Tuesday Tools – Evening Reading

One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was from John Maxwell about the rule of five. I written about it before (in fact it was one of the first posts on this blog).

In summary, the trick is to determine which five activities you can engage with every day in order to move closer towards a big goal. He uses the example of cutting a tree, if you hit it five times every day with an axe, eventually it will come down!

In a similar vein I’d like to promote another similar approach to tackling big goals. Reading before bed each night.

There are a lot of benefits to reading before bed: settles the mind, transitions out of the business of the day, no “white light”…etc.

But with 20 minutes or so of reading each day before bed, massive books can be read each year. This can be useful for large fiction series, for personal studying, or even the Bible in a year.

I’m currently working through the Wheel of Time series, (you can use my affiliate link if your interested in taking it up). For those who don’t know, it’s a book series made up of 13 or so books (each around 700/800 pages long). I’m sure I’ve recommended it loads before, I’m on book 3 at the moment. But it is an epic fantasy, like Lord of the Rings on steroids.

An excellent read, great bedtime reading!

Anyway, the habit of reading before bed is also one that’s recommended by John Piper. He did the maths and:

That’s 12 very substantial books [a year], all in 15 minutes a day for the average slow reader.

Systematic Theology 5: The Four Characteristics of Scripture (1.5) Inerrancy

In my defence the book does say “Four characteristics” even though it gives five. This is the bonus one, Inerrancy’. It is usually covered under ‘Authority’ (see previous post). But due to the cultural context of today, where ‘truth’ is considered more and more subjective and God’s word is seen as an optional Pick N Mix, it needed its own chapter.

The Inerrancy of Scripture means that Scripture in the original manuscripts does not affirm anything that is contrary to fact. The Bible always tells the truth and it does so concerning everything it talks about.

I was personally, really glad it got it’d own chapter. As I have found that the truthfulness of scripture is one of the “barriers of belief” for so many people.

Wayne Grudem clarifies that the Bible can be inerrant and still speak the ordinary language of everyday speech. For example talking about the “sun rising” even though the sun doesn’t technically “rise”.

He uses the helpful comparison of phrases which are all true/inerrant, and yet different. Consider:

  • I don’t live far from my office
  • I live a little over a mile from my office
  • I live a mile from my office
  • I live 1.282 miles from my office

Therefore, Biblical statements can be imprecise and still be true: Inerrancy is about the truthfulness, not about the degrees of precision. Such a helpful distinction.

He then outlines six common challenges to inerrancy, (see below for full notes) and then counters each one providing helpful reasoning.

Finally, he raises four problems for a Christian who denies the Inerrancy of Scripture. These include 1) a moral problem (should we imitate a God who lies), 2) a trust problem (can we trust a God who lies/bends truth), 3) an idol problem (do we become the judge of truth) and 4) a doctrine problem (if we can ignore minor doctrines why can’t we ignore major ones).

Please see below my full notes. As always if you are interested in buying this book and studying it for yourself or following along, please do use my affiliate link and support the blog.

Systematic Theology 4: The Four Characteristics of Scripture (1) Authority

We’re continuing our study of the Word of God, by looking at four distinct characteristics of scripture. These are:

  • Authority
  • Clarity
  • Necessity
  • Sufficiency
  • (Inerrancy)

These four characteristics can be rearranged for the purposes of memory into the acronym SCAN(I). Please find below my notes for Wayne Grudem’s chapter on the Authority of Scripture.

“The Authority of Scripture means that all the words in Scripture are God’s words in such a way that to disbelieve or disobey any word of Scripture is to disbelieve or disobey God”

The chapter asserts that all the words in Scripture are God’s words because 1) this is what the Bible claims for itself, 2) we are convinced of this as we read the Bible, 3) other evidence (such as historical & internal consistencies, anecdotal, fulfilled prophecies etc) is useful but not finally convincing!

4) The words of Scripture are self attesting. This means they appeal to their own authority, whilst this is a circular argument, it does not disqualify the claim. Since any argument for ultimate truth but do so by appealing to itself. (E.g. I know the tower is real, because I see it, therefore my seeing it makes something real, I am appealing to my sense of sight to determine truth).

Grudem then goes on to explain that dictation from God is not the sole means of communication. He also uses prophets, writers, dreams, visions, Jesus and other mysterious and unknown methods.

As always if you want to support this blog, and you’re interested in studying Systematic Theology for yourself you can get the textbook using my affiliate link here.

*Apologies for any zooming you will have to do to see these notes properly.

This paragraph was especially meaningful to me, as it links the Doctrine of the Authority of Scripture to preaching! I loved it!
Finally Grudem lays out the truthfulness of Scripture as a source of it’s authority.

As a side note, for those readers who are invested in the schedule of Blog posts. This was intended to be published last Saturday. However due to circumstances with “two socially distanced” weddings this weekend I was unable to post. I intend to offer a fuller explanation on Sunday, with my month summary!

Genesis 2:4-25 Part 3 How do you know that?

This passage in Genesis also speaks into our acquisition of knowledge. Throughout Scripture God pleads with humanity to gain knowledge, insight and wisdom. The apostle Peter even urges believers to ‘add to their faith…knowledge’. God wants us to study His word, to discover truth, to walk the right path. Moreover, God praises the humble and those who are teachable.

God means for us to adopt the posture of a life-long learner.

And yet, in this passage God plants a tree, the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and He commands mankind to not eat from it! What is that about?

You see, it is important to God how we come to know things. (The sub-category attitude to learning – if you will.) He does not want us to idolize knowledge (Jeremiah 9:23). Nor does He want us attain knowledge without love (1 Corinthians 8). In fact knowledge is supposed to build up and edify the Church (1 Corinthians 12). It is important how we acquire knowledge, and for what motive.

In this passage, God presents Adam with an option, to acquire knowledge instantaneously, through disobedience to God’s word, to His commands. To acquire knowledge via worship of the intellect rather than worship of God (- for we cannot serve two masters)!

What is the alternative, how else will Adam discover the knowledge of good and evil? It is intended that Adam discover what is good, by obeying the good command of God, by experiencing the “goodness” of creation as declared repeatedly throughout Genesis 1. To see evil, as disobedience to God’s will, by experientially ignoring/subduing the snake – (or by speaking God’s truth in place of the snake’s lies – just as Jesus did in Matthew 4).

The rest of the Bible supports this, approach to acquiring knowledge. We are told to acquire knowledge through:

  • Obedience to His commands
  • Careful study, meditation and response to God’s words (Psalm 1, Matthew 7:24)
  • Through love and relationship with God and mankind
  • Through stillness, rest and sitting at Jesus’ feet (Psalm 46:10, Luke 10:38-42)

He does not want us to take shortcuts to knowledge, that bypass experiential knowledge. One commentator that I read, notes that the rise of “enlightenment” taught that we can learn through detachment and isolation. God’s word, on the contrary, teaches that we learn through involvement, relationship and experience. Through obedience and engagement with God’s word.

God wants us to learn. He wants us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. To be set free by His truth. To be still and know that He is God.

When we are tempted to reach out and grasp at knowledge to satiate our pride, to garner power for ourselves, to elevate ourselves above others. Let us remember Christ, who did not: “consider equality with God [something to be grasped at] to be used for his own advantage. Rather He made Himself nothing taking the form of a servant and becoming obedient even to death even death on a cross (Philippians 2)!

Reflections: A New Bible and a New Season

This week I got myself a new Bible.

Christmas 2011, my Nan gave me an NIV leatherbound Bible. It was the last Christmas gift she would ever give me, passing away the following summer. It would replace the tattered Youth Bible I’d taken to many a Christian camp.

Since then, I have read that Bible through so many times I’ve actually lost count. I’ve even had to tape back in Romans 8 from when I memorised it. Most pages contain, notes in the margins, highlights, emphatic underlines, messy circles and various squiggly shapes. On one read through I even tried to highlight with blue every time there was a lesson on integrity. Another time, I put a red dot every time ‘blood’ was mentioned in Leviticus. These pages are littered with nuggets of gold gleamed from the hundreds of sermons that I listened to. Clever cross references that I’ve come across in books and talks and in my own quiet times.

This book has a weight of history and intimacy, and not just because it contains the very words of God. I have held this book in prayer, in preaching, in worship, in study. I have held this book and prayed my heart out, this book has seen me through my whole time at university and into the first five years of marriage.

Since my “old” Bible had scribbles everywhere, it is interesting that the cover page had not been touched at all. So when I got the new Bible, I decided I wanted to fill it up

Old and New

In the top left, I’ve listed all the people who I’ve befriended and ended up studying God’s word alongside. At the bottom left I have listed the 6 significant mentors I’ve had the honour of meeting over the last 9 years. These people taught me to pray, to read, to study. They inspired me to pursue God’s heart and to encourage others.

Then below these are an extensive list of everyone (I can remember) who has taught me important truths about God. It is a combination of people who I know personally and closely, as well as far off preachers whose sermons I have listened to over and over again, or whose books I have treasured.

In the bottom right corner are all the places that I have been allowed to preach. All the Churches, groups, camps and conferences. Truly humbled to think through this list. I was actually taken a back. How many pastors, vicars, leaders, youth workers, trusted me to speak and teach. Even at the young age of 16/17…How God has grown this gift in me over the last few years. I am especially grateful to St. Christopher’s who’ve undoubtedly had to bear with the good, the bad and the ugly – when it comes to my preaching. And yet, they steadfastly sought to encourage God’s Spirit at work in me.

All these lists fill my heart with gratitude! Surely I have not walked this path alone. God has truly surrounded me with a great cloud of witnesses, of fellow travellers, teachers, guides, mentors, friends. He has given me such fantastic opportunities and experiences.

So I would lastly like to thank the Author of this fantastic book. The author and perfecter of my faith. Who has not only spoken to me, but also connected me with the right people at the right time, and spoken through them.

A New Season

So why a new Bible?

Back in December 2019, I felt God leading me into a time of Isolation, an extended period away from Church ministry. No longer preaching on a monthly basis, not helping with youth group, worship ministry, community groups, Navigators, 1-on-1 discipleship…It’s a long story, but now 8 months into this (for want of a better word): Sabbatical, I feel like I might be being nudged slowly back towards public ministry. I think there is still more hidden work to do, and I’m in no rush, but it does feel ‘just around the corner’.

Nevertheless, I wanted a new Bible to represent the new work that God has done in me and has prepared me for in this next season.

Systematic Theology 2: The Word of God

Systematic Saturday!

Please find below, my notes for Systematic Theology Chapter 2: The Word of God. In this chapter Wayne Grudem outlines the different forms of the ‘Word of God’: As Jesus (John 1:1 & 14) and as speech.

He then looks at the different types of God’s speech (Decrees, Words of personal address, through human lips and in written form). Grudem’s attention for his study on Systematic Theology will be with the written word of God. Because, in written form, the words of God are:

  • More accurately presented
  • Are able to be inspected repeatedly
  • Are accessible to many more people

For those of you who are interested in studying Systematic Theology, I would recommend starting with this book. If you wanted to buy it, I’ve become an Amazon affiliate, so you can buy if from this link and in turn support the blog.

Systematic Theology 1: Introduction to Systematic Theology

Please find below my notes on chapter 1 of Wayne Grudem’s book Systematic Theology.

A couple of notes on my annotations:

  • ‘X’ is short hand for Christ. Fun-fact Greek word for Christ is Christos, and is spelt ‘Χριστός’. I have therefore frequently used ‘X’ to represent Christ – hence ‘Xian’ meaning Christian. I don’t mean to undermine His importance or anything like that, it’s just this is a big book and taking notes on every chapter is a big enough task without copying words out completely.
  • I also tend to shorten the names of books of the Bible to three letter words e.g. Ephesians becomes ‘Eph’. In some cases like for the Gospels I have shorted to two letters, e.g. Matthew becomes ‘Mt’. And for some cases one letter (this is usually for Romans, which simply becomes ‘R’)
  • Whenever I use ‘Gk’ it means Greek and is referring to the language. Confusingly ‘HB’ can mean the book of Hebrews or the language. ‘ST’ is Systematic Theology. ‘OT’ and ‘NT’ are Old and New Testaments.
  • Finally in these notes, the things I have highlighted ‘yellow’ or place a ‘red star’ by are things that really stood out to me and were important. I would have spent some time praying about these things.

Apologies for any zooming you may have to do to fully appreciate these notes, I have found that viewing them on a phone or tablet it a lot easier.