An Overview of the Bible

In case you haven’t heard, I’m studying the Bible!

If you’ve got yourself an ESV study Bible, you’ll notice there’s about 50 odd pages of introductions before you actually get to Genesis 1:1. Being an enthusiastic person, who struggles to do things half-heartedly. I’m reading through the introductions and studying them too (a slight distraction).

But whilst this may seem like a slight distraction, it is actually a rewarding activity. The introductions are filled with Bible passages and quotes and are providing a good overview of what to expect, how to use the beefy-book, and some fun facts along the way.

For example, did you know that whenever the Old Testament uses the word ‘LORD’, all capitals, it’s because it’s representing the four letter word ‘YHWH’ (which is called the ‘tetragrammaton’) and is read ‘Adonay’?! What fun?! #slowlybecominganerd!

But that’s because God is so Holy the Old Testament writers wanted to honour Him and distance themselves from His holiness out of respect. Awesome! I think that alone will spice up my studying. Maybe I’ll pause when I read that word and think about God’s holiness, every now and then.

Anyway, another introduction was called an overview of the Bible, and I wanted to share my notes from that here:

I highlighted my three favourite things…apologies for any zooming you’ll have to do to make anything out of the picture.

Essentially my three top things about this article are:

1) The Bible shows us that God has an ultimate and unified plan for all of history. And that plan is: to unite all things to Christ (Eph 1:10) and to do so for His glory (Eph 1:12). I love that. It’s all about Jesus.

2) It talked about how the Old Testament uses shadows, prefigures and types to demonstrate Christ. I loved this, but I knew it already. What I’d not really considered though, was that if we are in Christ, we part of this as well. For example, Jesus preeminently fulfil’s the OT symbol of the temple, by become God’s dwelling place, but we also become God’s dwelling place!!!!!! Likewise, Jesus fulfil’s the OT’s mediator-role of Priest, and become the True High Priest, but we too become a kingdom of priests!!!! Wow, what an honour! He truly is the Firstborn among many brother’s and sisters!

3) The Old Testament saints reaped the benefits of Christ’s work, before He had done it, for their benefit. This is an awesome thought! Moses was able to receive the 10 commandments because of the same grace extended to him as we received. It’s concepts like this that make me awe filled at an awesome God. I see it Hebrews 11, when it talks about how the OT characters looked forward in faith to our age when Christ fulfils the promised salvation. Mind blowing thoughts!

Looks like studying the Bible will be fun.

To Him alone be the glory!

Dismantle Your Glory

Strange title for a blog post right?

There is a well known story in the Bible of a “sinful woman” who breaks a jar of perfume (probably a years wages), and wet’s Jesus’ feet with it, using her hair! It’s found in Luke 7:36-50. In the story there are onlookers who are judgemental. They criticise both Jesus and the woman for this extravagant act of affection.

However, the Son of God responds with gratitude towards the lady, and rebuke towards the onlooker.

This story has been on my mind and filling up my prayers for over a week. (I’ll probably spread it all over two blog posts.)

Firstly though, I had never made the connection between this story and the odd verse in 1 Corinthians 11:15 which talks about a woman’s hair being for her glory. Clearly, in this time and culture hair was important to a woman’s reputation, value and dignity.

So it is even more astonishing that we have a woman, not just extravagantly worshipping Jesus with a jar of expensive perfume, but also dismantling her own glory to do so. How humbling!

I can’t honestly say that I’ve worshipped Jesus with such abandon, such cost: material or reputational. (Thanks T. Tenney for pointing out this link between two passages!)

But we can also pick up a few points (and questions) about what this moment in Jesus’ life teaches us about worship.

  1. When we worship, we ought to be giving God our best. The woman in this story clearly does this, she breaks the most precious item in honour of Jesus, and surrenders her hair (her glory) for the glory of Another.
  2. In our Churches, do we elevate the anointed or the anointer? What do I mean? Well, it seems that in most churches we put on a pedestal those who have amazing gifts, confidence and charisma or even good looks(!), those we consider “anointed”. I think this story teaches us, that it is not the gifted – or the “anointed” – we need to look at, but rather those who are anointing Jesus with their everything. These are the people who should set the pace, the standard for our worship – not necessarily the most gifted with the guitar.
  3. Can we cope with such worship in our midst? The onlookers in this story, certainly couldn’t! When we are around people with such reckless abandon, we can feel uncomfortable. We might even label those people as “too passionate”, “too heavenly minded”, “too emotional” etc. Oh, that we would be convicted by our lukewarm attitude to worship. Jesus deserves our best. And worship is a sacrifice (see also Romans 12:1-2).

In the gospel of Matthew (26:12) it says that the true worshipper did this in preparation for Jesus’ burial. I wonder, if Jesus recalled this moment of honour and worship while He hung on Calvary’s cross? Did it strengthen His resolve, to know the love and freedom and forgiveness He would be purchasing for ever-thankful souls?

Discipleship – Multiplying life

img_0493There we go, there’s a nice, big, blocky, pixilated photo for you all to fix your eyes upon. I’m sure we’ll all enjoy zooming in and out of that with the tiny smartphone screens. Thanks for stopping by.

I wanted to share the contents of a chapter I read today from Mike Breen’s book: Building a Discipling Culture. Now I have some bones with this book, bones to pick, things I don’t like. And since it’s much easier to criticize and complain, I think I’ll start with that. 1) It’s pricey, pricey for a book. You’ll be dishing out close to £20 for a book < 300 pages. 2) I find the Bible examples very loose supporters for the ideas and concepts this guy/organisation are introducing. 3) The number of shapes used for diagrams, borders on the ridiculous.

So there’s 3 whinges. Here are three positives 1) I’m a sucker for shapes and diagrams, 2) the concepts are pretty good and probably biblical (but even if not,  they feel like reasonable common sense and the writers seem to have a hefty bit of experience and know-how). 3) Who can put a price on knowledge, knowledge is power and all that, so it’s an investment. You can always buy it second hand.

Along the way reading this, I’ve been taking notes and journaling a bit through my thoughts. Another benefit of reading with others, is that it slows you (/me) down and forces you (/me) to actually soak, reflect, think about the content beyond mere word-to-eye consumption.  Yum.

So here, in this picture which I presented you all with, we have an example of a diagram. This one is called: The Square. I think my notes around it make it pretty self explanatory. But here’s some key points/context:

  1. It’s about making disciples.
  2. It looks at 2 journeys, 1) that of the Disciple D1, D2, D3 & D4 and 2) that of the leader L1, L2…
  3. At each stage of the journey the Disciple and the Leader are supposed to take different postures in their relationship with one another. E.g. at the beginning the leader is High Direction and Low Consensus (in other words, leader says jump – disciple jumps), but towards the end the leader delegates work to disciple, trusts they’re competent and invites their advice.

So, now that that’s out the way…the real reason you’ve tuned into this fantastic blog. My opinion. What did I like about this? Why am I sharing it?

  1. I was really struck by how this diagram/concept reveals my failings and inabilities in leadership. One  of my questions to myself at the bottom of the page, reflects this. “Where am  I stuck? What are my next steps to overcome”.
    • Stage 2: Leader to be available for the Disciple in the discouragement. To be in the midst of the struggle and provide Grace (aka – reminding this is God’s work not ours, we are partners God will work through) and Vision (aka – reminding why the cost is so high, holding out the why and the hope.)
      • How do I move forward? – Take time to listen to the discouragement of others/myself and apply Grace and Truth. [Journaling activity]
    • Stage 3: Leader encourages journey towards intimacy not novelty. I get so impressed with novelty in Christianity (although I pretend I’m not). Not the novelty of emotional experiences and conferences – although I did at one point – but of books, techniques/disciplines and sermons. These are all good things, but they don’t compare to knowing Christ.
      • How do I move forward? – Spend more time promoting/modelling my walk with God, instead of the latest book, podcast or talk I’ve listened to. The quiet times, the practicing presence, the friendship with Jesus.
  2. As a disciple, and someone who has been lucky enough to have had several key mentors/(or as Clinton might call them “Divine Contacts”), in my life throughout my teenage years. I was able to go round the square and think through how each mentor/rabbi/teacher, discipled me in various ways. I’ve initialled them on the picture
    • AG – the importance of God’s presence, journaling, heart for worship and leading it,
    • L&S – being invested in, music/worship leading training, training for ministry skills, being known/significant, heart for world mission and supernatural, heart for holiness.
    • SB – techniques/disciplines for spiritual formation (journaling, Bible read through, reading), training leaders (like-attracts-like), importance of weakness for Discipleship.
  3. This book also challenged me to review the legacy of the relationships I had as a disciple of Jesus-loving followers, (as an imitator of Jesus-imitators!)… Where did each one “drop me off” on this square? Which areas do I need to grow in? With those who currently influence my walk with God and journey with Jesus, where are we at?

There we go, for those who enjoy lists and sub-lists, this was the post for you. Hope this is helpful and encourages you in discipleship to Jesus. I also hope this tool sparks again the challenge to walk in obedience of the Great Commission. (However you go about it!)

Systematic Theology 10: The Knowability of God

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Forcing myself to get this up and posted. Thanks to everyone who ‘liked’ the previous post – not that I’m doing this for the approval. Because that would be vain of me 😉 and we all know that is not a pitfall battle for me! ;P But, seriously, it is actually encouraging to get the likes, especially on such a mammoth task as this.

Chapter 10, part 2 of 11 chapters on the Doctrine of God. And I am feeling pretty motivated to get it finished by end of February. That, is a tall order. But it’s worth setting targets.

So, if the previous post/chapter was trying to explain how we can know that God exists. This chapter seems to be building on it, can we really know God and how much of Him can we know. In short, we can know a lot about God, but not all there is (because He’s infinite!). We can know specific things about Him, but not the complete depths of those specific things. Not only can we know things about Him, but we can also know Him as a Person.

What did I like about this chapter?

  1. We can never fully understand God! He is so big, so infinite, so deep and wide we’ll never know too much or know completely. Even in Heaven when sin isn’t affecting us. The Bible is clear: God’s vastness is not fully comprehensible, partly because of sin, but also partly because of His greatness! (Grudem acknowledges an argument against this rooted in 1 Cor 13.12 “now I know in part, than I shall understand fully“….But he says the phrase “know fully” is simply an attempt to translate the word epiginosko, which suggest deeper or more accurate knowledge. Simply looking at Psalm 145.3 and other verses like this should clear up confusion. ‘the passages…attribute God’s incomprehensibility not to our sinfulness but to His infinite greatness p.151)… This makes it fantastic for someone who has a intellectual spiritual pathway to God, like me (!), to know that I can keep studying God’s word and meeting with Him and never get bored! Furthermore, it means that there will very likely be things about God that every other Christian will be able to teach me. This keeps me humble and reminds me to be teachable!
  2. I get excited that not only can we know about Him, like a superhero and famous leader, but we can also get to know Him. Real personally, He is our Abba. In fact, we’re told we should boast that we know Him. We are encourage in Scripture to boast that we know God. How awesome is that! God is my Father, I speak to Him on a daily basis! He knows me, and I know Him! This is amazing! It is also a challenging reminder, whenever my study is invested more in knowing about Him than actually knowing Him personally. May my study always be centered and rooted in prayer!
  3. Finally, even though I can’t know God fully, I can know Him truly. I know that He is love (1 John 4.8), light (1 John 1:5), Spirit (John 4.24) and Righteous (Rom 3.26). I know that He loves the world and has made me. I know that He works all things together for my good. I may not know everything, but I do know that He does. He reveals Himself to me through scripture, nature and His Spirit and I get to respond.

 

 

 

Isaiah (2): Justice and Righteousness

In order to complete this section I used Biblegateway to find all the passages where Righteousness and Justice were mentioned and then did a limited topical Bible study on these sections.

Before going into the study I want to talk about the connection between worship and justice mentioned in Isaiah 1. These verses didn’t come up in the gateway search, but I think they capture an important theme within Isaiah, that is, that true worship is connected to justice. In chapter 1, God condemns the “multitude of sacrifices”, saying that they are meaningless and that He takes no pleasure in them. Despite them being the very sacrifices commanded in the Torah. His reasoning behind the accusation is given in verses 16-17, namely, that Justice has been neglected. Throughout Isaiah, the sins of God’s people are unpacked and the ways in which they have not sought justice are revealed. Justice is not just a supplement to worship, it is a foundation. In chapter 33 Isaiah again connects God being exalted with His Justice and Righteousness (33.5).

How are Righteousness and Justice used?

God will use them to reign (9.7) as should a good leader (32.1). These are more than tools, they are values for the leader and they should be intertwined with every decision.

They are used as a plumb line, as a standard of measurement (28.17). In those times an easy way to find a measurement of depth or straightness was to put a weight on a string/rope and let gravity work – it would be used in architecture mostly. God wants His city/kingdom to be built with the measuring line of righteousness and justice.

Finally God wants them used whether it is convenient or difficult, His people should always be operating in righteousness and justice. It is not a seasonal or circumstantial value. This is demonstrated when Isaiah writes that ‘The Lord’s justice will dwell in the desert, his righteousness in the fertile land.’ (32.16). These values are not a whether it “feels right” thing.

What demonstrates that they are being met:

I want to answer by sharing two signs that Righteousness and Justice are being carried out, and then one sign that it is not. Firstly, when these Kingdom qualities are being acted upon decisions will be made in favour of the poor and needy (11.4). In other words, God’s people will act on behalf of the weaker. We see this as a Kingdom sign in Paul’s letter to Corinth as he commands that our use of knowledge and practices should always accommodate to those who are weaker (1 Cor 8). Secondly, when Righteousness and Justice are carried out God’s people will walk in obedience to His ways (51.1), in other words His commands will be carried out. If Justice and Righteousness are a river, they will feed the trees that bear fruit of obedience, such as children honouring their parents, tithing, no idolatry.

One of the clear indicators that Righteousness and Justice are not being met is violence and cries of distress (5.7). Violence usually stems from anger, which is a logical response to injustice. Furthermore anger that is not practiced righteously will result in violence towards another man; this is counted by the Righteous One commanding that we turn the other cheek. Cries of Distress bring us back to the language of Egyptian Slavery, when God heard their cries and acted on their behalf. When Righteousness and Justice are not carried out we can be sure God will hear and act in response and rescue.

Obviously God’s abundant blessing awaits those who walk in Righteousness and Justice. However, this is not always a clear indicator of a nation in Righteousness and Justice, since Babylon enjoys seasons of blessing but not because they are righteous, but because God is raising them up against an unrighteous people.

Choose Worship

aston-webb-landscapeI want to praise my God. Publicly, not for my benefit, but because He has blessed me richly. I am married to a beautiful woman, who loves God and is actively pursuing His calling on her life, who writes fantastic music and spurs me on in my faith. We live in a fantastic apartment, and have never failed to pay bills – even when I was supported by God’s people as an income, even when I was unemployed… I have an amazing day-job, working alongside amazing people. Every morning I walk across a beautiful campus, with buildings, fields and sights that are quite literally: stunning. I get to preach at least once a month. I lead a ministry focused on discipleship and meet with amazing people who are willing to let God invade their lives in increasing doses. I am receiving training that will be useful whatever career I end up pursuing. We have a vicar who cares for us, not just as volunteers, but as a couple, as individuals with individual callings and gifts. We are part of a growing home group, full of honest and exciting people.

I often forget this, because I have ambitions, hopes and dreams that are never satisfied – that always want more. Whilst some might glamorize these emotions, (“hope and dreams – they help us strive for excellence and to express who we were made to be”) I recognize them as coming from ingratitude and jealousy. I want more. I want to have achieved more. I want my name to be greater than it is. I want more recognition, more status. So many countless – selfish ambitions. The symptoms – frustration, bitterness, dissatisfaction…AKA: SIN… The antidote? PRAISE!!! Gratitude. Humbly admitting that I deserve death. And I have life. Everything else is a blessing.

So I might not have the networks others have, the status and platforms I’d want. But God has given me what I can handle, I will be faithful, grateful and worshipful with this.

Fix your eyes on Jesus (3): When we don’t know what to do.

Turn with me, if you can to 2 Chronicles 20. If you’re a time free person, try reading from verses 1-30. It should take a couple of minutes….Done? It’s my feeling that most Christians don’t read their Bible everyday. Not that it’s a legalistic requirement to being a Christian, I know that the early church didn’t have “Bibles” as we know them today. And for at least half of Christianity’s lifespan most Christians were illiterate. But hey! We should be wise stewards of what we got, right?

If you didn’t read it, couldn’t whatever, you’ll know that this is a story. The good guys, lead by a man called Jeho-sha-phat, are surrounded by bad guys. The situation is dire. And so what do the people of Judah (good guys) do? They come together to seek God.

Good idea from the good guys.

Half way through their nation-wide-prayer-meeting. The King says this one line which gets me every time.

We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on You.

BAM!

How often could we find ourselves praying those 13 words!? What a useful prayer. What a humble prayer. What a simple prayer.

“God I don’t know what courses to study for A-level, but my eyes are on you. God I don’t know what Uni/college to go to, but my eyes are on you. God I don’t know what job I should be going for, who I should marry, if I should date her, if I should stay or go, BUT my eyes are on you.” BAM! Bam! BAM!

It seems to me, the younger you are the more decisions you have, as you get older the decisions get less frequent. But we all have to make big decisions, or at least decisions that seem proper big to us at the time. What does this prayer teach us? We are allowed to not know what to do, and the best solution is to come before God seeking Him…To fix our eyes on Jesus.

Often when I do this, I don’t get an answer. But I do get reassurance that He will be with me whatever. That He loves me, and has a plan for me, that He knows me and is good. That He is guiding my steps.

Aslan, no, of course He’s not safe!! ….but He is good.

And all of a sudden, I’m out upon the water. In a place I would never be with my eyes off of Jesus.

Jehoshaphat, decided in the end to go out into the desert with an army of music players all singing worship to God. And God took care of the bad guys.

Fix your eyes on Jesus and worship.

God, I don’t know what to do, but my eyes are on You”.

Fix your eyes on Jesus (1): Get over their pride.

Thou shalt not lean too much on your scheduled blog posts…they eventually will run out and you’ll have to write more. Lots more. Build up a stockpile, and then sit back for the next couple of weeks until you’re confident your creative juices have long enough to get running again. Or you can try doing them as an when you “feel like it”. Good luck. Been there, done that. No, a sturdy stockpile that’s the solution. Anyway, what was I going to say… Oh yes. For those out there who are bored of the Systematic Theology posts, apologies, and CONGRATULATIONS, the next three are separate. For those who are only interested because there is theology – of the systematic breed. Don’t worry I’m not backsliding. No, I’m rambling. On with the show!

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Question: Do you have the humility to worship God when you’re not the worship leader?

I mean all out worship, like really go for it. Like you would up front. Usually when you’re “leading the worship” you’re the most passionate one in the room. Why? It doesn’t really matter here. The point is, will you give God more ‘x, y and z’ when you’re the ‘center of attention’ or when you’re brother in Christ is? (I know worship is about being Christ centered anyway) But I’m writing to the “worship leaders” here – myself included – and those who struggle with pride – again guilty. The people who, when they’re not leading worship, calling the shots, teaching, running the seminar, preaching, etc, when their not the star. Do they give God their all? Or do they reserve a part of themselves to criticize and critique? Do they reserve a part of their mind, heart and strength, to resist and tell God, themselves and others, that they’d do a better job.

That’s probably enough there to convict a few. Myself included. So I’ll move on.

Another one of the reasons I don’t give God my all when I’m not the W.L or Leader (in general) is because I perceive pride in the person who is leading in that moment. “Man, look at their pride, I won’t worship God while they’re so proud. I won’t worship God when they have that arrogant attitude.” And then, I tell myself I’m in the right for not submitting to they’re ego – for not encouraging them in sin! Aren’t I amazing.

At the end of the day, I chose to not give God worship – because I’m petty and proud. And I will get so caught up in someone else’s sin and shortcomings (whatever they might be) and use that as my excuse to disobey God, to not worship Him and to criticize a member of His bride.

Congratulations. Sin has crippled you  .

Solution. Fix your eyes on Jesus. Who gave His all for you – a proud, arrogant, blinded, sinner. That while you were still dead in your trespasses, He died for you. Have a read of Philippians 2. Read of Christ’s humility and how that should affect your relationship with proud worship leaders.

Stop judging, and in Grace celebrate that God uses sinners to lead sinners in worship. Marvel at His mercy, that He takes people as they are and uses them, however broken. And let that fuel your whole-hearted worship.

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