Propoganda – Cynical

I recently read a BBC news article that says they’re banning Fairytale of New York on the radio…(or at least their ‘radio 1’, and they’ll play a censored version). Because ‘young listeners were particularly sensitive to derogatory terms for gender and sexuality’.

I’m not really one to engage in the so called ‘Culture Wars’, especially on the blog. (I don’t know enough, and I’d probably knot myself in inconsistencies!) But when my brother informed me that the same radio station is happy to play WAP – I found myself feeling pretty cynical.

And I wanted to share one of my favourite songs by a rapper called Propoganda:

In the song, he aims his words at both ends of the spectrum, those on the right and the left, both those running to ‘trump rallies’ and the ‘white and woke’. I can’t articulate it near half as well, so please do listen to the music!

The song ends with this refrain:

I don’t take too kindly to being lied to
If I could look inside you
And I’ll hate you if I fear you
And we fear what we’re blind to
So if I sound cynical… It’s ’cause I’m cynical

Propoganda, is a gritty-Christian artist, who presents his faith in an honest, down to earth, deep and profound way. It’s not the poetry of a perfect man and his faith, but a man who struggles with his religion, wrestles with it’s people and remains faithful to his God. I’d also recommend songs: Crooked, Precious Puritans, Three Cord Bond.

And that’s just my opinion. 😉

Question: in a world of increased ‘fake news/media’ and yet increasing atheism, in a world where leaders are frequently found guilty of hidden crimes and betrayal…do we think the [western] world is becoming more cynical – or more gullible?’

In conclusion, it doesn’t really bother me if Radio 1 want to play the song or not. (I’m not a real radio listener anyway!) Upon reflection it’s odd that the article played on my mind so much, after all as a Christian surely I want to see less and less ‘derogatory’ language for gender and sexuality.

I just wish they could acknowledge the inconsistencies of the culture, to see how crooked we all are (left and right). It’s like how the culture wants (so-called) “sexual-liberation” and yet takes offence at an underwear billboard because it “sexualises” men/women. It’s like how the culture want us to stop judging people on their appearance, and yet would refuse a job to someone who arrived to an interview in jeans and t-shirt. I don’t get it, surely it’s one or the other. It’s like the Pharisees who taught that people should honour God, but could insult their parents in order to do so. It’s like me when I preach on patience, and then am unfairly-angry with my wife for “making me late”. Inconsistent.

Deep down I long for the world to realise it’s inconsistencies because I hope that it will lead them back to Christ.

Five Traits I’ve Been Trying To Cultivate

I recently came across a quote and a follow up question that have been on my mind. The quote is by a Desert Father called Anthony Bloom who was invited to preach at a mass where a visiting bishop would be in attendance. Bloom refused to preach and said:

If my silence doesn’t speak to him, my words will be useless”

The question is: how would I communicate with people if I were reduced to silence. What virtues would I want displayed in my life?

I’ve been doing some work with God along this theme, talking to Him about why I take notes, why I keep notebooks and why I am so quick to teach everything I learn. It’s an ongoing journey, but in the midst of it I’ve come across this chapter in a book by Gordon MacDonald: Building Below the Waterline. (Would highly recommend any book by this author and I have read two of his books twice!)

1) Humility

““A humble man, is never hurried, hasty, or perturbed, but at all times remains calm. Nothing can ever surprise, disturb, or dismay him, for he suffers neither fear nor change in tribulations, neither surprise nor elation in enjoyment. All his joy and gladness are in what is pleasing to the Lord.” – Isaac of Syria

“The way of the Christian leader, is not the way of upward mobility in which the world has invested so much, but the way of downward mobility ending on the cross. . . . It is not a leadership of power and control, but a leadership of powerlessness and humility in which the suffering servant of God, Jesus Christ, is made manifest.” – Henri Nouwen

2) Compassion

A question I heard recently about this trait, which I have begun asking myself: “Is my heart expanding or contracting towards others?” (-Especially those who think/believe/act differently to me)

“Compassion [is] the ability to identify at heart level with the vulnerabilities, fears, and sorrows of others. And to identify in such a way that one is not paralyzed but energized with great love” – Gordon MacDonald

3) Steadfastness (not stubbornness)

“Steadfastness means reliability of character, fulfillment of promises, faithfulness to key relationships, and (most important) living in obedience to Jesus.” – Gordon Macdonald

Am I steadfast in my friendships, in my commitment to Church, work and my ethic there, in my walk with God etc?

4) Faith

“Faith [is] an ability to trust in and draw upon the power of God beyond my rationality, my instinctive pessimism, my willingness to settle for less than best.” – G. Macdonald

I don’t just want Faith in God for my job, life purpose, vision or Church. But also for the individuals in my life, my friends and family. Do I have faith that God has good plans for them, that they are God’s handiwork created in advance for good works? Do I have faith that every member of my Church is an essential member and without which I cannot grow or come into maturity (1 Cor 12)?

5) Self Control

This week on the AskPastorJohn podcast, they replayed a segment of a sermon John Piper preached regarding self control and porn. I leave it here, as the means of self-control described can easily be applied to any battle with sin.

Desiring God: You can say no [to sin]

God doesn’t use a broad brush

God sees that the human race is inclined towards sin. He searches every heart, looking for anyone who is willing to receive His mercy, to receive Him.

Then he finds Noah.

He determines to destroy the human race completely because they all have turned away from Him. But He saves Noah, because He has examined every heart and found but one man who walks with faith.

The story of Noah, isn’t the only occasion where God’s grace is demonstrated by the abandonment of the convenient broad brush of judgement. Does He not also save Lot from Sodom’s destruction? Does He not pass over the Israelite first born because of the faithful obedience of the parents? Does He not look upon Jesus crucified between two sinners?

Just as God avoids the broad brush of judgement, may we too seek to be merciful. To look for the best in each person (1 Cor 13:7 AMP). Do we assume all the people who hold different opinions to us, be they political, cultural, ethical, theological, are evil? Or do we see past the stereotype, and consider the individual heart.

It is generous of God to weigh us as individuals, may I extend that generosity to others. And not just to individuals within groups, but to the person in the individual circumstance.

Broad brushes are imprecise and harmful to fine art, and we humans are indeed fine art.

Relinquishing Omniscience

Warning – this is an uncomfortable post.

I have journaled very consistently for the last 8 years. I have two journals on the go at any one point. One to record my prayers and the other to record all my notes (from books, talks or 1-on-1s with people, even my sets and reps from weightlifting). The black books pictured above are the latter.

For some time now I have wanted to digitalise these notebooks and categorise the years and years worth of notes into a digital resource. It’s an ambitious task. I want everything I have ever studied to be easily accessible.

Why? Well firstly, I’ve argued that it was part of being a good steward. Secondly, it will make for helpful teaching of others. Thirdly, I feel very good about my walk with God when I consider all the things God has taught me, and looking on a photo like this. I see 8 years of walking with God all documented, tangible and real. Didn’t the Israelites set up stones to remind themselves of God’s goodness?

However there is a fourth reason, and one more deadly than the third. A desire for omniscience, a desire to know all, and in so doing a subtle desire to be like God. Because my human brain is fragile, I forget things and can’t always remember. So I wanted to protect against that by outsourcing my memory to a computer. I want to have a digital database at hand by which I could answer any question thrown at me.

And so, I read books, I study the Bible, I listen to sermons and all the while I take notes. And over the years, over the months, I build an altar to knowledge, an altar to experience and memory…and then God speaks.

You see, God isn’t happy when anything comes between Him and me. He doesn’t appreciate when I start making an idol out of something else, even something good. Even if I’m only heading in that direction, God wants to address it.

When God asked me, how I felt about throwing those journals away. My response was, “yeah right!”. My journals, my notebooks, my ambition to ‘remember’ everything I had ever learnt was placed above my obedience to God.

Red flag.

Long story short, I’ve been praying and realising that God is way more important than books and journals, and vast databases of knowledge. (Obvious I know, but difficult to come to terms with when you are asked to throw it away.) I’ve been realising that everything else is rubbish compared to knowing Christ and obeying Him!

1) ‘For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people’. Jeremiah 31:33

2) ‘Therefore settle it in your hearts not to meditate beforehand on what you will answer; for I will give you a mouth of wisdom which all your adversaries will not be able to contradict of resist’ Luke 21:14

3) Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For His sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ’ Phil 3:8

And so I am offering these books back to God, by “burning” them (putting them in the kitchen bin)…Because they are garbage, compared to knowing Christ and I should not forget that.

Be aware, of setting idols in your heart. Be aware, of clinging to anything in this world rather than Christ. His Spirit is a sharp sword, His Word is a sharp sword, He will reveal the hidden treasures of your heart. And ask you to surrender them.

Be like the good kings of old, who tore down the high places, who broke the altars to false gods. Whether it be your tv addiction, your physic accomplishments, medals, and trophies, certificates or awards. Your blog following. Your job. Your reputation, ego or pride. Put it to death. Gain Christ.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?

Whatever you do…

31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 32 Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God— 33 even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.

Have been reading through 1 Corinthians this week and one of the things that stood out to me was these verses in Chapter 10. It’s connected to chapter 9 and 7 and displays a lot of Paul’s attitude towards his work. I was challenged in my attitude towards work.

One of my dreams is to preach the gospel, like Spurgeon, many times throughout the week. I love to encourage people with God’s word and in their walk with Jesus. And if that was my full time job, I’d do it out of hours and wouldn’t worry about working ‘unpaid’ overtime.

So why don’t I consider my work with Cancer Research in such a way? Am I not supposed to be doing that work as unto the Lord? Am I not supposed to be seeking God’s glory in whatever position God calls me to? Married or single, slave/servant or freeman, employed or self-employed?

And so, I have been praying about what does it look like to carry out my life as it stands – today – as unto the Lord. And my thoughts:

  • Going the extra mile
  • Working overtime
  • Honouring my employer when their watching and when their not

In a sense, I want to steward the job I have now well in my early 20s as how I would if I was working full time for a church. I want to work as diligently as an employee for Cancer Research as if I was a missionary for Reach Across.

My aim isn’t to switch job, change my circumstances, but to glorify God.

1 Corinthians 7:

17 Nevertheless, each person should live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to them, just as God has called them. This is the rule I lay down in all the churches. 18 Was a man already circumcised when he was called? He should not become uncircumcised. Was a man uncircumcised when he was called? He should not be circumcised. 19 Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God’s commands is what counts. 20 Each person should remain in the situation they were in when God called them.

21 Were you a slave when you were called? Don’t let it trouble you—although if you can gain your freedom, do so. 22 For the one who was a slave when called to faith in the Lord is the Lord’s freed person; similarly, the one who was free when called is Christ’s slave. 23 You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of human beings. 24 Brothers and sisters, each person, as responsible to God, should remain in the situation they were in when God called them.

Receiving Romans 8

I am Righteous.
I am not condemned any longer.
I have been given life.
I have been set free from sin and death.
The righteous requirement of the law has been fully met in me because: I live according to the Spirit.

I have my mind set on what the Spirit desires.
I have my mind governed by the Spirit.
My mind is life and peace.
My mind is a friend of God and is no longer hostile to Him.
My mind is able to submit to God’s law – and it does.

I please God!

The Spirit of God lives in me!
I have Him!
I belong to Christ!
Christ is in me!

Even though my body is subject to death – I have received life because of righteousness.
My body will be raised because His Spirit is in me.
I put to death the misdeeds of the body.
I will live!

I am lead by the Spirit.
I am a Child of God.
I am not a slave to fear.
I am adopted to son ship.
I cry “Abba Father!”

I am an heir of God.
I am a co-heir with Christ.
The Spirit, The Holy Spirit himself, testifies as much!
I share in His sufferings.
I will share in His glory – it will be revealed in me!

I have the first fruits of the Spirit.
And I groan inwardly as I eagerly wait
This is the hope I have, and it saves me.
I hope and wait patiently.

I am helped in my weaknesses by the Spirit.
He intercedes for me!
He searches my heart.
He intercedes for me according to God’s will.

God is working for my good.
I love Him!

I have been called according to His purpose.
God foreknew me.
He predestined me to be conformed to the image of Christ.
He called me.
He justified me.
He will glorify me.

God is for me!
Who can stand against me?
He will give me all things!
Who will bring any charge against me?
He has justified me.
Who will condemn me?
No one!

Nothing will separate me from the love of God!
I am a super-conqueror through Him loved me and gave Himself for me.

Amen

The Promises are true!

Just a quick post…today has been an exhausting day. To be honest the whole week has felt pretty stressful. A lot on at work at the moment and a lot of problems along the way…

And I got back from the office after work, dead minded, tired, wiped out, physically and mentally drained…etc. And the thought randomly occurred (#TheSpiritRemindedMe): “Those who wait on the Lord renew their strength.

In that moment I had a choice. Do I switch the TV on, put an audio book on and numb the exhaustion with “rest”. Or do I fetch my Bible from my home desk, pull out a chair and sit in the garden and wait on the LORD?

I chose the later option.

I decided to test the promise…

And I found it true.

He does renew the strength of those who hope in Him. Hopefully this post can remind me next time.

Too many ‘daily-habits’

We don’t often hear about successful people making mistakes. Few people admit the struggles they face, whilst they face them. Far be it from me to make this blog another example of someone who has it all together.

I’m going to do some thinking “out loud” in this post. See if it helps me come up with some solutions.

The Problem: I feel as though I have too many daily-habits and things that I expect of myself to achieve/get done. For some reason, perhaps because of being overwhelmed, or even because of a fear of being overwhelmed…I’m doing less than what I was previously. Even bed-rock habits (those I’ve been doing consistently for years) are being missed.

The Question: So what is it that I feel I have to achieve/get done on a daily basis? [Clarify – someone wise once said we ‘fear what we don’t understand’ – so let’s try and be specific]

  1. Bible Read Through (a book of the Bible a week/3-4 chapters/day, 20mins)
  2. Journaling (10-20mins)
  3. Exercise (45-60min 3/week)
  4. Running (60-90mins 2/week)
  5. Bible Study (around 30 mins)
  6. Other Study projects (Spurgeon‘s Lectures, Greek, Writing 45mins)
  7. Blogging (?…not enough experience, roughly 45mins/post)
  8. Book Work – Editing (45min chunks)
  9. Creating Resources (45mins)

In all that works out as: 220+90=310mins a day = 5+hours….on top of that I have a full time job and people I’m discipling/meeting with.

Okay, that is an unreasonable expectation.

The Next Question: Clarifying ‘why’ I “need” to do each of those a) so regularly b) at all.

  1. Bible Read Through (a book of the Bible a week/3-4 chapters/day, 20mins) Part of my dynamic relationship with God, a means by which I encourage others to pursue God’s heart through a resolved and deliberate attitude towards the church..
  2. Journaling (10-20mins) Part of my relationship with God and the foundation for how I carry out the various offices of my life.
  3. Exercise (45-60min 3/week) My life’s example to encourage and inspire others to pursue God’s heart + health reasons
  4. Running (60-90mins 2/week) Ibid.
  5. Bible Study (around 30 mins) Maintaining a posture of receptivity and learning, wise stewardship of the gifts God has given me including teaching, also part of my relationship with God.
  6. Other Study projects (Spurgeon‘s Lectures, Greek, Writing 45mins) Ibid
  7. Blogging (?…not enough experience, roughly 45mins/post) Stewardship, a posture of vulnerability, lays a foundation for future book work, practice writing skills
  8. Book Work – Editing (45min chunks) Ibid
  9. Creating Resources (45mins) Ibid

Not entirely helpful. But what I did notice is that there is a lot I am doing to teach others. Since aiming for more than I can handle is resulting in doing less than I can handle…I will reduce.

Work in progress – list:

  1. BRT
  2. Journaling
  3. Exercise/Running
  4. Bible Study
  5. Blogging
  6. Book Work

New total: 40+60+90+45=190+45=235 … still not convinced its realistic….

Blogging and Bible Study…What if, blogging becomes an evening activity “when I feel like it” and Bible Study is done intensely one-two slots each week? That sounds more workable.

So new total: 145mins roughly each day = roughly 2.5hrs…= totally manageable. I wake at 5, finished by 7.30.

Daily Habits: BRT – Journaling – Exercise/Running – Book work

And I can over invest in one of those tasks each day by half an hour or so, rather than try and cram in more.

Weekly Habits: Ad hoc blogging (sorry readers!) and 2/week intense Bible Study sessions.

Brilliant, the way is clear. Will review after a week.

Priority Matrix and Mission

I’ve read my fair amount of productivity, motivation, self help, self-organisation books. I’ve listened to a fair amount of training. And one of the things that comes up frequently is the Priority Matrix:

I think it’s self explanatory, it’s a tool that helps you prioritise a busy schedule.

Well, yesterday I had a bit of a yahoo moment – as I made a connection in my mind: The Gospel Mission is both “urgent” and “important” .

The great commission, to make disciples of all nations, is urgent. We don’t know when Christ will return. We don’t know when our lives will end. But we do know that the time we have is short and so we need to make the most of every opportunity.

But the great commission, is also important. Souls are at stake. God’s Kingdom is so significant, requests for its eminence are top of list in the Lord’s Prayer. The fact that it comes post-resurrection, when all authority in heaven and earth had been given to Jesus, demonstrates it’s importance!

Why is it then that our whole lives do not orientate around the mission of God? Is it because we don’t think it is urgent, we don’t think it is important?

In my job, when I have a task that is both urgent and important, I tend to drop everything. My mind is filled with problem solving the job, I’m talking about it with others, brainstorming solutions. I’m even praying about it.

I understand there is a caveat. We don’t want to “burn out” by “over working”, and not stopping. His burden is light and His yoke is easy. We also shouldn’t worry about anything…etc. But on the other hand, why is it we are so okay to “burn out” and “over work” on other tasks, but not this one?

I wonder what it would look like if a group of five Christians took the Great Commission as the most urgent and most important task in their lives, for even a week? I have a feeling, with five Christians praying, brainstorming, dropping everything, and “doing it now” much ground would be advanced for the Kingdom of God.

A few questions to reflect:

  • What do I need to drop right now, to focus on the Mission of God
  • Who can I partner with in this Mission
  • What specific areas can I be praying for
  • What are my next steps

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out you own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good please.

Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fail in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world. Holding fast to the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Chirst that I have not run in vain or laboured in vain.

Yes, and if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.

Finally, for those who would like more understanding about what the Mission of God entails, I would highly recommend the textbook: The Mission of God’s People by Wright. To summarise in one sentence: the mission is: to be a blessing to the nations.