Quick Update, (excuse errors and no caveats)

Have I got time for a quick update? Yes, settled into my new job, my new promotion. It’s a lot more work and a lot more stress. Thankfully this has pushed me closer to God and I enjoyed a month of running to Him for all the resources I needed to do the job well. Desperate times etc.

But now I’m settled a bit better, my prayers are less requesting strength and ability to work effectively. This is worth thinking about some more, am I any less dependent on Him for the ability to work well? Probably not, but it’s easier to forget when you’re practiced.

I’m back on the Systematic Theology book/course, have been since my birthday, and have got further than before. Which is great, given that I started the book all over again. Same can’t be said for my Greek studies, which I restarted on my birthday as well, but have already fallen behind.

As a couple, we’re doing P90x, it’s a dvd workout course, only a week in so shouldn’t really be sharing at this point. But it’s fun for now and we’re enjoying it. We’re also tentatively looking into helping with youth work at our church again.

I’m in the process of withdrawing off the Navigators FFM course I’m on. The away days just aren’t feasible anymore. But there’s a lot more to that than that story. Maybe I’ll get round to posting it.

Don’t think I’ll be attempting the 52 books in a year challenge again next year, I did it this year again and am a few books over my goal. But I want to focus on getting the difficult books (Greek, Systematic Theology and Wheel of Time) finished without the pressure to do quantity. Not to mention I’m also trying to write more, I know it’s a little unbelievable, what with my rare blog posting lately. But I’ve been trying to focus on a few longer projects, so far keeping to it.

Great things God has been teaching me include:

1) Giving freely because I’ve freely received

2) People are very important

3) Marriage is incredible

4) How to do, be part of, function in a Church context.

IT Chapter 1: What this film reminded me about Fear.

Recently, wife and I, sat down to watch the horror film IT: Chapter 1. The series has been getting some hype in our workplaces/social circles, because of the recent Chapter 2 release, and we wanted “in”. We’re not really horror-film-people. We’re easily scared, and both have over-active imaginations. (As far as I go is with Rick Grimes to Alexandria!) So when we want an adrenaline pumping film we’ll usually opt for an Action, occasionally dipping our toes into physiological/thriller types.

But, like I said, we wanted “in”. So, after a pep-talk, a bit of a pre-game-psyche dance and the gathering of many pillows – we were ready.

The film wasn’t as bad as we thought beforehand. She looked away at most of the violent scenes, and I found myself mostly numb (probably due to my exposure to The Walking Dead) towards the blood and gore. (I must admit, however, running along the canals the morning after – in the dark – was a little chilling, and I did look behind me a fair few times)…

The scariest scene for me was right at the beginning and the boy’s talking to the clown in the gutter and they’re both laughing. And suddenly the clown man stops laughing and just grimaces. That had pins and needles rushing through my body.

But, it’s been over a week since watching the film and I’m still thinking about it. The film had some pretty profound insights about Fear and the concept. I don’t think this is the type of film that spoilers can ruin, you’re still going to jump if you’ve never seen it before, so I don’t think this reveals anything about the plot.

The power of (the absence of) names.

In this film, at the beginning we’re introduced to the clown (in the gutter), who tells the boy his name… “Pennywise”. But I think this is the only time in the film the clown is spoken about by name. The rest of the film, he is referred to as: It. (Hence the title).

This reminded me of a Harry Potter quote:

“Fear of the name, only increases fear of the thing itself”.

By not giving the clown a name throughout the film, and by calling him: It, fear is increased.

I think this is significant because fear is weakened when we bring it into the light, and an important part of that is naming it. Sometimes by just saying out loud what we fear to happen, we can glimpse just how ridiculous it is.

The power of togetherness.

I don’t think it’s any coincidence that the clown initially only attacks when the children are on their own, nor is it coincidental that when they courageously fight the clown, they are together. Fears seem to lose their power when we face them together. One of my favourite scenes is where they are outside a scary house and one of the boys pep-talks them into going in.

Here’s an interesting cliché that I heard about “Encouragement”. The word can be broken down someway so that it sounds like ‘giving-courage’ to someone. We can take steps to be encouraged by others and to encourage others.

Fear usually isn’t as bad as we think it is when we face it.

I guess this relates somewhat to the first point, but when we face fear it usually ends up being not that bad. When I was watching the scene, I cheered whenever the characters would fight back the clown. I didn’t want them to stop. Maybe it’s because I’m used to simple action films where the good guy, just fights the bad guy and it’s over. But part of me, all the way through, just wanted the kids to burst into all the rooms, growling and fighting and deal with the problem.

I wonder if that’s how God feels for us?

Hope this is en-couraging!

 

Here’s an extra question I’ve been thinking about with some bullet point ideas:

Is fear ever a good/healthy thing?

  • For example fear of heights teaches us that to fall will be bad for our health, therefore don’t tight-rope walk without a harness.
  • Or is this kind of fear just common sense?
  • Could an alternative to this “healthy-fear” (e.g. common sense, trusting others advice, trusting self) be more beneficial than using fear?
  • Does God’s perfect love drive out “healthy/normal-fear”?
  • Can our “fear” be (a form of weakness and therefore) a magnifying glass to display God’s strength? (2 Cor 12). Or not?

 

Bible Stories about fear:

Giants in the Land – Numbers 13-14

Joshua’s Commission – Joshua 1

Esther before the King – Esther 4

Annanias finding Saul/Paul – Acts 9

Agenda Item #2  See the Value

So then, Jesus heals the woman. Whoopie! Everyone is delighted. The woman is praising God. The disciples are probably hi-fiving. “Here comes Revival!”. …Hang on a minute, the synagogue leader is not smiling…

“There are 6 days to work, come on one of those days to be healed” – he declares. Interestingly his accusation isn’t at Jesus, this time, it’s directed at the woman. I wonder if she had come on the other 6 days, I wonder if she had come and not been seen. I wonder if she’d been coming all her life and not been noticed. We don’t know. All we know, is that she came this Sabbath and Jesus saw her. Jesus saw her, He spoke to her, He touched her and healed her. And when the Synagogue leader accused her, He defended her.

“This woman, a daughter of Abraham, was bound…” He begins. Jesus doesn’t just see her, beyond (and above) His agenda, He sees her value. He sees her importance to God. A daughter of Abraham. As a daughter of Abraham, she was part of the fulfilment of God’s promise in Gen 12 to Abraham.

It’s not enough for us to just see the people in the way of our agendas, we need to see their value. We need to recognize their significance before God. As Christians, we believe that each human being is important to God. And that He gave His Son to save them (and us!)…

What values do we need to see

  • This Woman – Identity, personhood, characteristics…Who is the person before you, are they male or female, are the rich or poor. Are they loud and outgoing, or quiet and reserved. When we respect their differences, preferences, strengths and weaknesses – we will find it easier to value them. This will usually mean going beyond the stereotyping level.
  • A Daughter of Abraham – Their part in God’s story, their potential, their relationship to others…This isn’t always easy to see, but everyone is part of a larger tapestry. We should try to take into account their relationship to others, to God’s story and purposes. The most significant mentors in my life, didn’t just see where I was at currently, they saw my potential. They saw what God could do through me and encouraged me in it. This isn’t always possible with the stranger on the bus, or the lady at the checkout…not to know the inns and outs, but we don’t need to and it wouldn’t be right if we did without their permission. But to at least acknowledge, this is a person in God’s image, fearfully and wonderfully made.
  • Was bound – the battles that they face, the obstacles in their way…These may things God will urge us to intercede and help with, on the other hand they may be things which we need to factor into our relationship/relating to them. Someone once said, he wouldn’t judge someone until he had walked a few miles in their shoes. How much capacity for compassion, love, mercy and value we would have for someone if we were to recognize their struggle/s.

In order to discover value, we may have to ask questions. Ask questions and listen to responses. We will have to be tentative to what’s being said and why it’s being said. We probably will need to spend time getting beyond a first impression.

One thing is for sure, Jesus saw her value immediately. The more time we spend in the Fathers presence, the closer our intimacy is with Him, the greater the love which has been sown into our eyes – the easier it will be to perceive value.

LOVE-BY-THE-PALETTE

 

Systematic Theology 3.a Canon of Scripture OT

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For those worried about my commitment to finishing Grudem’s book – peace. I’m almost there – just another 1,100 odd pages before I’m at the appendixes (will I do those? Hmmm, you’ll have to wait and see!)

So who knew studying S.T would be like studying pirate ships with canons. Ha. Ha. Ha. Really pants joke. On with the show!

This chapter is basically explaining why we have the books in the Bible that we do, not more like the (apocrypha) or less (and only have 1 gospel in or miss out James etc). For me, I learnt the term ‘Canon’ when disney bought star wars, and the New Jedi Order series was no longer considered ‘Canon’, meaning that the Yuuzhan Vong alien (alien because they’re from another galaxy!) invasion resulting in Chewbacca’s death and a whole ton of biological weapons NEVER HAPPENED! Why? Because those books aren’t considered Star Wars Canon.

But unlike the Disney-turned franchise, the Bible’s canonising process wasn’t down to money or artistic freedom. Grudem explains.

The concept of Canon, being encouraged by God is in the Old Testament. God writes the 10 commandments with His own finger and then stores them in the Ark of the Covenant (think Indiana Jones! See – Deut 10:5) Then, Moses goes about – after spending 40 days with God face2face up a mountain and writes the first 5 books of the Bible. Although, they probably weren’t in books, and were probably not in King James English. When he’s written these – guess where they go? (Deut 31:24-26)

The Ark again. Now, given that in the law – it says over and over – “don’t add to these” (Deut 4:2, 12:32)…Either Moses is disobeying God by adding new words into the ark, OR the words he’s “adding” are from God? The fact that he puts them in the Ark with the tablets indicated what side of the argument Moses and his men came down on.

So now, we have a canon of 5 books. Gen, Ex, Lev, Num, Deut.

Moses dies and Josh takes over. What does Joshua do?? He goes and writes more. Now we know that Josh spent some solid time face2face with God as well, there were times he was with God and Moses in a tent, Moses would leave, Josh would stay (Exodus 33:11). (So He knows God pretty well too!) Anyway, Josh is writing things down and what does he do? Only add them to the  Law of God Josh 24:26. So now we have the book of Joshua.

Then the prophets get busy. Now, a Prophet is someone who speaks for God. So by definition they’re words are from God. So we take their books in. That’s like a mass addition. Not only now do we get the Major and Minor Prophets. But because Samuel writes Samuel (1 Sam 10:25 & 1 Chron 29:29) and Jehu writes Kings and Chronicles (2 Chron 20:34 & 1 Kings 16:7 – this one says he was a prophet) , we also get the History books.

Admittedly, Grudem is a little vauge on why we have Psalms, Provebs, Ecc, SoS and Ezr, Neh, Ester & Job. What he does say about them is that the Jews, and the Jews of Jesus’ day, believed them to be Spirit inspired words. And that they were written within the time frame of God inspiring words. (435 BC). For a more in depth look at canon please check this series of Seminars by John Piper. (He covers in a lot more ground – what Grudem’s book is supposed to be only an introduction on.)

So why not Apocrypha. 

  1. The NT quotes the OT 255 referring to it as ‘God says’, ‘Scripture says’ or ‘It is written’. But it doesn’t quote the apocrypha once in this way. (Grudem explains that the apcrypha is quoted twice but is never introduced in the way the OT is.) Paul also quotes greek literature at one point – but again doesn’t introduce it like it’s God’s word.
  2. There are doctrinal and historical inconsistencies with the apocrypha.
  3. The books of the apocrypha do not claim for themselves to be God’s word. Grudem actually spends a fair amount of page time exploring various passages from Maccabes and other Jewish literature at the time. (I’ve taken him at his word on this – but for those interested in further study go for it! (1 Macc 4.45-46, 9:27, 14.41 as a starting place)
  4. This wasn’t in Grudem, but I remember from a while back when I watched the Piper seminars on this the most convincing argument for me: was that Jesus himself didn’t read the apocrypha – when He was on earth. (Luke 11.51) This is the time frame of God word for Jesus. But I will be watching the Piper stuff again soon to re-jog my memory on it all.

Man, long post! Good thing the last was short! We’ll do NT next time and then response to questions/application on from that!

On the difference between the Roman Catholic Church and the protestant Church (because the two have different views on the apocrypha). Grudem writes:

For the Catholics “The church has the authority to constitute a literary work as “Scripture”. But Protestants have held the view that the church cannot make something to be scripture, but can only recognise what God has already caused to be written as His own words.

So the core belief is, I think, down to the authority of the Church in relation to Scripture.

Analogy: Does the Church function like the treasury or a police inspector detecting counterfeit money?

 

Systematic Theology 1.c Introduction (Personal Reflection)

  1. In what ways (if any) has this chapter changed your understanding of what systematic theology iss? What is your attitude toward the study of S.T. before reading this chapter? What is your attitude now?

Well, since I’d already read this chapter I feel like I’m “cheating” with this answer. Not much has changed on this reading. However, on my first go, I had no idea what systematic theology was. I had no idea that there were other types of theology. I just knew that I wanted my theology to be based on the Bible. My attitude was pretty lukewarm. I was keen to learn because of my friend’s recommendation. But apart from that, I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into. I think as well, there was an element of excitement. I love learning, and I love a challenge, getting a big book and turning page 1 is a bit of a geek-thrill.

2. What is likely to happen to a church or denomination that gives up learning systematic theology for a generation or longer? Has that been true of your church.

Good question. My first thought is that any church that stops studying this, would probably get caught up in false doctrine somewhere along the way. But probably they would also really struggle to train up leaders and disciples.

What?! You say. Since when do we need “Systematic Theology” in order to train disciples. Well, if part of the disciple-making process, according to Jesus, is teaching. Then having a systematic understanding of the Bible (AKA Jesus’ commands) really does make the process easier.

Where I think this gets confusing and needs a balance, has to do with the fact that Jesus never went ahead (according to what we know in Scripture) and started giving theology classes to his disciples. He lived it. But if a correct approach to studying S.T. is used, meaning that application and worship are coming out of study, we’re on the right tracks.

I remember hearing an Andy Stanley talk, where he criticised the argument that says “None of the disciples went to Bible College and yet they started a movement – why do we need all this study?!”. Stanley points out that, until Paul (one of the most scripture-educated people of his day) came along, Christianity wasn’t making much headway outside of Jerusalem. Good point.

Back-foot back on the defence again though, Paul did say that he counted all that knowledge and past-goodness as garbage compared to knowing Christ. But hey! If Christ is revealed in His words, teaching and the Bible. We’d be wise to study it carefully, thoroughly and…well, systematically.

But what about those in countries where there are no resources to study this (classes, books, freedom)? Well, what country do you live in now. What resources has God given you. Remember, if you have been given much, you have been trusted with much, and you’ll need to prove to be good stewards.

….so to recap without S.T. in a church for generation could cause: 1) False doctrines/teaching, 2) Struggle in fulfilling discipleship, 3) a slip in godliness – I added this in just now. Grudem pointed out that throughout the Bible sound doctrine is often connected with Godliness. I agree.

In terms of ‘is it the case in my church?’ …Hmmmm. We don’t teach it specifically. But there are key individuals in the Church who have made the effort to learn it, and do study the Bible diligently. Furthermore, one of the plus-sides to CofE, is that  Vicars go through Bible School for a season in order to be ordained. I think with that in mind I am blessed to be part of a Church that values and lives out sound doctrine!

3.a Doctrines from the contents page I’m attracted to/think would be useful now?

BROADLY: Future, Man, Church and SPECIFICALLY: Purity and Unity of the Church, Church Government, Sin, Conversion, Canon of Scripture.

3.b Dangers of studying S.T. for me?

All head knowledge – no application. All head knowledge – no love (God & man). Pride. Idolising the finish line.

4. Pray – I’ll go away and do that now!

 

A good friend

‘When’s your lunch hour?’

What an obscure, mildly confrontational, knowing phrase… I was on the floor pulling my lunch out of the bottom of my backpack. My friend was challenging me on something I’d said a week ago. I’d told him I was going to be eating my lunches after 1.30 – in response to something personal God’s been teaching me about discipline. It was 12:05… This question, seemingly unspiritual, was discipleship!

1) Discipleship is confrontational! We are confronting the parts of the other person which don’t look like Christ. In my case it was the part of me that follows the rumblings of an empty stomach. This can be difficult both for the confronted and the confront-er, but Jesus didn’t promise following him would be comfortable.

2) Discipleship happens two-ways! That comment was followed by an almost four hour conversation in which we both challenged and “sharpened” each other. We are both people in whom Jesus is at work, and we are both people who carry the baggage of our unresolved brokenness, sin and squirming-crucified flesh with us. 

3) Discipleship requires a response! After some feeble attempts to justify why I was eating my lunch early. I started packing it back in my bag. The response is hard! But is made easier by the Church, and those within her. In our battle against our sinful selves, in our race for the prize which endures forever and in our farming for a harvest we are not alone. God has put us in communities of faith to encourage us and keep us going. In your journey of faith, in your efforts to become Christ-like, in your longing for regular times with God – lean on the Body of Christ (His people) let them help you in your response! 

4) Discipleship glorifies God! After I had swallowed the pill of patience and stowed my lunch away for a couple of hours. I thanked my friend for being direct with me. And he pointed to God, to Him be the glory. We rely on Him for the courage to confront, the humility to be sharpened by someone else, the provision of Church to aid us in our response.  And then we glorify Him for His hand in our transformation towards Christ likeness.

HubLife

So yesterday was my first day back at work for Navs after the Ukraine trip. It was nice getting to campus early and catching up on all the e-mails and some admin jobs which needed doing. Honestly things are much quieter with students mostly gone. But I’ve still got a few things to keep me occupied. Alongside some other jobs like preparing for the chaplaincy for the Camp coming up in 2 weeks and finding myself a new job.

Yesterday I met with my ministry supervisor and worked through a review for the year gone by. It was really good to reflect on the good and bad things. I found a few jobs online to apply for and read through some blog posts of people I can learn from.

After an internal struggle against myself, I decided to visit the Youth Hub at a church we used to attend. Every Monday and Wednesday they open their doors to allow young people from all over the neighborhood to come in and chill out – play games and eat together! This was my first visit since we usually have our Navs  meetings on Monday nights and leadership planning meetings on Wednesdays. 

Well I was glad I went in the end, it was so amazing! Just to see kids from the area hanging out with fun things to do, playstation, pool table, basketball and pizza – what more cpould you want!? A great idea from Doug, the youth worker there.




Blogging again…

Blogging again! Content probably very similar as  before. Things that God is doing in my life, resources I have put together, my Bible Read Through Notes and general reviews. May God help me keep it up again!

Hopefully will get a chance to write a lengthy update on what has happened since December.