Systematic Theology 0.b Preface

Wayne_Grudem_Photo_2014My target posting rate for this project is a chapter a week. That’s what we’ll aim for, but I am interested in applying it all as well, so I might go slower. And that’s not the only reason there might be delays, if you’re the praying type and you can spare a petition for me. Pray that I stay on it this time round! Best to start something like this dependent on God, not just for commitment levels, but also for brain capacity. Anyway enough about my weakness… the Preface.

In short it captures the distinct features that Grudem, no, lets go with Wayne. (Make it sound like I know him well,) the distinct features of this particular study of Systematic Theology has. I think they’re all worth mentioning and I want to unpack a few of them.

  1. A clear Biblical basis for the doctrines. From what I’ve covered so far, in previous studies/attemptes, this guy uses a lot lot lot of scripture to ground the doctrines he unpacks. Which is reassuring. He quotes Bible passages in length and I honestly don’t mind that! Because of his value for the Scriptures he includes a memory verse for each chapter. A memory verse that I’m going to try and memorise. This’ll be quite straight forward for the first few weeks, but maintaining that for a while will increase in difficulty. All the best.
  2. Clarity in the Explanation of doctrines. As an advertisement for this book, what I’ve read before also lives up to this standard. It is very simple to read and follow. Not like other books I’ve read: Piper, Lewis and Willard all fantastic fantastic fantastic reads – but  do require a bit of extra brain grease to fully engage. This one although clever and deep is also easy to read.
  3. Application to life. You’ll notice I bold and underlined this one too, that’s because it’s really important to me. I don’t just want to study this, to grow in head knowledge, but also grow in love of God, love for the Church and the world. (Corny?) Maybe, but if this study doesn’t increase my love then it’s just a clanging symbol. (I think another Paul said that once).  But it’s not just love I want to grow in, Obedience and Humility are virtues that I’m hoping to grow in too. That’s why I’ll be doing the applications, and at the moment the intent is to record how it was – here. “Learning by doing – what a novel idea” – Propaganda: Board of Education
  4. Focus on the Evangelical world. Wayne says that you can only go so far in reasoning on theology without an agreed bases for authority. Therefore in this book he focuses on dealing with arguments from the parts of the Church that believe the Bible is true and authoritative. I agree and get the reasoning. As someone who loves reading the Bible, it will be so helpful getting the different scripture arguments for different interpretations and viewpoints. For example end times & beginning times.
  5. Hope for progress in doctrinal unity in the Church. One of my personal values for the Church today is unity, I believe Jesus cared massively about this. And I think as a Church we miss this too much. Even without realising. What value we place on those who can critique a book, a service or a sermon. How quick do we compare our churches to another based solely on style. I don’t think Wayne’s goal here is to get everyone thinking the same as him – he even says he expects people to disagree on points, but the fact that we can discuss these things with honesty and humility allows us to learn from each other and be united.
  6. As a Church we need to grow in this area. On one hand I don’t agree with this statement. I see a lot of “intellectual” churches (perhaps because I work among University students) whose sermons are very theologically sound and thought through – but who’s love has gone a bit cold and passion and emotion has been outweighed by thought. But this outbalance, one way or another, actually demonstrates that we need to grow in this. If we are to worship God with all our heart and mind…we need to know truth and not just knowledge-facts, but freedom-bringing, change-initiating, Christ-exalting TRUTH.

Wayne then goes on to thank some people I don’t know.

There we go, Wayne’s (No, I’m going to stick with Grudem – I tried it, I did and it just feels weird!) systematic theology preface. But wait, there’s more. Before we go any – further. I want to give some of my own reasons/attempted distinctives in this blog. So excuse a blog with two lists but brace yourself for more of this. (I’ll soften the blow with a couple of pictures..)

  1. Personal Satisfaction – I recently read Gary Thomas’ book Sacred Pathways, which talks about the different ways individuals connect with God. It’s very much like the concept of the five love languages, but for a relationship with God. And there’s like 9 of them. Anyway for me 1 of my top ways to connect with God is as an Intellectual. No, that doesn’t mean I’m super bright – but I find that as I am learning and reading and listening and picking new things up – that’s when I feel close to God. It is my sacred pathway. For some it’s walks in nature, or tradition or….you get the point, read the book it’s fantastic! Really freeing for Churches and congregants to get. Highly recommend it. Anyway  to return to the question (RTTQ) why do this – because it’s one of the ways I worship God naturally.
  2. Ministry – in the olden-day, misguided sense and use of the word – my work with Church and Navigators. I want this blog to train people. To be an informal means for them to pick up some of the basics without reading/buying the shoebox of a book (1000+ pages) I got because I’m…(see last post!) Hopefully some of these posts will also be professional/formal enough to easily be turned into worksheets/resources to be printed for group studies.
  3. Evangelism. That the gospel I present, argue and live out is more truthfully Biblical than it is culturally-(westernis-ed-ly)-relevant-slightly/majorly-distorted.

books-open-on-table

 

 

Boredom in the workplace

ywning-man
One of the things I have been thinking about recently, is how does boredom in the workplace and the “afternoon slump” fit into a Biblical perspective. What does Jesus think about my afternoon tiredness, or ‘boredom’ at work? How does He intend to use it for His purposes? Is there anything I should be doing do fight for excellence? etc, etc. Not that my work is boring (as a whole), but like most people, there are repetitive tasks that need to be done which don’t stretch my mind. These tasks usually lead to a feeling of drowsiness or tiredness, and since I am very keen to integrate my faith with the whole of life including the workplace – I wanted an answer.
Let me also say, that I do think there is a clear distinction between boredom and drowsiness, coming about from different things and having different effects on my ability to work. So, I think what I’m trying to talk about is the drowsiness that springs from boredom.
In my thinking I’ve come up with some ideas, not the whole picture – I’m sure there is more – but enough to satisfy me for now. I’ll probably write a sequel post later.
But my main thinking is that: boredom and drowsiness in the workplace serve to remind me of my own nature. What do I mean by that? Well let me break it up.
They remind me of my:
1) Sinful nature – now, I know I am a new creation (2 Cor 5.17) and that my sinful nature has been crucified with Jesus (Gal 2.20) but there is still a very real part of me that continues to wrestle with my sinful habits (Rom 7). It is very much a case of dead to sin now, but also dead to sin not-quite-yet. When I get bored and drowsy at work I am reminded of the rebellious and broken part of me that wants to dishonor my employer by giving a half-asked job, that wants to give into laziness etc.
This in turn allows me to see these elements of sin in my other spheres of life: laziness in my quiet times or care of my body, my desire to dishonor God and my commitments. When I am reminded of my sinful nature, I am pushed into a posture of prayer and dependence on the Holy Spirit to continue to put to death this rebellious side of me (Rom 8:13)
2) Weakness nature – now thanks to having a great mentor through my time at University, I learnt that there is a big difference between weakness and sin, (even though it is at the point of our weaknesses that we are often most vulnerable to sin), in fact there is a very ‘Un-fallen’ part of our humanity that is weak because God made us this way. English please. When God made us, he made us with areas of weakness for our good and His glory. For example: when He made man He said: ‘It is not good for man to be alone’, in the perfect creation God made man with a weakness, a need for relationship, without it – the situation is not good.
In my boredom and the resulting tiredness I am reminded that I am only human, that i need sleep and rest in order to function properly. This again pushes me closer to God in dependence.
3) Finally on a more positive note: boredom and tiredness remind me of my creative nature. My God is a creative God, I don’t have to look too far in creation to observe that. And me, being made in His image, carry part of that creative-DNA in my humanness. Therefore, when I am bored and doing tasks that are dull, I feel God reminding me that I am to be creative. So I start looking for opportunities to create and make the work more interesting, more engaging, and ultimately more efficient. Now this obviously doesn’t mean I get a pack of coloring crayons out and start working on a canvas, but it means I look for ways to make my job more interesting. An example of this is how I’ve started writing timetable for the afternoon. With a change of activity every half an hour. It’s a small thing I can do, but it helps my mind focus and engage throughout the afternoon.

Unemployed…

The good news is, I have done 10 exercise days this month. And I did 8 at the end of last month… Which means I’m getting back into the habit after a very ‘lazy’ and busy summer. I’ve started listening to self help audio books from my audible alongside the exercise times so the hours feels right-proper productive. Still no Greek learning has taken place for a good few months and my Grudem’s bookmark remains on page 200-something. 

 The bad news is I am still unemployed. For those who don’t really know me…I chose to stop work with the Navigators officially after a year – despite them being a pretty awesome charity. Anyone off to Uni in UK at Southampton, Birmingham, Aston, Leicester, Manchester, Nottingham, Glasgow, Edinburgh or St. Andrews or maybe somewhere I forgot – you should look them out. Salvaged my faith in first year, them and the amazing rep at Birmingham. Anyway… Yep, not working with them anymore officially anyway. Still planning meetings, doing 1 on 1s,  and working with Student leaders – just passing the baton a bit more. Delegation.good word. Good idea.

The unemployed journey is difficult, slow and horrid. All you have is lots of free time, which you can’t enjoy because you gotta get a job. All the while a silent clock is tick tocking its way to a zero balance on your bank statement. Tick tock. Honestly things aren’t that bad, we got a few months financial cushion because of Gods superb provision in the last month! Still day to day is fairly painful.

Leave early with wife, get to uni – free WiFi for applications. 8am Morning £1 coffee from Starbucks with free refill for afternoon. Quiet time, journal, brt done by 9. Then application, email, application…  12 lunch with a 2 hour Netflix session. If I’m unemployed might as well enjoy a long lunch break. Good films on UK Netflix if your asking me (regarding Henry, Steve jobs and the firm) stay tuned for more…anyway then its back to applications before home around 5/6. Day well spent. 
Unlike normal work day, unemployed work has very little visible payback. Other than the job you get at the end. So it does feel like you are investing a lot of your time in things that don’t work out. I guess this frustration with my “work” is part of the sin curse: Gen 3:17-19. But it is difficult.

Ramblings…anyway there’s another icebreaker from a long silent blogging break. 

All that being said I have an interview next Monday! Please pray – its a job I would quite like…

Reps conference 1 arrival

Just arrived at the Navs Reps conference! Should be quite exciting as everyone here is passionate about making disciples of Jesus. My expectations include: being refreshed, getting to know some really inspiring people, hearing God’s subtle leading for the next season of life. Hopefully get some amazing resources and ideas to implement in the Brum ministry too!

A little nervous because I’m supposed to be leading the worship. But I’ve not had a chance to practice with the piano player and it seems I’m singing alone. (And I can often struggle to get the right key to start of with…) Not to mention there are lots of unfamiliar faces. So if you want to pray for me please pray for that. Thankfully I!m one of the youngest here, so I think I get a bit of wiggle room for nerves and mistakes. 

Here’s a pretty mundane picture of my room!

BRT – 2 Thessalonians

  1. 1.11 “With this in view, we always pray for you that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill by his power every good purpose of yours and every action stemming from your trust.” … Since I heard John Piper speak on this verse about a year ago, I have loved this verse. I wasn’t surprised that it stood out to me! Paul is praying for the believers, and praying that God’s power would accomplish every good purpose/resolution. I am a massive believer in resolutions and in 2015 and this year I’ve set out to read a book each week! I set myself targets in exercise. And I also make decisions about my approach to reading my Bible. These things are the good resolutions. And Paul is praying, and by doing so help us see that it is God’s power which enables us to fulfil this purposes. I am SO DEPENDENT on Christ and His power in my life! I am SO DEPENDENT on the prayers of His Church for my life. And yet, God sees this purposes/resolutions and action which stem from faith/trust in Him and He works to empower me! Wow! I love the Bible!
  2. 2.15-16 “Therefore, brothers, stand firm; and hold to the traditions you were taught by us, whether we spoke them or wrote them in a letter. And may our Lord Yeshua the Messiah himself and God our Father, who has loved us and by his grace given us eternal comfort and a good hope, comfort your hearts and strengthen you in every good word and deed.” Sometimes, reading the Bible is like soothing balm on a headache. This is one of those times. How can I unpack it well in a way that is concise? 
    • I am loved – by God the Father and Jesus the Messiah. I am loved by a Father whose love for His children is perfect. And loved by someone Who was willing to give up everything for me and lay down His life.
    • I have received comfort – which will last forever. Lately life has been quite difficult and I have felt quite isolated. Yet here I read that God has comforted me and meets the need of my heart. Providing a hope which is an anchor for my soul (Heb 6.19)!
    • God will strengthen me – in every good word and deed! When I feel tired, or too broken to be of any use to the people around me. Too weak to bless others – God is strengthening every feeble good word, every deed. God is blessing my words and actions as He did with the bread and fish to feed thousands. What seems to be my little, God is strengthening it. He is glorified, in my weakness.
  3. 3.8-9 This was a relevant passage because one of the options I’m pursuing next year is bi-vocational. So I may be working with the Navigators and the student ministry and trying to support myself financially with another job. Because I see Paul doing it in the Bible, I am encouraged by his example. But just because it’s here doesn’t mean it’s the only option available or that’s right for me. I’m still working it out.

 

BRT – 2 Corinthians

2 Corinthians is a great book, and a great friend & mentor who has had a massive impact on my life wrote a PhD dissertation looking a lot at passages in this book. So coming to it this time round, I was very conscious of expecting to find things related to Scott’s dissertation. However, God brought up different things to my attention.

  • 6.4-10 This is a part where Paul talks about the different way he commends himself to the Corinthian church. When I was reading this I stopped to make notes that he commends himself in three categories:
    • we commend ourselves by our” : Purity, Knowledge, Patience, Kindness, the Holy Spirit, Genuine Love, Truthfulness/honesty and by God’s power…
    • we commend ourselves through: use of Righteous weapons (either to advance or defend), being honoured & dishonoured, being praised & blamed, being considered deceptive & sincere, being unknown or famous.
    • we commend ourselves as : God’s Workers headed for death (by (v4): enduring troubles, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, overwork, lack of sleep and food.) yet alive, punished yet not killed, reason to be sad yet filled with joy, poor yet making many rich, having nothing yet having everything!

I think there is a lot in these verses. Particularly as I consider how I want to be recognised and commended. BY seems to be the things about them, where am I on this list? THROUGH seems to be their reputation and they commend themselves whether the reputation is good or bad! AS seems to be as people who are being inwardly transformed whilst outwardly wasting. These, particularly the last two, are so upside down to what the world around us values!

I know this first point is really messy, and difficult to follow, I’m sorry about that!

  • 10.17-18 : Simply put, I really like the connection between boasting about God and being recommended by God. I notice a theme now! There is so much to boast about God, that He created the universe is a pretty good place to start! May I boast more and more in God!
  • 13.6-7“But I hope you will realise that we are not failures…[but] we are not concerned with our appearing successful, but with your doing what is right, even if we appear to be failures.” I really like Paul’s attitude in all of this, he doesn’t naturally want to be considered failures but is willing to for the sake of others. It’s really like Jesus who despite being God, didn’t consider equality with Him something to be grasped at but made Himself nothing for our sake! I really want to be like this, and be willing to look like a fool or a failure for others – that they may love and worship God even more. Help me God become like this in my thinking and attitude! Amen. 

background-image-rel

i-face (1): Identity Foundation Truths

public-speaking-anxiety

My wife woke me up last night to tell me there’s a possibility I might be preaching at our home church in a few months. Apart from really loving preaching and feeling quite excited that I might actually be able to do it at our home church. (In the past I’ve only done it at churches we used to go to or at youth camps.) I also felt incredibly nervous. The church we are at, at the moment is very clever – not that the others aren’t – but most people there are graduates and the preaching is very expository and detailed. Whereas I’m used to using themes and blah blah blah…In short – I’m nervous and don’t feel too confident.

Even though at the moment preaching only seems a possibility. I got really nervous. And so this morning as part of my quiet time I lifted it to God and asked for Him to help me with confidence. I wanted to share a little seminar/talk/notes I got. The acronym is i-face (like iphone 😉 )

I – Identity (foundation truths). This is probably why I get so nervous about such things! I base a lot of my identity on how other people perceive me. Therefore if I do a “good” talk people will like me and if people like me then I am a precious person! At least, that’s the reasoning in my head. It’s an achievement & popularity based identity. In truth this is a form of idolatry, idolising myself and others – letting their opinion count more than Gods. The book of Ephesians is a great book to help us understand what God’s opinion of us is. Looking at Chapter 1 we see four foundation truths about ourselves

  1. V7 We are Forgiven – No matter what we’ve done wrong and what we should have done but didn’t do right, God forgives us and doesn’t count it against us. He can do this because Jesus died on the cross for our sins!
  2. V4&11 We are Chosen – Although a lot of people have spent a lot of time debating the finer details of what this means, simply it means God wants you on His team. You are good enough (because Jesus died for us on the cross) to be on God’s team. And if you are on God’s side, you have nothing to worry about.
  3. V5 We are Sons/Daughters – In the gospels Jesus unpacks this in many many ways. But one of my favourite is found in the Gospel of John (15.9) “just as the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.” Think about how much a perfect God loves His perfect Son, Jesus says here that that amount is the same for which He loves us! This is HUGE!!! (See: Rom 8:14-17, Gal 3:23-4:7)
  4. V12&14 We are instruments for his Glory! – God wants to use us to bring Glory to Himself…This should make us excited.

Therefore our Confidence has to start and be built on these foundation truths! Not on our appearance, achievements and popularity etc. But on what Jesus has done for us.

Because this is longer than I thought it would be I’ll post FACE up tomorrow.


Saying all this, believing these four foundation truths can be difficult especially in a world that does place value on us according to how much we earn, what grades we get, how good looking we are etc. Therefore a really helpful thing we can do is PRAY!!!

In the Gospels we have an account of a Dad whose son is possessed. The Father brings his son to Jesus and says: “But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us”. 

Jesus responds by saying: “If you can!… Anything is possible for the one who believes.” 

The Dad says, and I think in regards to struggling to believe the foundation ID claims we should pray like this: “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!”

Father God, I do believe that I am Your son and, I am forgiven, that you see me as Holy and set apart, that you use me for Your glory, that You love me and have Chosen me. And nothing will change this or separate me from Your love. I believe that Your Word over me is infinitely more important and significant than any other man (including myself), but please help me overcome my unbelief – particularly when I forget it! Amen

 

The “foolishness” of God

When I was a little boy I heard a really amazing sermon from a “cool” guy in the older youth group who got to preach! And because he was young I really looked up to him, and for some reason the sermon’s ingrained in my head – probably because it was so simple! He started off by going through some Bible Characters and talking about how ridiculous it was that God used them. It seemed “foolish”.

Moses, a killer who was afraid to speak, David a farm boy who couldn’t fit in armour…etc. And then He said: but God does some crazy things which, if we were God we probably wouldn’t do! Perhaps the most crazy thing He did was to send His son to die a painful death for us and be totally humiliated.

Today as I read 1 Cor I’m reminded of the sermon and even more AMAZED at my God!!!

The Messiah [sent me]…to proclaim the Good News – and to do it without relying on “wisdom” that consists of mere rhetoric, so as not to rob the Messiah’s execution stake of it’s power. For the message about the execution-stake is nonsense to those in the process of being destroyed, but to us in the process of being saved it is the power of God. Indeed, the Tanakh says,

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and frustrate the intelligence of the intelligent.”

Where does that leave the philosopher, the Torah-teacher, or any of today’s thinkers? Hasn’t God made this world’s wisdom look pretty foolish? For God’s wisdom ordained that the world, using it’s own wisdom, would not come to know Him. Therefore God decided to use the “nonsense” of what we proclaim as His means of saving those who come to trust in it. – 1 Corinthians 1.17-21 (Complete Jewish Bible – translation)

 

And God’s “weakness” is stronger than humanity’s “strength”. Just look at yourselves, brothers – look at those whom God has called! Not many of you are wise by the world’s standards, not many yield power or boast noble birth. But God chose what the world considers nonsense in order to shame the wise; God chose what the world considers weak in order to shame the strong; and God chose what the world looks down on as common or regards as nothing in order to bring to nothing what the world considers important; so that no one should boast before God.  – 1 Corinthians 1:25-29 (Complete Jewish Bible – translation)

 

Nothing truly original to post today – just the amazing work and word of God!

Jesus-on-the-cross-1

God provides people

At the moment I’m working through a really great book, by Robert Clinton, which looks at developing leaders. I’ve mentioned it before, but it’s been really helpful especially as I think about what to do next year. I wanted to share another thing which I’ve looked at recently. (I also want to be careful that I’m not giving away too much of the book and get in trouble!) He talks about how part of a leader’s job is to develop other potential leaders. And part of this is recognising what gifts they have, either natural abilities, acquired skills or spiritual gifts.

He mentions four methods or systems to help us identify where other people’s gifts are at. One of which is the Like-attract-like model, which I’d heard a bit about before. This is where a potential leader is drawn to another leader because they have similar gift sets. However the one which really gripped me when I read it earlier this week seems to work in the opposite way. (Like I said before he uses new terminology which some people find off-putting – but once you get over that hurdle it’s really helpful stuff!)

He calls it the Complementary Giftedness-Need Indicator Pattern, which basically describes how God brings people into a leader’s ministry who have real strength, passion, giftedness in the areas where the current leader might be lacking it. To stop myself summarising large chunks, and in an attempt to live up to when I said I wanted to be more personal I wanted to share how I’ve seen this at work this year.

One of my weaknesses as a Christian, is that I really really struggle to do evangelism or outreach. I mean I am intentional with my friendship and I try to talk about Jesus when I can, however when it is “cold-contact” like talking to strangers on the bus. I lack the confidence and passion to follow through. So God in His greatness brought a guy to Navigators this year – a student – who is highly passionate and active in Evangelism and reaching these people.

Apart from being incredibly humbling, that I get to be so refreshed and encouraged and learn – whenever we meet for one on ones. This has also provided opportunities for me and other students in the ministry to go and practice this gift with him. It’s great because otherwise the Brum Navs group would really be deficient in this area.

All of this makes me marvel at God’s commitment to building up His Church and that He is committed to using the different members of the Body to be His instruments in this great work!

f5d4e58339545c7d3c2b3e4bb3bb49e8

If you are leading, lets look for the people in our ministries or organisations who demonstrate gifts and passions where we lack them. Let’s get alongside them and be willing to learn. Chances are that God is using you in that situation to build up the person you are learning from. I reckon this is Iron sharpening Iron. In this way we can function more wholly.

As I ransack my mind for examples of this in the Bible:

  1. Moses and Aaron, Moses isn’t a great speaker (natural ability), so God provide Aaron who is.
  2. Paul and the 12 Disciples – Jesus spent time investing in 12 disciples, but none of them seemed to know the law (acquired skill) and the Jewish tradition like Paul did. (See his letter of Romans). So Jesus meets him on the road to Damascus and brought him into the team.
  3. Saul and his army facing Goliath (maybe this one is a stretch) but none of them seem to have the faith (spiritual gift) which David had. No one had the experience of seeing God fight on their behalf like David had when he had to fight lions to protect His herd. So God provides David.