We all have agendas, some of them are big and important, some a small and silly.
We set ourselves an agenda each week when we go shopping. We look at our watches, outside the doors of aldi, and we see if we can make it round the shop, past the checkouts and back out the door in less than 20mins. Shopping shouldn’t take that long should it? So we set our self the target of getting it done quick.
The thing with agenda’s is that people often get in the way of them. There’s that family with kids running around the aisles blocking your path. There’s the old lady with a walking stick – whose left her basket in between you and your goal (Why is she using a basket if she’s got a walking stick!?) Then there’s that lady at the checkout who is nattering away, like she’s the most sociable woman in the world – totally distracting the customer who is in my way, and also seeming to enjoy a superficial conversation with a stranger!
It’s silly when you put it like this but we all have them – agendas. Whether they’re work related: closing the deal, finishing the project, getting the promotion. Family related? Having dinner together, date nights, movie nights, playing a game of monopoly (and winning it!) Or maybe even “spiritual agendas”: getting to church on time, reading my bible each day or leading the music worship on Sunday…writing a blog etc.
The thing about agenda’s is that they can often make us blind, blind to people.
There is a story in the Bible (Luke 13:10-17) about Jesus teaching on the Sabbath, – anyone who is a teacher or has done teaching will know that you teach with an agenda. They’re called “learning objectives”/L.Os – we had to write them out as school kids, so that we knew what the teacher wanted us to learn. Jesus had an agenda this Sabbath, He wanted people to learn something. But despite His agenda, he saw a woman in the crowd who was suffering. He called her out and healed her. This messed with the agenda of the synagogue leader – who’s agenda it was to make people feel guilty and bad about themselves (joke!) – his agenda was keeping the Sabbath sacred.
Both these agendas are important. Teaching is important (hence the effort that goes into schools in this country: maintaining them, training teachers, inspecting them etc). Keeping the Sabbath is important (it’s the 4th 10 commandment)! But the difference between Jesus and the Synagogue Leader in this story, is that Jesus wasn’t blinded by His agenda. He could see the woman in need.
Who is the person, who are the people – God wants you to see? They may be the very people in the way of your agenda.
My target posting rate for this project is a chapter a week. That’s what we’ll aim for, but I am interested in applying it all as well, so I might go slower. And that’s not the only reason there might be delays, if you’re the praying type and you can spare a petition for me. Pray that I stay on it this time round! Best to start something like this dependent on God, not just for commitment levels, but also for brain capacity. Anyway enough about my weakness… the Preface.
In short it captures the distinct features that Grudem, no, lets go with Wayne. (Make it sound like I know him well,) the distinct features of this particular study of Systematic Theology has. I think they’re all worth mentioning and I want to unpack a few of them.
- A clear Biblical basis for the doctrines. From what I’ve covered so far, in previous studies/attemptes, this guy uses a lot lot lot of scripture to ground the doctrines he unpacks. Which is reassuring. He quotes Bible passages in length and I honestly don’t mind that! Because of his value for the Scriptures he includes a memory verse for each chapter. A memory verse that I’m going to try and memorise. This’ll be quite straight forward for the first few weeks, but maintaining that for a while will increase in difficulty. All the best.
- Clarity in the Explanation of doctrines. As an advertisement for this book, what I’ve read before also lives up to this standard. It is very simple to read and follow. Not like other books I’ve read: Piper, Lewis and Willard all fantastic fantastic fantastic reads – but do require a bit of extra brain grease to fully engage. This one although clever and deep is also easy to read.
- Application to life. You’ll notice I bold and underlined this one too, that’s because it’s really important to me. I don’t just want to study this, to grow in head knowledge, but also grow in love of God, love for the Church and the world. (Corny?) Maybe, but if this study doesn’t increase my love then it’s just a clanging symbol. (I think another Paul said that once). But it’s not just love I want to grow in, Obedience and Humility are virtues that I’m hoping to grow in too. That’s why I’ll be doing the applications, and at the moment the intent is to record how it was – here. “Learning by doing – what a novel idea” – Propaganda: Board of Education
- Focus on the Evangelical world. Wayne says that you can only go so far in reasoning on theology without an agreed bases for authority. Therefore in this book he focuses on dealing with arguments from the parts of the Church that believe the Bible is true and authoritative. I agree and get the reasoning. As someone who loves reading the Bible, it will be so helpful getting the different scripture arguments for different interpretations and viewpoints. For example end times & beginning times.
- Hope for progress in doctrinal unity in the Church. One of my personal values for the Church today is unity, I believe Jesus cared massively about this. And I think as a Church we miss this too much. Even without realising. What value we place on those who can critique a book, a service or a sermon. How quick do we compare our churches to another based solely on style. I don’t think Wayne’s goal here is to get everyone thinking the same as him – he even says he expects people to disagree on points, but the fact that we can discuss these things with honesty and humility allows us to learn from each other and be united.
- As a Church we need to grow in this area. On one hand I don’t agree with this statement. I see a lot of “intellectual” churches (perhaps because I work among University students) whose sermons are very theologically sound and thought through – but who’s love has gone a bit cold and passion and emotion has been outweighed by thought. But this outbalance, one way or another, actually demonstrates that we need to grow in this. If we are to worship God with all our heart and mind…we need to know truth and not just knowledge-facts, but freedom-bringing, change-initiating, Christ-exalting TRUTH.
Wayne then goes on to thank some people I don’t know.
There we go, Wayne’s (No, I’m going to stick with Grudem – I tried it, I did and it just feels weird!) systematic theology preface. But wait, there’s more. Before we go any – further. I want to give some of my own reasons/attempted distinctives in this blog. So excuse a blog with two lists but brace yourself for more of this. (I’ll soften the blow with a couple of pictures..)
- Personal Satisfaction – I recently read Gary Thomas’ book Sacred Pathways, which talks about the different ways individuals connect with God. It’s very much like the concept of the five love languages, but for a relationship with God. And there’s like 9 of them. Anyway for me 1 of my top ways to connect with God is as an Intellectual. No, that doesn’t mean I’m super bright – but I find that as I am learning and reading and listening and picking new things up – that’s when I feel close to God. It is my sacred pathway. For some it’s walks in nature, or tradition or….you get the point, read the book it’s fantastic! Really freeing for Churches and congregants to get. Highly recommend it. Anyway to return to the question (RTTQ) why do this – because it’s one of the ways I worship God naturally.
- Ministry – in the olden-day, misguided sense and use of the word – my work with Church and Navigators. I want this blog to train people. To be an informal means for them to pick up some of the basics without reading/buying the shoebox of a book (1000+ pages) I got because I’m…(see last post!) Hopefully some of these posts will also be professional/formal enough to easily be turned into worksheets/resources to be printed for group studies.
- Evangelism. That the gospel I present, argue and live out is more truthfully Biblical than it is culturally-(westernis-ed-ly)-relevant-slightly/majorly-distorted.
Just finished our 2nd session… We were looking at the next couple of verses of Psalm 84.5-6 and what it means to set our hearts on pilgrimage.
I just wanted to share a couple of thoughts that two people shared with me in the opening discussion time. The first was related to going through difficulty:
Even though, even here, Immanuel…
I loved that when I heard it from an elderly follower of Jesus as want that the be my cry in the wilderness!
The second was a response to my sharing about not knowing what’s going on in the next season of life. She asked ‘what gives you the most joy, what is it that God has made as your delight?’
I knpow there is a balance here, but her sharing it has resonated with a couple of Bible verses I’ve been thinking about lately.
“The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in Him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds Him with His hand” – PS 37.23-24
“Take delight in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart” – PS 37.4
By the way worship went well again…May I lean on Your strength more.
So, the first meeting just happened and now it’s bed.
For anyone who prayed, the worship went well! It took me a few lines of the first song before I felt properly engaged and like my eyes were on Him rather than the “performance” and technicalities.
The talk was on Psalm 84 and was about “yearning” for God together.If I had to sum it up in 3 points: (1) abiding in His presence comes before contribution. (2) it is only through abiding in His presence and drawing upon His power that we can produce lasting fruit. (3) we abide in Him together.
I really liked the talk and it is great to see so many people from so many different age groups together worshipping the same God and seeking His will! God may I be humble and teachable. Amen.
Also I started a new book today: The Way of the Dragon or The Way of the Lamb. Apart from sounding like the title of a Chinese kung fu film. I think it will be a good good read. Looking at the world’s approach to power and Christ’s.
As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” – Luke 10:38-42
I really really like this story, there is so much which resonates and challenges me. I learn so much about Jesus and what He prioritizes from His followers. That we sit at His feet instead of hustle and bustle around with acts of sacrifices. So often I forget this and have to be reminded that sitting at His feet and listening to Him is what is most important.
And yet…I am thinking about servant hood lately. Clearly in a sense Martha is trying to “serve” and make everything perfect and probably cook an amazing meal. But her heart is in the wrong place, and I think this is partly what Jesus has taken issue with. She’s distracted from Jesus by her “works”, she is bitter towards Mary for not helping her, she is worried about the insignificant things.
However, as I was thinking about this passage this morning randomly. I wondered what if Martha had been in the other room. And her hearts message was saying something like this:
“I got to sit at His feet this morning, now I want to serve my sister and take away all of her distractions so that she can sit at Jesus’ feet. I really love Mary and I want her to be richly satisfied by Jesus, so I’m going to make the preparations today.”
I love the idea of this. That we can serve other people to give them room to meet with Jesus. OF COURSE there is a tension to this, that we must not do this at the expense of our relationship with Jesus, or even as a way to avoid our devotional life, or to busy ourselves looking out for other people before we’ve removed the plank in our own eye…etc.
I remember my Pastor talking about one of the ways he finds helpful to “lead” his wife in Godliness. Is by taking the kids out for the day, so she can come close to Jesus without distraction. There will be times I’m sure in their life where this is reversed.
For those of you who are having a really fruitful relationship with God, I want to encourage you to think about ways you can serve other people, who are really busy and have loads to do – so that they can draw near to Jesus. Maybe its looking after their kids, maybe its cooking them a meal, maybe it buying them a worship album. It might be something else completely. I bet, you will find God in a deeper way when you serve others so that they can draw near to God. I reckon there is something very Jesus-like in this, that He took all of the things that stopped us from drawing near to God and bore them for us.
Warning: keep your heart in check with this, I reckon pride/bitterness and all sorts will be tempted to grow in this time…yet offer it back to God.
For others who are busy, I want to encourage you to stop. And exit the kitchen, whatever that looks like for you, and sit at Jesus’ feet. “CHOOSE WHAT IS BETTER!”
Hope this makes sense, and isn’t a heresy.