Ti-Yong: Blog or Book?

When China began copying alternative models for industrialisation in the 19th Century, they adopted a policy of ‘Ti-Yong’. Which means ’Essence’ and ’Form’. They intended to keep the Chinese Essence – their identity and character. But change their Form to match the approach to development used by the foreign countries.

In the same way, I think my blog is going to undergo a Ti-Yong transformation.

I have really enjoyed blogging these last couple of months! (Like a lot!) It’s been helpful way to reflect on my week in the Sunday Summaries. To consolidate my Personal Bible Studies with the Monday, Wednesday and Friday posts. As well as regurgitate the various tips, tricks and hints I’ve learnt that week about productivity and motivation etc.

However

As I’ve mentioned many times, I’m also writing a book at the moment. I finished my first draft back in July and gave it to a friend to read over and feedback.

In that time since, I’ve taken up blogging to fill the writing void. It’s been so encouraging.

When you work on a book, it’s very private, there is no immediate feedback and there are few (if any) people who encourage you along the way. With blogs you can change topic to match whatever you feel like writing about that day/week, whereas a book involves sticking with the same theme for a long time. Plus, you can’t make money (albeit pennies) with every chapter, like you can with blog posts.

So thank you to everyone who has read, commented, liked, any post I’ve written. I have been so encouraged!

I got the feedback, on my first draft a few weeks ago and have since really struggled to make much progress with the editing/re-draft because my morning slot for writing is filled with blogging.

So I’ve done a pros and cons…and here’s my decision:

My decision,

I will continue to blog, however, I will no longer be aiming for daily posting.

Since I’ve benefitted from the Sunday summaries, I’m going to keep doing that. I hope you will want to stick around at least for the weekly catch ups.

I’ve also decided that my Bible Study posts are going to change. Instead I’m going to post a picture of my final draft notes. See tomorrow’s post. Which means, I’m going back to Genesis 1:1-2-3. Hopefully, this model will be more sustainable in the long term.

I regards to Tuesday Tools and Thursday thoughts…I think this will be more sporadic and low priority.

Finally I will continue to post notes on Systematic Theology.

In short…

The blog will remain active. But the style of several of the posts will change. I hope you will still be interested to read and visit, follow my story etc.

But I have decided I will focus my writing attention on the book as a priority.

I’d appreciate your prayers. Editing has turned out to be way more challenging than writing, and I have so much to work through. Please pray that I can think clearly, write brilliantly and persevere in the hidden/secret place.

Best wishes, Paul

Leave Her Alone Judas!

Earlier this week, I published a post about the woman who extravagantly worships Jesus by breaking a jar of expensive perfume and wiping His feet with her hair (her glory!). We examined the reactions of those observing the scene and drew out challenges for ourselves.

In this post I want to share some of my notes from a sermon John Piper preached on a similar story in the gospel of John 12. This is the first time sharing my sermon notes as they were taken rather than presented in blog format. Enjoy! (…and excuse the mess)!

That quote from 1 Timothy 6:6-10 highlights the dangers that come with even wanting to be rich. This isn’t just about the love of money, (v10), the line is drawn even closer to home (v9). How this isn’t talked about! I think we tolerate this ‘desire to be rich’, in our own lives and the lives of our fellow Christians. I certainly do.

God Chasers

I finished Tommy Tenney’s book, the God Chasers this week. Interestingly, I’d already read a different version of the book as a teenager, and so many of the concepts, ideas and challenges had already become foundational to my faith. But nevertheless it was good to revisit them.

I was personally challenged, that my hunger for God isn’t enough. I mean, I have a lot of the key practices down, I know how to cultivate my relationship with God, through Scripture, Prayer, Worship, Witnessing etc. But my hunger for God’s presence was not overwhelming enough.

The vision of hunger I want is to be so filled with God’s presence that people are drawn to Jesus, simply by me being present. That’s what I’m hungering for. I want lead, labour, inspire and encourage others to pursue God’s heart. I am boosted towards this goal by His presence in my life.

Before I had settled for being close to God. But now I want other people to be close to God, simply by being close to me. It takes the calling, to be Abraham’s descendants and a blessing to the nations (Gen 12) to a whole new level.

I do find it a bit odd to tell myself I’m not hungry enough. But these words echo those famously said by CS Lewis “we far are too easily pleased”:

We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.

Yes, the morning quiet times are good, yes the journaling and prayer walks are helpful and a useful step in the right direction. Yes, the dependency on Jesus’ works not my own…all of it good. What is now being challenged anew is the heart for God.


And yet, since being a teenager, I have been heavily influenced by Christian teaching that emphasises it is all by Grace alone, teaching I stand by. The temptation with a book like this is to feel like I’m not doing enough. And to make more effort to read more Bible, pray for longer, pray better, witness more, do more etc. And I don’t think this is what Tommy Tenney intends, and more importantly, I don’t think it’s what God wants.

The last thing we want to do is come under more guilt and shame, or put ourselves under a different “set of laws”. Trying to earn God’s presence with more purity, better prayers, more hunger for Him etc.

The truth is, it’s already been earned for me. I can come with confidence before God’s throne. (Good news, right?!) This book challenged me, not to try harder, but to aim higher. I can receive so much more from God than I’m currently experiencing. How? By trying harder? No. By having longer quiet times? No. But by coming to my Good Father who freely gives all that Christ has earnt for me, through faith-filled-prayer.

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?

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:

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?

Appreciate the left hand as well?

Here’s a nagging question I have.

Has the Western Church, the evangelical-reformed bubble of it anyway, made Church leadership a position held only by the educated elite? It’s not just the evangelical-reformed group either, to become a priest in the Church of England requires a degree, and if not in theology will need further training.

I remember hearing Andy Stanley, speaking on the importance of having theologically-trained leaders in Churches: “compare the work of Paul to the work of all the other “untrained” disciples. How much more did Paul achieve?”

But I feel deeply uncomfortable about this, because when I read the Bible. I see over and over again the glory God gets when He uses unqualified men and women, “unschooled” fishermen, shepherd boys. Even Paul himself, argued that he did not use fine sounding arguments and eloquent words.

I wonder what we’ve lost by only allowing the degree educated people to lead our churches, to earn a living from it. I wonder if, we had kept degree educated people in their clever jobs earning money and supporting the Church with their teaching and let the uneducated man with a Pastoral heart and a passion for God’s word, lead. What would happen. Would we have less books? Maybe more Bible-reading? Would we have less clever-programs? Maybe more prayer? Would we have less eloquent preaching? Maybe more worship?

I reckon, if the western church deems the uneducated to be too “weak” for church leadership roles, God will display His glory through the weak, foolish and “things that are not”.

Speaking as someone who has a degree. I think we’ve set the wrong qualifications for church leadership.

Yes, we need to add to our faith, knowledge etc. But surely this is an instruction for every follower of Jesus, not just leaders. Yes, we need sound doctrine, yes, yes, yes. But we also need to appreciate what every member of the Body has to offer, not just an elite few.

Reversing it totally is probably not the solution, we’re not to divide the Body any further. But we probably need to balance it out. Appreciate the left hand as well as the right?

Jesus in the Gospel of Mark

Who is this Man?
Jesus is the Miracle-Worker, healing those that come to Him with faith, multiplying food for those who eagerly listen without concern for their rumbling-stomachs, walking on water in order to be present with those whom He loved.

Jesus is the Masterful-Teacher, instructing the crowds, challenging the religious experts and nurturing His own disciples. Using a diverse range of tools from cleverly crafted parables to razor-sharp pointed questions. From the examples of a poor widow’s generosity, to a rich young ruler’s disappointment.

Jesus is the Spiritually-Orientated Leader, who sees what is hidden in hearts and chooses prayer rather than might, submission instead of pride and love instead of judgment. He understands the dynamic between the physical and immaterial, embracing both and using it for His Father’s purposes.

Jesus gladly embraces and honors the least.

May I ever seek to desperately approach Him, in humility and awe. May I never lose the wonder, that God became like us in order to love us and restore us. May I never forget to be grateful for this.

What did He do?
Jesus taught truth, in many ways to many different people. He was sought out by the crowds, the religious experts and the desperate citizens from both Jewish and Gentile communities, because of His teaching and insights. Three noteworthy themes of His were: 1) The Kingdom of God, revealed through parables and one-liners, and ultimately through His death (13:39). This is a Kingdom that seems in many ways to mock the kingdom of this world by raising up and honoring the least (10:14-15), by promoting servants (9:35) and it does not pay homage to material wealth (10.21). 2) The importance of Faith, Jesus is repeatedly responding to faith (or lack of) and using it as a springboard from which to teach. Jesus sees the faith of the good friends who have gone to great lengths to present their companion to Jesus, He accepts the trying faith of the frightened father and leaves Bartimaeus named, healed and following all because of faith. Jesus is disappointed and left astonished by the absence of faith in others; following the panic incited by a storm and those offended by His familiarity. 3) His own death and the suffering awaiting His disciples. Three times in this Gospel Jesus teaches about His death and each time follows it with a caution that those who follow Him will also be asked to lose, be it their desires and life, their status and pride or their freedom and position. Jesus taught difficult truths.

Jesus provided numerous people with significant direction and purpose for their lives. Not only did He provide direction for a miracle-hungry and easily impressed crowd who eagerly waited for another mass feeding. But He also touched individual lives, sparking generation upon generation of changed futures as He went. Levi was ushered away from his booth and hosted a party for other tax collectors before leaving everything and following Jesus. Legion was delivered and sent home to proclaim truth to the Decapolis. Peter was invited away from his trade to fish for men and become the head of the Church to come. Bartimaeus was healed and decided to follow Jesus. Barabbas freed on account of Jesus’ sacrifice and given a second chance. The Centurion sees Jesus’ death and receives saving faith in order to enter eternal life. The eleven disciples were commissioned to ‘go into all the world and preach the gospel to all of creation’. Jesus provided purpose.

On two accounts Jesus sees’ what the world might have missed and loves where someone else in his position might have scoffed. Firstly, as a widow discreetly offers all she has amid a crowd donating large sums of money. Jesus sees deep what others would have missed and honors the lady’s sacrifice. Secondly, when the rich young ruler approaches and is disappointed with the prospect of selling what he has – Jesus doesn’t gloat in his intellectual joust instead He sees and loves the man who could not surrender. Jesus sees and He loves, even the those who were despised.

Jesus lived by Scripture in close communion with His Father. He knew Scripture profoundly and completely, using it not only to teach but to defend His own actions and life choices. His knowledge and approach to Scripture purchases for Him a freedom from human tradition and regulation, a freedom He compassionately offers to those in chains. This Scripture wrought freedom allows Jesus to bless, to heal, to rest and to eat without entertaining the expectations and fear of men (for a poignant example of this read Mark 7:1-23). Jesus also lived in close communion with His Father, frequently withdrawing to quiet places and allowing His disciples to do the same. This communion undoubtedly informed many of His most crucial decisions, significant teachings and insights into His own calling as well as the hearts of those around Him. The most stark and important decision which He made was directly in the context of extended prayer (14:35-36).

How do I tell others about Him?

He commands me, and His decree makes possible. He accompanies me, with Him by my side whom shall I fear. He protects me, and yet, He demands that I surrender all I hold as precious. He rewards me with Himself. This is my hope and faith.

I find that the best way to tell my colleagues about Jesus, is to tell them a story from a gospel and ask for their thoughts. I feel like Jesus did this to tell people about the Kingdom of God. I don’t need to explain the story, just telling it is powerful. Most recently I asked my colleagues about the three people who wanted to follow Jesus but had things to do first (Luke 9), Jesus gave them an uncomfortable ultimatum.

I find that people are often happy to express their opinions on a story. Maybe in the story they encounter Jesus.

Hopefully they encounter Him in me.

Mark’s Gospel – How does Jesus demonstrate Himself to be a skilled helper and provide care for others/Himself?

ROLES: The most significant role Jesus played, at least for me, was that of a teacher. Throughout the gospel Jesus assumed the role of a teacher and taught, using parables, questions and resorting to Old Testament Scripture to defend Himself, illustrate ideas and challenge listeners.

Other significant roles included: providing direction and purpose to the individuals He encountered, a Celebrity who seemed to draw crowds to Him and a Prophet who foretold the future.

QUALITIES: The quality which I most admired about Jesus from this gospel was how He was able to see and love. When He challenges the rich man and when He admires the widows “small” offering. Jesus’ ability to see and love those He encountered is very encouraging in my own walk with Him.

Other significant qualities included: submitting to God’s will even at apparent detriment to self, ability to confront, challenge and lead an (occasionally divided) team, He also was comfortable eating with outcasts.

SKILLS: The two skills I felt were most prominent in this Gospel were Jesus’ “skill” in healing and ability to ask deep questions. Jesus clearly understood how healing worked, using different methods as fit the occasion from conventional prayers to creatively spitting on His patients. Jesus also was able to ask significant questions which cut to the core of the issues at hand.

Other significant skills included His knowledge of Scripture and His awareness of physical needs (including rest and food).

SELF CARE:  One of the striking methods Jesus used to care for Himself was his use of Scripture. With it He was able to defend His life-style and choices, as well as those of His disciples, and remain living in freedom (Ch 7). He was able to distinguish between the restricting and choking laws of man and know the freedom-purchasing power of truth.

Other significant methods of self care which Jesus exhibited included: obeying His Father’s will over His own – even to the apparent detriment to self, He also maintained an inner circle of friends to whom He entrusted more of Himself, He practiced gratitude even in small things and withdrew often to solitary places (to pray?).