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.

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

Identification with Christ

One of the things I feel being lead into at the moment, in my walking with God, is the theme of identification with Christ. I feel I have only scratched the surface and so this post won’t do justice to the work I think God wants to do in me.

It was a couple of weeks back when I started reading New Seeds of Contemplation by Thomas Merton. In it he talks about ‘contemplation’ as this mysterious state where it is no longer ‘I’ who live but Christ who lives in me.

My heart throbbed upon reading that.

I’m only a couple of chapters into Merton’s book and still have a lot to learn (it’s one of my slow reflective reads).

And then I was on a walk recently, listening to an audiobook by Watchman Nee ‘The Spiritual Man’. Which had been recommended by a man whose walk with God captivated me in my teenage years. He’d recommended this book to me years back, and I’ve tried on multiple occasions to read the book. And I never made it through the first third.

Not finishing a book is really really weird for me! I usually read over 52 books each year. Most books I start, even if they’re really bad, I finish! And yet, it’s been at least five years since I was recommended the ‘Spiritual Man’. I’d bought myself the paperback, and failed to finish several times, got the audiobook and failed to finish.

But here I am, in a season of my life where I feel God is nudging me towards praying about this theme. To experience and know-deeply, the truth that my ‘self’ is hidden in Christ. And I (almost) randomly put this audiobook on, to accompany my walk one day. It ‘picks up where I left off’ and… BAM!

He’s talking about it too! Living by the Spirit and not by the flesh. Living by the regenerated, new nature and not by the ‘soulish’ intellect, emotions and volition.

It makes me think that God’s been preparing me for this season to teach me something new. Maybe it will sink in this time.

I’m a little nervous, it feels like I’ve got some ‘dying to self’ to do. And I’m scared. What will I have to give up. What will I have to lose. Can I really go on without looking back?

My hope is that God who has started this work in me will lead me through it. I remind myself that my God is good, He cares for me and loves me. Where He asks me to die, I must trust that He will raise renewed.

Anyway, here’s a slightly less coherent blog post than usual. Just what’s going on in my walk with God.

Yellow-Brick Road Christianity

The Bible says that the most important command is to love the Lord our God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength (Luke 10:27)

I once read a book about this: thinking, loving, doing. A call to holistic Christianity. A challenge to be thinkers, engaged and serious about knowing God. And to be feelers, pulsing with passion for Jesus and His gospel. And to be doers, endeavouring great acts of love for others!

And I agree, it is no good just loving God with our heart, or just our mind, or just our strength – we need all three. I know this and I agree. In fact, growing up I once heard a talk that compared the types of Christians who love God with only some of these ingredients as the people Dorothy encounters on the yellow brick road towards the Wizard of Oz.

The straw man who doesn’t have a brain, the tin man without a heart and the lion without courage. The various pitfalls for Christians loving God like this are obvious!

However, the part that I need to focus on now is not using all three – but using ALL of all three!

You see, as important it as it is that we love God with our heart, mind, strength and soul. As important as all these three components are. It is just as important that we are wholeheartedly loving God.

There isn’t room for lukewarm discipleship, halfhearted obedience or ‘one hand to the plough, one eye back’.

In studying Genesis 3, I came across this quote from one of the commentators:

“The serpent touches us at the one thing in our lives where we would rather God did not trouble us. We will give Him everything else, but we will hold this one part of life to ourselves”.

This may be our ambition, our refusal to forgive, our determination to exercise, eat whatever we want, watch whatever we want. An area of sin we refuse to confess. A possession we refuse to give away. Be aware, this is where satan will aim his temptation.

What do we withhold from God?

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=holding+nothing+back+tim+hughes

Running in the Rain

Just a quick evening post. This morning I skipped my morning run. A combination of mixed motives. I woke up late, decided I couldn’t be bothered to run and I really wanted to use the time to delve into God’s word. So I made running a “write-off” for the day and got stuck in: I journaled, prayed, logged my thoughts in my mini notebook, typed up themes and patterns. Overall time very well spent.

But then, throughout the day, just before lunch, I had a rush of energy and decided I’d go out running on my break. It didn’t matter to me that it was chucking it down. I just went. 7.25km in 39 minutes. Great success.

Came back in from the drenching rain, soaked through to the skin, but feeling like a champion!

While I was in the shower though, I was thinking about how God had totally honoured my decision to study His word instead of doing my exercise. Giving me an extra burst of energy in the middle of the day to revisit what I had missed.

One of the problems people tend to have with spending time with Jesus is that there just isn’t enough time in the day. We need to fit in so many other habits, reading, journaling, side-hustling, exercise, study, our job, our family etc etc…

But I know that this saying is trustworthy and true:

“But seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be given unto you” Matt 6:33

Be encouraged today, to prioritise your time with God, and see what happens.

Genesis 1:1-2:3 Part 4 An Ongoing Call to Worship

Truly, the Bible is the gift that keeps on giving. I’ve done about 8-9 passes on these few verses and I keep getting to hear God’s voice! It’s just as well I’m not a time limit to finish this. I have a feeling a study like this is going to take a while.

It’s probably worth noting that I think going through the Bible at a fast pace is still important. Not only does it make it easier to appreciate each story in context, it also enables to see the Big Picture of God’s plan. That is why I’m still continuing my Bible Read Through approach with a friend. Saying all that, I can’t tell you how good it feels to soak this much in Scripture. It feels like a bath.

In this post I want to explore the Ongoing Call to Worship found in Genesis chapter 1-2:3. Because I’m a sermon writer, I can’t help myself, and have divided the post into three…

1) Creation still hums and buzzes with God’s word all these years later. It is amazing enough that when God spoke things happened, He said “let there be light” and there was! Boom! Cause for worship. But did you know that creation is still obeying His voice today – I know it’s obvious. But look at all the calls to reproduction we see in this passage. The plants are commanded to bring forth seed, fruit and more plants. The animals, fish and birds also. Whenever we see creatures, moving, living, growing, we have an opportunity to see the reverberation of God’s voice still at work today!

This means that when we go outside, listen to the birds singing, see the plants in all their vibrant beauty, right there, we can see God’s voice still working. Boom! Let us worship a God who’s voice echos these thousands, if not millions, of years later.

2) Every day the sun rises, every night the moon shines, we are given a rhythm to worship. Not only is the call to worship present in the ongoing obedience of creation to God’s ordinances. But we as human beings are given daily and weekly rhythms by which to worship. Every day the sun governs the light, every night the moon and stars rule the darkness, we can respond and worship in sync with that which is obediently, steadfastly proclaiming God’s power. Yes, His mercies are new every morning, praise Him, yes the sun rises every day, praise Him. Praise Him in the morning, and the evening.

3) We have been invited to enjoy His creation, especially on the Sabbath! The fact that God finishes what He starts, and rests, and enjoys His creation. Is a model for us, that we should do the same. May it be part of our weekly schedule, routine and rhythm, to pause on the Sabbath and appreciate all the work that God has done.

Creation calls us to worship it’s Creator. Look and see, hear and listen. It echos God’s power!

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!]

Three things to expect from studying the Pentateuch

We are studying the Bible and working our way through many of the introductions! This morning I’ve looked at an Introduction to the Pentateuch from the ESV study Bible. For those who don’t know, the Pentateuch is the name given to the first five books of the Bible. A lot of information to digest, but overall a helpful article to read.

The three things which most resonated with me were:

1) One of the foundational purposes of the first five books of the Bible is to introduce us to God. Who He is, what His character is like and what His ethical standards are. I was particularly taken with the emphasis on His character. One of the things I’m going to be looking out for as I study these books is: what does this story, passage or moment tell me about who God is? Since one of the reasons I’m studying the Bible, is so that I can become more like Jesus, when I spot something of God’s character I’ll be wanting to pray: “Please, make me more like this!”. For a simple example, when I see God generously provide to Adam and Eve food, clothes to wear, relationships, work and even breath to breathe, (even though they will later betray Him), I ask that God make me more generous.

2) This article also touched on the dilemma of historical dating with accuracy. It explained that whilst it was easy to map out certain dates of events in the Pentateuch, such as the Flood (which apparently can be calculated to the day of the week and year!), it is difficult to map out all of the events, such as creation and the exodus. I have always avoided looking closely at the dating of things in the Bible. I know that there are legitimate Biblical cases for both “old-earth” and “young-earth” creation standpoints and that has always been enough to satisfy me. I think the important things aren’t really to do with the dates. But when I read about this, I thought about the many objections to Christianity made by people who don’t believe it, and a lot seems to centre on the creation account. I was challenged that I may need to make more of an effort to educate myself on this aspect. At least to know the arguments better.

I know from studying Systematic Theology, that there is a difference between Accuracy and Truth. For example I could say: “I live close to my office”, or “I live within 5 kilometres of my office” or “I live 4.75 kilometres from my office”… All three statements are true, but clearly one is more accurate than the others. In this way the Bible can be true and yet not “accurate” (at least to the degree we might expect as 21st century western readers!). “Biblical statements”, writes Grudem, “can be imprecise and still be totally true. Inerrancy has to do with truthfulness, not with the degree of precision with which events are reported” (Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology p.92).

3) Finally, the article mentioned that one of the main themes in these books will be the importance of the law and right behaviour. A concept we tend to overlook as Christians, who know we are saved by grace through faith and not by works or our own merits. And yet, Deuteronomy 4:6-8 talks about how it was by observing God’s law that the Israelites could magnify God and communicate His goodness to the other nations. These words are mirrored in the teaching of Jesus who said: ‘let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven’ (Matthew 5:16). Faithful obedience to God is still important for Christians today.

To emphasise this point further I want to share a quote from Dallas Willard, that I saw he tweeted last week:

Grace is not opposed to effort, it is opposed to earning. Earning is an attitude. Effort is an action. Grace does not just have to do with forgiveness of sins alone. You will consume much more grace by leading a holy life than you will by sinning

Please find below my full notes from this article below:

God, I thank you for the work of other Christians to put together this resource for me to use and learn from. May this post further enable others to pursue Your heart. Amen

To God be the Glory