Sunday Summary 8th November 2020 – I’m 26 now!

Time for another weekly round up.

My brother and I have birthdays 8 days apart, and so we managed to get in a family gathering before the UK started their second national lockdown. That means whisky round a fire pit, a lot of laughs and pulled pork burgers!

I was at work Monday and Tuesday and have been on Holiday since the 4th.

What I watched? – Wife and I don’t watch a lot of films, we prefer tv shows especially during “term time”, but whenever we’re on holiday we tend to take a film series to tackle. Last time it was Karate Kid. This week we’ve tackled the Christopher Reeve Superman films (1-4). The first three were pretty amazing, I’d watched them growing up so it was cool to re-visit them with an ‘adult’ perspective. Wife was new completely. We both loved the first three, and thought the 4th was pants. Feel like we’re developing a soft spot for 80s movies (loved Karate Kid, Rocky, and now Superman)

What I played? – Again, during term time I’m rarely in the mood for video games, even on the weekend. I like to go intense with gaming. And so five days off was a perfect opportunity to start a new game series. Gears of War. Previously had tackled the second one on co-op with my best friend. But decided I’d go for the 1st one – solo. Very proud of eventually defeating RAAM after about an hour and half of trying, completed on Hardcore difficulty and will be tackling the second game again next time.

What I read? – I’m now 100 pages into the 4th Wheel of Time book: Shadow Rising. Love these books, even if I have to use the glossary at the back to keep track of who is who.

How I spent my Birthday? Last day before UK lockdown, and wife and I went for a walk, picked up drinks at the local Costa, first thing in the morning and went for a walk round the park. Did some praying and reflecting on the year past. Re-vamped and updated my Personal Life Mandate (a vision document for my life) in the afternoon. Set some goals for my 26 year old self. Then we settled down for Superman I, with Pizza Hut takeaway.

Overall a fantastic week! Thanks to everyone who enjoyed it with me.

Genesis 4:1-26 Part 2: Faith is Demonstrated

Genesis 4 includes the story of Cain and Abel, the man who killed his brother. But there is a lot more going on in this passage than meets the eye. For starters, it is where we first start to really see the beginnings of faith in the human race.

Yes, Adam and Eve were supposed to have faith in God’s commands and goodness back in the garden. But they didn’t. We also saw a little of Adam’s faith in the previous chapter when he named his wife Eve, in response to the Promise of God [See: Where do we go from here?].

But in chapter 4, faith is beginning to spring up all over the place:

Eve’s Faith

It is so encouraging to see that Adam and Eve were not “lost causes”. They had learnt, over time, to turn back to God. In fact, they raised their children to follow God, even though they themselves had disobeyed Him.

As Chapter 4 opens, and closes, the faith of Eve is very much on display in the birth of her sons.

“With the help of the LORD I have brought forth a man…God has granted me another child in the place of Abel” (vv 1 & 25)

I believe that one of the reasons she thanks God for both Cain and Seth, is because she believes that through one of these children God will provide the Promised One (3:15).

Abel’s Faith

There are many explanations for why Abel’s offering was accepted whilst Cain’s wasn’t. One of the most convincing ones is rooted in Hebrews 11:4: “By faith Abel brought a better offering than Cain did. By faith he was commended as righteous, when God spoke well of his offerings.”

His offering was accepted because of his faith. A faith that still speaks today! (Heb 11:4b)

Cain’s Lack of Faith

Another reason to explain why Cain’s offering was not accepted was because of his lack of faith. We assume this because of the despair that emerges when his offering isn’t accepted.

When we fall short of God’s standards, It is faith that moves us to turn back to God. If however, we don’t live by faith, falling short will result in despair. We will groan that we are not good enough and not valuable to God. (In fact we are not good enough). But faith allows us to put our trust in God and receive His righteousness.

Cain’s lack of faith is seen his response to having his sacrifice rejected. But it is also seen in what happens next. When God punishes him for murdering his brother, Cain again falls into despair. “My punishment is more than I can bear”.

Even despite this, God continues to lavish grace and protection on Cain.

Then later on, we see Cain trying to make a name for himself by building a city (v17). One commentator noted the continuous verb, “Cain was then building a city”. And said that this mirrors the life of someone trying to earn salvation, rather than receiving it by faith.

Faith passed on: Adam and Eve to Abel, to Seth, to society

And yet Adam and Eve continue to have faith in God. And once they give birth to Seth they teach him too to lean on God. And so chapter 4 ends with the hope-filled phrase: “At that time people began to call on the name of the LORD” (v26)

One of the mysterious things about faith is that we can pass it on. This is how commands like the Great Commission are possible. We can go and make disciples of all nations because of our example and teaching of faith.

This is why Paul urges Timothy, ‘do not let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example to all the believers in speech, conduct, faith, love and purity’.

Yes, God does distribute a measure of faith to each of us (Rom 12:3), but we can go and model and encourage others to walk in faith. This is what we see Adam and Eve doing, and later Seth.

May we too seek to model faith well.

Sunday Summary – 13th September “Lockdown Holidays”

And so it comes to the end of a week-long holiday. Truth be told I’ve not been up to much. A lot of walking, reading, playing games and chilling out!

BBQ with long-lost Friends

My Dad is really getting his BBQ skills practiced this year. It’s odd how an international pandemic has probably resulted with more visits to my parents than before.

However, this time they also had round one of my oldest friends from when I lived in Portsmouth. We went to same school, have a lot of shared memories…and long story short, it’s been probably like 10 years since we saw each other (minus a brief catch up a year or so ago).

Anyway, I failed to take a photo, but it turns out we’d both shaved our heads during lockdown and so we had a surprisingly similar appearance!

We’ve still got lots to catch up on, but him and his wife have just moved to Birmingham for his work, so hopefully will get more opportunities to hang out, if we don’t get a second lockdown!

Walking in the Vale

There is a lovely area 10 minutes walking from our flat, it’s a little “student village”. It’s filled with these beautiful flats, in a massive park with a lake. At the moment, due to COVID, and summer holidays, there are no students. So, this week, I spent most days with a morning walk going round, praying, listening to an audiobook, reflecting on life. (Being all monk-like!) It’s been so lovely. The picture below is the view from one spot I spent ages sitting and enjoying.

Reading: Still going through the Wheel of Time book 3, but also picked up Spiritual Man (Watchman Nee) and finished The Courage to be Disliked this week.

Gaming: It seems there is so little time to game when I’m not on holiday. But this week has had me spending significant hours working through the second Tomb Raider game on the pc!

Editing: I’d intended to spend a large portion of this week editing my book. But, a) it turns out editing takes a lot longer than writing. (I spent about 4 hours on 1,000 words!) So I’m trying to work out how I can integrate the work in normal everyday life. And b) God bought up some stuff to work through which consumed a lot of time this week. I’ve alluded to it here: Identification with Christ.

Painful Splinters: In other news, this week saw two glasses broken in our kitchen. Clumsy! It was my luck to tread on a shard of glass on Monday, where we’d missed in our hoovering etc. Anyway, it took until last night for me to finally get it out. My foot was developing a nice dark blotch underneath the skin. So, took some tweezers to my foot and managed to yank it out! After much puss, bleeding and over-reacting, I got it! Very satisfying! I decided not to take a photo, or preserve the shard of glass. Unfortunately, it has set me a week back in terms of running. So will need to pick that up tomorrow!

Sunday Summary – 16th August “All these people!”

This week has been pretty sociable, it feels like we’re getting closer to something resembling “normal” but it is still such a far way off!

Whisky with a Friend – A couple of weeks ago I invited a friend to come and chill, sit in the garden and drink whisky. He was up for it and yesterday, he came bearing gifts of a usual junk food offering, and I poured out some of my Yamazaki whisky (purchased for myself as a reward for finishing my book’s first draft back in July!) We also managed to make some progress on our joint Dark Souls account, beating the Scaleless Dragon.

As an Amazon Associate, I can apparently earn money if you buy the whisky using this link: Yamazaki …if you fancy getting yourself a bottle!

Into work 2x – On a slightly less “fun” note, this week also saw me journey into the office twice. For those who don’t know, I’ve been working from home since the end of March, and last week was my first visit back. Went in again this week, twice! It seems we are slowly returning towards a state of “normal”. It was sad though, to think about how long it will be before all 6 of us are back in the office again at the same time. It may not happen if job changes happen. A good reminder to make the most of what you’ve got while you’ve got it!

Skype Old Friend – On Friday I Skyped “Zoomed” one of my friends from the student ministry I used to work with. He’s graduated now and working for a very cool company: Ninety. Which is all about helping businesses thrive and innovate. Sounds very interesting. It was so good to catch up, share life updates, and joke around. He was super-interested in my Bible study project, and it was the first time I’d really told someone what I was doing. It was also the first time he’s seen me with no-hair!

Family BBQ – Another family BBQ this Saturday. (Could get used to this!) My brother was up from London, and it was nice to be all together in the garden. Shame I didn’t take a photo really.

Side Hustle(s) – Wife and I are both tapping away at side-projects, she with her artwork and music, and me with my writing (book/blog) and creating resources for Churches. You can see her work here. Nevertheless, I have been so encouraged this week, by all the support and encouragement from fellow bloggers on WordPress. I wanted to include a massive ‘THANK YOU” to everyone who has visited this site or “liked” a post. (Especially: Mitch Teemley and Beauty Beyond Bones!) It really has meant a lot. I even made my first single penny this week from Wordads. Exciting times! But again, thank you to everyone who has supported this blog, liked or followed in the last week. I have been very encouraged.

Fight Club – Film of the week was Fight Club. (And I’m not supposed to talk about it.) So what I will say is that it has taken me soooooo long to actually watch, the wait was definitely worth it! I was surprised that I liked it so much, despite the first impression I had from the title and name. I was also surprised by how philosophical it was. A lot to like about this film – without giving any of it away.

Book Update – As I already mentioned above, I’m working on a book at the moment. About 45 minutes a day. I’ve finished a second draft, and now the manuscript is with a friend from Church to “look over” and give me feedback. This is expected at the end of August – very excited. This week, I made some progress on a LinkedIn learning course about editing.

Sunday Summary – 9th August: “First time since March…”

It’s time for a weekly review and highlight reel. This last week has been an altogether good week, if slightly uneventful.

1. Yesterday I went to my parents house for a BBQ. It’s the first time I’d been round since March and it was so good to see flesh and blood family, rather digital versions on them over skype. (Brother was on skype the whole time with us, laptop on a table in the garden). Dad cooked a phenomenal BBQ meat feast and I stuffed my face. So so good. It almost felt like back to normal, almost.

2. This week also saw me visiting my office for the first time since March. It was great taking the 30 minute walk into work. I’m sure the novelty will wear off in a couple of weeks, but for now it was nice to be heading somewhere with purpose. There had been a lot of safety training before going in, so I was well prepared to deal with all the “COVID-Juice” dangers.

3. This week I watched We Were Soldiers, a Mel Gibson war film, that blew me away. It’s made by the same people who did Hacksaw Ridge and so comes with a lot of intense war scenes. I would highly recommend it (if you haven’t got a weak stomach). The film is filled with moments where soldiers are repeatedly making split second decisions to sacrifice themselves for someone else, an amazing leadership speech by Braveheart man and such human courage in the face of overwhelming fear. Incredible. One moment that stood out to me is in the midst of chaos and battle, Gibson stands in the middle and just looks around at the battle. He takes a good 20 seconds to evaluate the entire situation, the camera rotates all around him, and then with the perspective of stillness he makes a crucial decision. Incredible.

4. Online prayer meeting for a couple planning to go to Yemen next year as missionaries. One of the things I like about these online prayer meetings is the spontaneous calls to prayer. For forty minutes the couple set us individual prayer points and ask three people randomly to pray into it. It really does keep me on my toes. I often find myself urgently listening to God’s Spirit to give me words. This couple are dear friends, and the guy, is my partner in reading through the Bible. We call most Sundays to share our top three points from whatever book we’re reading that week.

(A side thought I have is the relative apathy with which we tend to have towards Christians starting “normal jobs”. How rarely do we pray months in advance for them, to prepare them for the workplace. Surely this is a mission field too?!) I think as Churches we need to practice sending people into new jobs, new seasons of life, with the same vigor and prayer as we send missionaries. For every Christian is called to make disciples, to represent Christ and be Salt and Light to the world.

5. Finally, I made an expensive purchase decision this week towards my Bible Study project. For those who don’t know: I’ve decided that I want to prayerfully study the Bible, all of it, taking my time to examine closely every passage. You can read more about it here, and my first Genesis post will be tomorrow. Just click the ‘Bible’ button at the top of this page to view all my posts.

When I first started this study project, I was using an ESV study Bible, alongside a commentary series ‘The message of…’. But after two weeks and only covering Genesis 1-2:3, I had already been significantly impacted by the Word of God. I decided that the reward of reading other books, paled in comparison. So I also got my hands on a Matthew Henry Commentary and an NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible. And wow! I have been flawed! I know this project is going to take a while, and I am so happy to be doing this thoroughly. Fortunately the Word of God is active and so I feel like God has been speaking to me new things with every passing. It has been so exciting.

My Bible Study Set is evolving now.

The Invitation of Genesis

If we were heading out on a plane journey, we’d be accelerating up the runway and heading towards the skies. This is the last introduction the ESV study Bible has before Genesis 1:1. Such anticipation for the actual word of God, it’s a little weird… For years my morning routine has been mostly simply reading through words of Scripture (taking notes and prayer), so to have to read something else before I get there is really making me hungry for the actual word.

Before I delve into this introduction, I just wanted to acknowledge a feeling that I’ve had most days since beginning. Privilege. There’s a lot of talk about privilege these days, and I know for certain that I am fortunate. I have access to the Bible in several translations, with countless amounts of tools and resources with which to mine it’s contents. I have a beautiful room and flat to sit and study in. I can afford a fancy journal to record my prayers in, and numerous study tools. Even quality coffee to drink, keeping my body and mind alert so my battle against laziness is made that much easier! I am privileged to study God’s word in this way. Especially when I consider the state of many Christians around the world, who may only have scraps of His Words to treasure, and no place to read them accept in a dark room by candle for fear of being discovered and persecuted for their faith in Jesus.

Here are three things that stood out to me from the introduction to Genesis:

1) Invitation to be agents of reconciliation. One of the themes of Genesis, is family brokenness and restoration. We find siblings killing each other (Cain and Abel), rivalling and tricking each other (Jacob & Esau), competing against each other in unhealthy ways (Rachel and Leah), selling siblings into slavery (Joseph). But, in the midst of this, we also find the invitation for family members to be part of the repairing and healing of that same brokenness.

I love how Esau was able to forgive his brother Jacob, and how that this was probably the example Joseph treasured and enabled him to do the same for his brothers. It makes me think of my own family and close relationships, may I seek to be a ‘peacemaker’.

2) Invitation to read according to the purpose of the author. There was quite a bit of attention given on how to understand Genesis in light of scientific discoveries and theories in the world today. One point it made was that too often we expect Genesis to give answers to questions that it is not trying to answer. It said that the book of Genesis, unlike God, is not omniscient and it only tells us certain things (and what it tells us about those things are true).

One of the purposes of the book of Genesis, was to allow a community of nomadic shepherds to celebrate the creative goodness of God. In this way (when the focus of science is to understand and describe the world that God created,) there is no need for conflict between the Bible and scientific work! Only, all the more cause for worship!

This is a humbling thing to say, it means I need to come to Genesis not with the purposes and lessons I want to learn. But with a heart that is open to receiving the lessons God wants to give me. I may come to my Bible reading saying, “right then God, today I want wisdom for this specific situation at work”…(I may in fact get it!), but instead I need to come ready to receive what God has in store for me. It makes “quiet times” more about His agenda than mine. I like that as a foundational attitude moving forward!

3) Invitation to consider the contingencies. There was a small little sentence tucked away, which stood out to me. An approach that asks the question: “what might have happened in this story if x had done differently, what should/could have happened?” I think this question will help me apply the text to my own life and attempts to walk in obedience and become more Christ-like.

Introducing a new highlighting colour to my notes: Orange for titles and yellow for the things that most stuck out.

To God be the Glory!

[After note – Guys I am coming to the end of Genesis 1 today, and the posts we have in store I am really excited to be sharing next week. On Monday we’ll be delving deep into the actual words of God. Hang tight!]