July 2020 Sunday Summary

One of the things I want to do on this blog is share life updates and record some of what is going on. The plan is to have a week summary Sunday post. But on the first Sunday of each month, to look back on the month gone past and the month ahead – record some achievements and set some goals. I will try and keep it brief and simple.

Since today is a first Sunday of the month, I’m going to share a few highlights from the month past and a few goals for the month ahead.

Month Gone By:

1) As you can probably tell from the photo’s above…this month we celebrated our fifth year of marriage. We decided to don our wedding clothes and take a photo (before and after) for our friends and family. We’ve changed quite a bit in our appearances (we both had haircuts!) but we haven’t lost the love we had at the beginning! Best 5 years of my life. And quite a journey (3 apartments, 2 churches, a combined total of 6 jobs and some quality friends along the away!)

2) I finished the second draft of the book I’m writing. Which is all about being a person after God’s own heart and enabling others to follow suit. I delivered it to a friend who published a book last year to give it a “look over” (aka A MASSIVE FAVOUR – given how messy it still is!) I’m expecting his feedback mid-august. But in the mean time, I’ve been taking an actual course on LinkedIn Learning on ‘Editing’. Hopefully, by the time my friend has finished his read-through I will be armed with better skills to work on the third draft.

3) A trip down to Portsmouth. My parents recently sold their home in Portsmouth, the city in which I grew up. So I went down south with Dad and Sister to say a final farewell to my first home (that I actually remember living in). The whole house was in a state of brokenness, because of “bad tenants”, so the photo’s are messy. But this was my old bedroom:

4) I started a new project. Studying my way through the Bible. For the last few years I’ve been reading the Bible through cover to cover at about a book per week pace. Fast. Now I feel like it is right to take time to study the Bible with a slower pace but with more depth. I plan to be blogging the journey as I go. (Click the Bible tab at the top of the page to read those posts).

5) Long time followers of this blog will have noticed, but I got my own domain name. Which basically means I can have a website address that doesn’t have “.wordpress.com” in the title. I’ve invested a small chunk of money to do this and to get a few other features. Apparently now, I can earn money from adverts and selling things. It’s all a little fancy, and I haven’t got incredibly high hopes of becoming a millionaire any time soon. But at the very least, it’s motivated me to actually blog with more frequency again!

Month Coming Up

1) As already mentioned, I plan to be getting my second draft back with some feedback mid-August. So the last part of the month, leading into September, will be working on my “third draft”. I’d like to find a way to include 45mins per weekday of work on that. But at the moment my Bible studying has filled the “writing” slot from my morning routine. So may need to juggle that around. I’ve booked two days annual leave from work to give some focused time on the book.

2) We’ve been invited to two weddings this month (on the same day) and we’ve still not decided how we’re going to juggle both of them. Luckily one is being streamed and the other has a “post-lockdown” party planned in December. So I’m sure there’ll be a way!

3) I’m visiting the office for the first time since mid-march on the 7th of August. I think the plan is, for me to visit on Friday’s if there’s urgent work to be done there. For the last few months, I’ve been working from home. So it will be a bit of an adventure going into work on a semi-regular basis. (I’m sure the novelty will wear off quickly!) But for now I’m a little excited!

Anyway, that’s me done for tonight. Hope you enjoy. 🙂

Life Purpose

A few years ago, I sat down with Robert Clinton’s book: Strategic Concepts – strategies that clarify a focused life. And worked slowly through it, day-by-day, doing the activities and journaling through many of the questions. The end result was, among many other things, a statement which I have defined as my life purpose.

Over the years I have tweaked it and modified it. Here it is as it stands in July 2020:

‘To be a man after God’s own heart, then to lead, labour, inspire and encourage others to be the same”

Each phrase and word in this sentence is packed with meaning for me, but together it provides itself as a helpful tool I have repeatedly used to make decisions and determine the habits and relationships I have engaged with.

I endeavour to be a man after God’s own heart, through a:

  • Dynamic relationship with Him (Gal 5:25)
  • Lifestyle and attitude of unconditional obedience and worship (Rom 12:1)
  • Posture of receptivity and learning (1 Peter 5:5)

I endeavour to lead, labour, inspire and encourage others to be the same, through:

  • My life’s example (1 Cor 11:1)
  • The various offices of my life (e.g. disciple, husband, mentor, member of St. Christophers, Trial Coordinator for CRUK, friend etc)
  • A wise stewardship of the gifts I have received (including teaching, preaching, encouraging, serving and energy) 1 Tim 4:14, Rom 12:6-9, Col 1:28-29
  • The various postures of encouragement (vulnerability 2 Cor 12, servanthood John 13, Phil 2, and prayer 2 Tim 1:3)
  • A resolved and deliberate attitude towards the Church
  • An enjoyment of friendship and love

This is my life’s purpose. What’s yours?

The Ants are back!

Around this time last year, one of the rooms of our flat hosted an unwelcome army of visitors. Ants. They came crawling up through the carpet and all over my desk, chair and work out equipment. Last year, when I first noticed it was pretty shocking, it seemed like the ground was moving.

It happens that our ground-floor apartment is situated right by three separate ant colonies. Last year we beat them back and reclaimed our flat. But this year they are back.

It was a little less shocking this time, because I half expected it, this year, they seem to only be coming from one nest, and only infecting one room. Luckily, we had some ant powder left over and money to buy more weaponry.

Last week the room where the breach was, was powdered and evacuated by us. This week I’m moving my work back into our home office.

What I briefly wanted to share is how both times, this year and last, the same verse has come into my head about this situation, from Matthew 6:

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Ants, are hardly moths, and they do relatively little damage. But they are an invasion, with the powder in the room, they did take away temporarily some of our possessions. And it’s all turned out a helpful reminder that everything we own, even the beautiful things that God has given us, are all temporary. They can all be damaged, infested and taken away.

Therefore I need to remember my treasure in heaven. And whilst I am frustrated and actually pretty annoyed that ants came in my home, I am thankful that God uses even that to teach me of this important life-saving truth! I am not living for this world but for another, my possessions aren’t mine to own, they are mine to steward. My treasure is not here, but elsewhere. My hope is secure, my joy cannot be harmed.

Finally, this situation coupled with a piece of poetry I listened to this week about simplicity and generosity. God is clearly teaching me about handling my possessions wisely.

First Draft Done!!!

Sorry everyone for my inconsistent posting. I have an excuse, a valid one this time. Honest. A couple of years back I felt an urge to write a book. Me being me, a lot of focus was put on the planning side of it. However over the last few months, basically since 2020 I started hammering out a steady pace of daily typing and flexing out my plan. Last month I took a week off work to focus just on writing. And yesterday, 24thJune 2020, 80,243 words later, I finished the first draft!

It summarizes, most of what I’ve learnt about my faith and discipleship since being a teenager, so has been a long time in the making – even sub-consciously. The journey from here is much more outside of my hands, so I should be able to write blog posts a little more frequently. (Plus I have a lot of ‘draft’ material I can upload if I’m stuck for ideas!)

For those interested and who want to be praying blessings over my efforts. I would be most appreciative! As far as I can see, or know, the next steps are:

1)     Look through the first draft, clean it up, make sure the sentences make sense, double check I’m not repeating myself, cull the blatantly bad bits, give nutrition to the good bits etc etc. Then I’ll have a “second draft”. [My personal deadline for this process is 10th July– Pray for me please]

2) Then I’m sending it to one or two friends who are SUPER-SMART/have written things I know and like. I’m already sending out feelers now for possible people.

3) While these amazing friends read and edit, look for heresies and grammatical failings, I’m getting in touch with a few friends and friends of friends who have published books already. Trying to network, further edit my ideas, and give me advice about publishing etc.

3.5) I’ll also be using this time to begin putting together a series of seminars, teaching on the content in the book. The power-points, extra reading material and handouts at least.

4) Once all this is done, I’ll start approaching publishers. I think this has to be done through a third party, who will store a copy of my book proposal and let mainstream publishers look it over and weigh it up against the risks of signing a new author.

I’m sure it won’t be as clear cut, but that’s the journey I’m likely going to be on over the next few months. Please do pray, I have a feeling, I’ve not yet reached the halfway mark. 😀

P.s. I was so proud and chuffed to have finished a first draft, I paid to have it bound. Here’s a picture of me basking in the various chemicals associated with pride and achievement:

But I like how my slate looks

I have been watching a lot of Gordon Ramsey’s competition programme “Hell’s Kitchen”. It’s a show where 16 chefs compete to show themselves as the best chef, and win a job which usually pays $250k. A sweet prize.

Anyway, in this particular season as we get to the final five. Gordon Ramsey says to the finalists, “look guys, you’ve all done really well to get here, so from here on in I’m giving you all a clean slate. I’ll be judging your performances fresh tomorrow.” – Great news for one of the contestants, who’d had a string of bad episodes, who’d been hanging on by the skin of her teeth!

However, it was bad news for the top performer, who muttered “but I kinda liked how my slate looked”.

This stood out to me, for some obvious reasons. In Christianity we often talk about Jesus giving people a clean slate, forgiving sins and forgetting what is behind us. We also have the famous story of the prodigal son who ran away from home betraying his family. After realising his mistake he was extravagantly welcomed back by the Father. Whilst his older brother looked on disapprovingly.

Admittedly, I can relate to the older brother, in the same way I can relate to the workers who’d been working all day in the field, who received the same pay as the workers who’d only worked the final shift (another Jesus story). There is a part of me which looks on and feels as though Justice has not happened.

The people who worked the hardest, who did the most, who’d had the most success are levelled with the people who were lazy, who did the least, who’d had the least success. Is this fair?

What does the Bible say about this? Is it fair?

1) It wouldn’t be fair if it were true, if my perspective were true. From my point of view, you win if you’re better than the other guy. You win if you try harder, work fast, see more success. But what the Bible says is that “winning” isn’t about being the best, it’s about being perfect. We don’t just need the cleanest slate, we need a spotless slate. But the Bible is clear, all have sinned and fall short and all of us have gone astray turned our own way!

“Winning” eternal life requires absolute holiness. In this case the person who tries the hardest, works the fastest and produces success needs as much levelling as the person who comes last.

2) Our slate doesn’t just get wiped clean. The beautiful thing about believing in Jesus (and accepting the offer), is that not only do your sins get put away, and “passed over”. You’re slate also get permanently inscribed with the life, righteousness and holiness of Jesus. His precious blood, His perfection, His consistent resistance to every temptation, His success.

Of course, God let’s us keep our slate if we really want it. If we are proud and pleased with it. With the good and the bad… we can reject Jesus’ offer to have a wiped slate, renewed and filled with Him. But believe you me, that would be proud-foolishness! Because the truth is, it’s not good enough.

You may even be the best of the best, like the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law… You know what Jesus said about them? Unless you righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and teachers of the law you will not enter the Kingdom of God.

Do you like how your slate looks now?

 

 

 

Desiring to Live and Breathe: Jesus

I want to be the kind of person who lives and breathes Jesus. Who’s hobbies and free time all revolve around Him. I want to be known as a follower of Jesus, someone who loves Him and is trying to be as much like Him as possible. To be a man after God’s own heart and then to lead, labour, inspire and encourage others to be the same.

But then I run into two problems.

Firstly, I get distracted. I lose sight of this goal and will invest my time in things which aren’t Christ centred. Which have little to no impact in His Kingdom and which don’t bring me closer to Him OR make me more like Him.

Secondly, I fear that I will become one-dimensional to others. That I will become that cliche Christian stereotype who only does “Christian things” and who therefore becomes pretty dull and has nothing to talk about.

I want to write a little truth into this second problem. It’s wrong on a few levels and needs to be combatted with correction. I can focus on the distractions later.

So first, where does this fear come from? Well, I want to fit in, I want to be cool, I want acceptance and to be able to contribute to conversations. Primal need – relationships and acceptance in community. If I centre my life of “Christian activities” then the only community I’ll find acceptance in is in “Christian circles”. And experience has taught me, this is not enough, it’s not dynamic enough or satisfying enough. In my experience “Christian circles” are cliche and fairly shallow. (Admittedly, I’ve had a fair share of frustrating experiences….) Furthermore I also want to be “relevant” to everyone else.

Remember that kid, who only listened to Christian music, only watched Christian films and only read Christian books. Not only was his experience of art, constrained to a bleak corner, but he also couldn’t/struggled to get involved in the conversations, communities and friendships that had exposure to a wider world.

Let me clarify, I know that to have a life which is Christ centred – doesn’t mean only engaging with the “Christian Bubble”. I know that there really isn’t so much as a sacred-secular divide as people in the olden days supposed. I know this, I’ve been around the block. It’s not what goes into a man that defiles him, but what comes out – Jesus said that.

But at the same time, I do believe Christ calls us to a life of purity. Where we are selective about what we engage in. And deliberate about what we do. We know that there are certain activities which harden our heart to God’s truth, we know that there are things which cause us to stumble, we know that we need to live selectively because our days are short. We are ambassadors with a limited time frame to work, to harvest, to fish. Therefore we should live in such a way that demonstrates God’s love, passion and blessing to this world. And not get caught up and entangled with distractions.

Let me also clarify that a life lived after Christ, isn’t insular, it isn’t passive and useless, it tackles the problems that the world faces. It offers light and salt to a world hungry for it. It shines hope into darkness, truth into lies, freedom into captivity, healing into brokenness and glory into shame. It does all this and more. And therefore it doesn’t have to be, and shouldn’t be, in the periphery and outskirts of ordinary life.

Furthermore, we shouldn’t be living in fear of being excluded or being rejected. This Good News, is ugly news to some and off-putting to others. The lifestyle of radical discipleship to our Rabbi, will upset, frustrate and anger people who don’t like Him. It is enough that the student be like his Rabbi/teacher. If they persecuted Him, if they laughed at Him, rejected Him and excluded Him, how much more us?!

Sometimes I just need to write truth down, and speak it to myself.

Afterthought, I also think that a selective life is very interesting to a watching world. Ever met someone who didn’t have social media, or a Netflix subscription – because of a deliberate decision. They usually have an interesting story behind it. And we are eager to know about it. May my selective life, draw others to Jesus.

“…to live in a way which demands an explanation.” Was a motto my wife and I adopted when we got engaged. It’s time to dust it off and start again.

I get to do this everyday!

One of my favourite things to do as a Christian is to get time alone with God. For some reason, I don’t think a lot of people who “love Jesus”, love spending much alone time with Him. There’s probably a lot a play with this, and there are times I lose sight of the great benefits of deliberately carving time into my day to abide in His presence without distractions.

But I’m having great times meeting God these last few weeks. That’s for sure, its keeping me focused and joyful in the midst of the UK lockdown. I wanted to share the routine I go through, partly because I’ll end up looking back on this post later down the line with fond memories. And partly because I think it might encourage other people to spend time with Jimg_0918esus.

I put on the coffee, I have one of those fancy hob-cooking coffee machines, I actually bought this to have “special coffee” with God. So I only make coffee in the hob-cooker when it’s me settling down to meet with my King and maker. (Kind of like going somewhere nice for a date!)…

Then I sit down in my special chair, with my special coffee and read my Bible. (Very lucky to have one of these, heard about a boy who had to pray and fast for weeks in order to get one in China during cultural revolution.) Sometimes I might find my mind wandering, so I’ll have to stop and ask God to help me focus. It’s usually early in the morning, and despite the coffee, it can take me a while to get in the zone. I want to hear what God is going to say to me.

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As I read I’m underlining, and making little notes in the margins. I’ll transfer these into my notebook when I’m finished reading. But I find I lose track of what I’m reading if I’m stopping frequently to make notes.

Then, when I’ve finished the readings. I move over to my desk, pull out my journal and switch on the Inner Room app I’ve got on my iPod. And pray through some of my prayer points. I love this app, because it stops you half way though and tells you to “Now, listen to God’s voice”…pen down and listen. I make a couple of notes afterwards, if I feel Him say something I want to remember.

That’s exciting, hearing from God. Over the last few weeks, I’ve found the praying time get shorter and the listening time get longer. Because I kind of already know what I’m praying about, and some of the things on my list – I’ve prayed for over and over again. So listening is the exciting part. The last few days, I’ve felt like I’ve got my ‘daily marching orders’ and God’s given me specific tasks for the day ahead.

Then I enter the day. Filled with God’s word, with a soul that has been heard, and ears that have listened for their Maker’s voice. He leads me.

I get to do this every day, for free, and so do you. And I reckon, you probably want to do it too. So what’s stopping you?

The White Flag: Called and Equipped to do much.

One of the significant activities God has been leading me into over the last 5 months is the process of ‘stepping out of ministry’. This has been an interesting time and I’ve learnt a lot. I wanted to share a bit of that journey and what it’s all been like.

Since October 2017, I have been doing what I called ‘bi-vocational’ ministry. I was working 9-5 for Cancer Research UK in their clinical trials unit, and at the same time running a student ministry with Navigators UK. It was great fun, it was a great challenge, it had it’s ups and downs like any ministry endeavour – but it was incredibly rewarding.

My average day started around 4.30-5am with all the regular routines and disciplines I needed to sustain me through the day (quiet times, exercise, reading and study), then I’d be out to meet with a small group of students on campus at around 8. We’d often simply read our Bibles and pray together. A fantastic way to start a working day, a fantastic way to approach discipleship, a fantastic way to grow friendships. Meeting daily in the mornings, you really do get to see each other on good and bad days – weaknesses exposed, yet together meeting to encourage each other and bring our days before God.

Then I’d be at work. I might meet someone at lunch (the trials unit was based at the university!). Then, depending on the weekday – I’d either be meeting a student 1-on-1, attending/leading/hosting a Bible study. It was busy. But being in my early twenties I have/had a lot of energy and time to spare for these good endeavours.

After a year at this pace, I added to my life FFM (Foundations For Ministry – a 3 year training course with Navs) and my wife and I took up our Church’s youth group’s mid-week gathering. Wow. Oh, and on top of all that, I was being allowed to preach once a month at Church (something I deeply cherish, and feel so honoured by!)…. Looking back on all this, it sounds like too much. But honestly, God sustained me.

I held firmly onto two verses which inspired and motivated and kept us both going…

“He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me!” – Col 1.28-29 (which continues beautifully and relevantly into chapter 2!)

“Invest in seven ventures, yes, in eight;” – Ecc 11:2 (I felt God give me this verse one morning in my quiet time, it also came with the word: there is a difference between investing and managing)

With these verses, which I genuinely believe God gave me, I was encouraged to do all the many works I felt He was asking me to do. He put the work before me, and then enabled me to do it. I would say to myself, and to anyone else, that they really shouldn’t do as much as I was doing, unless God has specifically called them to it – and to remember – He probably won’t call you to it permanently.

…And then at Christmas 2018, we felt very clearly God was telling us to start drawing back…

 

…consider this blog post #1 …again

Well I’m having a pretty awesome evening. It’s Monday after work, and I’m kicking back with some blog writing. It’s been a while and I’m sorry. Sorry to myself for letting this slip. But it’s been a pretty hectic few months, since December, and not in the usual sense. Hectic in what I feel like God’s been doing with me and teaching me and challenging me.

Not hectic as in lots of church activities, in fact a lot of the process has involved stepping back and saying ‘no’. Learning curve!

I think a lot of my posts for a long time have been capturing more of my thinking and less of my story. Which is fine, but it probably means people reading this don’t know much about what I do or what’s going on in my life. I think I want to steer this blog more to capturing the events, activities and moments (life stuff) rather than the thoughts, insights, teaching.

Firstly, I reckon there are lot’s more clever people writing what I’m writing, more eloquently and with more thought behind them. Not that that’s an excuse for people to not write – obviously – otherwise how’d we grow. But secondly, one of the reason’s I started the blog was to record the journey God’s taking me on. My “thinking” has been recorded in prayer journals and sermons and unfinished word documents attempting to become one-day books of awesomeness. But my day to day existence, my journey, my jobs and friendships isn’t really documented anywhere. I want this place to be a website I can look back on for memories, not for cringing moments of regret (how did I ever think that!) and I’m sure I’ll still cringe at photo’s and the way I write.

So consider this blog post#1 of a new start. A new edition of clay jar.

I’m not sure at the frequency of posts, I’m trialling once a week with a Monday evening/Tuesday morning deadline. I’ve had  a great time tonight writing for this page and my shared-blog with my brother, a glass of whisky and a quiet flat to myself. So we’ll aim for this again next week.

Thanks for tuning in and for ‘liking’ these posts – it’s very encouraging!

P.S. This also means I won’t be finishing the Systematic Theology posting series. But I can’t recommend enough the notes on this webpage if you’re interested. P.s.s For those who care about me learning this stuff: I’m still working my way through it, and I think joining with a friend soon to discuss our findings from it (God-willing!) Hopefully I’ll be finished 2019 still. We’ll see.

P.S.S. I’m growing a beard

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