod Phone Calls – Yes, I’m slightly embarrassed to admit it, but this apple fan boy finally fell for the scam of Apple’s overpriced headphones. I know, I know, you can get better quality headphones for half the price. I know I’m a fool. The biggest upside of these headphones are that I can take calls, for the first time in my life, without holding a handset. Probably because it’s still a novelty, I really have enjoyed, as well for the first time in my life, extended phone calls. I think these will be a game changer.

Local Lockdown – Where I live the government have instituted strict lockdown measures as of last week. This was one of the first times I’ve been truly annoyed at not being allowed to see people. My family were all together, and brother had come up from Birmingham, and I missed out! They sent me a nice photo of them round the fire, drinking whisky, without me!

Blog Decisions – For those who don’t know, on Thursday, I announced a couple of changes to the blog. (You can read about them here: Ti-Yong). In short, I made these changes so that I can have more capacity to focus my writing energies on editing my first draft!

SW – Book – Finished another Star Wars book this week: Fatal Alliance. The third in the Old Republic Series. Pretty good about biological robots that are spawning to take over the galaxy.

Running – Now that the shard of glass is out my foot, I’ve picked up running again. 5k on Tuesday, and 7.5k on Thursday. Listened to a Podcast on Not Overthinking on Tuesday, and a sermon by Rob Rufus on Thursday. I’m not going to link at the moment, it’s a bit of a faff on the tablet, if you want links let me know in the comments 🙂

So that’s it for this week’s Sunday Summary. Sorry for any spelling mistakes/grammar problems. Thanks for your ongoing support! Have a good week!

Systematic Theology 8: The Four Characteristics of Scripture (4): Sufficiency

The Sufficiency of Scripture means that Scripture contained all the words of God He intended His people to have at each stage of redemptive history, and that it now contains all the words of God we need for salvation, for trusting Him perfectly and for obeying Him perfectly.

Throughout the Bible we see that the Scriptures provide everything we need to hear in order to bring us to Salvation. There is nothing more, no secret knowledge we need to stumble upon, than that is provided in the Bible (see 2 Timothy 3:15, James 1:18 and 1 Peter 1:23).

The Bible also contains everything we need to hear to equip us for living the Christian life (see 2 Timothy 3:16 and Psalm 119:1).

In these senses the Bible is sufficient.

There is an interesting discussion about the amount of scripture slowly increasing at each stage of redemptive history. Wayne Grudem argues that at each stage the amount of scripture available was sufficient.

This is why commands such as “you shall not add to these words” were able to be said by God as early as Deuteronomy 4:2). Of course, God has added to it as He has seen fit.

The sufficiency of Scripture also can encourage us to know that God has not spoken anything more that we need to believe, think or do, that is not already in the Bible.

Interestingly, our tendency to create additional rules for ourselves are met with failure and a lack of follow through, because the Holy Spirit does not empower us to fulfils our man-made rules. This was a problem Jesus addressed with the Pharisees (Matthew 15:3-7), but it is an issue we also must address in our own lives. The tendency to put ourselves under additional laws is very great.

Paul writes: “why…do you submit to it’s [additional] rules: ‘Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!’? These rules…are based on merely human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.” (Col 2:20-23).

In my notes below I have also listed seven additional practical applications from this doctrine:

Ti-Yong: Blog or Book?

When China began copying alternative models for industrialisation in the 19th Century, they adopted a policy of ‘Ti-Yong’. Which means ’Essence’ and ’Form’. They intended to keep the Chinese Essence – their identity and character. But change their Form to match the approach to development used by the foreign countries.

In the same way, I think my blog is going to undergo a Ti-Yong transformation.

I have really enjoyed blogging these last couple of months! (Like a lot!) It’s been helpful way to reflect on my week in the Sunday Summaries. To consolidate my Personal Bible Studies with the Monday, Wednesday and Friday posts. As well as regurgitate the various tips, tricks and hints I’ve learnt that week about productivity and motivation etc.

However

As I’ve mentioned many times, I’m also writing a book at the moment. I finished my first draft back in July and gave it to a friend to read over and feedback.

In that time since, I’ve taken up blogging to fill the writing void. It’s been so encouraging.

When you work on a book, it’s very private, there is no immediate feedback and there are few (if any) people who encourage you along the way. With blogs you can change topic to match whatever you feel like writing about that day/week, whereas a book involves sticking with the same theme for a long time. Plus, you can’t make money (albeit pennies) with every chapter, like you can with blog posts.

So thank you to everyone who has read, commented, liked, any post I’ve written. I have been so encouraged!

I got the feedback, on my first draft a few weeks ago and have since really struggled to make much progress with the editing/re-draft because my morning slot for writing is filled with blogging.

So I’ve done a pros and cons…and here’s my decision:

My decision,

I will continue to blog, however, I will no longer be aiming for daily posting.

Since I’ve benefitted from the Sunday summaries, I’m going to keep doing that. I hope you will want to stick around at least for the weekly catch ups.

I’ve also decided that my Bible Study posts are going to change. Instead I’m going to post a picture of my final draft notes. See tomorrow’s post. Which means, I’m going back to Genesis 1:1-2-3. Hopefully, this model will be more sustainable in the long term.

I regards to Tuesday Tools and Thursday thoughts…I think this will be more sporadic and low priority.

Finally I will continue to post notes on Systematic Theology.

In short…

The blog will remain active. But the style of several of the posts will change. I hope you will still be interested to read and visit, follow my story etc.

But I have decided I will focus my writing attention on the book as a priority.

I’d appreciate your prayers. Editing has turned out to be way more challenging than writing, and I have so much to work through. Please pray that I can think clearly, write brilliantly and persevere in the hidden/secret place.

Best wishes, Paul

Genesis 4:1-26 Part 2: Faith is Demonstrated

Genesis 4 includes the story of Cain and Abel, the man who killed his brother. But there is a lot more going on in this passage than meets the eye. For starters, it is where we first start to really see the beginnings of faith in the human race.

Yes, Adam and Eve were supposed to have faith in God’s commands and goodness back in the garden. But they didn’t. We also saw a little of Adam’s faith in the previous chapter when he named his wife Eve, in response to the Promise of God [See: Where do we go from here?].

But in chapter 4, faith is beginning to spring up all over the place:

Eve’s Faith

It is so encouraging to see that Adam and Eve were not “lost causes”. They had learnt, over time, to turn back to God. In fact, they raised their children to follow God, even though they themselves had disobeyed Him.

As Chapter 4 opens, and closes, the faith of Eve is very much on display in the birth of her sons.

“With the help of the LORD I have brought forth a man…God has granted me another child in the place of Abel” (vv 1 & 25)

I believe that one of the reasons she thanks God for both Cain and Seth, is because she believes that through one of these children God will provide the Promised One (3:15).

Abel’s Faith

There are many explanations for why Abel’s offering was accepted whilst Cain’s wasn’t. One of the most convincing ones is rooted in Hebrews 11:4: “By faith Abel brought a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings.”

His offering was accepted because of his faith. A faith that still speaks today! (Heb 11:4b)

Cain’s Lack of Faith

Another reason to explain why Cain’s offering was not accepted was because of his lack of faith. We assume this because of the despair that emerges when his offering isn’t accepted.

When we fall short of God’s standards, It is faith that moves us to turn back to God. If however, we don’t live by faith, falling short will result in despair. We will groan that we are not good enough and not valuable to God. (In fact we are not good enough). But faith allows us to put our trust in God and receive His righteousness.

Cain’s lack of faith is seen his response to having his sacrifice rejected. But it is also seen in what happens next. When God punishes him for murdering his brother, Cain again falls into despair. “My punishment is more than I can bear”.

Even despite this, God continues to lavish grace and protection on Cain.

Then later on, we see Cain trying to make a name for himself by building a city (v17). One commentator noted the continuous verb, “Cain was then building a city”. And said that this mirrors the life of someone trying to earn salvation, rather than receiving it by faith.

Faith passed on: Adam and Eve to Abel, to Seth, to society

And yet Adam and Eve continue to have faith in God. And once they give birth to Seth they teach him too to lean on God. And so chapter 4 ends with the hope-filled phrase: “At that time people began to call on the name of the LORD” (v26)

One of the mysterious things about faith is that we can pass it on. This is how commands like the Great Commission are possible. We can go and make disciples of all nations because of our example and teaching of faith.

This is why Paul urges Timothy, ‘do not let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example to all the believers in speech, conduct, faith, love and purity’.

Yes, God does distribute a measure of faith to each of us (Rom 12:3), but we can go and model and encourage others to walk in faith. This is what we see Adam and Eve doing, and later Seth.

May we too seek to model faith well.

Tuesday Tools – Evening Reading

One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was from John Maxwell about the rule of five. I written about it before (in fact it was one of the first posts on this blog).

In summary, the trick is to determine which five activities you can engage with every day in order to move closer towards a big goal. He uses the example of cutting a tree, if you hit it five times every day with an axe, eventually it will come down!

In a similar vein I’d like to promote another similar approach to tackling big goals. Reading before bed each night.

There are a lot of benefits to reading before bed: settles the mind, transitions out of the business of the day, no “white light”…etc.

But with 20 minutes or so of reading each day before bed, massive books can be read each year. This can be useful for large fiction series, for personal studying, or even the Bible in a year.

I’m currently working through the Wheel of Time series, (you can use my affiliate link if your interested in taking it up). For those who don’t know, it’s a book series made up of 13 or so books (each around 700/800 pages long). I’m sure I’ve recommended it loads before, I’m on book 3 at the moment. But it is an epic fantasy, like Lord of the Rings on steroids.

An excellent read, great bedtime reading!

Anyway, the habit of reading before bed is also one that’s recommended by John Piper. He did the maths and:

That’s 12 very substantial books [a year], all in 15 minutes a day for the average slow reader.