Tag Archive: church


Ruth

We have been looking at Ruth recently on Sunday mornings and three over-arching themes continually speak to me.

The first theme is grace.

We know that Elimelech led his family to Moab because of a famine.  It seems reasonable to think that he was trying to ensure their survival but if we speculate about his reasoning and impute motive beyond that, we risk becoming judgemental over issues about which the text is silent.  What we do see is the clear, overwhelming, all-defying grace with which God treats Naomi and Ruth.  How he works all their experiences together for good.  How He provides for them.  He provides food, family and a future for them.  He gives them gifts of amazing grace and through them, He eventually gives us Jesus.

The second theme is social justice.

The book of Ruth reminds us that God loves the poor and the marginalised.  Boaz is a man who lives out the righteous requirements of the law, who enacts justice and loves mercy.  God’s law provides for the needs of the poor and the foreigner.  Boaz welcomes Naomi and Ruth, he ensures that they are protected and provided for.  His actions model for us what it means to live righteously.  They speak to the pressing social needs of our society and to the plight of refugees and asylum seekers that fill the pages of newspapers, television and social media screens.  Boaz models the life that God intends for us to live – as individuals and as His church.

The third theme is redemption.

Boaz redeems Ruth and Jesus redeems us.  Our inheritance has been ensured – our righteous standing with God, our Spirit-filled kingdom life, in His presence, part of His family, partakers of His divine nature.  Crucified, buried, resurrected and ascended with Jesus, seated with Him in heavenly realms, we have become children of God.  Not because we have earned or deserved it, not because we have achieved it, but because Jesus paid the price of redemption for us, shed his blood and died for us.  We were bought at a price.

Out of His endless grace, because He loved us when we had nothing, God redeems us in Jesus.

What a wonderful book Ruth is.

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city centre lifegroups

I’ve been led through a rather radical change of heart in the last couple of years.

I moved to the Peak District because I love the countryside.  I was definitely not a city person.  I still believe that God called me to the beautiful market town in which I live.  And I absolutely love it.  However, I now work predominately in the city of Derby and I serve in a church with a clear vision for the city.  Which makes the city quite central to my life.

So when it became apparent that I could play a part in establishing, growing and multiplying LifeGroups in the city centre I thought it would be a good thing to do.  And having made the decision to do it, I am more excited and enthusiastic about it than I ever would have believed I could be.

Our first group meeting was two weeks ago.  Seven of us met McDonald’s and enthused each other about what God was saying.  Last week twelve of us met in a bar and this week I am confident that more will join us.

There is something really challenging and edgy about this group.  It’s very different from a traditional small group based in a home.  Meeting in bars and coffee shops automatically gives a feel of being friends together.  Every meeting is a social.  And meeting in public places means that outreach is automatically at the heart of what we are doing.  Talking at normal volume about our faith, our love of God, our walk with Jesus and our desire to see the Spirit move, is challenging and fun.  Praying together is scary and wonderful.

Of course, such groups have to be different from what happens in homes.  We are already discovering that.  Plotting a way forward is huge fun.  My enthusiasm feels boundless.  I long to see more groups of this nature growing out of what we are doing and I am confident that they will.  I am confident that in turn we will have a real impact on the people around us.

What better way to be salt and light than to meet, talk and pray in the very bars and cafe’s where so many others are gathered?

And of course, it is a really simple transition for our alpha guests to make.  Already, several have indicated that they will join the group when the course has finished in order to continue their journey.  Which means that the groups will have people in them who haven’t yet given their lives completely to Jesus but who are being drawn to Him and want to continue their journey of discovery.

It seems to have filled me with life again.  I don’t think our Christian lives should feel “safe” in that sense – I like feeling out there, on the edge, putting myself in places where I am totally reliant on God.  But I can only do that when I am confident that He has called me to do it.  And I am confident that He has called me to do this.

I will let you know how it goes.

leadership

When I had my meltdown in 2009, I was a full-time elder in a local Newfrontiers church.

My time with that church came to an end soon afterwards.  My self-esteem was low, my confidence weak and I had lost courage.  All my effort was being aimed at recovering my health and being able to function again as a husband and father.  It had been a very difficult season.

Some months after the initial breakdown, I was driving down a familiar stretch of road when I sensed God ask me if I would step back into leadership again.  I wasn’t thinking about church or the past – I wasn’t looking forward to the future.  It was totally out of the blue but I had no hesitation.  Yes LORD, I thought.  I would.

Why?  Because I would do anything Jesus asked me to do.  I trust Him to lead me well.  Because my past does not determine my future.  His purposes do.

And because leadership is a gift like any other, and I don’t think that God takes away His gifts once he has given them, it seemed natural that I would be asked to step back up to the plate at some point.

I kept fairly quiet about the experience though.  It would be a long time before it became an issue in any setting other than my own heart.  But I definitely settled something that day, in that moment, and I’m so glad I did.

This week I have been welcomed into the leadership team of Jubilee, my new church.  It is a different model from my previous experience and I have no idea where it will lead.  For now, I am grateful for the love and support I have received there, for the trust that people have placed in me and for the opportunity to serve Jesus and my local church within the gifting He has given me.

It is the next chapter in a wonderful adventure with Jesus.  And I am looking forward to every step!

enjoy the meal!

In Psalm 23 David has been exploring the image of God as a good shepherd, drawing upon his experiences of God in times of restoration and testing.  In verses 5 and 6 he turns to the image of God as a generous host and draws upon his experiences of God in times of blessing.

Now we know that we live with the incredible blessings of God every day.  We have already received every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms in Jesus.  We have grace and mercy and forgiveness of sins, we have the adoption as sons and the filling of His Spirit.  But there are still seasons of life in which God seems to bring special blessings.

And the table of blessings that God lays out before us in such times are there to be enjoyed.  If you have friends round for a meal and you go to a lot of trouble to prepare a fantastic meal, no expense spared and all the garnishing, you don’t really want to hear them say that they are on an onion diet and won’t eat anything but onions.  You want them to enjoy the meal you have prepared.

And God wants us to enjoy His blessings.  Enjoy them and accept the honour that He gives you in the process.

And in my view, it is in seasons of blessing that it is best to make decisions about the principles we will live by.  When things are good, decide how you will parent your children, use your money, serve your church and local community.  In a season of blessing, commit yourself to living whole-heartedly for God so that you can carry these things through when times are harder.

And in seasons of blessing, know that God is with you and will always be with you.  Goodness and love will follow you all the days of your life.  All the days of your eternal life.

an alternative 2010 review

Every Christmas, I spend a little time reflecting on the year that has passed.  This year, hidden away in the snowy hills of Snowdonia on a family retreat, I asked myself two questions.  What have I learned?  How have I changed?

Now these things don’t fall neatly into calendar years but the answers came to me fairly quickly.

What I learned is that God will provide. 

In a year when I experienced a lot of change and some difficult times, God wonderfully provided for me and my family.  He provided some great new friends, a place of safety in church life and relationships, He provided safe passage for our children as they continued to find their way in life, a fulfilling place of employment for me, grace and mercy when we called on Him for it, wisdom in decision-making, some wonderful memories and continued healing.

Jehovah Jireh.

How I changed is that I became much clearer about my personal boundaries and how to handle them – and how to handle people who are not so clear about them.  Sometimes that’s been difficult – but it has been good for me and for the people around me. 

If you ask yourself these questions, what would your answers be?

Over the last 12 months God also spoke some wonderful things over my life.  I have a lot to look forward to as well.  And so do you.

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