god

Church, Theology

Into the Pray – Marriage


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If you’ve read the other 5 posts in this blog series, you’ll know that it’s a series that’s been born out of a deep distress with how a lot of church (fundamentally) functions today compared with how we see the Church (fundamentally) functioning in the Bible. It is also a blog series that’s been born out of a deep love for the church and a longing for her to be all that she is meant to be.

Before I write the final post in the series next week, I wanted to flag up a uniquely distressing aspect of the ‘schmorgers board’ of church life that I referred to in one of the earlier posts a few weeks ago. (more…)

Augustine, Reading, Theology, Worship

Augustine 


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I was astonished that although I now loved you…I did not persist in enjoyment of my God. Your beauty drew me to you, but soon I was dragged away from you by my own weight and in dismay I plunged again into the things of this world…as though I had sensed the fragrance of the fare but was not yet able to eat it.

How sweet all at once it was for me to be rid of those fruitless joys which I had once feared to lose…! You drove them from me, you who are the true, the sovereign joy. You drove them from me and took their place, you who are sweeter than all pleasure, though not to flesh and blood, you who outshine all light, yet are hidden deeper than any secret in our hearts, you who surpass all honour, though not in the eyes of men who see all honour in themselves…O Lord my God, my Light, my Wealth, and my Salvation.

Augustine, Confessions 

Bible, Theology

Hosea 2: The Promise of Allurement


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Learning to Breathe

The previous post’s title from this series suggested and even seemed to promise an acclimatising to the spiritual geography of the book of Hosea. But do you feel any more acclimatised having read it? Do I feel any more acclimatised having written it?

Maybe slightly; nowhere near fully or enough.

My main conviction is that this peculiar acclimatising – to the theme, to the prophetic message and the application of Hosea – is of Everest scale for us. It’s so grand, so important, so deeply distressing, that we will be seriously tempted to skim over the chapters to maintain our equilibrium rather than setting up a base camp in it and learning a while longer.

So here we are at base camp, looking up at the stars. Our most basic, human function of breathing is now something that we’re having to think about – reflex has regressed into a discipline.

It’s exhausting.

There is a higher summit – it hangs overs base camp like a shadowy, silhouetting God, incarnate in ancient rock.

Who is He?

Recapping – Hosea 1

For both men and women, it’s essential to harness the mind’s imagination in thinking what it must have been like to be the man Hosea:

God has come to you and asked you to marry a Prostitute. He has come to you and asked you to build a family from the adulterous lineage of a Harlot. He has come to you and told you to take a path that will absolutely smash your social standing and confuse the compass of all of your male sensibilities.

God has come to you and He has commanded the obliteration your male ego.

But God has done this to reveal the tectonic power of the inner chambers of His heart and, at the same time, the panoramic pinnacle of His Everest love for us. He is showing us His deepest, highest, widest affections through the churning heart of a husband bereft of the love and loyalty of his wife.

Punishment and Promise

Let’s Read Hosea 2:1-13

  • The futures of Gomer and Israel seem to be hanging in the balance, swinging back and forth like an eternal pendulum. Rebuke is the word of the day but there is the hope of restoration.
  • God is grieved by the betrayal of His people and very deeply. We’re supposed to be imagining what it’s like to be the man Hosea but only to understand the heart and nature of our Maker. Put yourself in Hosea’s shoes – you’ve just married the woman you love, despite her past, but now she runs off with other men that love her. She has sex with them. She is paid to have sex with them. Your honeymoon is the shock that your wife still loves her sinful past more than the present with you.

Perhaps Hosea was imagining the marital bliss between Boaz and Ruth and feeling let down by God

  • We’re shown the inner mechanics and thought trains of both adulterous wife and forgiving Husband, (‘she said…’ v5 cf. ‘therefore I will…’ v6). So there’s an exchange of emotional responses.
  • In the Old Testament, Father God is often understood as being angry – that’s understandable – but every time you sense God’s anger, try to instead imagine God as being grieved and as being gutted rather than as just waving His great, big, cosmic stick around in fury. I’ve found this a massively helpful distinction in coming closer to the heart of God. When you imagine how hurt and bereft and sad and confused and betrayed Hosea must have felt, think of God being forgotten by His bride. (v13). Remember: this is about God not about Hosea; Hosea is pointing us to the heart of God.

We need think of God as being betrayed and distraught rather than just as angry.

The Promise of Allurement

Therefore I am now going to allure her…

  • God’s response to the betrayal of His heart is  the gracious promise of allurement:
v.al·lured, al·lur·ing, al·lures

v.tr.

To attract with something desirable; entice: Promises of quick profits allure the unwary investor.

v.intr.

To be highly, often subtly attractive: charms that still allure.

n.

The power to attract; enticement.
  • Verse 14 is where we begin to learn about the dimensions of the love of God, contrasted with Hosea’s undoubted struggle and Gomer’s flagrant abandonment of covenant.
  • Can you imagine a love that loves like this? Hurt, gutted, sick-to-the-stomach, can’t eat or focus or sleep…this is the picture of God we’re given through the humanity of Hosea’s disaster. And yet, God responds by promising allurement: God resolves to show us how incomparable, how much better He is, how much more desirable than anything else in order that we will come to our senses and love him voluntarily and whole-heartedly as we should. From every charming sin, every unknown idolatry, every diluting agent of our love for Him, God promises to allure us back into the bliss of full betrothal covenant…of ecstatic union and oneness.
  • The LORD conquers the indecision and double-mindedness of His people by restoring them. He pours out instead of drawing back.

I will show my love to the one I called, “Not my loved one”

I will say to those called “Not my people” , “you are my people”

And they will say

“You are my God”

Bible, Marriage, Theology

Hosea 1- Acclimatising to the Mess (& the wonder)


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The book of Hosea is full of a kind of beauty that will take our breath away…if we will let it.

I’m taking Chapter 1 today, solo, just to set the scene, then 2 & 3 together next week and then a couple more posts to cover the remaining 12 chapters. Boom!

1:1

  • Remember in verse 1, crucially, the context has been set like some kind of historical GPS for us. (More detail here).

1:2

  • Then verse two begins the first of two prose/narrative sections that act as book ends on the more poetic middle of the book that we’ll come to in another post.
  • We’re assured straight away that this is the LORD speaking – as though we needed reminding – bringing to mind 2 Timothy 3:16 that “…all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful…”. This is Hosea speaking but it is the Lord of all creation who is speaking through Him.

In order to speak prophetically to a Nation and to achieve redemption and righteousness for them, God invades, exposes and demands the masculinity of Hosea’s ego, his social and spiritual reputation, his lineage, his peace, his joy, his sanity, his sexual satisfaction and purity and, most ultimately, the emotional bed of his heart.

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God, Theology, writing

Incomparable


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A friend recently gave me a copy of Andrew Wilson’s fine book Incomparable, by all accounts a modern day equivalent of J I Packer’s Knowing God. Wilson’s book is a concise, snappy, whimsical, high-calibre study of the character of God and even in the opening chapters there are some nuggets that landed in my heart that catalysed a bubbling up of faith. Here are just two to whet the appetite:
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Theology, Worship Projects, Worship, Music and Song

The Presence Project Intro


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STUDIO2

On July 24th and 25th 2013, I took a bunch of mates into Peak Studios in Bradford, England, to record The Presence Project.

The project combines a beautiful worship song that will encourage you to treasure the presence of Jesus above everything else in life and a video inspiring you to pursue Him more than ever before.

The Presence Project will be available here to view for free at the beginning of September 2013.

Here’s the new, mid-September edit – Presenting the Presence Project:

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Culture, Theology

Cathedrals In My Heart


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If we stop even for a minute and think about what ruined castles and cathedrals might represent to us today, we could easily come up with an metaphorical message that could be spiritualised to mean something that is gospel-centred and Christ-exalting. For example, castles could be portrayed to represent the distant kingdoms of Earth, the limited strength of mankind and the blunt pinnacles of hierarchical societies. Conversely, cathedrals could be portrayed as prophetic structures; as places of sanctuary amidst persecution and timeless houses of worship.

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