Tag Archive: faith


The care system for children in the UK has come under huge scrutiny recently, and rightly so. With so many cases of historic and systematic abuse being uncovered it is essential that the truth is established, justice is done and changes are made.

The impact on people’s lives is immeasurable. Many never really recover from such a difficult start.

It is therefore both challenging and encouraging to know people like Ray. He started life in a very tough family situation and experienced a traumatic time in the care system. When he left at 18 he was vulnerable and angry.

Unable to cope, he repeatedly found himself in prison. There was a pattern of behaviour in his life that he simply couldn’t change. God, however, had other ideas.

After being taken care of by a Christian who took him under his wing, Ray eventually gave his own life to Jesus. Things have taken time to change – and continue at times to be difficult – but for the last four years he has been living in accommodation with Faith Hope and Enterprise and making good progress.

In that time, Ray has become a family friend. He has spent Christmas day with us a couple of times and has seen our children in school productions, choir concerts and sports events. It is a privilege to know him and to be part of his journey.

It’s important to get your theology right isn’t it?  Get it right and live by it.

This morning in our meeting we were singing a chorus centred on Romans 8:28, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  The song is Nothing Shall Separate.  It’s a lovely song that has been really helpful in my worship since I first heard it and the verse has been special to me ever since my wife underlined it in my bible 24 years ago and told me to live in the truth of it.

It’s a truth that has deepened in significance as life has gone on – and all the more so over the past couple of years.  Why?  Because when you go through really tough experiences it’s verses like this one that you re-examine and hold on to. 

It’s all too easy to throw this out as a gentle platitude to people when they are in a difficult time – as if knowing this makes everything right again.  It doesn’t.  The truth of this verse does not diminish the pain of our experiences, the suffering caused by our own sin or the sins of people against us.  They are real and sometimes incredibly difficult to process.

The verse doesn’t say that everything that happens is good.  Not everything that we experience is good.  We mustn’t under-estimate the damage that can be done by suggesting otherwise.

And it’s not an excuse to live badly – the idea that we can do whatever we want and it will turn out all right in the end because God will make sure it does as though we are, “godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality.” Jude 1:4.  Or that the fact that God works good into our lives, that He continues to show us grace, in some way justifies our own sinful choices and decisions.  It doesn’t – that He does continue to show grace is a testament to His goodness, not ours.

But the verse is an assurance that all the wrong that we suffer, all the pain and hardship, all the repercussions of sin (whoever it is perpetrated by), all the damaging  blows life, people and the enemy throw at us, are used by God for our good.  That doesn’t make life easier.  I’m not sure it lessens the blows.  But it does give us hope and it does give us grounds to be thankful.  And when we can look back and see exactly how God has used those experiences for good, it gives us a great story to tell.

Maybe one day, I’ll tell you more of mine.

Wolf Hall

I am spending a lot of my time this summer reading.  Without doubt, the best book I have read so far is Wolf Hall.  It was recommended to me by a friend and the critical acclaim it has received is astonishing.  It was awarded the Man Booker Prize in 2009.

Wolf Hall is the story of Thomas Cromwell, a blacksmith’s son who rose to become the second most powerful man in the kingdom of Henry VIII.

It’s a period of history that I know very little about and which wouldn’t, in the normal course of events, interest me very much.  As is quite often the way though, having been gripped by the story I have found it popping up in surprising places.  A visit to The Dungeons on holiday provided a couple of graphic illustrations of torture described rather matter of factly in the book.

And even though I have never read very much about the Tudors, many of the names are familiar.  That’s because behind the story of the rise of Cromwell is the story of the move away from Rome and the Roman Catholic church.

The story of Luther and Tyndale, of Wolsey and More, of ordinary people dying in extraordinary ways for a faith they held to be true.  On both sides.

As a young boy Cromwell witnessed an old lady being burned at the stake for denying that the bread and wine really were the body and blood of Jesus.  Being burned for the kind of religious freedom that we take for granted.

But it seems to me that the tide has turned again.  Not just against any particular denomination or religion but against all religion.  The punishments may have changed, but has the state once again hardened towards people of faith?  And if it has, does the story of Thomas Cromwell give us some clues as to what the future holds for us?

Go Ape

It’s funny what life throws up every now and then isn’t it?  This year on holiday one thing that all three of my children were unanimous in wanting to experience was Go Ape at Dalby Forest in the North York Moors.  Thirty metre high platforms and a 250 metre long zip wire.  Over three hours of high-flying scares and thrills.

Torture for me because I really do not like heights. 

Ever since they were young my children have been throwing themselves off drop slides which I have found too frightening to attempt and going on roller coasters I would never dream of sitting in.  Or even watching to be honest.

But at Go Ape an adult can only supervise two children under the age of sixteen.  And we have three of them.  So for all the children to be able to enjoy the experience, I had to do it too. 

Great.

But I did do it.  I’m not sure how I did it; I can’t remember much about it, but I did do it.  I know that I did because I’m still finding bits of bark chipping in my trousers.

When we sat down together at the end of the holiday, I asked everyone for their top three memories.  Go Ape was there for all of us.  So I’m glad I did it too.

What was going through my mind as I prepared to throw myself into free fall for some zip wire or to crash into a cargo net?  “Trust it.  You are safe.”

And sometimes that’s how life works isn’t it?  You can feel all sorts of things (fearful, insecure, vulnerable) but you know that if you trust God, you are safe.  You are safe, and your life and the lives of people around you, will be greatly enriched.

It isn’t always easy – He never said it would be – but the rewards are always there.  So, even when you are feeling fearful and insecure, do you trust Him?

handling transition

We all experience transition.  It’s inevitable.  Sometimes we choose it and sometimes we don’t, sometimes it’s a brief experience and sometimes it takes a while.  But life keeps moving forward and our situations keep changing.  So how do we handle it?

My own life seems to have been in transition for a little over a year.  At the weekend some friends prayed and prophesied over me.  One of them spoke of my recent experiences (as being like one specific aspect of life in Egypt), my current experience (as like walking through the Red Sea) and my long-term future (in a land of promise and great blessing).  I guess walking through the sea is the time of transition – moving from one kind of life to another, one experience to another.  So, in that time, what do we need to know and do?

  1. Think about the future.  “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future,'” (Jeremiah 29:11).  God has plans for you and you need to remember that when times are tough.
  2. Keep walking.  Turning back is not an option (even though the past can seem more attractive than it really was, as the children of Israel sometimes demonstrated in the desert) and if we stand still we risk being covered by the water.  If we want to enter into the promises of God, we have to keep going.  “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal…” (Philippians 3:13-14).
  3. Remember that God is leading you.  Sometimes it can feel like other people shape our experiences, our lives, maybe even our future.  But it wasn’t Pharaoh who forced the Hebrews into the sea, it was God who led them there.  It is God who is in control.  “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you.  When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Saviour;” (Isaiah 41:2-3).
  4. Be thankful for the provision that God has made for you.  I guess that’s sometimes hard to see, but in transition God makes provision.  The Hebrews walking through the water knew how God was providing for them – it can be more difficult for us but it doesn’t change the truth that He is still our Provider.  Cultivate a thankful heart.

Your time of transition, like mine, will not last forever.  And when it’s over, we will see the glory of God in it all – and be full of wonder.

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