Friday, 8 January 2016

Analysis Paralysis - Living Purposefully in 2016

‘The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.’ Lamentations 3 v 22-23.

As most of us crawl through our first week back after the Christmas holidays, its a good time for reflection and change.  It is so easy to drift through life wasting time and having a lack of purpose.  I'm reading through John Hayes book 'sub-merge' at the moment and he talks about 'analysis paralysis' among Christians.  I was struck by something he said about the blind man in John 9.  His disciples took part in what Hayes calls ‘analysis paralysis’.  Hayes says; ‘Jesus sidestepped the counterfeit debate and recast the negative scenario as one of hopeful opportunity.  The issue, He said, was neither the man nor his parents; the issue was that God wanted to reveal His power to the blind man.’  Hayes continues; ‘Jesus was, and is so different.  He simply reached out and touched the man.  It was embarrassingly simple: Jesus acted.  Christ committed Himself to a ministry of compassionate presence, not dispassionate distance.' 

I want to make 2016 a year of 'hopeful opportunity'.  Some of the changes I am making is to read more.  I've taken up Tim Challies 'Avid Reader' challenge and hope to read a book a week.  We are also going to give ourselves as a family much more to hospitality on a weekly basis.  If you are eating anyway why not invite others to join you?

I found these 10 questions from Kevin de Young really challenging. You can read DeYoung's answers here and mine are below.

1. Am I spending time slowly reading God’s word and memorizing Scripture? 
I had a look at various Bible reading plans towards the end of last year but I'm sticking with my tried and trusted M'Cheyne Bible reading plan. It is normally 4 chapters per day and lets you read the New Testament twice, the Psalms twice and the Old Testament once.  I find I can usually read it while travelling on the train in the morning although more recently I've enjoyed listening to the Bible on my new kindle fire.  Memorisation is a challenge but surely a necessity if we want to store God's word in our heart.  I think keeping a journal can help with this.  There are lots of reading plans available here.

2. Am I having consistent, focused, extended times of prayer, including interceding for others? 
No.  I long to pray in a more focussed way.  This year I am keeping a journal so I can write down prayer request and answers.  Finding time and peace and quiet are a challenge but something I need to wrestle with.

3. Am I disciplined in my use of technology, in particular not getting distracted by emails and blogging in the evening and on my day off? 
Again a real challenge for me.  It is easy to get lost on facebook or in online news sites.  In terms of blogging I'm keen to blog more often this year.  I'm hoping to put aside Tuesday evenings for this.

4. Am I going to bed on time?
I'm better than I used to be but too often its nearer 12 than 11.  Can they not put Newsnight on a bit earlier?

5. Am I eating too much? 
Apart from falling off the wagon over Christmas I'm now wheat and dairy free.  This has helped my eczema and my waistline.  I'm fairly committed to 12 stone but my wife is a very good cook!  Marmite crisps are my downfall.

6. Have I exercised in the last week? 
I've got the option of 5 a sides on a Tuesday, walking 2 miles from work to the station every night and shinty on a Saturday.  Hopefully between the different options a get a wee reminder each week of how unfit I am.

7. Am I patient with my kids or am I angry with them when they disobey or behave in childish ways?
My answer is pretty similar to DeYoung on this - you need to ask my kids.  I also find the winter much tougher with the kids not running off much energy.  I've made the decision to preach much less in the coming year and we try and keep Tuesday and Friday nights as well as Saturday and Sunday as family days.

8. When at home, am I “fully present” for my wife and family or are my mind and energy elsewhere? 
With five boys it's easy to seek refuge in the converted garage - 'I'm just watching the Channel 4 News!'.  If I'm being totally honest I can bring the problems of work home with me and I need to work at being 'fully present'.  As anyone with young children will know, parenting is incredibly rewarding but it can also feel like a long dark tunnel.  As our kids get older, and as the older ones can babysit (please James) my wife and I are now committed to getting out at least 2 Fridays a month. 

9. Am I making sermon preparation a priority in my week or am I doing other less important things first?
Unlike DeYoung I'm not a minister so perhaps not so relevant.  My only commitment to preach is once per month in my local prison.  I want to do this much better than over the past year.  I hope to work through 'Encounters with Jesus' by Tim Keller.  Apart from that I've decided only to preach in my own local church with perhaps 1-2 exceptions.

10. Have I done anything out of the ordinary to cherish and help my wife? 
This is a good reminder to be much more 'intentional' (terrible word) about this.  I probably need to ask my wife more about what makes her feel cherished. 

DeYoung makes a great point that our faith is all about grace and not works.  No amount of 'performance' will bring me any closer to the Lord.  God does, however, want us to bear fruit and lots of it.  By living our lives in a purposeful, organised and accountable way we can achieve more for God's glory and His kingdom.  Let's make 2016 a year of action not paralysis - redeeming the time not wasting it.  Let's be known for a ministry of compassionate presence not dispassionate distance.

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