Isaiah, finished 1 Cor and starting Gal

Isaiah 7.10-13 This verse struck me because God tells someone to ‘ask for a sign’. I was thinking about my church upbringing, and remember the story of Jesus in wilderness ‘You should not put God to the test’. And then my mind flitted to the story of Gideon with the fleece – ‘wet on one side and not on the other, please, then I’ll do it, no wait, do it again in reverse, okay now I’m convinced’. So this verse struck me and made me think what’s the difference between testing God and asking for a sign. One of the things recently happened to us when we moved house/flat. We view the property and we said to God, we love it but we want your opinion. Can you confirm it to us with 3 things. A week later, 1,2 and 3. We moved in a month later. Further, in the passage the sign that’s eventually provided is basically Jesus.

Isaiah 8.18 again linked to the previous point, in this passage it reminded me that my family, my wife and I (and I guess also the wider church family) can function as another sign. That points people to Jesus. I want that of my marriage, that it bears witness to the Person we hope in.

Gal 2.11-17 This struck me because it tied in with something I had read recently. Funny how God uses ordinary life processes to speak to us, then confirms it with His Word. Almost like it’s living and active :P!! Anyway I blogged about that last week. So here’s copied and paste what I wrote:

Since meeting with my friend I have thought up a 6thIntegrity and Consistency. I came across this one in my Bible readings. Gal 2.11-17. Paul describes how Peter would only eat with Gentiles when Jews weren’t present. Because he didn’t want to ruin his own reputation. When we choose to engage or disengage with culture, is because of selfish motives and therefore will change depending on who is watching. Or are we the same when no one is looking.

 

BRT – Ecclesiastes & a bit of 2 Cor

My BRT is coming to an end for a while, not that I’ve been posting at all or keeping anyone updated. It’s been a fantastic way I have enjoyed God’s word for the last 3-4 years. (I will/have done a proper homage to the benefits of BRT elsewhere). But I just wanted to briefly say my BRT is now a slightly slower pace Bible in a Year. And I’m following the reading plan of Word for You, which is the young peoples (FREE) devotional magazine from UCB.

 

Here are my 3 points from last week. Ending Sun 2nd.

  • Eccl 11.2 – ‘Invest in 7 ventures, yes, 8…’ This is the biggest one for me, we’re taking on a lot this year, with the student ministry, our churches youth group, preaching once a month at various churches, worship leading all on top of our 9-5 jobs and 1:1s. And a big part of me has felt like “this.is.madness”, and must be wrong, however when I read this verse. I felt God saying, ‘no – for this season – for you – for now this is right. I will supply’. Along with it is the discerning what is the difference between investing in all these things and managing all these things (probably a post to follow on that).
  • Ecc 1.18 – ‘For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief’. I was challenged by this verse because it seems to disagree with the words of Peter which says add to faith goodness and to goodness knowledge. How do these two verses work together? Well, I began thinking about the foundation of knowledge. If we build our knowledge up on a foundation of experience and expertise it will finally lead to grief. But to build it upon faith as Peter says is very beneficial.
  • 2 Cor 9.6+ God rewards our generosity, and He will honor us when we give generously of our time, money, energy. Etc, this was important for me to be reminded of. I am not working as a slave. But as a someone who will receive a promised reward. I must not lose sight of this, because otherwise I am tempted to resentment.

Hope that’s encouraging.

 

BRT – 2 Thessalonians

  1. 1.11 “With this in view, we always pray for you that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill by his power every good purpose of yours and every action stemming from your trust.” … Since I heard John Piper speak on this verse about a year ago, I have loved this verse. I wasn’t surprised that it stood out to me! Paul is praying for the believers, and praying that God’s power would accomplish every good purpose/resolution. I am a massive believer in resolutions and in 2015 and this year I’ve set out to read a book each week! I set myself targets in exercise. And I also make decisions about my approach to reading my Bible. These things are the good resolutions. And Paul is praying, and by doing so help us see that it is God’s power which enables us to fulfil this purposes. I am SO DEPENDENT on Christ and His power in my life! I am SO DEPENDENT on the prayers of His Church for my life. And yet, God sees this purposes/resolutions and action which stem from faith/trust in Him and He works to empower me! Wow! I love the Bible!
  2. 2.15-16 “Therefore, brothers, stand firm; and hold to the traditions you were taught by us, whether we spoke them or wrote them in a letter. And may our Lord Yeshua the Messiah himself and God our Father, who has loved us and by his grace given us eternal comfort and a good hope, comfort your hearts and strengthen you in every good word and deed.” Sometimes, reading the Bible is like soothing balm on a headache. This is one of those times. How can I unpack it well in a way that is concise? 
    • I am loved – by God the Father and Jesus the Messiah. I am loved by a Father whose love for His children is perfect. And loved by someone Who was willing to give up everything for me and lay down His life.
    • I have received comfort – which will last forever. Lately life has been quite difficult and I have felt quite isolated. Yet here I read that God has comforted me and meets the need of my heart. Providing a hope which is an anchor for my soul (Heb 6.19)!
    • God will strengthen me – in every good word and deed! When I feel tired, or too broken to be of any use to the people around me. Too weak to bless others – God is strengthening every feeble good word, every deed. God is blessing my words and actions as He did with the bread and fish to feed thousands. What seems to be my little, God is strengthening it. He is glorified, in my weakness.
  3. 3.8-9 This was a relevant passage because one of the options I’m pursuing next year is bi-vocational. So I may be working with the Navigators and the student ministry and trying to support myself financially with another job. Because I see Paul doing it in the Bible, I am encouraged by his example. But just because it’s here doesn’t mean it’s the only option available or that’s right for me. I’m still working it out.

 

BRT – 1 Thessalonians

  1. 3.12-13 “And as for you, may the Lord make you increase and overflow in love toward each other, indeed, toward everyone, just as we do toward you; so that he may give you the inner strength to be blameless, by reason of your holiness, when you stand before God our Father at the coming of our Lord Yeshua with all his angels.” This is another “so that” passage. Paul is praying for the Church that they may increase in love towards each other so that He may give us the strength to walk obediently! Not only does this line up with what Jesus says when He talks about the whole law summed up by Loving God and Loving man. But this really speaks into some of the things I feel God is teaching me lately. I have been challenged in my attitude towards relationships lately. I think I’ve begun to privatise my faith and focus on developing my own walk with God. But part of the reason God wants us to be Spiritual mature is so that we can live out our faith in love towards others! And this verse tells us that when this love overflows God gives us the strength to walk obediently. I know this sounds very circular! Also what this verse tells us is that God is at work in both parts. Not only is He “mak[ing] you increase…in love”, but also He is “giv[ing] you inner strength to be blameless!” …. We are totally dependent on Him!
  2. 5.12-14 These verse again are speaking into relationships with other people. And I really liked the different words it used. Respect those who are working hard (particularly those who are trying to help you change). Confront those who are lazy, that they may change. Encourage those who are timid. Assist the weak. And be Patient with everyone. As I think about which of these feels like the biggest challenge to me. I think it’s the patience one. I find myself getting angry quite easily with people who take a long time, whether it’s in the queue or getting to the point. Often this is a small-hidden anger that no one notices. But it’s evidence of a lack of patience towards everyone. The respect part also made me think about how do I honour those who have invested in me, and nurtured my faith.
  3. 5.16 Always be joyful. Simple.

BRT – Colossians

  1. 1.29: It is for this that I toil, striving with all the energy that he stirs up in me so mightily. I love how this captures both our part and His part. We are to be good stewards of the energy that God stirs up in us. Too often we lean on one side of this equation rather than on both. For me I feel this most in my attitude towards quiet times. I strive and strive for a disciplined routine and it actually means that I do them in my own strength. Rather than stopping and asking God to have is way. Because of my own effort, without dependency, I get easily angry at interruptions and all sorts and things that stop me from getting finished in the time I want it. These moments reminds me that I’m not dependent on God, but myself. I reckon it would be handy to see interruptions as divine (there’s a balance here, and having my quiet times early in the morning does help in this).
  2. 2.7:  Remain deeply rooted in him; continue being built up in him and confirmed in your trust, the way you were taught, so that you overflow in thanksgiving. This stood out to me because it says that the/a reason we should be rooted in Him (Christ) is “so that” we overflow with thanksgiving. Often I forget that thanksgiving comes from being deeply rooted in Christ. Elsewhere in the Bible it talks about remaining in Christ so that we can produce fruit (Jn 15), maybe here we can see that one of the fruit we produce is thanksgiving. I want to be more thankful, and remember to thank God for even the little things. This is what it means to overflow. I remember a sermon I heard years and years back, in London, the guy said: “gratitude is rarely silent”. How is my thankfulness expressed to God, to others?
  3. 4.5-6: Behave wisely toward outsiders, making full use of every opportunity — let your conversation always be gracious and interesting, so that you will know how to respond to any particular individual. The NIV and ESV uses the phrase seasoned with Salt, instead of interesting. But because the NLT uses “attractive”, I reckon “interesting” is a not far off translation! How about that? I think when we spend a lot of time round people we adopt their way of speaking, and especially in groups this can shut out outsiders and make them feel unwelcome. This was an interesting check for me, on the way I speak. Am I approachable, am I relevant, am I interesting in what I talk about? I know this doesn’t mean put on a pretence and  never talk about things which are unpopular (the Bible clearly teaches that the world will hate the gospel). But there is a tension here. Am I so caught up about talking about niche interests (books, church, psychology, gaming and sci-fi?) that I am really hard to get to know and therefore Christ who dwells inside me is hard to know. Back again, I know that these niche interests may be the very tools God uses to reach others in my life….Tensions, tensions, its a fine line. But I’m not going to ignore these words, may be conversation be seasoned with salt, carry the aroma of life and be flavoursome to the world!

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BRT – Philippians

One thing that is really useful about coming back and writing, or meeting with a friend and talking, about your three favourite things is that it really helps it stick in your mind. When I’m  coming back to these verses that spoke to me, I’m reminded that the Word of God is living and actually speaking to me!

  1. 1.9-10 “And this is my prayer: that your love may more and more overflow in fullness of knowledge and depth of discernment, so that you will be able to determine what is best..” I love how this verse joins love and knowledge. 1 Cor 8 also does it. But here its knowledge in terms of discernment and working out what to do. So often in my head, I separate the two. I think decisions need to be logical and sensible and so maybe shut off the “love” side of the process. But here Paul and Timothy are saying that ‘no! Love needs to increase in knowledge and discernment SO THAT you will be able to determine what’s best.” This is such a helpful verse for me at the moment as the need to decide what to do next approaches! So I pray that my love may more and more overflow!
  2. 2.19-24 This is too long really to quote the whole bit, but in these verses Paul is writing really positively about Timothy. He’s telling the church about his character and even says that he has “no one who compares with him”! I loved this because it teaches me that one of my roles, in discipleship, is to speak well of those I disciple and meet up with. Since starting connect I’ve realised how much Scott has done this for me. In a world where gossip is normal and putting people down is so common, to be a light who speaks well of others and encourages them publicly. Jesus in my limited way, with the small influence I have, may I speak well of people and lift them up to others!
  3. 3,10 “Yes, I gave it all up in order to know him, that is, to know the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings as I am being conformed to his death”. This  verse presented me with some great questions: Where have I fellowshipped, participated, shared in His sufferings this last week. Where have I known being conformed to his death this last week? Where have I known the power of His resurrection this last week? And what have I given up, was it everything, in order to know these things?

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BRT – Ephesians

Good morning! Back to work today (or yesterday), I tend to write the blog posts a day before so that there’s a bit of a buffer if I can’t write anything one day. I really want to try and keep for daily posting! 😀

Anyways, had a great time reading Ephesians! One thing about BRT is that I feel as though I appreciate the New Testament so much. You spend several months reading Old Testament passages dipping into the NT every now and again, so when you get into the NT stuff! I personally find it like drinking something really really rich and easy to digest!! So here are my three points from Eph, I’m posting them backwards today:

  1. 6.18 “all kinds of prayers” … A few years ago I used to watch quite a lot of a youtube channel run by the Hodge twins called ‘twinmuscleworkout’ (they do a lots of hilarious fitness and eating videos – warning that their language and themes are adult rated and crude). And they had a phrase they used: “all. kinds. of. gaaains” it was a joke that they were growing muscles in loads of different places. Anyway, for some reason when I read thesecfc3bae9261b0feb2940e874b4d97580ff9683bec2935f99c5044b808f4bf335 words I heard it in their joking voice). That’s why it caught my attention. But then I thought about it, there are  many different ways to pray. We can journal, pray in tongues, pray for others (intercession), pray the Lord’s prayer, pray in song, pray in silence etc). One thing journalling has taught me is to keep an eye out for which kind of praying I do a lot of and which I neglect. For me journalling has really helped remind me to be praying for other people more!
  2. 5.19 sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs to each other; sing to the Lord and make music in your heart to him…” I really like this. One of the guys who had a big impact on my walk with God through my early teens, I used to meet with. I have a memory of us on the London underground, and him just singing a worship song (quietly to himself). I remember being encouraged and since then if ever I’m walking with someone else, and we go into our own thoughts I ask God if there’s a song I can sing which might encourage each other!
  3. 4.13  “until we all arrive at the unity implied by trusting and knowing the Son of God, at full manhood, at the standard of maturity set by the Messiah’s perfection.” Here I really liked the connection between unity and maturity. I have recently been reading Invitation to a Journey, and one of the things the author highlights is that Spiritual Formation  doesn’t happen in isolation, and our walk with God isn’t a private and individual journey, instead it happens in community! I also heard another talk recently that talked about how God delights in a united Church, just read Jesus’ prayers in John for His Church and also in Acts 2. If I want to become a mature Christians I need to be united with Jesus’ Body – the Church!

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BRT – Galatians

I’m getting behind in posting these up, but I still want to try and keep the books in separate posts.

  1. 4:21-31 . Galatians has the theme of ‘receiving the promises by faith NOT works’ all the way through. And here in these verses we get an amazing example of what happens when we try to go about it in our own strength. The example is from the Old Testament, Abraham and Sarah are pr0cde6e532bc2d13e8c7568185081d1d9omised to by parents of a nation – basically! But their old and they doubt God is able to do it, so they try and make the promise be fulfilled in their own strength – by works. The result is Abraham sleeps with another women, who is younger and she gives birth. They have a son they call Ishmael (whose descendants later give God’s people a bit of trouble in the OT). But God does provide for Abraham and Sarah their own son. Anyways, I just like it, lets trust God to provide rather than trying to get things our own way!
  2. 5.8-9 “It only takes a little hametz (yeast) to leaven the whole batch of dough”. Paul is talking about false teaching. I found this challenging, because I really like to listen to sermons from a wide range of denominations and who speak in a variety of ways. And there’s one guy in particular, who I’ve listened to his sermons since I was in secondary school. As I’ve got older I’ve become more and more aware of things I believe He says which contradict God’s Word. There was a point about three years ago when I stopped listening because I got so frustrated by it! Anyway in the recent months I’ve started listening again, this time as an intellectual exercise. I think: “It can’t all be bad, let’s see if I can find the bits I disagree with and find ways to argue against them from the Bible“. But reading these verses in Galatians was like a stern warning to me in this, it is much more dangerous than I imagine. I still think there is some gain in listening to teaching that is dodgy (in that I am learning to see faults and stronger my own conviction and ability to teach others correctly), and I am also convinced every preacher gets it wrong at times. But maybe it would be better to do this “intellectual exercise” with some other wiser and more mature Christians alongside me – rather than handling the fire on my own. This is a stern warning to me, and I want to take it seriously!
  3. 6.12 “It is those who want to look good outwardly who are trying to get you to be circumcised.” Again this is related to false teaching. In this church at the time, part of the false teaching of receiving right standing with God by works – rather than grace – was telling people they needed to undergo circumcision. Paul explains how this is also just another form of ‘works-based-righteousness’ and was wrong! When I read this I saw a connection between them wanting to look good outwardly and false teaching. Again this was a warning for me, one thing I’ve noticed through my Bible reading lately is that desire for reputation keeps coming up as a challenge point. When I read this I felt like God was directing me to be rooted in my Identity which is based on Him rather than my reputation. I find this difficult and have realised that appearance/reputation are the things I often idolize over God’s Word in regards to my identity. I used to think it was achievement, and I guess there is a bit of that in there, but deeper down I think my mind goes: achieve so that you will be recognised/have a good reputation/appearance.

The prayers in Ephesians were good to read to help me in being rooted in His Word over me:

“In my prayers I keep asking the God of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah, the glorious Father, to give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you will have full knowledge of him. I pray that he will give light to the eyes of your hearts, so that you will understand the hope to which he has called you, what rich glories there are in the inheritance he has promised his people,and how surpassingly great is his power working in us who trust him”

“I pray that from the treasures of his glory he will empower you with inner strength by his Spirit, so that the Messiah may live in your hearts through your trusting. Also I pray that you will be rooted and founded in love, so that you, with all God’s people, will be given strength to grasp the breadth, length, height and depth of the Messiah’s love, yes, to know it, even though it is beyond all knowing, so that you will be filled with all the fullness of God.”

BRT – 2 Corinthians

2 Corinthians is a great book, and a great friend & mentor who has had a massive impact on my life wrote a PhD dissertation looking a lot at passages in this book. So coming to it this time round, I was very conscious of expecting to find things related to Scott’s dissertation. However, God brought up different things to my attention.

  • 6.4-10 This is a part where Paul talks about the different way he commends himself to the Corinthian church. When I was reading this I stopped to make notes that he commends himself in three categories:
    • we commend ourselves by our” : Purity, Knowledge, Patience, Kindness, the Holy Spirit, Genuine Love, Truthfulness/honesty and by God’s power…
    • we commend ourselves through: use of Righteous weapons (either to advance or defend), being honoured & dishonoured, being praised & blamed, being considered deceptive & sincere, being unknown or famous.
    • we commend ourselves as : God’s Workers headed for death (by (v4): enduring troubles, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, overwork, lack of sleep and food.) yet alive, punished yet not killed, reason to be sad yet filled with joy, poor yet making many rich, having nothing yet having everything!

I think there is a lot in these verses. Particularly as I consider how I want to be recognised and commended. BY seems to be the things about them, where am I on this list? THROUGH seems to be their reputation and they commend themselves whether the reputation is good or bad! AS seems to be as people who are being inwardly transformed whilst outwardly wasting. These, particularly the last two, are so upside down to what the world around us values!

I know this first point is really messy, and difficult to follow, I’m sorry about that!

  • 10.17-18 : Simply put, I really like the connection between boasting about God and being recommended by God. I notice a theme now! There is so much to boast about God, that He created the universe is a pretty good place to start! May I boast more and more in God!
  • 13.6-7“But I hope you will realise that we are not failures…[but] we are not concerned with our appearing successful, but with your doing what is right, even if we appear to be failures.” I really like Paul’s attitude in all of this, he doesn’t naturally want to be considered failures but is willing to for the sake of others. It’s really like Jesus who despite being God, didn’t consider equality with Him something to be grasped at but made Himself nothing for our sake! I really want to be like this, and be willing to look like a fool or a failure for others – that they may love and worship God even more. Help me God become like this in my thinking and attitude! Amen. 

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