Friday, July 29, 2011

Thankful at the end of the year

It's the end of the 2010/11 academic year for me. When I return to work in three weeks it'll be 2011/12 and the start of my eleventh season working with UCCF... how did that happen!

I'm thankful for the last year in so many ways.

Outside of 'work' I'm thankful for my Saviour who has kept me and shown me fresh depths of his love for me.
I'm thankful for the family our local church and the mission that he's called us into in our city. I'm thankful for our friends in the church, and outside of the church.
I'm thankful for my family. A year in which our first son has learned to talk and our second son has been born.
Considering the work I've been doing with UCCF, the first sphere of my work is with the South West team:
  • I'm thankful for Cat who (re)joined us last August after a year of student mission in Peru. Her first year has been outstanding, she's a deeply theological, gifted apologist whose work I'm thrilled with, and whose heart for the Lord is great to see.
  • I'm thankful for Hannah and Jim's final years on the team. They've been wonderful partners in the gospel, trusted friends who haven't been afraid to challenge me. I'm going to miss working with them, but excited for their next steps in God's work.
  • I'm thankful for Jo and Brian who have both had strong second years. 
  • Jo is brilliantly relational, with a teachable heart and a great appetite for the gospel in the Scriptures. 
  • Brian is a thoughtful and reliable minister of the word who has stepped up to the plate this year, preached Christ and seen fruitfulness in his two years in Exeter.
  • I love that I've had the opportunity to work with these five gospel ministers, and for the way that Christ is winning their hearts day by day. I'm thankful for our adventures together with Richard Sibbes, and in the pages of Genesis and Exodus. I love their diligence with God's word and God's people. They would probably hate that I'm writing about them here, but I want to honour them.
  • I'm also thankful for the eight Relay interns we were entrusted with this year. The quality of their faith impresses me, combined with the mentoring of the five staff has resulted in progress and joy.
  • I'm thankful that though we've had hard times to face, and still do, God is still God and the gospel is still true.
  • I'm thankful for the wider ministry of the UCCF family that I've been privileged to be part of - for the churches who partner with us, for the ministry of greats like John Stott who have shaped us. I'm thankful for those who have come alongside us to serve us this year.
  • I'm thankful for those who have given sacrificially so we can be set apart for the church to do this work.
  • And I'm thankful for those who pray.
  • I'm thankful for those who've given so I could attend Newfrontiers Leadership Training this year. 
And in the work we're sent to in the South West:
  • I'm thankful for the students in the South West who have followed Jesus and made him known to those around them. I'm thankful for the way they've shared their lives with other students, eating and drinking with them, and opening up God's word with them.
  • I'm thankful for the students I've worked with outside the South West this year in Cardiff, Oxford and at the Forum conference - for their responsiveness to Christ. I'm thankful for our fourth Transformission conference, for Mike Reeves' teaching and for those who came and met with Christ.
  • I'm also thankful for the 30+ churches who partner with us in the South West, who are our church families and who send us and pray for us. I pray we've done a little to see those churches built up in strength and number through our mission this year. I'm thankful for the encouraging meetings I've with the men and women who lead churches in the region.
  • I'm thankful for Alex Banfield Hicks, John and Sue Hosier, Jim Walford, Pete Greasley, Mike Kendall, Ron Frost and Peter Mead for teaching us God's word. And in advance for the men and women who have agreed to serve us next year.
I'm thankful to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit whose relentlessly relational mission has continued among us in the last year. And I thirst for more of our God and his mission in 2011/12.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

People are bruised reeds, please don't break us

I've found myself in a twitter conversation about a certain American pastor who protests he's not a legalist but would consider my application of 1 Timothy 5's exhortation that men should provide for their family to make me "worse than an unbeliever".

How so? I've pursued a call to ministry with a mission agency who for better or for worse can't fund me to the extent that I can live in my part of the UK on a single salary... at least not if I want to live somewhere convenient to the ministry and if I want to be responsible for the future by having a mortgage and if I want to follow the call to increase and multiply (i.e. be a Dad). I've watched this pastor on video say he'd subject me to church discipline for leading my family in such a way that my wife needs to work part-time (about 2.5 days a week). It seems he'd kick me out of the church...

I'm prepared to accept that I've made some bad calls along the way though I've sought to be wise and careful financially, and I could just be trying to justify my own failings and sin. I accept that.

And actually, I don't disagree with the principle - I am responsible for my family. 100% agreed. My question is, is this the only way this can look? Even in this pastors own context? Is everything primary? This pastors vision of the godly life seems to be that a man should move out of home, buy a house, marry, have kids and do it all on one income. It's a very western, middle-class, middle-income view of life. In some cultures we'd be bringing our family up in my parents home with the advantages of the care of parents and grandparents... would that be ungodly?

It's hard to disagree when it's done in the name of godliness (charismatics play the same card when they wont let prophecy be tested!)... day care becomes evil... Flee! The world will ruin us and so on... Homeschooling becomes salvation. And women stay in the kitchen, even though the much idealised Proverbs 31 woman was evidently a successful business woman.

That's all meant by way of illustration. I've taken my family where I've taken us and I make no claim to have got that 100% right at every stage. But, my thought here isn't really about that issue. 

Its more about the rediscovery of church discipline and the way it seems to be brandished and threatened against people rather than pursued with gentleness for peoples good. And gentle application of the gospel seems to me to mean there isn't one law for everyone, but the transforming work of the Spirit degree by degree.

My question - how far should application of the gospel go? How far should a pastor seek to authoritatively bind the consciences of his congregation (and his own!), and to what extend should he just be holding up the worth of Christ and allowing freedom of conscience and freedom of the Holy Spirit? 

At one extreme - "if you're not a home-owning single-income Dad you're worse than an unbeliever" at the other (as I heard on an mp3 from my own church family recently as they interacted with another American leader) - "It's not my business whether one of my congregation drives a Hummer or a Prius". I've had similar conversations with pastors who've objected to students leading Christian Unions... because there isn't an Elder present... neither is there when I'm witnessing to my neighbour. Leaders have many opportunities to form their people, winning hearts to Christ week by week, but that doesn't mean they micro-manage the lives of their congretations.... and boot them out if lives don't fit their plan.

Granted sometimes threats and warnings are helpful (usually for the most pious), in my experience people mostly need someone to bind up their brokenness, to comfort them, and to walk with them. There are plenty of bruised reeds in the church. I feel bad enough about some of the choices we have to make in this broken world without someone throwing guilt on to me! There are responsibilities on church leaders that weigh heavily on them, and I wouldn't want to advocate a total-hands-off approach. I want to care for Christians - my heart is that of a pastor-teacher - but I don't want to turn into a heavy-shepherding micro-manager or a biting wolf. I'm not saying that pastor is doing this, but I could imagine him being imitated unhelpfully.

I know I have a bent towards the big picture rather than the detail and I'm really not saying that rigorous application of the gospel isn't required - it is, and every detail of life matters... but does it look the same for everyone in every culture? We're not all called to the same job, same income, same location, same standard of living etc. A pure church is a great vision - but that's not done with an iron fist. No church is pure yet. And progress and joy in the faith come as everyone plays their part, not highlighting one another's failings but holding out the gospel, so that by the Spirit the eyes of our hearts might look again to Christ.

And in all this I'm thankful that I live in the presence of one who is My Provider, the true provider for my family, who is more than able to meet my every need, wretched as I am, and carry me home.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Because our dreams are destroying us

I love films and novels. I love the way someone can tell a story and enable you to see things differently - to step into a semi-reality to see where dreams and desires lead. This could be a self-loving escapism (and may often be that) but its equally capable of enriching life, casting fresh light upon my questions and putting beauty into the monotony of life. Pointers to what life could be...

We watched three films recently.

The Adjustment Bureau follows the life of David Norris, a remarkable young politician faced with a Presidential future and the opportunities of true love. He is a man with a void in his heart, can he have the politics and love, or if he finds satisfaction in one will it ruin him in the other... and which would be more significant.

The DVD box says it's Bourne meets Inception. It's a bit sci-fi (based on a Philip K. Dick short) which reminded me of Vanilla Sky / Open your eyes at times and it stars Matt Damon, but really it's a story about love and the pursuit of desire.

It'd tempting with this film to ask if the Adjustment Bureau officers are a picture of a god who can adjust our lives... seems to me that the film isn't really about that, but more whether we're free people - are we driven by rational choices our bound to our hearts desires?

And what if "I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy..."?

The Lovely Bones is based on the novel of the same name. The novel is brilliant, and, for me, Peter Jackson's film didn't quite match it though the cinematography was beautiful and I can't imagine it having done any better. The descriptive power of written fiction doesn't always translate, a picture might tell a thousand words, but sometimes a thousand words are needed. Fourteen year old Susie Salmon is murdered and we see how this effects her family and friends, while the killer lurks nearby. Her opportunities to live are taken and it's not just her life that is taken.

Saoirse Ronan's portrayal of innocence is as fascinating as Stanley Tucci's creepy George Harvey (reminiscent of Robin Williams in One Hour Photo). Our stories have heroes and villains, battling against one another as we yearn for a happy ending. We have dark stories in this dark world but we long for comedy.

Black Swan is a weird film. Not everyone would 'enjoy' this film - you need to be able to cope with some strong content and some strangeness - but if you can it's brilliant.
Darren Aronofsky makes odd and harrowing films (his previous was The Wrestler). Nina is a pure dancer, living with her mother amongst her cuddly toys. Though an adult she's still a child. And then she's pushed to find a darkside, to achieve dancing perfection by not just being pure but being passionate. The film explores the way she pursues this - driven into herself, and pushed along by those around her.

Tony Watkins' review cites Tim Keller: "So many sacrifice everything to the god of success. In ancient times, idol deities were bloodthirsty and hard to appease. They still are." - an observation that casts light on the story of David Norris and Nina Sayers, of those left behind by Susie Salmon.

There is a numbness to life and trying to break out of it ourselves, to feel something. Our inconsolable longing has the potential to break and even destroy us, yet we dream of life beyond the life we're used to. We all make our choices. Perhaps you could be a CEO but you might favour your family over endless hours. Footballer Oliver Gill was Manchester United's reserve player of the year but he's abandoned that to study at Durham University. Sometimes our choices enlarge us and sometimes they're choices that seems to lead us to live less. Sometimes has to die for something else to live. The seed has to fall to the ground. The Book of Ecclesiastes famously says that Eternity is written on our hearts, which is great frustration - smaller hearts could be satisfied but we're left to fall.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Beloved Son

Last week I read Trevor Burke's book Sonship. I loved these quotes he cites:
"The greatest unkindness you can do to [the Father] is not to believe that he loves you" John Owen.

"It pleased [the Father] to enfold us in the eternal family... it thrilled his heart" Mark Stibbe.
My review will of Sonship will be posted at Together for Adoption on Tuesday. Burke uses a moving story to show the importance of sonship in his book, and Student Alpha have made this animation of the story:

My Beloved Son from Holy Trinity Brompton on Vimeo.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Vengeful God of the Bible

Owen Brown features in the BBC Wales Today talking sense after a vicar exhibited the Bible verses he thinks show how nasty god is and then burned the remnants of his cuttings. You can watch it on iPlayer BBC Wales News from about 1min50 into the programme, for five minutes, available until 7pm on Saturday.

The Reverend Geraint op Iorwerth is free like the rest of us to take offense at the Bible - better than apathy! Strangely the Bible's own offense at the Old Testament is the extreme extent of the LORD's love for his people....

And I don't really mind the Rev cutting up a Bible - good to engage with it, though cutting up any book feels sacrilegious! - it's great to engage with the text, I read mine with a pen in hand.

The problem is that when you play pick n mix with the Bible you become god, you stop letting god speaking and just define you own deity, dressed up in Bible language. It's the advantage of churches preaching it page by page, means they can't dodge the harder bits, or over focus on the preachers favourite bits.

As it happens, I met with Owen earlier today for a tour of his 66 exhibition that's at the Norwegian Church Arts Centre in Cardiff Bay until Saturday 23rd July. It's a great photographic exploration of the Bible to mark 400 years since the King James Bible was published. I love his vision for arts and for the Bible.

Owen's challenge is for us to read afresh - to not just take others opinion but to read it for ourselves. But doing that means you have to read the verses the Welsh vicar doesn't like as well as the other verses... to take the whole and see what is said.

How do you hold things together?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Big Towers and Big Names.

God said multiply and fill the earth. Humanity multiplied, and tried to stand together. Standing together is fun because when you're big you can do a lot, you're safer and stronger and more unified. You can maintain common language and avoid trouble. You can make a name for yourself. You can build a big tower and a big reputation.

God said scatter. He came down and scattered them. He is always coming out of himself to us and sending us out of ourselves beyond ourselves to the ends of the earth. To enter into his spreading goodness and so go.

Diversity. Going brings diversity. God instigated diversity of language but this could/should have happened anyway as humanity scattered, and will seemingly be preserved/redeemed in the new creation. New societies develop new dialects and angles and approaches. Part of the glory of the new world is it's diversity. Diversity of culture, language, personality, passions, tempraments, skills, knowledge, giftings and strengths - and perhaps even some degree of theological diversity too!

Obscurity. Going spreads you out. You might eventually build megachurches by going but there's a big world to go to so the norm is likely to be smaller scale and obscurity. Big conferences don't tend to give the stage to small church pastors. Going and spreading brings obscurity. Like the son of God who came out from the Father, and turned up in the obscure villages of Palestine. There are known churches and there's not necessarily anything wrong with having a name (it's ok that people can refer to Mars Hill and John Piper and All Souls and CCK etc.), but a people on the move tend not to have a name. What would there be to name? And any name they have just becomes a label for relationships, which are ever evolving, being built together and torn apart. That kind of name can be big - because it's about widespread influence among ever spreading people - that kind of name is always raising up others and as it produces fruitfulness becomes in effect increasingly obscure, widely known but not always known.

Momentum. Like our God we're meant for going. And you can go by staying as long as you keep on going where you're staying. People have called the Triune society a dance, full of movement, toward one another and out from self, always self-giving and other-centred, not staring in the mirror but moving towards others.

I was reading Genesis 11 today.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Of raising sounds of joy

Charismatics Christians love to sing. As we educate our son about church it's about Jesus and about singing to Jesus. We read The Jesus Storybook Bible and we pray - and we sing. Maybe we're a bad stereotype but Jesus makes me feel like singing. Perhaps it's not a charismatic thing... maybe it's just a Christian thing!

In 1 Chronicles 15 David appoints a group of Levites to be musicians for the people. They are appoint to "raise sounds of joy" (v16). What a great job to have - one many musicians will take up as churches gather. The worship of God's people was not sedate and stoic, sounds of joy were raised. With the richest of scriptural lyrics, let joyful melodies stir joy in people's hearts.

As David sings in chapter 16 that the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice (v10),the LORD's presence is a place of joy. I don't think we can pass off an absence of joy as 'British reserve' - the majority of the people in the 5000-strong crowd at the Thursday night prayer meeting at the Newfrontiers Leaders Conference are British, and they're not all confident or extroverted, but it's the biggest joyfilled occasion I've ever found myself in.

At the end of the chapter David himself is involved in exhuberant joyful worship before the Lord. The beloved dances before the LORD. The daughter of the king who broke faith (Saul) despises him in her heart for this (v29).

There are always two families interacting in the Bible, the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman. The ungodly line are always striking at the heal of the godly, despising them... but their heads will be crushed for those who seek the LORD will find life and joy and victory. The LORD orders that his annointed overcome (16:22) - then even the trees rejoice, all creation will raise up sounds of joy. We either despise that, or find our feet starting to tap and our heart sparking to life as we see the beloved one rejoicing.

I found myself rejoicing last week to sing a new song... the LORD's annointed has overcome through his death and resurrection - rejoice in the undefeated man... combing rich theology and terrace-passion: Watch a Twitter-Video, Simon Brading leading:
"Who are ya, who are ya, O death has lost its sting, who are ya, you're not singing anymore. The enemy has been overthrown, Jesus high and lifted up on the cross... My God overcame, my God defeated Satan, My God will never be held down... My God, you are Christus Victor, the Undefeated Man"
The true Beloved rejoices in the presence of his Father, and carries us into the dancing, raising us up into his joy. Come to the banquet, come to the celebration, join the singing and dancing of Jesus in the presence of his Father in the fulness of the Holy Spirit.... As Tom Wright puts it in his excellent book Surprised by Hope: "God is God, Jesus is Lord, the powers of evil have been defeated & God's new world has begun"Why wouldn't we raise a sound of joy? The gospel calls for a joyful song from all who will receive this best of news.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Nigel Lee Archive at Living Leadership

Living Leadership is building an online archive of the preaching of the late Nigel Lee (1946-2006). They say:
"he left very little by way of writing, he was a preeminent missionary statesman of the latter half of the 20th century and a prince among Bible teachers. His legacy is in the transformed lives of countless individuals around the world, and a huge number of evangelists and preachers whom he befriended, encouraged, mentored and passed the torch to."
Nigel worked with OM and with UCCF and I had the honour of working on a CU mission with him at Reading in 2000/1. I last heard him preach at our 2003 student leaders conference, in my first year on our staff team. Living Leadership have uploaded over thirty sermons uploaded thus far with more to come. In his obituary for Nigel Living Leadership director Marcus Honeysett noted:
"When Nigel Lee first discovered he had life-threatening cancer he said to a friend ‘this is when people get to see if I really believe all I’ve been preaching about all these years.’ We have. He did. And now he is with the Lord in the glory of eternity and the famous Lee smile is broader than ever."
John Risbridger says: "Nigel Lee (my former boss in UCCF) inspired me to try and preach in a way that connects with people and communicates passion for God." Go enjoy the Nigel Lee archive.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The loved are free to love

There's nothing macho about Christianity. Our Head (Christ) was the humble king who gave himself up to death for us. Nothing strong about that. Nothing self-loving and self-protecting and self-advancing about that. Christianity is for losers. It's good news for losers.

When we speak of Christ as Head over all we surely exalt his love and humility rather than his brute force power and dominating sovereignty. Anyone can follow one who  wields power - and look good for doing so - but it takes a different Spirit to follow one who is all love, who lays himself down, whose strengths is manifest in weakness. One who does not seize greatness but receives it as his Father raises him up above all else.

Hosea 1:11 sums up the gospel as concerning the appointment of Christ as Head, as the true husband who gives himself for a desperately unfaithful whore of a wife. The image isn't flattering - we're the whore. But the image is beautiful - in the place of abuse by others and self-inflicted abuse, she is now the subject of his great love. At cost and humiliation to himself he take her to be his own, to have and to hold, to give himself to. What is this Head like? Burroughs reflects:
"They shall 'appoint themselves one Head' not force Christ upon others by fire and sword. Heretics are to be burnt with fire, says Luther; but with what fire? the fire of charity (love)."
Nothing forceful, nothing cold and nothing abusive here. Where Christ is Head, the body loves because it is so astonishingly loved. There ought to be none as loving as one loved by Christ, for there is none so loved as one loved by Christ. Dev writes On freedom and slavery in Galatians
"The true son rests solely in the love of God shown in the cross of Christ – He needs no other affirmation, encouragement or reassurance. The Spirit of God is the one that constantly pours that love fresh into our hearts. If we are true sons, like Paul, we can become true fathers to others – to beget others through the same Spirit and not through the flesh. If we are insecure, then all our disciple-making will only bind others to ourselves, to boost out own standing with men and God – while actually making others slaves to the same insecurity. We will insist on certain practices and systems that we have invented for others to follow in as well. Once the Son sets us free, we are free indeed – people are allowed to express the one faith differently, in a way that harmonizes together – that the world may know we are a liberated people – for the flesh has no hold on how we view one another. We are a crucified people, through the cross of Christ. "
The loved are free, sons who can become fathers. Life givers to others, not manipulator and but liberators. A peculiar people, who follow Christ their Head and so learn to love like he loved and loves.
"Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm,
for love is strong as death, jealousy is fierce as the grave.
Its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the LORD." (Song 8:6)

Thursday, July 07, 2011

The Prophet and The Whore and the Biblical kind of Headship

Sovereignty has its appeal. If someone or something is head over us then we’re not cut adrift. How about the LORD as your head?
Christ the head of the church? Husband the head of his wife?
Longing for that?
Marcus Brigstocke, cut adrift into agnosticism by the death of a friend and destabilized by the rantings of Richard Dawkins longs to believe in god, any god but the god of the Bible – he says. Many consider the god of the Bible is like a phone-hacking, teeth-drilling, expense-fiddling, investment banker who is out to ruin your life.

Yet Bible implies headship is something good, attractive and something to hope for.
Somewhere someone has misread the script. Here's gospel hope:
"they shall appoint for themselves one head" (Hosea 1:11)
Rewind. The Prophet Hosea is give a call that makes Jonah’s call to Nineveh seem one you’d jump at. The prophet Jonah took extreme action to avoid his call to take a message of grace to a people who would receive it, wanting not to have such villains saved. What’s the call on Hosea?

Hosea Chapter 1. Hosea is to marry a whore. Many commentators (even Burroughs) baulk at this and say it’s just a vision or a picture. Too much to say a prophet marries a whore - but the Bible is full of scandal like that. You’re meant to be uneasy about the LORD sending his prophet, a member of his inner ring to such a mission.

The people have committed a great whoredom. The verdict is emphatic, the word repeated three times in the call. When God’s people are unfaithful it’s not just doctrinal deviation it’s heart-deep betrayal of the one who has made himself one with them. It’s spiritual adultery that finds lovers and pays them. In sin we play the harlot.
What sin are you struggling with? Whoredom.

The prophet and the whore have three children. There is fruitfulness in this marriage. The first is Jezreel, a prophetic child of vengeance for evil committed. The second named, No Mercy. The third, Not My People.

Mercy is over – for Israel but not for Judah. The LORD says I will save them by the LORD. A Triune plot for salvation that will not be a military victory. The old commentators (like Burroughs) are right to say this is Jesus Christ, the Saviour who comes from Judah to save them, the Saviour who is the LORD sent by the LORD.

Not My People point to salvation that will make them once more My People, even Children of God. And saved and adopted they’ll appoint their saviour as head, and celebrate the day of Jezreel. Salvation through judgement, salvation through welcome into a family, salvation that unifies those who have previously stood divided. Salvation that appoints Christ as head. Is Ephesians an exposition of Hosea?

The LORD is the head, modeled by the prophet Hosea. A head whose love is such that he’ll give himself to the whore, loving her in faithfulness though she remains unfaithful in the marriage, still whoring after other men and their gods. This is sacrificial headship, modeling saving headship that is not the headship of battlefield Generals but of a loving father and husband.

Here is love, so giving, so free. Love so amazing, so spurned and awaiting the day when it will be received, welcomed – when the whore will receive her husband as her head, believing that he loves her and give himself for her – a love stronger than death, and who gives himself to her to beautify and benefit her.

This is an altogether different kind of headship, an altogether different kind of god. And if this is who he is then maybe, just maybe some of the most apparently difficult material in the Bible isn’t quite as strange and peculiar as we might initially assume, not half as strange and peculiar as this LORD of love.

Monday, July 04, 2011

Marcus Brigstocke on God

On Richard Bacon's radio programme the entertaining and ever interesting Marcus Brigstocke articulates his problems with Judaism, Islam and Christianity. He cites anti-feminism, belief in the same god (!!), the content of the bible - old and new testaments, and 'the thug' who is Jesus' father and numerous other charges. Whilst being good to listen to and attempting to be fair and generous... a million miles from Richard Dawkins - this is the witty voice of modern agnosticism.

Inevitably I think he's missed the story of the Bible, but nonetheless there are difficult passages and commands - ones that really aren't going to make much sense without some key issues in place. Consequently, Brigstocke is left with a struggle - a desire to believe in god that he thinks we all generally have, but a desire for that not to be the god of Christianity, Judaism or Islam. Meanwhile in the interview Richard Bacon embodies liberal Christianity by generally saying 'but most christians don't believe it that do they'.
"Atheists think they're cleverer than other people... there are loads of religious people who are cleverer and better read than I am. And lots of stupid atheists? Several of my friends who are atheists are so thick if they tried to hold an idea that beautiful in their heads it'd give them a nosebleed. It doesn't make you clever to be an atheist. The only thing that makes you clever and interesting is a willingness to ask questions. That's what's good. And then listen to the answer with any luck"
He slates Dawkins for being hardline, and notes that reading The God Delusion turned him from an Atheist to an Agnostic. He's aiming to be funny and get people asking good questions - which sounds helpful!
I recommend listening, and await delivery of the book soon.

A bride knows her husband. We know the Lord

(Hosea 2:20).

It is a fruit of the conjugal union betwixt Christ and the soul. When a man and his wife are but suitors they do not communicate their secrets one to another; but when they are married they open all their hearts. There is no secret but they will disclose one to another. So says God, when I am once married to you, I will even open my whole heart to you.

A man in the dark may know where he is but feeling, he may discover the length and thickness of many things in the house, but when the light of the day comes, he knows what there is in the room in another manner than he did in the dark: this is the difference between knowledge of God in a natural man, and the knowledge of one espoused to Christ.

By his natural knowledge he may understand the history of the gospel, and have some general notions of God, and of Christ; but when the Sun of righteousness arises, he sees the excellency and glory of God shining in all his attributes, he sees that in Christ which draws his heart unto him in an everlasting covenant. As we read, Song 7:5, Christ 'is held in the galleries' that is Christ, as soon as he is married to the soul takes her, as it were, by the and and walks in the galleries, and there opens his heart unto her. There is many a sweet turn that a gracious heart has with Christ in his ordinances, wherein Christ opens his whole soul unto it.

According to the capacity of the soul, so Christ makes known to it what he has heard of the Father. Certainly Christ has heard great things of the Father; he is the wisdom of the Father; he has been with the Father from all eternity; and the Father loves him, he will tell him all the glorious things he has in his heart, and Christ will hide none of those things from his saints! This is the privilege of a saint.

Yea, and Christ makes God known to the saints in another way than others know him... when God makes known himself to his people he reveals things to their ear, as we to a friend who is intimate with us. Many a secret Jesus Christ speaks in the ears of his saints, with which others are never made acquainted. 2 Cor 4:6 "God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, has shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." It would require time for fully opening the gradations of this scripture; here is 'knowledge' and 'the knowledge of the glory of God' and 'the light of the knowledge of the glory of God' and 'shining' and 'shining into our hearts' and 'into our hearts in the face of Jesus Christ'.

Surely, they shall know the Lord, and they shall know him in a very spiritual way. The light of the saints is a light three stories high. First, they have the light of reason which other men have. Secondly, they have the light of common gifts which other men have too, and that is story higher than the other. Thirdly, they have the light of a sanctifying Spirit, that is a third loft, and they shall come to a fourth story, and that is the light of glory.

They know God as their God. Great is the excellency of this knowledge, the soul has blessed satisfaction in it. Show us the Father, and it suffices. The sanctification of the heart by the presence of the beams of the glory of God, transforming it into the same image, is the very beginning of eternal life.

What superior means have we to know God than the heathens had! The Roman histories describe the poor and mean ways those wise men took to know God; as thus, they would look into the entrails of beats, thereby to find out the minds of their gods; they would observe how the beats came to the slaughter, whether willingly or unwillingly; they would observe the fire of their sacrifices, whether the flame ascended right or not: thus they attempted to ascertain the mind of their gods. What poor ways are these!

We have Jesus Christ, God blessed for ever, the eternal Son of the Father, who is come from the bosom of the Father, to make known to us the mind of God, his and our Father. We know the truth as it is in Jesus, Eph 4:21, not only as it is in the works of nature. Some know much of God in the works of creation and providence and we may learn much of God in those great things which the Lord has lately done amongst us, but to know the truth as it is in Jesus, to know God in Christ, is another kind of knowledge that to know God in the way of his works. Here we see the truth really, when we see it in Christ Jesus.

Certainly, then, no one united to Christ in a conjugal union can be an ignorant sot, for Christ engages himself in his faithfulness, upon this marriage of a soul with himself, to reveal himself and the Father unto it. John 8:54, 'of whom you say he is your God' but mark the next words ' yet you have not known him'. A likely matter, that he should be your God, and you not know him! a likely matter, that Christ should be your Saviour, and you not know him, seeing he has engaged himself in his faithfulness, that if you be married to him you shall know him and his Father!

Jeremiah Burroughs, An Exposition of the Prophecy of Hosea, Chapter 2:19-20, p177-178.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

You that are ministers!

"Oh, if you would draw any to you, let it be by love. You that are ministers, and especially appointed to the work of drawing others to God, what should you do? Open the love of God to them, present the grace of the gospel to souls, labour to work upon their hearts by all the mercies of God; by the mercy of God to them, received by them, and bestowed upon them.

Have you to deal with stony hearts? the way is to lay them upon the soft pillow of the gospel and so you may break them... the word is compared to a hammer; yea, but we must labour to lay the hearts of people upon the pillow of love, upon the grace of God in the gospel, that is the way to subdue them. None are so bound to God as those who are bound to him by love: those that are bound to God by fear, unmixed with love, their bands will not hold... but those who are held by bands of love, are bound for ever unto God.

When men cast off the sweet of their sin by the sweet of the love of God, then they will never return to their sin again.

If the ice be but broken over-night by the husbandman, when he come the next day he finds it frozen up again; but let the sun dart on it his warm beams, and then it runs down in streams: so the breaking of the heart by the terrors of law, is but like the breaking of the ice with a pole by a husbandman to give the cattle drink; but when the love of God comes to the heart, then the corruptions of the heart dissolve, even as the ice dissolves when the warm beams of the sun rest upon it.

The way, therefore to gain the hearts of men, is by love. And we should the rather do it, because it is the great design of God in the gospel, to manifest his love to the children of men he has in it opened his heart, and the treasures of his love. What is the gospel, but the manifestation of the treasure of the love of God? those eternal loving-kindnesses of God towards mankind are all displayed in the gospel, who does not endeavour to open this heart-love of God to the children of men in Jesus Christ. Oh! it is a pleasant work to be a minister of the gospel in this respect, to be always searching into the treasures of love and to array them before souls to win them unto God."

Jeremiah Burroughs. From Observations 13-14 in An Exposition of the Prophecy of Hosea XI.4, p476-477