I have been on vacation to the rainy cool United Kingdom and it was a great joy. We spent time with my wife's family- they are from Scotland- and had a very refreshing three weeks. At one point we took six days and went to Staithes in Yorkshire. It is a little fishing village and it is so remote that it does not have internet or cell phone coverage. Yeah, my kind of vacation! When I wasn't watching the boys play in the tide pools, eating copious amounts of fish and chips, or playing cards with my wife, her sister, and her Mum I read a couple of books and meditated on God's goodness.
The first book was Brennan Manning's newest effort 'The Furious Longing of God'. This book made its point again and again like a thundering sledge hammer. God loves you. This is all you need to know. The knowledge of God's love is what will change the world. Brennan writes passionately about this from the perspective of one who continually falls from God's grace and yet can never escape the God who is furiously longing for him. I needed to hear this for myself but also, I needed to see that all men and women everywhere are sought after by God. God is holy and that means that He is set apart from us, that He is not like us, that He is wholly other than us. Usually we take this to mean that He somehow does not have the emotions and passions that we have but I think that to the contrary it means that God loves more, is more passionate, is more emotional, is more loving than we can conceive of. Manning borrows his good friend Rich Mullins' phrase, 'the reckless raging fury that they call the love of God' and uses it throughout the book.
When I was up in Cair Andros a month ago I saw some crippled people. A hunch back with serious health problems, a few blind people, and several other physically and emotionally damaged people. I prayed to the Lord and asked Him if He wanted me to pray for their healing. He replied that if He healed these then how would I demonstrate His love for them? He longs for these broken people who are physically disabled but more importantly are in spiritual bondage. He wants me to show love and compassion for them. He says that that kind of love is what will transform the village. I am looking for ways to obey his calling. And this leads me to the second book I read.
Francine Rivers is my second daughter's favorite author. I have not read her before but I picked up her book 'The Warrior' from her Son's of Encouragement series. It is a fictional account of the life of Caleb who was granted to go into the promised land with Joshua when they alone of the 12 spies of Israel gave a good report to the people who rebelled against God and refused to take the land God gave them because of fear. When he was 85 years old he asked Joshua to give him the hill country as his share of the inheritance of his family even though that was some of the toughest country to take. While the account was fictional much of it was plausible. At the end of the book something really impacted me. Caleb had trouble motivating his sons and his clan to keep taking the land, to fulfill all of God's commands to them to totally wipe out and push out the former inhabitants and fully occupy the land. Finally, he offers his daughter's hand in marriage to the man who will take Kiriath-Sepher. This is biblical but we don't know why he felt he had to do this. In Francine Rivers' book he is compelled to do this because it is the only way to get his clan to keep on fulfilling God's command. It occurred to me that we also have a command to fulfill, to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth. It must have been exhausting for the Children of Israel to keep on fighting, to keep on destroying town after town, village after village. I don't know, and don't really want to know what that much fighting and death would do to a person. There were good reasons to stop short, to turn to farming and consolidating the land they had. By not fulfilling the task the Lord gave them they crippled themselves and condemned themselves to constant disobedience and lives lived far from the blessings God had intended for them. Are we any different today? The church in the West is huge and wealthy and has a thousand different calls on its time and energy. Does she have time to take the land? Does she have the strength and will to take the Gospel to the ends of the earth? Will we be faithful to fulfill God's commands or will we like all those before us hope that our children rise up in obedience where we have fallen short.
For me and my family we can say with Caleb, 'Give us this hill country' but of course that is because He has called us to a mountainous difficult land. Someone will need to take the valleys, the plains, the islands etc. So, I will continue this blog as a record of our battles here in Middle Earth. Join us when you can.