Tag Archive: faith


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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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?

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