Priority Matrix and Mission

I’ve read my fair amount of productivity, motivation, self help, self-organisation books. I’ve listened to a fair amount of training. And one of the things that comes up frequently is the Priority Matrix:

I think it’s self explanatory, it’s a tool that helps you prioritise a busy schedule.

Well, yesterday I had a bit of a yahoo moment – as I made a connection in my mind: The Gospel Mission is both “urgent” and “important” .

The great commission, to make disciples of all nations, is urgent. We don’t know when Christ will return. We don’t know when our lives will end. But we do know that the time we have is short and so we need to make the most of every opportunity.

But the great commission, is also important. Souls are at stake. God’s Kingdom is so significant, requests for its eminence are top of list in the Lord’s Prayer. The fact that it comes post-resurrection, when all authority in heaven and earth had been given to Jesus, demonstrates it’s importance!

Why is it then that our whole lives do not orientate around the mission of God? Is it because we don’t think it is urgent, we don’t think it is important?

In my job, when I have a task that is both urgent and important, I tend to drop everything. My mind is filled with problem solving the job, I’m talking about it with others, brainstorming solutions. I’m even praying about it.

I understand there is a caveat. We don’t want to “burn out” by “over working”, and not stopping. His burden is light and His yoke is easy. We also shouldn’t worry about anything…etc. But on the other hand, why is it we are so okay to “burn out” and “over work” on other tasks, but not this one?

I wonder what it would look like if a group of five Christians took the Great Commission as the most urgent and most important task in their lives, for even a week? I have a feeling, with five Christians praying, brainstorming, dropping everything, and “doing it now” much ground would be advanced for the Kingdom of God.

A few questions to reflect:

  • What do I need to drop right now, to focus on the Mission of God
  • Who can I partner with in this Mission
  • What specific areas can I be praying for
  • What are my next steps

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out you own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good please.

Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fail in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world. Holding fast to the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Chirst that I have not run in vain or laboured in vain.

Yes, and if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.

Finally, for those who would like more understanding about what the Mission of God entails, I would highly recommend the textbook: The Mission of God’s People by Wright. To summarise in one sentence: the mission is: to be a blessing to the nations.

Systematic Theology 7: The Four Characteristics of Scripture (3) Necessity

Fun fact an easy way to remember how to spell Necessary is: Never Eat Cheese Eat Salad Sandwiches And Remain Young. Necessity is only changing the last three letters.

In this chapter we’re continuing our study of the four characteristics of scripture. We’ve already covered Authority (& Inerancy), Clarity and now [Never eat…]cessity.

The Necessity of Scripture means that the Bible is necessary for knowing the gospel, for maintaining spiritual life and for knowing God’s will, BUT it is not necessary for knowing something about God’s character.

Notice how this definition gives us three things we need the Scripture for, and one thing we don’t.

Necessary for Knowledge of the Gospel – This is mostly justified from Romans 10:13-17. Which reasons that in order to be saved we need to call on the Lord’s name, but in order to do that we need to believe in Him. In order to believe in Him, we need to hear about Him.

In this way one must read the gospel or hear it told to them in order to be saved. I have written about this elsewhere, in: “what about Jesus-dreams”. Where I wrestled with this Doctrine, on the basis of the stories I’d heard where people have had dreams/visions about Jesus and become Christians without the Bible.

Necessary for Maintaining Spiritual Life – Again, this is mostly justified by Matthew 4:4 where Jesus quotes from Deuteronomy “Man shall not live on bread alone”. But I guess we could also use 2 Timothy 3:16, where is says that all Scripture is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.

Necessary for certain knowledge of God’s will – We may have some knowledge of God’s will without it, but certain knowledge is different. Even if we could conceive a way for God’s justice and mercy to be reconciled, we wouldn’t have enough certainty on it for it to save us.

He has not revealed everything in the scriptures, obviously there is no knowledge of nuclear physics etc, but we do have enough that we may know His will (Deuteronomy 29:29).

From a philosophical point of view, the Bible is necessary for certain knowledge about anything. Because either we know everything (which we don’t). Or we have the words of Someone who knows everything and who never lies.

HOWEVER:

The Bible is NOT necessary for knowing that God exists (or some of His attributes) – The Bible tells us that the heaven’s declare His glory (Psalm 19:1), that rain and fruitful seasons are signs of God’s blessing (Acts 14:16-17) and that God’s invisible qualities have been made known to all so that no one is without excuse (Romans 1:19-21).

Wayne Grudem makes a distinction between “general revelation” and “specific revelation”. Whereas general revelation is available to all as a result of God’s general grace to all people, specific revelation is what God has specifically made know through the Scriptures. (see notes below for more detail).

The Bible is NOT not necessary for knowing something of God’s character or moral laws – Therefore we are still guilty of sin even if we never hear the gospel (Romans 1:32, 2:14-15). The law has been written on our hearts.

This doctrine should make us inspired and challenged to proclaim the gospel as Romans 10 reminds us: How can they call on One they have not heard about, and how can they hear unless someone tells them!”

Tuesday Tools: Take the Initiative

I recently read through the Book of Jonah and one of the things that struck me was the complete lack of initiative on Jonah’s part. For those who don’t know, Jonah is the man who God told to go somewhere and preach, who then refused, got eaten by a fish and then spewed out and given another chance to obey God.

So where is Jonah’s lack of initiative? Firstly, it is God who tells him to preach. He doesn’t see the need, and if he does, he has been ignoring it til now. Secondly, in an attempt to flee God’s will he joins a ship heading in the opposite direction. A storm comes and all the sailors are trying to work out a solution. Jonah is burying his head in a pillow when they ask him to help.

Rather than immediately explain that the storms are probably here because he’s disobeying God, he lets the sailors draw lots (in the middle of a storm)…only then (when he is found out) does he explain. Even then its the minimum amount of information. At every point Jonah is hesitant and reluctant, every time he is waiting for someone or something to initiate for him. Be it God, a storm, a lot draw, a fish, a plant to be provided, an immature attitude to be corrected…

Thankfully, the Bible goes on to tell of a God who is not so reluctant, or stagnant, who does take the initiative to rescue us (- even while we were still sinners!)

I found this table produced by John Maxwell, it summarises why we fail to take initiative, perhaps you can relate (I know I can):

But initiative isn’t just a useful approach for living the Christian life. It is also a great benefit in many other areas.

1) Building Friendships – Over the last few weeks, I have taken the initiative to plan getaways with several groups of friends, and a couple of meet ups. I have been so surprised how eager people are for meeting. Likewise, another friend recently took the initiative for meeting with me. It is an amazing feeling when a friend makes the first move. It communicates value, both to me and to the friendship.

2) Exercise – One of the reasons I don’t struggle to exercise regularly is because I take the initiative. I don’t wait for motivation to strike, I just start lifting. Even when I don’t feel like it! Often, it is only when I have started that the mood actually “takes me”. This also applies to studying, reading, working, and lots of other areas. If we want something done, we need to take the initiative. We won’t be spoon fed.

3) Battling Sin – We are all tempted, each by certain things. Sin abounds in our human nature. But we don’t have to be passive about it in our life. If we struggle we lust, let’s take the initiative to put in place accountability procedures, remove trigger points as far as we can, learn to process and understand our unwanted behaviours. What battles do you face? Think of three things you can do today to take the initiative against it. For me, I recently realised how frequently I was buying things from Amazon on an impulse. So I took the initiative to uninstall the app on my phone.

What do you want to happen, what do you feel needs to happen, where would you like to be in five years time? Now take the initiative.

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!]