Friday, 31 January 2014

The E d g e

"Human life has always lived on the edge of a precipice. Human culture has always had to exist under the shadow of something infinitely more important than itself *."  C S Lewis - the Weight of Glory.

So here we are, every one, dressed in little more than rags, fearfully poised on the edge of the abyss of death, aching to be more than this - to truly be part of something no longer defined by pain and frustration and demise. 

Occasionally, some phantom whispers from behind "drink this" - potions promising health or wealth or power which delude us into feeling we're more than wretched, more than a corpse just waiting for the moment we tip headlong over the edge. 
Then there are the soothsayers, who say it's all illusion or irrelevant - just enjoy the moment, because that's really all there is - except the emptiness. 

We all know different. 
We can sense somewhere behind - something so keen in our younger days, now buried beneath the rubble in our scarred souls and pained days. 

The bland thing we call 'life' taunts us - it's hiding what it doesn't want us to see - where we're really from and should be going. How we can know more than the futile and the chasm?

Looking at another like us, if we dare turn our heads, we can see the image, hear the cry, feel the pulse, so deep beneath our own skin, that in spite of the ruin, the scars and the rags, we were made for so much more. 

 The terror breaks when such light begins to dawn, and we see the face of the one who has broken our fall. The shadow of mercy has drawn our gaze, and there, the jewel of what makes us whole can be seen anew. 

  (* I've been 'seeing' versions of the image outlined in the first paragraph of what I've written here all day today, and when I arrived home tonight, this wonderful quote from C S Lewis was sitting on my Face Book page, so I thought I'd write this entry).

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Where next?

"Set apart for the gospel... concerning His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord". Paul - Romans 1.

Over the last few entries, we looked at what might be termed the key elements of reality - that God is actually more immediate than we often care to realize, and the reason for that distance on our part (in terms of our invented beliefs) is our fundamental alienation from God ( a nature which has a propensity to reject and deny Him). The wonder, as we touched upon last time, is that in spite of this wretched estate, God still provides for our rebellious race, still cares for us, and still wishes to reach us with the good news that can truly redeem and restore us to be truly ourselves again (renewing our relationship to Him and each other).

The means God uses to re-connect us to what has been lost is the proclaiming of truth, particularly regarding His work through Jesus Christ, which facilitates God's promises being made ours because we are made His in Christ (See Romans 3:31-27).

We can see that such work and faith is evidenced, as Paul shows, in what could be termed some of the key events in human history.
The story of Abraham (Romans 4), for example, shows us the distinction between 'life' as we generally understand it - marked by the sin of Adam - and life renewed by God, allowing us to see God's faithfulness to take us from this into His Son (see Romans 5). It is this work, foreign to us and our world, which God Himself bestows to kill and raise us (Romans 6), to end the tyranny of the Law (which rightly finds us guilty) and Sin (which leaves us powerless to find any other remedy - Romans 7). When this occurs, we become those who participate in a life which finally brings us, after death and resurrection, to a full renewal of life amidst a restored and glorified creation (Romans 8), which is secured and established by the love of God.

It is purely because of the surety of this that we can have confidence in God's promises working through history (Romans 9), including and especially amongst those who first received the promises (Romans 10), and thereby revel in the full splendor of God's purposes to all men (Romans 11). This is the framework which allows us to seek to express the height and depth of redemption in our daily lives (Romans 12), especially in relation to this world (Romans 13) and towards one another (Romans 14 & 15).

Coming next... we'll seek to unpack some of the ramifications of these truths.

Monday, 20 January 2014


Do you ever wonder just what God requires?
You think He’s just an errand boy to satisfy your wandering desires

Bob Dylan - When you gonna wake up.

A few mailings back, I touched on the necessity of really understanding why Justification has to be by faith alone. What I've sought to do since then is open up what truly prevents us from finding peace with God by other means - that we avoid His gift of free rescue because we choose one of two different approaches, each of which leave us in the same state of alienation.

To unpack this through the revelation God gives, divine immediacy (what Paul defines as 'a true knowledge of God') is refuted by us through two forms of unbelief. The first seeks to abolish God's revelation by rejecting it (what we see and know does not provide 'evidence', so we will conform wisdom to our own thoughts, opinions and conclusions), turning us in upon ourselves and making the focus of devotion what we deem to be of value. It is through just such a process that "non" religion becomes the most heinous of destructive religious cultures - idolatry. By seeking to shatter what is essentially known to us about God, we must essentially make our own values and judgements replace the divine, hence the only compass we have to determine truth is the one which has already bent us in upon ourselves.

The second form of unbelief is equally as ill-equipped to hide our true estate, but as with the first, apparently creates satisfactory attire to delude us into security amidst our wickedness. This is the idolatry of legal fiction - that by apparently keeping the moral requirements we deem fair and meaningful, we bring ourselves into a state whereby we are 'sound' in virtue and behavior, and therefore nothing more is required to improve our already 'near to the divine' condition. The delusion here is that we are not truly fallen, not deeply corrupt, but quickly redeemable by merely reviving the good sense that lies asleep within us.

The unifying belief in both attitudes is that we have the will to do what counts, but as Paul shows in Romans 1, it is when we are given over to just such a will - a determination that will not consider the possibility that it is in error - it is then that we are actually cut off from the truth. The very 'freedom' we so naturally extol as our highest good, is in truth our most dreadful plight.

The nightmare of this is that we profess a freedom we do not actually own. Our world is still entirely marked by the immediate, but only in a selfish fashion, so we cannot, dare not, actually see what is truly beyond our own conceits - these must be what counts, because to truly reflect deeper, look further, reveals the vast chasm our small world has become swallowed into.

This is the human tragedy that must be remedied if we are to escape such horror, and it is this that God has done, not from a distance, but in the very heart of time, space and history in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ - therein we most clearly evidence the immediacy of God at work.

The reality of the law is that it reveals we do not do what should be done.
The reality of sin is that it reveals we cannot do what should be done.
These truths make us haters of God, but the astonishing truth is that God reconciles those who are just so ungodly. That is why justification comes by faith in Christ, not in ourselves.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Amidst evil days...

It comes to us all, high and low, young and old, rich and poor,
it comes, straight and true, full and bold,
the words of a heart truly versed in what counts.

The many voices call for calm whilst the storms rise - evil's on its way - they trust in what they have stored, but no such call, or malady, or nest-egg can do what truly matters...
they can never redeem the life of another. They can never provide the maker of heaven and earth with the oh so costly price to stem the violence that so corrupts our cluster of days - it would never be enough to staunch the tide, to sever the decay.

Wise and foolish die, perishing like the wealth some leave, entombed forever by such corruption - proud names laid low in ash and dust... They perish like beasts.

So reads the epitaph of all who trust only in themselves, and those who ascribe to their belief. Death alone feeds upon such, but the fate of those who look beyond our vanity will be very different. The grave, yes, will take them, but they will know a better morning, for they are owned by another.

Our eyes become taken when one grows rich, but look deeper, further, and see the end - such riches, without wisdom, is pride before a fall.

God alone redeems from death.

(Based on Psalm 49).

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

The Winter Harvest

It's really been a season to stay indoors - the storms have been extraordinary and powerful reminders of just how small we are before such forces, but such enclosure allows for times to settle down and refresh ourselves in the value of a faith that shows us how we can be rescued not only from our own sin, but equally from our own goodness.

In countless face book postings or more refined and detailed guides, we are constantly offered a plethora of 'recipes' that, if followed, will apparently make life more in some fashion, but all of these "gems" have one thing in common - they come from the premise that we're all pretty OK, just in need of a little philosophical 'tweaking' so we can truly get our act together.
It's astonishing just how religious people are about this, and there are also plenty of Christians who think their faith is essentially about God making us virtuous enough to keep the Law (i.e. the 10 commandments), but such self-certainty is, essentially, a fatal blindness to the horror that lurks within us behind a screen which, when removed, bluntly reveals the true depth of disaster that has befallen each of us.

Truth which is life-changing starts here - with a full and sobering look at what we really are. We begin to realize that we are, oh so readily, part of a society which hurriedly hides away from the reality of the human condition - the inner malady that breeds hatred, bitterness, anger, greed and the like, which so often ignites into violence. It is that ugly truth we want to escape (hence our busy condoning of anything which distracts), because we know, in ourselves, we have no answer, no resolve, to what poisons us.

We have to look beyond the delusion that life can be better if we just do this or have that - those who offer us such trinkets merely blind us to the fact that the only aid and rescue must come from outside our of us by one coming amongst us to set us free from such slavery. We entirely need a deliverance from the powers which enslave us - sin and death - and from the folly that our superficial goodness could ever begin to impact upon such dreadful depths.

All that is - everything we see - was created from nothing. In the same manner in which creation was brought into being by the Word of God, so the miracle of new life begins in us - the message about Jesus Christ, of God giving Himself, to make us a new creation.

The truth is stark.
We can resolve to wallow in the grime of a universe without any real meaning, value or hope, where everyone and everything is concluded in death, or we can look beyond these bounds because of the author of life who has made such deliverance possible.

There's much to unpack about the astonishing message of God's reconciling work in Christ, but perhaps we need to start the New Year with this sobering and vital reflection, because then we can begin to see just how astonishing God's work for us has been.