theology

Bible, Church, Culture, Theology

Bishop Michael Curry: Miracle Donkey or Whore Mule?


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The dislocated union of promiscuous wife and distraught husband is the most powerful picture in the entire Bible. No other poetic device or theme comes as close to conveying the smitten and lovingly-steadfast heart of God. In short, the juxtaposition of adultery and fidelity – God-amnesia and Jesus-fascination – is the premier theme of all Holy Writ. (more…)

Bible, Theology

Carried Along (5 minute study of 2 Peter 3)


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I was reading 2 Peter earlier this morning in the ESV as I leaned in to God for a cuddle.  A phrase struck me that I found immediately vivid and helpful:

Right at the beginning of the letter in 1:21, Peter refers to the human writers of Scripture who were “carried along” by the Holy Spirit. Right at the end of the letter in 3:17, he warns of not being “carried away” with the error of lawless men.

Carried along and carried away – two phrases that, though having different roots in their original Greek, are constructions Peter clearly contrasts with each other as a word play.

Bumbling Peter, the restored rock of the church who, on more than one occasion, knew what it was to be carried away by the deception and cowardice of Satan. But also Mighty Peter, the stalwart Great on whom Christ would build His church as its Spirit-carried leader.

An Illustration

Have you seen the new version of the Disney classic Jungle Book? We watched it the other day and loved it! But there’s a scene in the original 1967 animated movie that illustrates Peter’s point here better than the new one and that came to mind as I read:

  1. Do you recall Mowgli drifting down the jungle river sitting on Baloo’s cushion-like belly without a care in the world? This helps us to understand what Peter meant by being carried along by the Spirit, by Whom we become more than our mere human nature. Becoming like God Himself as He fills us and carries us every day.
  2. Seconds later, Mowgli is snatched by King Louie’s monkeys. This helps us to understand what Peter meant by not being carried away by the error of the lawless.

The point is that, positively, in order to be carried along by the power of the Holy Spirit and not, negatively, to be carried away by the schemes of the devil, we must do two things:

a) Be On Guard – (2 Peter 3:17) – Every day when we wake up, and every night when we go to bed, let’s make sure to pray. Pray that you would be alert to the schemes of the enemy and increasingly aware of the power of the Holy Spirit.

b) Grow in Grace & Knowledge – (2 Peter 3:18) – This ‘being on guard’ isn’t a passive hope; it’s an  active priority to take your Bible and increase your knowledge of who Jesus is as we become more like Him in His grace.

In 2 Peter 3:-3-4 Peter tells us  that in the last days there will be scoffers. This means that there will people and spiritual entities who will scoff at the reality of being carried along by the Holy Spirit.

So, let’s do what Peter tells us to do in response to this in verse 8:

Do not forget this one thing….with the Lord a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years are like a day.

He is nearer that you think.

Read Acts 17:27 then ask Him to show you His nearness again.

Jesus, Jesus Come, second coming, Theology

Ready: Introduction


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What’s This All About?

Most of you who read Firebrand Notes on even a semi-regular basis will know that about eighteen months ago we produced a film/music project called Jesus Come. Not only were Mairi and I really pleased with the way the project turned out, we passionately believe in the message that it carries: that the world is in a desperate, desperate mess (more than we can see) and people are hurting (beyond our capacity to understand); Jesus Christ is the only hope to bring justice and order and He is coming again.

For generations, the church has flitted between the excessive polarities of, on the one hand, talking about the Second Coming too much (while doing very little) and, on the other, focusing on an ‘attractional’, ‘relevant’, seeker-sensitive model of church (while failing to teach disciples to live in the reality of His coming).

In both cases, the gospel is generally more of a fix-my-life-make-it-better prescription than it is an invitation to surrender, suffer, die and live in the evangelistic power of the early church.

Houston, we have a problem.

What Is The Problem?

(more…)

Church, theology

Into The Pray – The Bride


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*This is the third piece in a 7 part blog series called “Into The Pray”*

Pic ‘n’ Mix

The church Mairi and I have left recently are awesome in many ways. But in other ways they are not awesome. This can be said of any church as well as of ourselves personally, so this  shouldn’t be offensive news to any of us, should it? But as a symptom of the common departure of denominational ‘church’ from Biblical truth about the Church, into a kind of blinkered brain-washing, some of you reading this will already be offended. (more…)

Church, Culture

Into The Pray – Prelude


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Raw Disclaimer

{No, I’ve not gone vegan, but I would like to issue a WARNING that this series is going to possibly offend or insult if you’re religious or blinkered by denominational or institutionalised forms of control. The aim of writing Into The Pray is absolutely not intending to insult or offend in anyway (I take the subject of the church to be almost incomparably important) but I do want to deliberately ‘shoot in raw’ without ‘editing’ in order to process as best as I can}

_________________

“Once more into the fray…into the last good fight I’ll ever know.

Live and die on this day…

Live and die on this day…”

Ottway, The Grey

__________________ (more…)

Bible, Prayer, Theology

The Humanity of Prayer


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We were flicking through movie rental options on TV the other night when we stumbled across Kevin Reynolds’ 2016 film Risen – a film about the resurrection of Christ as seen through the eyes of a Roman Military Tribune, Clavius ((Joseph Fiennes).

Inititially I thought the film was going to be lame but was surprised by the way the film grew on me, particualrly when Jesus featured, as played by Cliff Curtis – I’d thoroughly recommend renting/buying the film!

Barging into the Upper Room

There is one particular aspect of the film that continues to speak to me powerfully:

As the Bible says, when Jesus rose from the grave, after Mary Magdalene had recognised Him by the grave-side, Jesus appeared to His disciples. Walls, Roman Soldiers, constanty conspiring Pharisees and the frightened bewilderment of His people weren’t a problem – Jesus met with his friends to prove his resurrection glory and to encourage His grieving mates. (more…)

Bible, Marriage, Theology

Canonically 


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In 2008 I graduated from St.Andrews University with a slightly random degree in Biblical Studies and French. I had spent four years studying several different books of the Bible including their history, authorship, historical and cultural contexts and linguistic challenges that exist with them. (more…)

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”