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A man lived near a river. After a terrible storm, the waters rose and an announcement came over the radio urging locals to leave the area before their homes were flooded. Being very religious, the man ignored the radio, saying to himself, “I don’t need to leave. I’ll pray, and God will save me.” The water rose higher and the man had to move to the upstairs of his house. Someone came along in a boat and called for him to get in so they could evacuate. “No thanks,” the man said, “God will save me.” Still the water rose, and it got so high that the man had to get on to his roof. A helicopter looking for the remaining survivors spotted him and flew over to rescue him. Still waiting for God to do something miraculous, but confident that He would, the man refused again: “No thanks, God will save me.” The helicopter flew off to find other survivors who were more open to being rescued. The water kept rising, and eventually the man drowned. When the man got to heaven, he asked God, “Why didn’t you rescue me?”

“What do you mean?” God replied, exasperated, “I sent a radio warning, a boat, and a helicopter!”

That’s not a true story, but it makes a point. When we find ourselves in trouble and have important decisions to make, it’s right that we ask God for help and look for guidance from Him about what to do. But we can so often want Him to do something big and obvious that we miss the ordinary-looking ways in which He is actually speaking and working.

Ruth is a book that is surprisingly ordinary. Slotted between the Old Testament history books, it doesn’t feature any kings or battles or epic story arcs. It’s about a normal family, from a normal town, ‘doing’ normal life. There is nothing special about Ruth and her family that would warrant having a book being written about them, especially because Ruth was a foreigner.

The book of Ruth may be about normal people, but it shows us an extraordinary God who faithfully works His sovereign power to look after His people. Most of it isn’t obvious, and is seen through the pretty normal-looking actions of human beings rather than in a spectacular miracle. In Ruth God doesn’t speak directly even once, but we can still see that He is at work behind the scenes.

So let’s have a look. At the start of Ruth, we see a family in crisis. A family with choices to make. And we’ll see three options: the sensible choice, the wise choice, and the bitter choice.

  

The Sensible Choice: Elimelech & Orpah

In the days when the judges ruled there was a famine in the land, and a man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the country of Moab, he and his wife and his two sons. The name of the man was Elimelech and the name of his wife Naomi, and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion. They were Ephrathites from Bethlehem in Judah. They went into the country of Moab and remained there. But Elimelech, the husband of Naomi, died, and she was left with her two sons. These took Moabite wives; the name of one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. They lived there about ten years, and both Mahlon and Chilion died, so that the woman was left without her two sons and her husband.

Ruth 1:1-5

Elimelech, Naomi and their two sons lived in Bethlehem in the time of the Judges. An ordinary family in an ordinary place, they didn’t get caught up in the battles we read of in Judges, but they did get caught up in a famine. There was no food, and Elimelech had a choice.

The sensible option would be to move to where there was food – if there isn’t food where you are, why not move somewhere else?

Besides this famine, during the time of the Judges Israel was in political turmoil. They would stray away from God, so God allowed their neighbours to rule over them and oppress them. Then they would cry out to God to rescue them, and God would send a judge to defeat their oppressors and lead them. But the peace didn’t last. After the judge died, it was only a matter of time before God’s people strayed again and the whole cycle repeated.

In the face of such uncertainty, it would have made sense for Elimelech to move to somewhere more stable, where his family could live in peace as well as have enough to eat.

The other option would be to stay in Bethlehem and ride out the famine. But how long would the famine last?

At the time, the country had no king, so “everyone did as seemed best in his own eyes.” (Judges 21:25). To Elimelech, that looked like moving away.

Reading between the lines in the first few verses of this chapter, we see that Elimelech hadn’t even consulted God on what he should do. He relied on his own intelligence instead.

And his intelligence led him to Moab. Moab bordered Israel on the far side of the Dead Sea and had been their enemy for years. If you read Numbers 22-25 you’ll see that while Israel was passing through Moab to get to the Promised Land their king hired Balaam to curse them, and when that failed they sent their women to seduce Israel to worship their own gods. Even in the times of the Judges, Moab was Israel’s enemy. In Judges 3 we read about how Moab conquered parts of Israel and oppressed them for 18 years.

Elimelech chose to leave the Promised Land for a land owned by his people’s enemies and dominated by their gods.

In moving to Moab he might have been making a sensible choice, but he was turning away from God and the promises He had made to look after His people in the land that He had given them.

In v3-5 we see the results of his decision. Elimelech and his family ended up staying in Moab. Elimelech died, yet his family stayed there for another decade and his sons married Moabite women, Ruth and Orpah.

After those 10 years both sons died too, leaving their mother and childless wives without anybody to provide for them.

Elimelech had made the sensible choice, without consulting God, and it had led his family into disaster.

His wife, Naomi, now had her own choice to make. She had heard that God had brought the famine in Israel to an end, so decided to go home. Initially Ruth and Orpah went with her, but Naomi knew that as childless Moabite widows they wouldn’t get a warm welcome in Israel. So she tried to persuade them to make the sensible choice and go back to their families.

…“Turn back, my daughters; why will you go with me? Have I yet sons in my womb that they may become your husbands? Turn back, my daughters; go your way, for I am too old to have a husband. If I should say I have hope, even if I should have a husband this night and should bear sons, would you therefore wait till they were grown? Would you therefore refrain from marrying? No, my daughters, for it is exceedingly bitter to me for your sake that the hand of the Lord has gone out against me.”

Ruth 1:11-13

Naomi couldn’t provide them with husbands because she was too old to re-marry and have more children, and even if she gave birth that day she couldn’t expect them to wait until the boys were old enough to marry! It would make far more sense for them to go back to their own land, to their own families, and to their own gods.

Although Orpah had already promised to go back with Naomi, after hearing Naomi’s reasoning she thought better of it and went home. She made the sensible choice.

But Ruth made the wise choice, even though it cost her everything.

 

The Wise Choice: Ruth

Instead of following Orpah home, Ruth clung to Naomi and begged her to not send her away:

“Do not urge me to leave you or to return from following you. For where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there will I be buried. May the LORD do so to me and more also if anything but death parts me from you.”

Ruth 1:16-17

Ruth loved Naomi far more than she cared about her own future, and decided to go with her even though it meant giving up everything she knew and moving to a foreign country.

And she wouldn’t be well-received in that country, either. Because Moab attacked Israel on their way to the Promised Land, Moabites had been banned from joining in with Israel’s corporate worship [Deuteronomy 23:3-6]. Because of her country’s history, Ruth couldn’t expect the people of Bethlehem to look kindly on her. She was an outsider. And she was a childless widow – not only did she bear the shame of having never had children, she also had nobody to provide for her or Naomi.

Yet Ruth made the deliberate choice to not just travel with Naomi, but live with her in Bethlehem. She would give up her nationality as a Moabite and choose to join God’s people instead. She would turn away from the gods of her home and live with Israel’s God as her God. Not only that, but she would live like this until the end of her days and even have her body buried with Naomi’s.

In the face of her own life falling apart, and in the face of an impossible situation for Naomi, Ruth decided to commit herself to Naomi, her people, and ultimately to God.

At a human level, this makes no sense. But God’s wisdom isn’t the same as human intelligence. As Proverbs 9:10 says, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom…” True wisdom isn’t about being clever or being good at solving problems. True wisdom starts with having a relationship with God. It’s about knowing God, and therefore knowing what the right thing to do is in God’s eyes, and then doing it. And sometimes the right, godly, faith-filled decision doesn’t make sense at a human level.

The passage doesn’t spell out for us where Ruth was at spiritually when she left Moab. But she knew enough about God to trust that He would accept her even though there was nothing about her that would make her acceptable. She knew God enough to trust that He would provide for them both. She knew Him enough to make the wise choice.

And in God’s sovereignty, He does great things with the choices we make if we make choices that are wise and faithful to Him. Over the next few weeks we’ll see what brilliant things God did with the choice Ruth made to commit herself to Him, His people, and Naomi.

Speaking of Naomi, how did she respond to Ruth’s amazing commitment to her?

And when Naomi saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more.

Ruth 1:18

With silence. Naomi had already chosen to be bitter.

 

The Bitter Choice: Naomi

…when they came to Bethlehem, the whole town was stirred because of them. And the women said, “Is this Naomi?” She said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went away full, and the Lord has brought me back empty. Why call me Naomi, when the Lord has testified against me and the Almighty has brought calamity upon me?”

Ruth 1:19b-21

Naomi had lost everything in Moab. She had no sons to provide for her, and not even any grandchildren. And now she was too old to re-marry and try to have children again to carry on the family name. She returned to Bethlehem, as she described it, empty-handed and bitter.

She was so bitter that she told others to not call her by her name, which means ‘pleasant’, but Mara, which means ‘bitter’. In her eyes, why call her ‘pleasant’ when God had taken everything from her? When God had taken away her husband and sons?

Naomi could see that God was in control of what had happened and she believed that it was God punishing her for going to Moab. Yet that didn’t make Naomi repent. God had forced her to return to His land and His people, but she hadn’t chosen to return to Him. Instead, she wallowed in her bitterness. She hadn’t abandoned faith in God – when she was talking to Ruth and Orpah in v8-9 she prayed that God would be kind to them and provide for them. But she believed that God hated her, and she allowed the grief that she rightly felt in brutal circumstances to curdle into a bitterness which meant she could not see beyond the horizon of her own pain.

Can you see how she didn’t even acknowledge Ruth when she was talking to the women in verses 20-21? She was ignoring that fact that God had not left her empty-handed. He had given her Ruth to go back to Bethlehem with her and be her companion and friend for life! And as hard as it is to see what God is doing in all of this, the start of the barley harvest at the end of the chapter hints that God was about to make everything change. But Naomi was too wrapped up in self-pity to see God’s grace to her, trust in His love, and look to Him for deliverance.

The hardship and pain that Naomi and her family went through are part of life. You don’t have to live long in this world to experience it.

So when it happens, what is our choice?

 

Our Choice

When you are in trouble, what do you do?

Do you have a tendency to be like Elimelech, and rely solely on your own brainpower to work the problem and find a way through the situation?

Can you identify with Naomi, and in a crisis end up focussing so much on your own pain and trouble that you can’t see beyond it? I’m not trying to belittle grief or say that sadness has no place in our lives. We live in a broken world, and painful things happen, really agonisingly brutal things, and it’s right to grieve when they do. It’s right to feel sad over things that are wrong. But it isn’t right to get swallowed up in bitterness and be too proud to trust that God hasn’t abandoned us, even though we can’t see His hand in what’s going on.

Or are you like me, and are a bit of both? When things go wrong, I all-too-quickly try to find my own way through the problem; and I have a tendency to get too wrapped up in the hurt or sadness I feel.

Far better than relying on our own intelligence or becoming self-absorbed is to trust in God’s wisdom and commit ourselves to Him, like Ruth. And we have a far better reason to trust God than she did!

Let’s look at Romans 8:28

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good…

Romans 8:28a

How can we be sure of this? Skip down to halfway through verse 31 with me:

…If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

Romans 8:31b-32

We don’t only have God’s promises to go on, we have Jesus. We were in a crisis – we used to be trapped in sin, too dirty and broken to be loved by God, and completely unable to get ourselves out of it. In fact, sin so blinds and corrupts us to the core that there’s no way that we can get ourselves out by our own intelligence.

But God saw us in our crisis and chose to commit Himself to us. His Son Jesus became like us in every way. Where we lived, He lived. Our weakness was His weakness, our struggles His struggles, our pain His pain. And He died just like we die. But He died carrying our sin so that it could be buried forever, and He was raised to life again so that we could share His life that lasts forever.

And if God gave Jesus for us, if God gave the person who is most precious to Him to live in our mess and die, if He has sacrificed so much for us, how can we doubt that He’ll give us everything else He has promised? How can we doubt that trouble, distress, persecution, famine, danger, violence can never separate us from His love? Because He promises that in all these things He will work for our good.

The relationship with God that we have because of Jesus is how we can grow in wisdom and know the right thing to do in His eyes. So when a crisis hits and there’s a big decision to be made, we should trust God and commit to Him by by making the faith-filled, wise, godly choice.

If you’re wondering what that practically looks like, God hasn’t left us unguided. There are plenty of places in the Bible where He spells out what commitment to Him looks like.

Try reading Proverbs, which has loads of bits of wisdom for everyday life. Or read the letter written by James, which talks a lot about what living out our faith like.

Have a look at Matthew 5-7, where Jesus teaches about applying our commitment to God to real life. At my church we’re in the middle of a series looking at the start of Matthew 5, where Jesus shows us just how much God’s wisdom looks a whole lot different from what we think it should look like in this world. You can listen to the series on our website: https://www.stmaryswollatonpark.co.uk/sermons/?wpfc_sermon_series=the-beatitudes-a-world-upside-down

And as you read the Bible, ask God to show you by His Spirit how what you read applies to your situation. God doesn’t make our decisions for us, but He does give us a framework for making those decisions while trusting Him for their outcome. And in your decision-making choose to commit to obeying God faithfully.

If this all sounds alien to you, if you aren’t a Christian and you’re kind of feeling like an outsider right now, please hear that this really is for you as well. All of us sitting here were outsiders once. But we don’t have to prove anything to God for Him to love and accept us. Ruth shows us that no matter how unacceptable you feel you are God will welcome you if you trust Him and commit to Him. It might not make sense to you, but that’s OK. I’m not saying that Christianity is about blind faith, because it isn’t. But sometimes it involves making decisions that don’t make sense on the surface, but do make sense if we have a relationship with God, and making decisions that trust Him for things that we can’t see how He will make them happen.

But when we look back we can see that God has done something great through the choices we made because we know and trust Him. We’ll see that He has fulfilled His promises, sometimes in ways we didn’t expect. Because He is in control of everything and He has the power and commitment to make good on every promise He has ever made.

So why not choose to trust Him now?

When a crisis hits, when there’s a big decision to be made, we shouldn’t rely on our own intelligence to get us through. We shouldn’t be absorbed in bitterness. Instead, we should commit to God, trusting that He will look after us. And who knows what He’ll do through that decision?

 

This is an adapted transcript of a sermon I preached in June 2019. You can listen to the recording here: https://www.stmaryswollatonpark.co.uk/sermons/ruth-1-sweet-providence-in-a-bitter-world/

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The book of Isaiah is all about how God acts for His glory, and especially how He does it in dealing with His people. The chunk of the Bible that runs between the poetry of Psalms, Proverbs and the like and the beginning of the New Testament is full of warnings to a people who had forgotten God. But it also contains a load of promises, too, and Isaiah is no exception.

Chapter 35 comes at the end of a section of chapters (28-25) that are mainly about judgment on Judah, the southern kingdom of what was Israel (Israel split into two during the reign of Solomon’s son, Rehoboam. The southern bit – made of the tribes of Benjamin and Judah, and whose capital was Jerusalem – was called Judah; and the northern bit – which included the other tribes, and whose capital was Samaria – kept the name of Israel), and its neighbours. Judah had turned away from God, and worse still, they were ignoring the warnings He was giving them about the judgment that was hanging over them. They treasured other things instead of the God who loved them and had cared for them for generations. They frantically made political alliances to try and gain some national security, instead of calling on the God who impossibly brought them out of slavery in Egypt and gave them the promised land. So God would strip them of everything, until they had nothing left.

Yet in these chapters we see the LORD’s passion for His glory in more than His judgment on sin. So many times in this section of Isaiah the judgment is peppered with glimpses of God’s heart for His people as He promises what He would do if only they would repent and cast themselves on Him. When God threatens to destroy Israel’s beautiful capital city, Samaria, He also says

“In that day the LORD of hosts will be a crown of glory, and a diadem of beauty, to the remnant of his people, and a spirit of justice to him who sits in judgement, and strength to those who turn back the battle at the gate.”

Isaiah 28:5-6

After God reveals that His people are stubborn, insisting on piling up their sin on themselves, and making plans that will only backfire He says

… the LORD waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait on him.

Isaiah 30:18

These are only a couple of examples – go and look for the rest, and be amazed at a God who justly pours out judgment but is so ready to give mercy and lavish blessing on people who will just trust Him and return to Him.

After six chapters of Isaiah describing God’s judgment on Judah for their disobedience and refusal to return to Him comes chapter 34, a final summary of the wrath that God will pour out on the enemies of His people and those that don’t trust in Him. It’s a chapter full of destruction and shed blood flowing like the sacrifices on the altar to satisfy God’s anger, finally ending in total desolation, the land left smoking and barren, a home for wild animals.

And after all this devastation come these verses:

The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad; the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus; it shall blossom abundantly and rejoice with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the LORD, the majesty of our God.

Isaiah 35:1-2

The wilderness shall be glad, the desert spring into bloom, and the dead wasteland full of beautiful life. Already God has promised to be His people’s crown and beauty, to provide for their needs, to be with them and give them deep joy; and now as God comes to give them these things the dead land springs to life ahead of Him. This is the picture of salvation – beautiful life, abundant life; and not just life but close relationship with God: They shall see the glory of the LORD, the majesty of our God (Isaiah 35:2)

So how do we respond to a God so holy and passionate, who is repulsed by the spiritual adultery of our sin yet promises so much for those who turn to Him? We can only approach Him with humility, knowing we are sinful, confessing that we aren’t the people He made us to be and asking for His forgiveness. But we can also approach Him with boldness because we know that God has forgiven us in Jesus! We are sinners in the hands of a holy God, but redeemed sinners, beloved of the Lord and with all His promises given to us today. We have this salvation, this abundant life! Let’s thank and praise Him for all He has done for us! And let’s love our holy God, enabled by His Spirit to honour Him with our lives. Let’s work today as worship and service to Him.

There are many unknowns in life. Some aren’t all that important – for me, it makes no real difference whether or not I keep up with this year’s World Cup. I normally have an “I don’t know and I don’t care” view of football, so whether or not England get kicked out in the semi-finals on penalties yet again doesn’t affect me. But I’ve come to the stage in my Masters degree where unknowns are important. I’m doing my research project, and the point of research is to make unknowns known, to find out new things and ask what works, and why and how things are the way they are (and to spend plenty of time groaning “why-won’t-you-WORK?!?” when the experiment fails yet again).

But besides my research, a much bigger unknown is looming. Beyond the end of the next few months, little is certain; which means that answering the barrage of questions that naturally get asked when one comes to the end of a degree, like “what do you want to do next?”, “have you got a job yet?”, and (unspoken) “why haven’t you sorted your life out?” is a real nightmare! I’m someone that doesn’t get on well with uncertainty, either. I hate not knowing what I’m going to be doing at the weekend, let alone what direction my life is heading in. And with such a big thing like that, uncertainty is really scary. What if I can’t find a job? Or end up in one I hate because I’m desperate? Or can’t afford to live? Or end up moving somewhere else for work that’s far from everything and everyone I know and I’ll be so far away and DIE ALONE!?

Uncertainty is something that worry loves to latch on to because it means that, at least for a time, circumstances are out of our control. I know that when I get desperate, I can’t stand things being out of my control because it means I have to rely on something or someone other than myself, and because they aren’t me, they’re an unknown. And as worry grows, my perspective shrinks and I end up imploding in a dark little ball of stress.

But Jesus said “Do not worry.” (Matthew 6:25-34)

Why shouldn’t I worry? Don’t I have every right to be concerned about my life?

“… do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?” (v25)

Well, yes. But how am I going to earn? I need money. If I don’t have money, I don’t have a roof over my head and I’ll go hungry.

“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?… And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you – you of little faith?” (v26-30)

God sustains the world. We have an ecosystem where every species has something to feed on. Granted, living things die of hunger or lack of other resources, and nothing on this world lives for ever. But the point isn’t about God not letting things die. The universe is still here, and it still works. When God created, and when He sustains creation now, there isn’t a gap where he missed something out like forgetting to make things edible or accidentally missing an important thing out of physics like a dodgy line in computer code so that the moon will randomly explode tomorrow or something like that (to you physicists out there, I’m so sorry if I got that wrong. I’m a microbiologist, physics is all a bit weird to me). The point is that God has created the world, with its complexity and beauty, and He has ensured that living things can live. And not just live, flourish. So if our Father can feed animals and make even grass beautiful, won’t He care for you, whom He cares about far more? Won’t He care for you, whom Jesus shed His blood for? For you, whom He has promised to be with and protect and keep safe until the day you see Him face to face?

Worry takes all of this and says “I’m not so sure that’s true.” Because worry is us trying to be in control, rather than trusting God to be in control. At the moment, it’s very easy for me to worry because it does seem like my life has to be in my control. In a sense, it is and will be: God loves me too much to hand me everything on a silver plate. He doesn’t promise that a job will fall into my lap, He doesn’t promise that life will be without hardship. As His child, He loves me too much to take away such opportunity to learn and grow to be more like Jesus, however hard the road is. Yet when nothing’s moving forward and my future is uncertain day after day I still doubt whether things will actually work out for my good in the end. Has God forgotten me?

God’s people Israel went through a lot in the Old Testament. They started out as an ethnic minority group in Egypt, made into slaves. They were rescued by God and brought to a new land. When they were established in the land, they had enemies to contend with at their borders. But the worst of it was that they turned away from the God who has rescued them and given them everything, and because of that God allowed them to be conquered and sent into exile in a foreign country. They were far from home, living among people who spoke a different language, who had different customs, and worshipped other gods. The symbols of their connection with God like the temple in Jerusalem had been removed from them. Where was God? Was He back in Israel? Had He abandoned them? Had He forgotten them?

To these people, God spoke prophetically through Isaiah:

Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.

Why do you complain, O Jacob, and complain, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the LORD, my cause is disregarded by my God”? Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no-one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint

– Isaiah 40:26-31

Look at the stars – who made them? Who makes sure they are all there? Who knows them by name? Who is it that created the earth, who has limitless power and understanding and strength? Isn’t it the Lord, your God? Your God? Don’t you know that He gives strength and power to the weak and tired? Don’t you think He would remember you, His people? Don’t you think He will give you all you need?

Don’t I believe that God will provide what I need? Don’t I believe that I can apply for jobs, and trust God for the outcome, and He will work for my good – wherever I end up?

To this worry has no answer, because it has no place in us who are God’s. We have a heavenly Father who loves us and never forgets us. We have no need to worry, because our God is the God who sustains the world and commands history to achieve His purposes.

First of all, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all of you! And thanks for reading the blog 🙂

And no, I’m not getting married. You wish 😉

Despite my lack of nuptials announcement, this year will very much be the Year of the Wedding for me. It’s that time of life when you reach your early-to-mid-20s and all the Christians get married! I’m doubling the number of weddings that I’ve been to in my entire life in 2013, so (other people’s) marriage and relationships are very much on my mind. Having been pretty much a lifelong Christian Singleton, it can be as much of a struggle and heartache as it is a genuine joy and delight seeing my friends get married and be in relationships. It is so easy for doubt to creep in – perpetual loneliness, insecurity, lack of love, etc. It gets more and more ridiculous as you work yourself up, but it happens. And with the often well-meaning but unintentional obsession with marriage and matchmaking in Christian circles, it can be hard to be single beyond the age of studenthood.

BUT this is not a rant about that. No, because the important thing is not ‘woe is me, it’s so hard to be single’ or whatever, but about where our heart lies. Is having a spouse or boy/girlfriend an idol? I openly confess that I spent years with my aim in life to be married, and it was no help at all. OK, so it’s not wrong to want to have a special person and be someone’s special person; but I think that this longing for intimacy is something rooted in us. Because, at the end of the day, we all do have a relationship like that which we can look forward to. A relationship of intimacy and beautiful love that is offered to all of us. And that, my friend, can encourage both the singletons and married among us.

I hope to write more about this soon because it’s very much a theme in my life that God is using to encourage me – not just the weddings of friends, but also what God has been speaking about in sermons and talks that I’ve been listening to. And the relationship that we have, or could have, with Jesus is something utterly exquisite. I want to take time to do justice to it, but in the meantime, I’ve put what I’ve been reading/listening to below.

Song of Songs is a book that’s been fantastically opened up as a wealth of imagery and encouragement, and

Mike Reeves’ series on Song of Songs on the Theology Network website: http://www.theologynetwork.org/unquenchable-flame/the-reformation-in-britain/getting-stuck-in/the-love-of-christ-in-song-of-songs.htm

Henry Curran’s sermon series on Song of Songs on the St Mary’s Wollaton Park website (back in September 2012: http://www.stmaryswollatonpark.co.uk/podcast.html – you’ll have to scroll down to find them) have been really helpful. What you might also like is the series on Ruth also on the St Mary’s podcast page (May 2012).

I’m sure there’s loads more to put down that I can’t quite remember now! Enjoy 🙂 And watch this space!

Hi guys,

I hope to start posting about sciencey stuff soon – especially biology (since that’s what my degree was). I’ve noticed that there’s a lot of stuff that I thought everyone knew because it was basic information for my degree and A-levels, but actually people don’t quite know. It’s not a clever-than-thou thing, it’s just that school doesn’t always teach you why water and oil don’t mix, or why genetics isn’t quite as scary as the movies (or the press, to be honest) make it – but can still be pretty cool, or why you can believe in God and think that evolution works, or why biology is awesome. You poor, deprived people.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a bit of a biology geek… and when I say ‘bit’ I mean “you are such a geek!” happens quite a lot. So a chance to rabbit on about one of my favourite subjects is going to be a lot of fun. Hopefully there’ll be some hilariously-badly-drawn pictures too.

So if you want me to find out anything for you, or post about anything sciencey, leave me a comment!

I’ve just moved into a new house! Yaaaay! 😀 As you can see, I was so excited I made a rookie attempt to draw it on the computer 😛

New things are always very exciting to me. It’s why I like presents – something new to look at and discover and play with, and all the more fun if I have to rip off pretty paper before I can get to my prize. But this house is all the more exciting because: a) it has a garden; b) it has a conservatory (something I’ve never had before); c) it has a greenhouse; d) it’s in Lovely Suburbia rather than Grotty Studentland; and e) there was a time when I didn’t have a house. And THAT’s a whole saga! Basically, the System meant that it took more time to process everything than we had before the contract on the old house ran out, so I had almost a week of living out of a suitcase at a very kind friend’s house while I was waiting to move in.

But what I love the most about this house is that it feels like a home now; like somewhere more permanent and settled where I could enjoy living for more than just a year. OK, so I am by myself in it at the moment – Blondie and Smiff (not their real names) are away in various places of the world at the moment so it’s just been me for a few days. It’s quite nice being in the house by yourself for a bit, you can just do whatever without having to think about when dinner is/who’s watching the TV/whether housemates will be annoyed at you making noise; but it has its limits.

Aaanyway, back to the point – home is nice. Home is safe, permanent, and somewhere where you can relax. Much like my parents’ house. I loved visiting them last weekend. They’ve been living in that house since I was very young, so it’s always been home to me. One of a few constants in the ever-changing life of a young adult.

“Home is where the heart is,” as the saying goes. So where is a person’s heart focussed? Things made of bricks and mortar and glass, as nice as they are to live in, aren’t permanent. Everything in life can change. So do we focus our desires and hopes on buildings? Or on the things we want, but don’t have yet? Or on the people we love?

“Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matthew 6:21) So where your desires, hopes, and what you most value are, that’s where the core of your being is centred. As a Christian, my heart is supposed to be set on heaven, and much more, on God, who is the whole point of heaven anyway. But I find it just so easy to not set my sights that high. After all, it’s probably going to be another 60 years or so before I drop dead. And heaven is after you die, right? So what about the meantime?

Being a Christian is not, and never has been, just about getting into heaven so that we have somewhere nice to go after we die. It’s a whole life thing. It’s about the everyday boring stuff like paying bills and getting the bus to work. The question is, how do I set my heart on heaven while I’m paying the water bill or going to the supermarket? Our attitude – not just what we let others see, but what we don’t expose to the outside world – is very important in this. It shows where our heart, our treasure, our home is.

I can’t wait till I move into the house that I will live in for the next 5/10/20 years. I’d love to settle in a place. But is the most important thing in my life a building? It might be home, but it’s not quite Home – that, my friends, is far, far better.

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