Whatever you do…

31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 32 Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God— 33 even as I try to please everyone in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved.

Have been reading through 1 Corinthians this week and one of the things that stood out to me was these verses in Chapter 10. It’s connected to chapter 9 and 7 and displays a lot of Paul’s attitude towards his work. I was challenged in my attitude towards work.

One of my dreams is to preach the gospel, like Spurgeon, many times throughout the week. I love to encourage people with God’s word and in their walk with Jesus. And if that was my full time job, I’d do it out of hours and wouldn’t worry about working ‘unpaid’ overtime.

So why don’t I consider my work with Cancer Research in such a way? Am I not supposed to be doing that work as unto the Lord? Am I not supposed to be seeking God’s glory in whatever position God calls me to? Married or single, slave/servant or freeman, employed or self-employed?

And so, I have been praying about what does it look like to carry out my life as it stands – today – as unto the Lord. And my thoughts:

  • Going the extra mile
  • Working overtime
  • Honouring my employer when their watching and when their not

In a sense, I want to steward the job I have now well in my early 20s as how I would if I was working full time for a church. I want to work as diligently as an employee for Cancer Research as if I was a missionary for Reach Across.

My aim isn’t to switch job, change my circumstances, but to glorify God.

1 Corinthians 7:

17 Nevertheless, each person should live as a believer in whatever situation the Lord has assigned to them, just as God has called them. This is the rule I lay down in all the churches. 18 Was a man already circumcised when he was called? He should not become uncircumcised. Was a man uncircumcised when he was called? He should not be circumcised. 19 Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision is nothing. Keeping God’s commands is what counts. 20 Each person should remain in the situation they were in when God called them.

21 Were you a slave when you were called? Don’t let it trouble you—although if you can gain your freedom, do so. 22 For the one who was a slave when called to faith in the Lord is the Lord’s freed person; similarly, the one who was free when called is Christ’s slave. 23 You were bought at a price; do not become slaves of human beings. 24 Brothers and sisters, each person, as responsible to God, should remain in the situation they were in when God called them.

The Promises are true!

Just a quick post…today has been an exhausting day. To be honest the whole week has felt pretty stressful. A lot on at work at the moment and a lot of problems along the way…

And I got back from the office after work, dead minded, tired, wiped out, physically and mentally drained…etc. And the thought randomly occurred (#TheSpiritRemindedMe): “Those who wait on the Lord renew their strength.

In that moment I had a choice. Do I switch the TV on, put an audio book on and numb the exhaustion with “rest”. Or do I fetch my Bible from my home desk, pull out a chair and sit in the garden and wait on the LORD?

I chose the later option.

I decided to test the promise…

And I found it true.

He does renew the strength of those who hope in Him. Hopefully this post can remind me next time.

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.

Genesis 3:1-24 Part 5: Where do we go from here?

Along the way, studying these passages and writing these posts I came across the following image of Adam and Eve walking out the garden, arms draped over each other’s shoulders, shame covering their face. And I imagined, what it must have been like for the two of them to leave Eden. What regret they must have felt, what embarrassment and what despair.

This post is an attempt to explore those moments, what position they were in as they left the garden. Their feelings and the various opportunities afforded them by God’s grace.

How far we have fallen

Undoubtedly, Adam and Eve would have reflected on their fall. How far they had strayed from the original. They were supposed to rule over and subdue creation, including the wild animals. And now the very ground they walk groans beneath their feet.

They were supposed to carry their heads high, with dignity and proudly bearing the image and likeness of God to creation. Now they seek to hide themselves and cover it all.

What once was a relationship characterised by love, protection, honour and intimacy. [See Vision for marriage]. Is now one characterised by hiding, blame and fear of allowing the other to see. A relationship of domination, tyranny, and abuse.

Where once, they had walked with God in the cool of the breeze. They now hide from Him. They leave His presence. They are estranged! Estranged from God, for each other, from creation and from themselves.

And were their work before had Preistly connotations, tending, guarding, keeping the garden of God’s Temple. It is now a frustrated, broken, endeavour, filled with futility, disappointment and despair!

Oh how much there is to regret with sin. How far it reaches to devastate and destroy. How severe it’s consequences. May the consequences of Adam and Eve’s sin, move each of us to consider the cost of our sin. May we repent.

Opportunity to respond to Grace

And yet, all hope was not lost. We have seen that God’s response to their sin remembered mercy. And so Adam and Eve, although cast from God’s presence, exiled from the Garden, were still given the opportunity to respond to His grace.

Through confession rather than blaming. It is so tempting when we sin and fail to blame others, those nearby and those far off, society or families. The first step to receiving God’s grace is acknowledging and confessing our sin.

Then we must choose to receive God’s Grace. Both the spiritual blessings appointed to us, the promised blessing of the saviour to come, and the physical blessings of provision with food and clothes. May we not be too proud to receive God’s free grace, purchased for us by the Promised One.

Furthermore, the opportunities to continue sinning have not ended with the forbidden fruit. In fact they have multiplied. Adam and Eve can now, with the knowledge of good and evil, lie, steal, cheat, hurt and even kill one another. They can choose God’s way or become subject to sin which still lies crouching at the door (See Gen 4)!

Adam and Eve along with their family now to come have the opportunity to respond with faith to the Promise. In the midst of God’s curse, He also proclaimed the gospel. That someone would come, descended from the woman, would suffer and would conquer sin.

Fortunately, we see glimpses of the faith of mankind in it’s early stages in this chapter. Does Adam not name his wife, after the Promise? By naming her Eve, he demonstrates faith that she will produce a seed – eventually the promised Seed. Does Eve not in Chapter 4, demonstrate her faith in the promise by praising God for the birth of her three sons! Does Abel not continue with the family decision towards faith by offering God a pleasing sacrifice? Do a portion of the children not demonstrate faith when they start calling on the name of the Lord? (But all this to come!)

In short they, like us, have the opportunity to receive God’s grace through faith in the Promise.

Finally, as Christians, and inheritors of the Promised One! We have the choice to meet again with God in the cool of the day, with worship, with rejoicing, and intimacy!!!

May we Worship

Praise be to Jesus! For when I hear God walking – I don’t have to hide, but I can plead God’s mercy, earned by Christ and know that I am forgiven and restored. That the fruit of the tree of life is available to me! The Cherubim’s flaming swords has been lowered and I may enter the garden again!

This is the gospel! Such good news!

The curse is reversed, death is defeated and the garden is open to those who receive the Promised One

Tuesday Tools – Deep Work

Around January last year (according to my Goodreads account) I finished Cal Newport’s book: Deep Work. It’s a book that argues that we come up with the best ideas and most meaningful progress when we engage in focused, uninterrupted and undistracted work.

It claims that for “knowledge workers” deep work is becoming increasingly rare, with the deluge of immediate-response social media, attention-stealing technology and the demand to stay on top of e-mails and messages.

Since the ability to engage in deep work is rare, it is also becoming significantly valuable.

I jumped back into this audiobook during my exercise yesterday, to refresh my memory, and started with the beginning of Part 2.

In the chapter I listened to yesterday, he explained that we need to choose which “philosophy” fits our work best.

1. The Monastic Philosophy – this is where you take weeks and months apart from ordinary life to focus on deep work. He gave the example of an author going to a cabin in the woods for weeks to study. I think JK Rowling also did something similar when she wrote the last Harry Potter – checking into an expensive hotel for weeks until it was done!

2. The Bimodal Philosophy – this is where you take some clearly defined stretches to deep pursuits of work. It could be Mondays and Tuesdays that you are “unreachable” and don’t answer the phone or e-mails. It could be using a week to focus on working deeply.

Suprisingly, most people will respect decisions to isolate for the sake of productivity at work, provided 1) the times of distance are well-advertised and well-defined and 2) you are available and able to complete other tasks the rest of the timme.

3. The Rhythmic Philosophy – This is where you set aside, say 90 minutes each day to pursue deep work. It is less about “getting away” and more about “setting apart” your time, consistently and habitually.

When it comes to implementing the Rhythmic Philosophy, you will find many of the tools for keeping up with other habits useful.

4. The Journalistic Philosophy – This is where you switch into deep work whenever and wherever the opportunity arises. Cal Newport warns that this is the most difficult, and few people can actually do this well. However, for some this is the only option available.

I personally have found options 2 & 3 useful. When it comes to writing the book I’m working on, I have taken a week off at a time work to write. Waking up early and finishing late, just focused on the single task of writing the book.

However for my 9-5 job with Cancer Research, I tend to use the Rhythmic Philosophy. Setting aside portions of my day when I turn Teams, Skype Chat, E-mails off and simply focus on work that pushes my cognitive abilities to their limit.

If you are interested in finding out more about deep work, (this post only really covers one chapter of the book!) and want to get the book please use my affiliate link below to support this blog:

Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World

Thanks for reading!

Genesis 3:1-24 Part 4: In Wrath Remember Mercy

Because mankind rebelled against God, and betrayed a Just God, there must be punishment. We see from verse 14 onwards, God’s punishment: first to the snake, then to woman, and finally towards man. However, our God is not only a Just God, He is also a Loving God full of mercy and grace. Therefore, even in the midst of the great curse of Genesis 3, we can see God’s wrath mixed with mercy.

We’ve already considered the anatomy of temptation and the character of the snake. Today we turn our attention to our Righteous and Graceful God. We will explore His response to sin and evil and remind ourselves that God hates sin, but He longs to rescue sinners. In this passage we can see a microcosm of the Gospel.

In reverse order:

Man’s Punishment

‘Cursed is the ground because of you;
through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life.
It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
and you will eat the plants of the field.
By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground,
since from it you were taken; for dust you are,
and to dust you will return’
(vv 17-19)

The punishment is severe. The work that Adam once had to do before, is now frustrated, complicated and filled with futility. Tim Keller put’s it like this: “In other words, work, even when it bears fruit, is always painful, often miscarries, and sometimes kills us…in all our work, we will be able to envision far more that we can accomplish, both because of a lack of ability and because of resistance in the environment around us. The experience of work will include, pain, conflict, envy and fatigue…’ (Every Good Endeavour, 89-90). He goes on to explain that this curse also demonstrates that work will become: pointless, selfish and will reveal our idols.

In this curse we see the context of work (ground), the fruit of work (eat the plants) and frustration of work (thorns and thistles) all subjected to punishment.

We also see promised punishment of death – that Adam would return to the ground as dust.

So where is grace?

We see grace in the fact that the man is not cursed himself. It is the ground. A quick look at the snake’s punishment reveals that the serpant was cursed! We are merely ‘put under the curse’. The full wrath of God is withheld against us, and directed instead to the ground. (Hence Romans 8 speaks of creation groaning!) We are punished indirectly.

We also see mercy in that Adam will be able to eat. His work will not be entirely futile. It will provide food for them, in this way we see God’s ongoing provision of man. God could have punished Adam by making him work for fruit that others would eat! This is in fact a blessing elsewhere in the Bible (Psalm 128:2)

One commentator went so far as to say that the promised death, was also a demonstration of God’s grace. Otherwise, man would have to continue living forever in a state of separation from God, from life, from blessing. Instead, God allows death, so that through faith in the Promised One they might be saved and return to the Garden. (More on that in the next post).

In this way we can see wrath mixed with mercy. In Wednesday’s post we will examine the concoction of mercy and wrath served by the rest of the curse.

It is a cause of worship that we come to the same God who in His wrath remembers mercy.

Sunday Summary – 6th September “Rest Week”

Overall a pretty great week, although I haven’t done any exercise or running, so I’m feeling a little out of shape. I’m telling myself it’s important to have a “rest week”.

Getting my First Draft Back – This week I met with my friend who had agreed to read through my first draft (all 80,000 words) and give me feedback. It was so so helpful. I was asked by someone else what the most useful comments were. A) I write gender biased to men (e.g. ‘to be a man after God’s heart’ rather than ‘to be a person…’). B) There were several times when I’d said something too bluntly and needed to be a bit more sensitive/nuanced. Thankfully he’s highlighted these occasions C) Probably most significant to me was the encouragement that it wasn’t bad. In 180 pages of writing, my friend had found about 20 problematic sentences/phrases – all of which are simple enough to fix. My writing didn’t come across as judgemental or patronising, which was a huge relief.

Yes, I’ve got a long way to go, yes, there are a fair amount of corrections to make before I start cleaning up the grammar and style. But, more than anything else, I feel like I’m working on a worthwhile project again. And apparently from a “conservative charismatic” standpoint it fitted theologically as well.

Outdoor Costa with a Friend – Two days later I met with another friend for coffee at a new, nearby Costa. It was the first time we’d met since lockdown began and it was really good to meet up. He is a very clever guy, doing his PhD in mathematics at the university at which I work. We became good friends through our time at University when we read through the Bible together, and met once a week to share our three favourite things. It’s difficult fitting 6 months-worth of life in two hours, before the shop closed, but we did a pretty good job! I also learnt about a drink I’d never heard of: Frostino?

Systematic Theology – Yesterday, I finally finished Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology. (I want to do a post about this book separately, it feels a significant milestone!)

The Office US//Half Life 2 – After work most days this week, I’ve been being lazy and watching The US Office and playing xbox, Half Life 2. I’ve never really watched the US Office before, only the UK one, it is incredibly funny and such easy watching. Half Life 2, is also amazing with a great story. Last night I got through Ravenholm and I’m very glad to see the back of that place!

Work – Into the office again this week. I also hosted a videoconference for the Trial I work on and had to present a report. I’ve decided I prefer doing these sort of meetings at the beginning of the day, rather than the end. Overall though, meeting was a success. Decisions made, next steps clarified. And now I’m on holiday until next Monday!!! Oooorah!

Cooked Breakfast – First morning of my 9 day holiday, and I decided I was past due a cooked breakfast. Since lockdown started I’ve not been going to the pub once a month with friends for a “men’s breakfast”….which means I’ve not had bacon and sausages for breakfast in over 6 months!!! That changed on Saturday. Beautiful, some left over to cook this morning.

Definitely need to remember to take more pictures for the blog each week!

Thanks everyone for reading and following this blog. So much support and encouragement this week. It’s all been really appreciated.

Genesis 2:4-25 Part 4 The Gift of Work

My work from home set-up

The theme of Work is closely linked and intertwined in my Personal life purpose. (So please excuse me if I get carried away!) To be a man after God’s own heart, then to lead, labour, inspire and encourage others to be the same. I desperately, wholeheartedly, and unashamedly want to labour for others to know my God.

Paul, the apostle, puts it in language that my heart thrums to hear: “To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me’ (Colossians 1:29)

I know that salvation isn’t a work I can muster for others, or even myself, nevertheless it is a work God has invited me to co-labour with Him in (see Matthew 28:20). This is why I seek to ‘work out my salvation with fear and trembling’ – souls are at stake!

Anyway, I digress! We’re looking at Genesis 2:4-25, not my life purpose or even the various quotes from the New Testament. In this story God is seen giving man work to do (working the ground and naming the animals – manual labour and mental labour). From this passage we can see the beautiful intention for work, before it is corrupted by sin in Chapter 3!

Firstly, this passage calls us to check our attitude towards work.

Do we idolise it? Do we sacrifice everything else to our work, our time, money, relationships, energy, our praise and worship? Does it define us? Do we give our work authority to value us, determine our worth, to rule over us?

Or do we avoid it? Do we seek to shrug off our duty, hand it over to someone else, negate our responsibilities?

God has given work to us, as a gift, something to thank Him for, something to appreciate His creation with, to bring form to the formless. It is a gift to be stewarded wisely and faithfully. Elsewhere the Bible writers remind us ‘to remember God who has given you the ability to make wealth’ (Deut 8:18). Surely our work is a gift and our attitude & response to it should be such!

Secondly, this passage defines what work and creativity are intended to be.

There was quite a bit that came up regarding the Protestant work ethic, and the western world’s unhealthy obsession with work. In my own reading I’ve encountered several voices that talk about the dangers of overworking, and seeing work as a means to power, prestige, possessions, wealth, freedom, happiness or life.

So how does this passage define work and creativity? Interestingly, our work and creativity is to be modelled on the work and creativity of God. This means that creativity is less about “innovation”, self-expression or making economic value (although these are good things). It is not about tirelessly, endlessly, striving in a chaotic, grab-as-much-as-you-can manner. No, the creativity of God is about:

  • Bringing form to the formless, order to the chaos
  • Transforming and making new
  • Defining, naming and creating boundaries
  • Filling and enabling to flourish
  • Blessing
  • Sharing and appreciating

This is the defined work and creativity we are called to.

Thirdly, this passage allows us to see work as an invitation for us to come alongside God!

We see that nothing had grown because 1) God had not sent rain and 2) no one had worked the ground. Both God and man are to work the garden, it is a joint assignment. We may be tempted to think our work is all our responsibility and worry and fret whenever something goes wrong or is difficult. On the other hand we may be tempted to think that work is all God’s responsibility and we can take a back seat and put our feet up. Neither view is correct. Work is a joint project. Embrace it.

Invite God to help you, ask God how you can help Him. (Not because God needs our help, but because He delights to work alongside us!)

After studying this passage I invited God to help me work, both in my full time job at Cancer Research, and in the other ‘work’ God has given me. The work of discipleship, marriage, friendship, family, church, using my gifts….even my blog. God please help me, give me wisdom!

This is why Paul writes: that he strenuously contends with all the energy that Christ works in Him (Col 1:29). He declares that we are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, because it is the Lord who works in you! (Phil 2:12-13). This is why Paul says that we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ to do good works prepared by Him in advance. (Eph 2:10)

Genesis 2:4-25 Part 1 Given Responsibility

When I was growing up, me and my brother had a game which was to invent words to describe situations, feelings, circumstances that didn’t have a name. For example we had a word for that feeling you sometimes get late in the evening and you are thinking really clearly about all your priorities and life style. Coming up with names is fun and creative, it causes you to think outside the box.

In this passage, Adam is invited to name all the animals. God brings them to him and his job is to name them. What an honour, a privilege and a task. In this post I want to explore some of the implications of this process.

1) Adam is invited to work alongside God. We also see this at the beginning of the chapter where it talks about both man’s work and God’s watering being required in order for things to grow. It seems the God of Genesis 2, is not so much interested in accomplishing things, as He is co-working with man. This is why man names the creatures, but it is God who brings them to him in the first place. Co-working with God. We’ll explore this more in another post on work. But for now, let us be encouraged that God wants to work with us to accomplish His goals.

2) Adam can step into some of his God-like Capacity. In the last chapter of Genesis, God decides to make man in His image and likeness – thereby giving him God given capacities. It seems that one of the God-like capacities is naming things. In Genesis 1, God is seen naming things, naming light and calling it day, naming darkness and calling it night. He looks at the water and calls it sea, and dry ground and calls in land. In this chapter God is saying to Adam, “now it’s your turn” name these animals.

3) Adam is tapping into the authority God has given him. We explored in another post that God provides authority and it is our job to steward it. Here that authority is put into action. In this culture, to name something is to declare a sense of authority over it. In fact, one commentary said that in ancient Near Eastern culture to name something was to engage in “destiny decreeing”! To name something, is to know it.

This is pertinent for us as Christians, we should be careful about the words we use. There is power in words. May we speak faith, declare truth and use our words towards purposes of freedom, encouragement and life.

4) God has named Mankind, and He will name us again. In the very last book of the Bible, Jesus promises that to those who overcome He will give ‘a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it’ (Rev 2:17)

We are highly esteemed by God, He values our efforts, opinions and work. He listens to what we call animals and goes along with it. He wants to work with us. God trusts us and wants to work with us.