For several years I have been struggling to forgive a very serious series of incidents that have had a major impact on my heart and mind as well as Mairi’s. Detail is unnecessary. But, suffice to say, I have been wrestling with the cognitive wisdom of ‘knowing’ that forgiveness was needed, for my own sake, but not quite knowing how to get my heart there. (more…)
Who art in heaven
Hallowed be Your Name
Your kingdom come, Your will be done
On Earth as it is in heaven
Give us today our daily bread
And forgive us our sins as we forgive those who’ve sinned against us
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil
For Yours is the kingdom, the power and the glory
Forever and ever
According to PM David Cameron in his 2015 Easter speech that most of us have heard, the UK remains a Christian country because the government help to repair Cathedrals and older church buildings that, supposedly, represent the ‘living active force’ who are the local church.
Mr Cameron also pointed to the phenomenal welfare efforts of the church in specific terms of homelessness and poverty relief.
Spotlight on this Living Active Force
Here are just two specific examples of this living active Christian force that meet many needs in our fractured society but who are not necessarily synonymous with Cathedrals or dilapidated church buildings. (more…)
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.
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”
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!
- Remember in verse 1, crucially, the context has been set like some kind of historical GPS for us. (More detail here).
- 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.
I’ve spent all week directing a new promotional film for the Faith Mission Bible College in Edinburgh
Here’s a little teaser in time-lapse form of our friend Grace being transformed
It’s going to be epic…
This one word sums up the only impulse for our continuing prayer and love for God that sometimes may seem to flicker rather than blaze. Like a heart that only beats because it was created to be myogenic.
When you feel as though you don’t desire God as you should, as you want to, remember that you only have any desire in the first place because He first moved toward you! It’s His grip on you…
It’s this specific aspect of the nature of God, of Jesus, of Holy Spirit, that never ceases to amaze me or communicate deep comfort to my heart.
APART FROM THE SHEER, UNIMAGINABLE MERCY OF CALVARY, HAVING ANY *ONGOING* DESIRE FOR JESUS, WHATSOEVER, IS THE GREATEST GRACE AND MERCY I THINK I CAN IMAGINE
A W Tozer says it like this:
We pursue God because, and only because, He has first put an urge within us that spurs us to the pursuit. “No man can come to me,” said our Lord, “except the Father which hath sent me draw him,” and it is by this very prevenient drawing that God takes from us every vestige of credit for the act of coming. The impulse to pursue God originates with God, but the out working of that impulse is our following hard after Him; and all the time we are pursuing Him we are already in His hand: “Thy right hand upholdeth me.”
Excerpt from The Pursuit of God
We all have back stories – recorded and unfolding narratives of the span of our life forensically written by the sum of our experiences: great highs, often greater lows, innumerable memories all woven together in the finest detail to create a one-of-a-kind piece of art, hanging as a priceless tapestry in the inner gallery of our heart.
We don’t always want the public to view our own piece hanging there and we don’t honour the pieces that we see of others every day.
Do we walk through these galleries we’re in every day paying cursory glances at the pieces on display? Or could we stop to really look at what we see?
A biblical perspective for back stories is a faith-primed hope of a better future – all because of Jesus: He promises to never leave us alone and in the fullness of time to make all things new.
The difficulty with back stories is that we even struggle to know and understand our own let alone those of others – they require attention, thought and counsel. But understanding and attending to our own will help with our understanding of others.
The thing is – because everyone has come from somewhere, is currently somewhere processing the past and dreaming of a future; and because they are in fact headed somewhere into an unknown place, we must treat each other with the love that John talks about in 1 John. (I won’t quote chapter and verse but how about picking up your Bible, reading 1 John and noting the correlation between our love for Christ and our love for each other?).
See what I mean?
My prayer for myself and for you is that we would draw the same boundary lines as Jesus draws: grace upon grace upon grace upon grace upon grace [until it becomes annoying, ‘unfair’, even ridiculous] upon grace upon grace. You’ll need an eraser for sure; so will I:
We all know the feeling of being found outside of the boundary lines that others have drawn for us, (even in ink), essentially leaving us in relational exile where grace has run dry; but in the power of the Holy Spirit of God we can all be prayerful students of back story masterpieces and come to truly understand that each piece really does paint a million words.
Occasionally I’ll hear a lyric in a song of worship that will make me wince. Brooke Fraser’s bridge section from Hosanna is a good example of this where she pens,
“Heal my heart and make it clean…break my heart for what breaks Yours”.
We sing, we follow suit, we play…but, really? Break my heart – really? Lord, I want to feel deep heart-break…really?
I winced recently when I heard a lyric clearly from the costly, private world of Matt Crocker and Joel Houston from the Zion track Mercy Mercy – and I wince every time I hear it and wince even more when I have the courage to sing it.