Sunday, 11 May 2014

T h e V o w

What shall I do with you, O Judah?

It's a pretty familiar picture.
The people of Israel and Judah have a love for God that is like 'a morning cloud' - driven easily away by other desires and interests, wayward and foolish.

And yet, says Hosea, as sure as the dawn and the refreshing morning dew that waters and revives the earth, so the Lord, wounded by their folly, calls to them - come, and I will heal. Draw close, and I will refresh you (Hosea 6:1-4).

The desire of God, for our steadfast love, is not something easily grown. So often, we are detached from that prize by our failure and apostasy, our longing after something other than a love and mercy that can truly heal us.

God sees our error, and calls to us amidst our empty ways, for He also sees what we shall be, entirely by His love, and it is His love that will truly rule over us.

Listen to His words:

Behold, I will allure her,
and bring her into the wilderness,
and speak tenderly to her,
and there, in that place, I will giver her vineyards,
and I will make that valley a place of hope,

and then, there she shall answer,
as in the days of her youth,
as in that time when I delivered her and set her free

and in that day, says the Lord, you will call me 'my Husband'

and I will lye you down in safety,
and there, betroth you to me, forever, in righteousness,
in justice, steadfast love, and faithfulness,
and you shall know the Lord

and the earth will answer with wine and grain,
as I will sow the land for her,
and I will have mercy on a people who were not my people


Today, the richness of His grace is truly ours, because He has, does and will always love us - that is why we are His.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

I d e n t i d y

Early May in England can be pretty astonishing. The landscape fills with rich colours as creation becomes adorned with new life, the days become longer and, when we're really fortunate, the sun appears and fills those days with warmth and light which allows us to get out of 'winter mode' and enjoy all the good gifts God has bestowed upon our world. I easily find my thoughts turning to the theme of our own renewal as this unfolds, and it's great when those thoughts can be accompanied by a 'guide' that will develop and deepen an understanding of God's caring, unmerited work within us. That has certainly been the case this spring, as I've been reading Jim Mc Neeley's really helpful work, The Romance of Grace  (nicely reviewed here).

As the radiance of Spring can escape us if we're otherwise occupied, so can the nature of what God has truly done for us, purely through love, in and through His Son, Jesus Christ.
What if God, asks the book, sees us the way a man sees a women he has become infatuated with - the issue isn't how do I get her to live up to all my expectations, but how do I woo her, how do I get such a person to fall in love with me? Jim's study of the truth at the heart of our faith really opens this theme up and explores what it means for each of us and creation to be the focus of such a cosmic romance.

There were moments here that really resonated deeply - the look at the parable of the merchant in Matthew 13 in chapter 1 brought home to me the strength of Lewis' analogy of the diver (used in his essay, The Grand Miracle) in a fresh way, and the second chapter of the book's study on what transpired in Eden (regarding the division of the way we view and understand good because of evil) left me with some very fresh thoughts and more to unpack, but it was the last chapter - after really affirming it's truly all about grace for the rest of the book - that brought it all home.

Some years ago, whilst listening to various White Horse Inn materials on law and gospel, it became clear to me that true religion (the unique, complete, objective work of God of Christ) leaves us in a place where we're in one of either two 'modes' - that of the "moral" person (who thanks God he's not like others), or the sinner entirely thrown upon God's unmerited love (Luke 18: 9-14). Mc Neeley finishes the book by re-visiting this issue through the incident of the woman who had been caught in adultery, asking who do we identify with here, and have we become those who know the freedom and the mercy which Jesus shows in this moment, each day, in our own lives.

It's a gem of a book, and my own comments here have barely scratched the surface on how it will impact upon us in underlining the need we all have to be entirely drawn and held by God's love. Hopefully it will be enough to peak your curiosity to at least find out more about it and then read the book for yourselves - it's certainly been a great way to enjoy the real start of Spring.