Beautiful Women of the Bible – Ruth

Ruth 1 – 4


When do we want God’s help? When do we come to God for his care? Is it true that we come when we can’t handle things, when life’s not going the way we want it to?

When things are great, what do we do? Do we continue to turn to God? Do we continue to seek his will and his purposes?

The fact is that when things are going well we find it easy to forget about God. Sometimes it’s just too easy to put God to one side and get on with just enjoying life.

The Jews were no different. Before they had kings to rule them, Israel was lead by judges – men and women raised up by God when they were needed. When they needed a great leader for war God would raise up and appoint the judge and they would deal with the situation. While the judge lived the Jews would be obedient to God. They would ‘remember.’ But when the judge and his generation died out, the next generation would forget what God had done, forgetting their special relationship with God and would start worshipping the fertility gods of Canaan. You can see the cycle in Judges 2 and it goes on for generations. When things were tough Israel cried out to God – and when things were great – they forgot about God.

True Faith

This is when/where Ruth’s story is set – the period of Israel’s history when the judges were raised up as needed, and it’s a story that contrasts to the faithlessness of Israel. Ruth was a young Moabite woman. The Jews despised the Moabites as cursed by God (Deut 22:3) and Israel was forbidden from associating with them. Ruth’s Jewish husband moves to Moab with his parents during a famine in Israel and ends up marrying Ruth. He, his father and brother get themselves killed – leaving three widows. Ruth’s sister-in-law returns to her Moabite family, but Ruth travels with her mother-in-law Naomi, back to Israel.

Ruth and Naomi have a pretty raw deal. Their husbands are dead, they have no possessions, no money, no food, no children, no family or friends – this is a society where your social security came from your family. There are no government services and Ruth and Naomi are in deep trouble. They return to Israel on the slimmest of hopes – especially Ruth. She is a woman considered as nothing. Even Naomi sees her as simply a burden – Naomi left Israel with a husband and sons. She was secure and safe. She comes home not only empty, bereaved and injured but burdened by a daughter-in-law who has no home, family, friends, husband, children, no money, no property – no hope, no future, and no prospects – she is a desperate woman. They are both desperate.

But there is a lot more to Ruth. From the world’s point of view she’s had it – even her family doesn’t value her. She has little hope of finding a husband, no hope of producing an heir. She is going to a country she doesn’t know, without support. She leaves any family she has back in Moab. But Ruth has something that others don’t have. She has something that the Jews keep losing. Ruth trusts in God for her future. She places herself in God’s hands – under the covenant and promises of God. She says in 1:16 – “…your people shall be my people, and your God shall be my God.” These are covenant words – taken from the most important state,ent of Israel’s identity. Ruth has faith in God.

A Quick Detour

What skeletons are hidden in your family tree? Way back in ours we appear to have a convict. His crime?

He’d stolen women’s underwear off a clothesline. Somewhat embarrassing really. Not the sort of thing you bring up at dinner parties. We hide skeletons – we don’t expose them for all to see.

But when you have a look at Jesus’ family tree what skeletons do we find. Have a look at Matthew chapter 1 which gives us a genealogy of Jesus. It’s not a complete family tree – Matthew picks and chooses which is probably what we would do – choose the VIPs and ignore the underwear stealing convicts. Not Matthew. Rather than choosing all the really good ones – which to Jews would simply mean all the best men – Matthew picks 4 women as vital ancestors of Jesus. Not only are they women, they are Gentile women. Not only are they Gentile women, they are women who would normally be despised by any self respecting Jew and probably most Gentiles.

Rahab was a prostitute.

Tamar had sex with her father-in-law to produce a son.

Bathsheba committed adultery with King David and then said nothing when he arranged her husband’s murder.

And Ruth was the worst of all of them according to the Jews – a Moabite – she was the lowest – a woman cursed by God (dead husband, no social standing), from a nation cursed by God, the lowest most despised enemy of Israel.

If you were designing the family tree of the King of the Jews would you include these four women. If you were a good Jew (as Matthew was) you surely would include only good, faithful, Jewish, males in Jesus family tree, Matthew includes 4 women who normally would be hidden. But they share a common trait – faith in God. When all the ‘good’ Jewish blokes are showing zero faith, these Gentilewomen are placing their trust in God. Ruth sees one glimmer of hope in an otherwise desperate situation. She puts everything she’s got on God – she puts her life in God’s hands – whatever happens to Israel happens to her. Ruth has real faith in God even though she has no real reason to have faith. She sees her only chance of rescue from her disastrous situation in aligning herself with God.

What does God say to those who place all their trust and hope in him, who act with faith towards him. God says that’s what it takes. You might be the nicest, most perfect person on the planet – or you might be a Gentile woman, despised by the people of God, down and out, down trodden, in pain and despair. Whoever you are, faith in God is all that is required. We get exactly the same message in the NT.

John 3:36 “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but must endure God’s wrath.”

It doesn’t come any clearer than that. God required faith – which for us means faith in his Son, Jesus Christ.


What does Ruth’s faith lead to? Strangely enough it leads to marriage.

Why do we have the story of Ruth? It’s cute, sort of nice – in fact almost too nice. It’s like a tame romance story. If it had some sex and violence and some swearing then Hollywood would probably make it into a movie. It’s a boy meets girl story! In the end the bloke the girl, the son and the mother-in-law live happily ever after – perfect for Hollywood, complete with happy ending.

But Ruth is a ‘cute’ little story about redemption or rescue – something people living this side of the cross of Jesus need to understand. It’s a story about people in disastrous situations with no hope of pulling themselves out of their problems, being rescued. Boaz rescues Ruth – and Ruth rescues/redeems Boaz. Redemption… to redeem something is to buy it back, to rescue it. The kid redeems Naomi. Ruth redeems Naomi and God redeems Israel. Everyone is in on the act, except Naomi who seemingly doesn’t redeem anyone.

Take a step back. The picture is much bigger.

Ruth is the great grandmother of King David – the great nation-builder of Israel. All Jews see King David as the great redeemer. Even today Jerusalem is the City of David. They long for the days of King David.

Take another step back.

Move to Matthew chapter 1 and what do we see? Ruth is the great, great… grandmother of Jesus. Jesus doesn’t redeem a person. He doesn’t redeem a family. He doesn’t redeem a clan or a tribe or a nation – he is the one who offers redemption to all people.


Modern example – pawnshop – you take in your goods, get your money, go back a few weeks later, pay back the money plus interest – you have redeemed or bought back your goods.

Another example. Redemption is about helplessness, love and another person. During the East Timor crisis (2004?) Australians were caught in Jakarta, in a situation they could do nothing about. Literally helpless. No commercial flights available. However one of the advantages of living in Australia is that as a nation we take some responsibility for our citizens when they are in trouble. So the Australian government sent military transports to rescue, to redeem our people, to bring them out of that hopeless situation and return them to safety.

There was nothing Ruth could do to save herself. Boaz warns her not to go to other fields because the men there might rape her – Jewish society said she could be treated as worthless – that Jewish men could rape her or treat her as a prostitute or a sex slave with impunity. Bizarre – it’s always a little sobering to consider how the Jews have treated other nations – not just to consider how they have been treated.

Ruth lays down at Boaz’ feet – doing what a prostitute would do. She is desperate. She is willing to sell something so valuable so cheaply. We (men/people) tend to despise sex workers as we call them today, never considering how society has failed women to such an extent that they see this as their only viable option. Ruth’s basic need/desperate hope was that someone would rescue her and redeem her – as jarring as it is she couldn’t buy her own way out of her circumstances – she needed someone to do it for her, and maybe worse she had no hope that someone would.

Without blowing Boaz’s trumpet too much…simply put, he saves Ruth. He pays the price for Ruth’s redemption.There is no legal or moral (in Israel) reason for him to do so – he’s under no obligation, in fact society says he can do whatever he likes with this enemy of Israel. Clearly Boaz was an unusual Israelite. He was faithful. He trusted God and saw that this woman, this relative needed help. And for him part of faithfulness to God meant helping Ruth. So he does – he redeems her. Not out of duty but out of love – probably not love of Ruth but love of God. Every indicator would have screamed at Boaz to stay out of it. He goes beyond all the requirements of the law. Even Ruth doesn’t understand it. “Why have I found favour in your sight, that you should take notice of me, when I am a foreigner.” (2:10) But Boaz loves God and maybe Ruth – he shows us what it means to be truly faithful to God.

Ruth brings redemption not only to herself and those around her, but it is through her that David and eventually Jesus come. Ruth’s story is the salvation story of God bringing his plans to completion – she is a direct link in God’s plans.

You go right back in history – back to the beginning of Israel – God speaks to Abraham the father of Israel.

(Gen 12:2-3) “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

How does God use Abraham’s descendants to bless all the nations of the earth? Ultimately – by sending Jesus, to die for the people of the earth, to die for the sin of all mankind – a Son born of the line of David. His family tree includes a gentile prostitute (Rahab), an incestuous gentile daughter-in-law (Tamar) and a Moabitess, despised and hated (Ruth). God sends his Son to be born not of pure, upper class Jewish stock, but to be born of a line of notorious gentile sinners. The nations are to be blessed by Jesus because when all’s said and done, he’s as much a gentile as he is a Jew. God is the God of the whole earth. Jesus came not to give life to the Jews, but to give life to anyone – anyone – who would believe in him; have faith in him.

Ruth ultimately points us to what Jesus has done for us. Each of those women in Jesus genealogy sheds a little more light on salvation. At key moments in Israel’s history these gentiles – foreigners, despised by Israel – but received as God’s people, blessed and honoured in ways few Israelites ever see. God’s blessing is not handed out on the basis of race, sex, colour, beauty, language, intelligence or ability. When the world says “this person is important and this one is expendable,” God says “so what” – means nothing to God. The values of this world are foolishness against God’s values. The only thing God considers is faith – trust in Jesus. That is the criteria of salvation – the people God redeems are those who are willing to trust God, who respond to God’s offer, who willingly place everything in God’s hands and live on that basis. God’s people considered Ruth as nothing. God considered Ruth according to her faith – and he redeemed her.

Wisdom for Living – Proverbs

Wise Living
Prov 1:1–7 “The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel: for attaining wisdom and discipline; for understanding words of insight; for acquiring a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right and just and fair; for giving prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the young—let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance—for understanding proverbs and parables, the sayings and riddles of the wise. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.”
We always want to know why and how…? Why are we here and how are we to live? The big questions of life – that’s the area of expertise of the Book of Proverbs. It is the collected wise sayings of the great King Solomon and a few others. Of course – Solomon ended up foolish and too well endowed with wives – he forgot to listen to himself which is a shame really.
Proverbs isn’t like other books in the Bible – it starts so well, clear, concise, and enticing. Read this and it will all make sense. But fact is – it’s a collection of sayings and it is all over the shop – it covers a wide range of stuff.
It’s about making mature choices. That’s what happens as you mature – you become aware that you can make choices – and that in any given situation you can choose. Proverbs covers a great raft of things, from how to treat your farm animals to how to choose a wife – sounds like fun – we’re just going to look at a few topics – friendship, the mouth and marriage – we’re going to look at the foolish steps we can take, the way of wisdom and the impact that living this side of the cross of Jesus makes.

Let me tell you a story
Sue and Helen were friends since childhood. They understood each other, sounded like each other, wore the same clothes and so on. When they left school Sue went to work and Helen to Uni. Sue’s job meant money, a car, a place to live and time. Helen was a student.
Sue often popped in to Helen’s – would browse the fridge, borrow clothes and stay late at night. If only she’d listened to Proverbs.
Proverbs 25:17 “Don’t go to your friends’ house all the time—too much of you, and she’ll hate you.”
Helen didn’t realize how annoyed she was getting until one night she had an uncontrollable urge to hide Sue’s wallet. She knew Sue well enough to know that even though it was a little thing it would really get up her nose. As Sue searched Helen scored points – until the tears came. Helen had to admit that it was a practical joke.
Prov 26:18-19 “Like a maniac who shoots deadly firebrands and arrows, is one who deceives a neighbor and says, “I am only joking!”
Playing practical jokes on friends is like playing with a deadly weapon. Things quickly deteriorated – Sue lost her job and had her car stolen and went to Helen for friendship. Instead she found self righteous anger. Helen … “now you know how it feels to struggle without money and a car, catching trains and coping”. (OHP9)
Proverbs 25:20 “Like vinegar on a wound is one who sings songs to a heavy heart. Like a moth in clothing or a worm in wood, sorrow gnaws at the human heart.”
Words and actions can become almost insurmountable barriers – even between the closest of friends – they eat away at us, especially when they come from “a friend”.
A few days later the gossip started – Helen’s such a slack friend – Sue’s such a cow – and their friends made sure that Helen and Sue knew what was being said. (OHP10)
Proverbs 16:28 “A perverse person spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends.”
After that their lives never connected – until a friends wedding where they found themselves next to each other. Still they couldn’t talk – Helen’s wallet on the table made her think of Sue’s cruelty, and every time Helen talked to someone else Sue thought she was gossiping about her. What a mess – based on a refusal to forgive.
Proverbs 17:9 “One who forgives an affront fosters friendship, but one who dwells on disputes will alienate a friend.”
A friendship that could have lasted 50 years ruined by foolish steps – I wonder how many of us could tell a story like that one – a story of foolish choices. But it’s not that all friendships are like that or have to be – there is a way of wisdom in friendship.
Steve remembered the first day at training – he expected to be treated like a no-body. But his team members all knew that he was tipped to have a great future in Rugby – his playing career in Schoolboys was well known. From day one everyone wanted to be Steve’s mate.
Proverbs 19:6 “Many seek the favor of the generous, and everyone is a friend to a giver of gifts.”
Steve remembered that proverb – and he wanted a real friend. So he chose carefully and refused to take all offers of friendship. At first Tim seemed to be the right bloke. He was confident and handled the ball well – Steve thought he could learn from him. What he didn’t know was that when things went wrong Tim was not the best bloke to be around. He would spit at referees, break rules – he was a poor choice.
Proverbs 22:24-25 “Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn his ways and get yourself ensnared.”
Steve noticed he had most in common with Michael in the reserve grade – they were both Christians. As their friendship grew so did Steve’s injury count – the knee, the shoulder, he was slowing down and missing tackles – and he was picked less and less. But his popularity was irrelevant to Michael – he was in for the good and bad.
Proverbs 18:24 “Some friends play at friendship but a true friend sticks closer than one’s nearest kin.”
Years later that friendship showed its strength. Steve’s wife walked out and Steve decided his life was one big mistake. His footy mates made jokes about other fish in the sea – only Michael stood by him and listened. People at church avoided Steve – he felt awkward and embarrassed – but Michael met with him every week and they prayed and talked about how God might fit into it all. Steve often felt anger and bitterness towards God – Michael just listened to that anger and talked about the kindness and mercy of Jesus – and when he had to he was honest with Steve about the mistakes he was making.
Proverbs 27:6 Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.”
Proverbs 27:9 “Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, but the sweetness of a friend is better that one’s own counsel.”

Proverbs 27:17 “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”
Proverbs is big on choices – so what are we going to do?
Are we going to make foolish steps in friendship or are we going to walk the path with them?
Are we looking for friends like Sue and Helen – or Michael?
If we want to take the book of proverbs for what it is – wisdom for life – then we’ll follow the wisdom and find out how good friendship can be.
This side of Jesus’ Cross
The thing is – unlike Solomon and the other writers we know the extent of good friendship – Jesus has bent over backwards – or rather – stretched out his arms – to show us what incredible friendship is. All the stuff we say we want in friendship – commitment, honesty, truth, dependability, steadfastness, true love – this is Jesus to us.
If we’re looking for the ideal friend – husband, wife, a life long confidant – we must look no further than Jesus and the friendship he gives. That will be wisest thing of all – to stop looking for the ideal friend and with Christ’s strength to start being the ideal friend.

The Risk of Giving

John 3:16-21
The Risks in Giving

Every year we faced the problem – what do I get people for Christmas? You’d think it would be easy – all you have to do is get the right presents for the right people – every year. That’s the rub of course – regardless of what you spend – getting the right thing for the right person – that’s the difficult part. When my son was little it was easy – there are all sorts of really cool toys for boys – all sorts of things that I can happily play with on Christmas D… sorry… I mean that he can play with of course! Girls on the other hand – well you can only have so many Barbie’s and dolls houses. These days the presents are smaller and more expensive.
And then there’s the family – the brother’s in law – what can you buy under $15 that will not simply go in the bin. So you pore over the junk mail and catalogues in the letterbox. You watch the ads on TV trying to find the perfect gift for those hard-to-buy-for family members. It’s not easy – and it’s risky. Cause if you make a mistake…!
We all know the feeling of opening the present at the Christmas family lunch… the paper’s off, the gift’s in full view and you’re thinking “what is this?” But it’s not what you say. “Oh! This is wonderful – I’ve always wanted one of these – I have the perfect spot for it” or “wow! What an unusual gift.”
Which is not what you want to hear them say about the gift you’ve just given! Or worse maybe – you don’t want to offend people by the gift you give – if you give your wife a cookbook will she think you’re trying to say something about her cooking. Will your husband be offended by the jumbo sized antiperspirant novelty gift pack with pillow protectors? What are you trying to say about his personal hygiene? If you buy clothing that’s too big are you trying to say they look big… or too small that they need to lose some weight!
Christmas is a time for peace, love, friendship, giving… and total abject paranoia. Present buying is rife with potential for disaster.
God’s gift
Today in most homes we will be focussed on gifts – and if you have enough people around then paper and mess – and maybe it will be fun. But in the midst of all that how do we focus also on that very first Christmas – when God gave us a gift.
When God chose this gift for us there was no question about him making a mistake. He knew exactly what we needed.
John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
Interesting gift – a son! God’s son! At first it should strike us as odd – why give us a person – why not faith or salvation or riches and glory? Wouldn’t it have been easier just to make all people believers and get rid of sin, give everyone faith and then not have Jesus die?

God knew that Jesus was exactly what each of us needed. The perfect gift.

God knew we had a problem – he knew what we lacked and what we had too much of. We were in trouble – in serious trouble. God knew that sending his son Jesus would be the only thing to get us out of that trouble.
That’s what the angel announces to Joseph. Mary’s going to have a baby – nothing like surprising the husband to be…
Matthew 1:21 “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
Our problem was and is sin – not just moral failure, but we ignore God and we shut God out – sin is not simply doing bad things – it’s us telling the God who created us and who keeps us alive, telling him to buzz off – telling him that we don’t need him or want him around and really we’d be much happier sorting out our own life. Imagine your children telling you that? Imagine something you’ve created – a car you’ve rebuilt, a picture you’ve painted, a house you’ve built, the cows you care for and milk, the dog or cat you care for, the things you create and look after – imagine them telling you to go away. It makes it easier to understand that our most pressing need is to be forgiven by God.
Maybe we’re not convinced that’s the gift we need. People often find it hard to see themselves as sinful. And out there in the big wide world most people think the opposite is true – if there is anything wrong with this world it’s other people – not me. In fact these days lots of the world believes that the real problem with the world is the religious people!!!! In any case the problem is other people – and “I don’t need forgiveness – sure – I could improve in a few areas but the whole forgiveness deal – that’s unnecessary!”
God says we need forgiveness not simply to deal with sin or to make us better people, but we need forgiveness if we want to be friends with him. Not just mates on speaking terms at the pub – “how ya going God, yeh not bad mate – what about those Dragons/Wallabies/Blues – I think it’s your shout God…!” Not mates, not buddies, not work pals. God offers us friendship. Even though we tell God to get lost he still wants us to be his friends.
And he openly offers us the forgiveness we need to become his friends–that’s why He sent his Son into the world. That’s what Christmas is about – God‘s gift of his Son. Jesus came into the world to live among us and to die on the cross so that we could be forgiven and become God’s friends.
Accepting the gift
Some people on Christmas morning have two questions as they open their presents… like a rating system.
1. How expensive is it?
2. How much do I need it/want it?
It’s an interesting response to a gift … what happens if you apply those questions to the gift God has given us in Jesus? Based on that rating system – on need and expense, Jesus is the best gift you’ll ever receive.
You want expensive…? God gave us his one and only Son. You can’t get a more expensive gift than that. He sacrificed his son so that we might live. Imagine the cost of giving up a child to save other people – and maybe then we can get an inkling of the enormous cost that God was prepared to bear so that we humans might be safe…
And the second question – how much do I need it? This is THE gift you need more than you can imagine.
If you want to know God as his friend…
If you want to be forgiven by God…
If you want to share eternity with God in heaven…
…then this is a gift you need.
Do you know the biggest danger churches face? Never asking the right questions. I have friends who go to a church and the minister preaches a great sermon with great application and then proceeds to let everyone off the hook. He never asks the right question! So this Christmas – you’re ready for the presents, and the food, and maybe the heat, and you’re ready for the family – but are you ready for God? Are you ready to face God and for him to ask why he should let you into heaven?
Have you accepted the gift for yourself? Our tree has been up for a month, the house is clean, the food and drinks are ready – the presents have all been wrapped and are sitting under the tree – there are name tags on all the presents showing who they’re for. In our family presents happen after church. Right now those presents don’t belong to whoever’s name is on them. They are sitting under the tree – the gifts are ready to be given – but one thing remains. The giving and the receiving!
God has given the gift of Jesus – but for it to mean anything we have to accept the gift for ourselves.
The right question to ask at Christmas is… have you accepted the gift God offers of forgiveness? Have you prepared for meeting God by entrusting your life into Jesus hands? If you haven’t – then can I say this is the Christmas to do so. This is the time – the perfect time to celebrate Christmas by trusting in the one born this day to save the world.
This Christmas can you honestly say thankyou to God for the gift he has given us.

Stewardship – The Priority of the Cross – 3

The Cross

cross necjlaceDo you wear a cross?

One of the things that strikes me about crosses – earrings, necklaces and so on – the vast majority of people wearing crosses appear to be non-Christians! The world sees it as a talisman, something to magically ward off evil – a good luck charm. Which is a little offensive! This is THE symbol of Christianity – but for many it has been reduced to the level of myth and fantasy.

It has endured for 2000 years as the mark of the church.  Most church buildings have one – though why is a bit of question mark. Have a look around and you will see everything from little timber versions through to giant glowing fluorescent ones mounted high on steeples. There is a church in Prague that is decorated with 27,000 bones, including crosses made of bones. There are churches in the US with glass crosses – which seems like an open invitation to my mind – I wonder how long a glass cross would last in Sydney. Most Catholic churches have crucifixes – an appalling image because it suggests that Jesus has not been raised. Many church logos have at least a passing reference to the scene of Calvary. More and more churches have names that reflect the cross – “Calvary Chapel”, “The Church of the Crucified Christ” and so on.transformed

Though having an image on a building, or in fact around your neck, means absolutely zero – it does pick up the importance of that one event for us – the crucifixion. Unfortunately it’s a sanitised event – with so many crosses around us, some beautiful in appearance – polished, shiny, glowing,  expensive – it’s lost the confrontation – it’s lost the jarring note, the thing out of place, the event that shouldn’t happen. To have the Son of God die on a cross should be an abomination – instead it’s just something that happened a long time ago.

But for us – Christians – the cross is the priority of life.

The Work of the Cross?

Ephesians 2:12-13 “…remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.”

It’s great being an Australian citizen We have a great country – war is relatively unknown, we’re prosperous, our politicians are accountable, our laws aim to favour all, and we have access to a wealth of opportunities and benefits. We complain about health care and everything else, but the reality is in more than half the world’s countries we’d be worse off.

But as a foreigner in our country your rights are limited and as an illegal alien you have almost none. The people in our detention centres have some access to food, medical attention, education, housing, and other benefits – but they aren’t free. They are refugees until their status is confirmed – otherwise they are “illegal aliens”. They can demand their rights all they like – but they’re here at the governments’ pleasure – that’s how it works.

That’s a great description of life on earth – we’re here at God’s pleasure – we may not like that idea – but as God’s enemies we have no rights – illegal aliens. Without God we have no hope – and as Gentiles we don’t even have the benefits the Jews had – citizenship of God’s earthly people, access to the word of God, and rights under the covenant. But here’s where the work of the Cross is so incredible. By the blood of Jesus, shed on the cross, we are suddenly – inexplicably – brought into God’s presence. No longer aliens without rights not even citizens under the covenant relationship but in the very presence of God. Christ’s blood works a miracle – we were separated by our sinfulness – no longer.

The Result of the Cross?

Paul says the result of that work of Christ on the cross is this…

Ephesians 2:18-22 “For through him [Jews and Gentiles] both have access to the Father by one Spirit. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.”

open-doorThere are two results of the death of Jesus on the cross – apart from forgiveness.

  1. We have access to the Father – to the God of the universe – and not as slaves, though we are, and not simply as servants, though we are that too – but through the blood of Christ – we are made children not strangers – citizens. I was born in Australia – as were my parents, grandparents and most of my great grandparents. I am a full blooded Australian – I don’t have to earn my citizenship, or pay for it – I don’t have to take an oath that I will protect my country and serve her – I have the rights of an Australian by birth. That’s what we get as God’s children – by the blood of Christ shed on the cross we become full family members of God’s eternal family – we gain rights that we never had – the right of a son and heir. Senator Bob Brown found out last week what happens when you insult and abuse the President of the United Stated of America – he was barred from meeting him. But George Bush’s kids would still get a hug from dad even if they insulted him. The first result of Christ’s death on the cross is access into the King’s presence here and now by his Holy Spirit.crowd hands 5
  2. We become lifetime members of the living body of Christ “The Church” vs 19-20 “…God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.” Vs 22 “…you … are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.” We so often misunderstand the church – this is bricks and mortar and cement and steel and glass and timber – if it burnt down tomorrow we might be a little sad but the church remains. [P] I hate signs that state that a certain church building is the temple of the Holy God – or a house of prayer or some other garbage. Utter rot – we’ll come back to it in few weeks – you and I are the Father’s house of prayer – we are being built as the living building that grows and changes and moulds around Jesus. We stand on the work of the Apostles and prophets – an old building – together we stand on the foundation of Christ – a foundation that is set at the cross – a foundation that is so important that to remove Christ on the cross is to remove everything that holds the building up.

The Foolishness of the Cross

rugged-crossThe problem of the cross of Christ – especially as the pivot point around which the whole of our life revolves – is that it is foolishness. Paul to the Corinthians…

1 Corinthians 1:18 “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

We have ample evidence of the truth of this verse – even within the church. This past month in Synod we had people in one of the largest and strongest evangelical diocese’ in the western world – clergy included – stand and seriously try to undermine the truth of Jesus on the cross. We have Anglican Bishops and Archbishops in our country – who deny the death and resurrection of Jesus – exactly what they do believe is a bit of a mystery – take the cross out of Christianity and you’re left with nothing.

We can try to argue the sense of the cross – we can argue its merits with worldly wisdom. Or like so many we can deny its truth and take away its power. We can be like those who claim Christ was simply a radical who died a sad death – he fought against oppression – he was on the side of the poor – his life is just an example of love for us to follow. God says that it is the foolishness of the cross that is everything.

1 Corinthians 1:20b-24 “…Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”

Our world demands the same stuff – a sign, wisdom that makes sense to us humans – the sign is the cross – the wisdom is what we preach – the jarring note of a crucified king. He will be a stumbling block to people – even those who claim to be Christian but refuse to accept his death and resurrection as payment for their sins. That’s what it is – it’s pride – I can’t accept that it would be necessary for God to allow his son to die for my sins – there must be some other meaning. But there’s not.

The Priority of the Cross

1 Corinthians 1:27-31 “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”

As Christians we have a lot to share with people – love, kindness, grace, mercy, hope, joy – value based on God’s love, the wonder of God’s kingdom and eternity in his care –  I love the description in Psalm 23…

Psalm 23:2-3 “He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”626

But it’s God’s plan that we boast in one thing only – that we value one thing so highly that it surpasses everything else – and that is the death of Jesus. It is a strange thing to value – but if we loose the priority of the cross of Christ – then we loose everything. If we share with people all the wonderful things of a relationship with God and fail to show them the fact of their situation before God and the drastic nature of God plan to save us through Christ then we our wisdom has taken the place of God’s.  Paul again to the Corinthians…

1 Corinthians 2:4-5 “My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.”

Stand by a deathbed – in those situations there are a whole pile of emotions and even temptations going on – especially with grieving family. There is a temptation for a minister that it’s not really worth telling them about the cross and salvation. They won’t listen, they won’t hear, they won’t respond – they’re too far gone in their grief. It can feel foolish to tell a grieving family that the death of one man can take away the pain of the death of another. How can Jesus’ death be any different to this man, or this woman? Wouldn’t it be better to just comfort them – pray an innocuous generic prayer, try not to offend them and keep the door open, give them some faint wisp of hope, tell them he’s going to a better place and hope that it’s true? Give them comfort, a shoulder to cry on, answer their question?  The truth is – as foolish as it is – the one priority before us is the cross – this is our priority in all of life.

1 Corinthians 2:1-2 “When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”

The work of the cross is to bring us into a relationship with God through Christ’s blood. The result is eternity in God’s presence and as an active member of the living body of Christ that is called the Church. It is foolish to trust in the death of a man – it is jarring to see the Son of God dead – and then rising – but for us – Christians – the cross is the priority of life that informs and directs everything about us. What will that look like – in my life – in yours?

Personal and practical question – how do I maintain the priority of the cross in my life?

Myth Busters – Christianity is Simply a Crutch

Christian myths – or myths about Christianity – or myths propagated by Christians and those opposed – what is reality, what do we/should we believe, what is the truth about some of the claims made by or about Christians? Myth busters is a great fun TV series – but also a great idea. What is true? What’s not? What is plausible, proven or busted? Christians should ask these questions constantly. Test the Spirit – don’t just swallow everything you hear uncritically!

A Little Faith

Whenever you see scenes in mainstream movies about Christian faith (try… The Day After Tomorrow” 1.20.40ff or “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” 21.55ff) there’s an underlying theme that Christianity is for fools and the weak – for people who are tricked into giving their time, money and allegiance to something pathetic. The scene from “The Day after Tomorrow” has an actor trying to preserve an original Guttenberg Bible – doesn’t believe in God but believes in man’s ability to reason and conquer. “I want to save something of Western civilisation.” Or Indiana Jones asks his boss… “Do you believe?” “At my age I’m willing to take a few things on faith”.

  • Faith fills in the gaps when you have nothing else!?
  • It’s my support when I can’t fight my own battles, or I face fears that I can’t deal with some other way.
  • Only people who can’t stand on their own need to put their trust in a God you can’t see or hear – a god who can’t possibly be good.
  • Evil in the world proves that god doesn’t exist so believing in a god is blindly putting aside all reason.
  • We’re on our own and Christians need to join the 21st century.
  • Is Christianity an escape from reality – and insurance policy for losers?
  • Is your faith simply a crutch?

As you think about this – ask yourself…

  • What does the world think of Christians?
  • What do your non-Christian peers, family and friends think of Christians?
  • Is Christianity just a crutch?
  • Do those around you think that you are showing your weakness by “trusting” in Jesus?

Is Christianity for the Weak

People who proclaim Christianity is for losers and the weak are making a pile of assumptions that we can deal with – assumptions that are based on power and confidence. They assume…

  1. That all faith is blind
  2. That they are powerful and require no support
  3. That what they have confidence in is the right foundation for life

Christian Faith

Let’s start with faith – what is it? Christian faith is about personal trust. We entrust ourselves to the God of the Bible – we have a personal relationship with the God – not simply a friendship – we depend on God for our very existence and for our salvation.

Ephesians 2:4-5 “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.”

Faith in Jesus starts with a right understanding of our world. This is not a matter of blindness but of seeing the truth clearly. We are not the people God created us to be – rather than following God we abandoned his ways and went gone our own way.

Ephesians 2:1-2a “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world…”

But through Jesus’ death and resurrection we have assurance that he has reconciled us to God.

2 Corinthians 5:17-18a “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ…”

Faith in Christ means we see truly. Without Jesus we are rebellious and broken people in need of healing. With Jesus we are given the assurance that he is sovereign over all things, that his kingdom is coming, and that he is returning us to the arms of the one holy and loving God.

Necessary Crutches

All of this says that in one sense Christian faith is a crutch! But a crutch is a necessary support. The problem isn’t with Christianity being a crutch – the question is why people think it’s a valid criticism. Crutches are what you use when you can’t stand on your own. Broken a leg or had to use crutches? I did for 6 weeks or so. I couldn’t get around on my own two feet. In a sense it’s a great description of Christianity. We start our walk with Christ by admitting that we are broken and can’t deal with sin and the consequences. Left to our own devices we will perish – and we have to come to the point where we can recognise and admit that. Accepting Jesus is accepting his strength and power to deal with our brokenness.

So even though the idea of Christianity being a crutch is meant as an insult – it really is simply the truth. The implication is that we should be tough and face life, cope with the realities of this world without any assistance. Fact is we wouldn’t hesitate to use crutches for a broken leg – those who see the truth of this world accept Jesus because he is the only way to survive.

We can understand why people don’t want to look weak and accept Christ. It’s because most people in our western world operate under the assumption that they are powerful and strong – or that they should be. That’s what our society promotes – never let weakness be shown. We take pity on weakness – we push students getting ahead by your own strength and power. We have this mistaken understanding of the world that we are in control. That’s the first thing we have to give up under Christ – the mistaken belief that we are in control.

Romans 5:6, 8 “…at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly … God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

The Bible shows us that all people are broken and incomplete – physically, mentally and spiritually. None of us can stand on our own – and most importantly in the one thing that matters, none of us can stand guiltless before God on our own. Jesus said that he came to save those who recognised their lack of power and control.

Mark 2:17 “…Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

If we wish to survive this life then we have to recognise our lack of power and lean on Christ. When we go it alone we fall flat. It is only while we are on crutches that God’s healing hand restores us and finally brings us in transformed, resurrected glory to himself. Jesus says:

Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

A Right Foundation

In the end it comes down to where your confidence lays – in something that works or something unproven. If you put your confidence in yourself then God says you will fail. Not one of us is good enough to stand before God, answer for our sins, pay for our sins and then survive – but that choice exists for people. We have to come to the realisation that we are not powerful or in control, and we certainly are not good enough and can’t be.

We may baulk at the idea that Christianity is crutch – and that’s fair – to us Christ is simply the truth. But the danger would be to replace it with some other word that makes us somehow a little powerful or a little responsible for our salvation. The truth is that without the gospel as our support and foundation we would sink. We talk about growing in Christ, of deepening our relationship with God, even of being swept up in praise of our Savior and Lord. We forget that we only walk and run with Jesus by his power.

Isaiah 40:30-31 “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.”

The Bible – Just One Question

What The Bible Is?

Nick Cave (Australian singer/sorgwriter)

“When I bought my first copy of the Bible, the King James version, it was to the Old Testament that I was drawn, with its maniacal, punitive God, that dealt out to His long suffering humanity punishments that had me drop-jawed in disbelief at the very depth of their vengefulness. I had a burgeoning interest in violent literature coupled with an unnamed sense of the divinity in things and, in my early 20’s, the Old Testament spoke to that part of me that railed and hissed and spat at the world. I believed in God, but I also believed that God was malign and if the Old Testament was testament to anything it was to that.”

What do you do with a book that has literally millions of words, over a thousand pages, 66 sub-books, each divided into chapters, and then further into verses? Its oldest parts are at least 3500 years old? How can we understand such a book when it is so far removed from our own experiences and world? Nick Cave says he was drawn to it because it’s a bloodthirsty epic – full of violence and vengeance.

“Evil seemed to live so close to the surface of existence within it, you could smell its mad breath, see the yellow smoke curl from its many pages, hear the blood curdling moans of despair. It was a wonderful, terrible book and it was sacred Scripture.”

In some respects that’s a good description of a fair swag of the Old Testament. And for lots of people – even some Christians – that makes the Old Testament irrelevant – it has no value.

Yet there’s far more to the Old Testament. Whilst it’s fair to say that the world is a far different place a few thousand years on, the problems and the questions are still pretty much the same. And though the Old Testament raises a ton of questions, it is essentially about just one question. There is really just one question that underlies the whole catalogue of stories and events.

That question is prompted by a very basic problem. The world was never designed with sin in mind. God had no intention that sin would become a force in the world, or that it would destroy and maim the world and all who are in it. When God created the world what He created was good, very good and extremely good – that is, it fitted perfectly with his plans.

Genesis 1:31 “And God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.”

The reality now is that the world is – and let’s be quite frank about it – the world is right royally stuffed. We have managed to turn what was an incredible creation into a dying blue ball on the outermost edge of the universe, and despite our best efforts it is probably too late to save the world. We will try no doubt – and we should repent and get on with it – but it’s hard to see climate change reversing, despite carbon taxes and green energy. I find it fascinating that a Honda Prius is claimed as environmentally friendly just because it uses a small amount of fuel. How much energy is required to build it, to create and then later dispose of the batteries – compared to the life cycle of a good old standard petrol guzzler? In any case – I’m not convinced that our best efforts will make a great deal of difference in fixing the world. We have taken what was good and we may well have terminally wrecked it!

One Question

Back to the Bible – the question the Old Testament seeks to answer, from the start is this – who is going to solve the problem? Adam and Eve sinned – they disobeyed the one rule God gave them – and their sin meant they got kicked out of the Garden of Eden. And lest we feel like blaming them – we’d have done exactly the same – we have done exactly the same. They destroyed what God made perfect and good and we followed suit. They reversed the order of earthly relationships – instead of humans dominating the creation we have been subject to thousands of years of fighting against it.

Genesis 3:15 …”he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

Who will deal with this situation? Who will or can bring it back to the way it was meant to be?

Is that even possible?

It doesn’t appear so – as we move through Genesis the problem simply grows. We meet Cain and Able, Adam and Eve’s sons – the first heirs of the earth – they really inherit the earth when mum and dad die (it’s a joke) – and almost immediately we get the first murder when Cain kills Able out of jealousy. Who will deal with the breakdown in relationships? Who will fix what we have wrecked? Obviously Cain and Able can’t – one’s dead and the other is a murderer – neither is qualified to deal with sin and the breakdown of relationships.

And the worst part is that Cain and Able are the beginning of a long slide into depravity. Just a few generations down the track mankind has become so rotten that God looks down from heaven and says to himself – “I wish that I had never made them”.

Genesis 6:5-6 “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.”

Now I don’t know about you but the very concept of grieving God is a very scary thought.


When you and I regret something, usually there’s not much we can do about it. Ask forgiveness maybe? Repay someone, fix something? What we’d often like to do is have that time over and make sure that we didn’t do it. Just imagine if time machines really existed – none of us would have the time to live here and now – we’d be travelling backwards all the time fixing our mistakes.

God has that capacity – to fix things.

God can literally wipe out whatever causes him regret.

He could stop time or reverse time or simply obliterate everything. He could turn humanity into a bunch of robots and force us to do what he says. He has the power and the ability to do something about his regret.

So what does he do? He starts again – he wipes out all but 8 people and a bunch of animals. He floods the earth and starts again. There’s a glimmer of hope in Noah – a righteous man.

No Answers Here

Noah gets a great opportunity don’t you think? If you could repopulate the earth couldn’t you do a better job – arrange it so there was no poverty or greed, so that everyone had a fair shake, no crime or evil? That’d be a great opportunity? If only the world would follow us it’d be fine! J

How’d Noah do? Did he fix things? Is he the one?

No – as righteous as he was he just didn’t cut it. Despite all that God has done – and you’d think you’d sit up and take notice of a flood that covered the earth – God has just wiped out humanity – you and your family are all that’s left – surely you’d take notice of what God says.

Noah plants a vineyard to celebrate the end of the flood, in due course harvesting the grapes, making a little wine, as you do – and gets absolutely plastered – lying naked for everyone to see. Even this righteous man can’t fix things. He’s not the answer!

As we watch his descendants we see they end up worse than those God has destroyed in the flood. The people of what later became Babylon, try building a great tower that will reach into the very heavens and make their name great – they want to be their own masters and to tell God where to get off. What does God do? He can’t destroy the whole of mankind again because he’s already promised that he won’t. So, God confuses them. He comes down from heaven to see their great tower that reaches into the heavens and makes them speak different languages – they start to ‘babble’ – they stop building and split into groups and spread across the earth. And then they fight – they revert to murdering their family members.

We’re still looking for a solution. The result of the flood is Babel. The earth populated with people who refuse to obey God. Is there any hope for humanity? Is there anyone who can make things right? When you come down to it Genesis 3 – 11 is an avalanche of sin, progressively getting worse.

In Genesis 12 there’s a change. Abram is chosen by God and sent out to build one nation that will be the people of God, a nation that will show the way to the rest of the world, that will show how humanity can turn back to God. From Abram’s descendants God will raise up one person who will restore things.

A Continuing Problem

So the problem continues – who will restore? We see a whole line of men (mostly) descended from Abraham and each one is greeted as a potential saviour. And every single one bombs out.

  • Abraham passes his wife off as his sister to stop a local king from abducting her and killing Abraham.
  • Moses leads the Israelites out of Egypt, only to find that he wants all the glory for himself.
  • Samson sold out his special place with God and his incredible God given strength… to his girlfriend for sexual favours.
  • Samuel can’t grow a family that obeys God let alone a nation – his sons abuse their position in the temple for their own gain.
  • King Saul was a mistake right from the start, only after money and power.
  • David the greatest king of Israel, couldn’t keep his pants on when he saw a hot woman sunbaking on her roof – so he sleeps with Bathsheba, makes her pregnant and has her husband murdered so that he can marry her. Nice!
  • Josiah, another great king, crowned as an 8 year old (and if an 8 year old is one of the better kings I guess you have to wonder just a little) – gets himself killed because he refused to listen to God.

It would almost be funny except that it’s so pathetic. Not one person, even amongst the people of God, could be found to save humanity. When do we start to think it’s hopeless?


We finish up in Malachi, the final book of the Old Testament, about 400 years before Jesus was born. Thousands of years of Jewish history have gone nowhere – we’re still waiting.

Malachi is the final prophet of the Old Testament period and he says “you Israelites still don’t get it – but God is going to solve the problem.” God is going to intervene in history and the world. The Day of the Lord is coming and it’s going to be the big one – the one who comes on that day will be the one who solves the problem – the question will finally get answered.

Now unless you’ve been on another planet … you would have to guess that I’m about to say that Jesus is the one coming to solve the problem.


Luke 2:28-32 Simeon took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.”

In the Garden of Eden there were two questions at stake.

  • Is God good?
  • Can we trust him?
  • The snake said that God wasn’t really good and that he couldn’t be trusted.
  • Eve agreed with the snake.
  • Adam agreed with Eve.
  • Their sons agreed
  • And so on – right down to us.

Is God good? Can he be trusted? What does Simeon say?

Luke 2:29-32 “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.”

Yes – God is good. Yes – he can be trusted. The Bible is a record of a few thousand years history with those two basic facts in evidence at every turn. While humanity has turned against God constantly, God remained faithful and good. And not only that but he took upon himself the answer to the question. Who would fix the problem? Who would make us able to have a right relationship with God? Who would fix what sin and humanity had destroyed? God sent a little child into the world, born as a human to live as we do, to experience what we do, to feel as we do, and to die as we do. And to offer us the very thing that generation after generation of God’s people searched for and yet never found.

So let me ask you 3 questions.

  • Is God good?
  • Is God trustworthy?
  • Has God solved the problem of sin in your life?

All Scripture (c)English Standard Version

The Adjustment Bureau & Free Will

The Adjustment Bureau

Angels – free will – decision making – God portrayed as “The Chairman” – who plays with people’s lives with little obvious rhyme or reason. Fate is God’s planning. Free will? According to the ‘angels’ we don’t have free will… we just have the appearance of free will – because when we (the human race) were allowed to choose for ourselves we created disaster after disaster – WW1, great depression, holocaust (WW2) all the way through to the near end of the world with the Cuban Missile Crisis in the 60’s.

It’s a little hard to know where this movie is coming from. Is it opposing the particular brand of American Christian Fundamentalism? You get the sense that ‘which’ God is the ‘Chairman’ is sort of irrelevant – in fact that may even be the point. All gods are really just the same god? At the same time you have to ask is it questioning the whole American Dream – or is it supporting the American Dream and the power of the individual to overcome any odds? Is it defending the Armenian concept of free will, a concept we don’t find in the Scriptures? It seems to claim that free will is the only reasonable understanding of God and our relationship with him? Or is it opposed to human free will – humans make a mess of everything when we have it so clearly God – or maybe the faceless government (Big Brother?!) – must take control and keep things on track. Is it just another story about love finding a way against incredible odds?

Angels are viewed at powerful but strangely limited, some capricious and smug, some quite dark, some with serious personality disorders, and some acting as the caring older brother who just wants you to be happy, even if it means going against the plan? They play with adjustments – a spilt cup of coffee, a missed bus – to keep everyone on their individualised plan. And when things get out of hand, or worse a human decides to go against the plan – the angels or ‘case workers’ take increasingly stronger action, including acts of cruelty and violence – as long as the plan comes back on track.

It’s funny but for a story so clearly about angels and God, and so clearly discussing the whole argument of free will and predeterminism – there is not a scrap of religion or spirituality – except for the closing credits song. The ‘adjustments’ have nothing to do with a relationship with Jesus or even a casual connection to god… any god! Angels are not good – simply obedient to a fault, and can act with cruel intent, so long as they get their way.

The whole concept makes a mockery of human suffering of course – it is just a movie – but if you step back and ponder, what are the angels doing for the starving millions, the victims of cyclones, earthquakes, nuclear disasters, tsunamis and all the rest – not to mention war? Are these people following the chairman’s plan? As I said – just a movie – and it’s enjoyable – Matt Damon has presence these days on screen and fits the role pretty well. You almost want him to revert to his Bourne character in some of his run-ins with the angels – no such luck.

But it’s a worthwhile movie for bringing questions of free will and God’s sovereignty into play, and certainly has some possibilities. Would work well for a men’s movie night maybe – raise the questions of free will and predestination, talk about God’s sovereignty and our choice? What part does free will play in our lives? Move away from the generalist terms of the movie, to a discussion about faith and Jesus – do we have free will or does God do the choosing? How does it work? Do I chose Jesus or does he choose me – or both? Can I thwart God’s will for my life – can I avoid the adjustments? J

One point to consider is that the Bible no-where uses the concept of ‘free-will’ so it may not be the most helpful term.

Throughout the OT it is God who offers relationship to Israel. He is the one who chooses the people of God, and chooses the timing, place and activities of worship.

Deuteronomy 14:1-2 “You are the children of the Lord your God. Do not cut yourselves or shave the front of your heads for the dead, for you are a people holy to the Lord your God. Out of all the peoples on the face of the earth, the Lord has chosen you to be his treasured possession.”

In truth there are almost too many passages to mention that show this reality of Israel’s relationship with God and indeed more than enough that show the consequences of Israel being given their head, to choose as they will (i.e. Judges 10:14).

In the NT likewise, it’s not one or two passages that talk about the dreaded ‘pre-destination’ but the whole underlying current.

1 Peter 1:1-2 “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia and Bithynia, who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling by his blood:”

Election is the clear point – without abrogating our responsibility to choose to follow Jesus, it is God who first chooses us. And as Peter goes on to say we have responsibility to work within that election…

2 Peter 1:10-11 “Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Paul to the Thessalonians…

2 Thessalonians 2:13-14 “But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. He called you to this through our gospel that you might share in the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

There are many more passages that play a part in this theology. Rather than getting caught up in the pre-destination argument, it’s the sovereignty of God argument that is worth understanding and discussing. By God’s sovereignty he declared Christ’s sacrifice as full payment for all who turn to him in repentance and faith.

Rev David Cole is Senior Minister of Jamberoo Anglican Church

All scripture quoted is from The Holy Bible: New International Version. 1996 (electronic ed.) Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.