Posted on: 20th January 2020
“Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy.”
Reading the Old Testament account of the children of Israel leaving Egypt and wandering in the wilderness for 40 years, I am fascinated by their actions and attitudes. The book of Leviticus is known to be full of law and full of drastic consequences for their actions.
But why do we need laws? The preacher Andy Stanley describes Law’s as guardrails, protecting us from harm. If you have time this week, have a read of Leviticus 19, or search for some of the most unusual laws that exist. Ask yourself the question, “Why was that law brought in?” Leviticus 19:14 says, “Do not curse the deaf or put a stumbling-block in front of the blind, but fear the Lord.” Can you imagine needing a law like that!
In Matthew 7:12, Jesus sums up the law and the prophets by saying, “In everything [including tripping others up when they can’t see], do unto others as you would have them do to you.”
This week, I encourage you to spend some time thinking about the rules and laws that you are striving to follow. If you are like me, I often find it overwhelming. No matter how many things I do right, it is the things I don’t do that I focus on the most. No matter how hard I try, I know I cannot live to the expectations of myself, let alone others.
Let’s follow Jesus’ example. He came to simplify live and give us all the chance to connect with God. When he lived a sinless life and died on the cross, the punishment of sin was taken away. That made it simple for us to live Holy, not because we keep all the laws, but because we accept his forgiveness.
This week, spend some time thinking about how you can simplify your life. Think about what the life and death of Jesus means to you.
Posted on: 13th Jan 2020
“If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.”
How do you respond when you are asked to do something you do not want to?
The most recent craze to sweep social media has been the 10 year challenge. Users have been encouraged to look through their photos and pitch a recent photo next to one from a decade ago. Then friends and followers get to like or comment about the transformation. I fell into this fad and posted a photo of me and my children (the one’s who were born 10 years ago). It is fair to say that there have been significant changes over this period.
I can think of other crazy fads that have taken place during this last 10 years, non more-so than ‘Pen-Pineapple-Apple-Pen’ which has been seen 301,177,424 times as I write this (once more I will be honest, for research purposes).
I feel the same confusion sometimes when I read the Bible. They had some strange customs and laws that they had to follow. Can you imagine someone coming up to you in the street, interrupting your plans and demanding you go 1 mile out of your way to carry their things? How would you respond? The common responses would have been to do it (to avoid a beating), but moan and argue about the oppression and unfairness of the system. Jesus uses this strange custom to teach about attitude. This is where we get the phrase “going the extra mile” from.
Challenge – Think about a time when you have had a bad attitude to being asked to do something that you think is unfair, or you that didn’t want to do. What do you think would have been the response if you had offered to, ‘go the extra mile’?
Action this week – Go the extra mile. When you feel like you are asked to do something that you do not want to do, challenge your attitude. Do what you have been asked and go the extra mile.
Remember, if you have any prayer requests, please feel free to pass them on either by email, in person, or by using the QR code on the prayer posters around school.
Posted on: 7th Jan 2020
“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”
At the start of a new year, the temptation is to set this year as ‘your best year ever’. My challenge is to think about the key decisions you could make this year, that your 5-year-future-self would thank you for. This gives us a more realistic timeline to make a significant change, as the years seem to fly by so quickly.
Some decisions you make will be small. They may include eating better, sleeping more, reading or exercising. Write them down and place them somewhere that you will see them regularly.
One of the biggest challenges we all face is how we interact with others. We are going to spend some time this term considering the challenges and standards set by Jesus during his sermon on the mount. No bigger challenge is set than this; “Do to others what you would have them do to you.”
For me, I will do anything for you if you appreciate what I can do and understand my weaknesses. For you, it might be quality time that you crave from others. There is an excellent book called ‘The five love languages’. This will increase your self-awareness.
This year, I pray that you are empowered to make some great daily choices that prepare you for a blessed future. I also pray that you consider how you love to be treated, and look for opportunities to bless others in these ways.
Posted on: 9th December 2019
“When Herod realised that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious.”
In 2009, a new tradition began in our household around Christmas. The day we put the tree up (there is still a lengthy and annual discussion around the right time to do this!), we watch ‘The Nativity.’ Partly because my wife was brought up in Coventry and has happy memories of the Cathedral. Partly because the true meaning of Christmas is summed up so beautifully. But mostly because Mr Poppy is hilarious. But it is the character of Gordon Shakespeare that I want to reflect on today.
Each year, the local newspaper prints a review of the nativity productions that take place. Every year, Mr Shakespeare looks for a new angle on the traditional story, a perspective that no one has before considered. In Nativity 1, he looks at Herod. This week our verse to consider is Matthew 2:16. If you were to read the full verse, the response to Herod’s fury was a tragedy to any family that had bore a child during that period. Traditions suggests this number could have been as many as 64,000 but the lower estimate would be between 8 to 20 innocent children murdered.
Herod was the King of the Jews, a title given by the Romans who gave him his power and authority. His desire to remain king led him to this act of brutality. Compare this to the words he spoke to the magi when they first arrived, in verse 8. “Go and make a careful search for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.” Herod was given the gift of welcoming the Son of God into the world, but he did not receive this gift well.
My challenge for you this year is to ask how you will respond to the coming of Jesus into the world. For some, Jesus is an unnecessary addition to a time for family, friends and celebration. For others, the message of Jesus challenges our way of living and leads to negative responses. And for others, Christmas is a time to celebrate the saviour of the world. Take time this year to consider your response of Jesus.
Posted on: 2nd December 2019
“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.”
What do you look forward to the most at Christmas? I love talking to people about their traditions and habits. For some, they begin the season on November the 1st, the day after Halloween. The end of the celebration brings a 54-day anticipation of celebrating the ‘Light of the World’. For others, 25th November marks a month to go and is a legitimate mark for beginning to prepare. But the 1st December and the opening of the first advent calendar surely is the latest someone would choose to begin the anticipation.
In the gospel of Matthew, the writer begins by giving the build up to Jesus. He marks the significance of his birth to Mary, recording the genealogy from Abraham and from King David. This was a significant marker for those who were expecting the Messiah, because it fulfilled many of the prophecies that in the books of the prophets.
Three characters drew my attention this week as I read the ancestral list. Please take time this week to read Matthew 1, and let me know who stands out for you. For me, it was the mention of the female characters, Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Uriah’s wife. I encourage you to have a look at the stories of these characters. For me, their stories speak of good coming from bad and God’s redemption of taking something broken and turning it in to something beautiful.
Whatever your tradition in the build up to Christmas, can I encourage you to consider the message of salvation and forgiveness that comes because Jesus came. He is the reason for the season.
Posted on: 25th November 2019
“Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.”
1 Corinthians 12:7-11
This week we are considering the purpose of the spiritual gifts that God gives us. Generosity is a spiritual gift. Because of your generosity, last year we were able to give a gift to each of our sponsored children. This has been used to buy animals that will increase the chance of the families producing crops. This will lead to then being able to provide for themselves this year. In the letters we have received this week, we hear of the ambitions and dreams of our children to become pilots, doctors and nurses. What a privilege to be part of these dreams.
Consider the words of Marianne Williamson, that were used in the film ‘Coach Carter’:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
Interestingly, in the film, the lines underlined were omitted. Take time to consider your response to the challenge included in this quote. God has given you the gifts, talents and abilities for the common good. It is good for you to use them and encourage others to use theirs also. What is your gift? How will you use it today?
Posted on: 18th November 2019
“We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.”
“Those who read, succeed!” I would like to suggest that: “Those who listen to someone else read on audiobook can succeed too.” But I would go one step further and suggest that unless you do something with what you have read, you are reducing the amount of success you achieve.
In Matthew 7:24, Jesus said, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who builds his house on the rock.” What you hear and what you read has the ability to shape and act as a foundation to build a successful life on.
In a book by the British Table Tennis Champion Matthew Syed, he tells the story of his rise to success in the sport. His PE teacher saw him play at the age of eight, and told him he was talented. This leads to a discussion about talent, gifts and training. Matthew was an exceptional player for his age, but he also had an older brother who had played against him in his garage, every night for a few years. Matthew had a desire to play Table Tennis, but he also had practiced more than anyone his own age had. His older brother and a table in the garage were the gifts he had to get ahead, but he had to put in the effort. The book is called ‘Bounce’.
St Paul, writing to the believers in Rome, reminded them of the responsibilities of their faith. He told them that the spiritual gifts they had been given are different, and also he reminded them that it is the grace of God that brings them their gifts. Spiritual gifts are given for a reason, for the good of others. Paul lets them know that they were all part of a body and they had a responsibility to build others up. The challenge for the early believers is the same for us now.
Take time this week to consider the abilities you have developed, that you may have not used for a long time. Is it time for you to go back to these and use them again? The Holy Spirit gives gifts too, for us to use for the good of others. My prayer is that you will take time this week to connect with God and ask him to help you use your gifts to help others.
Posted on: 11th November 2019
“Speak out on behalf of the voiceless, and for the rights of all who are vulnerable.”
In 2018, as a school, we began to sponsor five children in Rwanda. The name of the charity that we work with is called Compassion, and Proverbs 31:8 is a key verse in their vision for the world they wish to impact.
When we considered the gift of freedom last week, we spent some time considering the chains that we were released from, and those chains that still hold us back. This week I would like us to think about the next step: what should we do with our freedom?
The book of Acts of the Apostle is a great read. It tells the story of the early disciples, after Jesus has been taken into heaven. It is full of trials and problems for those apostles, but the overwhelming theme is that the good news that they had to share was far more important than their freedom or comfort.
One such incident happened in a jail in Philippi (Acts 16:25-40). Paul and Silas had been beaten and thrown in jail for setting a girl free from a demon that was in her. You would have thought that would have been something to celebrate. Instead, there freeing a girl led to their imprisonment. Now, if I were them, I would probably be grumbling and complaining. But they were in jail at midnight, “Praying and singing hymns to God.” Their freedom had not been taken, even though they were in prison. They were free on the inside. “Suddenly, there was a great earthquake, so the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were open.” At this point, the prisoners really were free, but Paul and the others chose to stay there. This was an act that led to the saving of the jailer and all of his family.
This week, I ask you to consider your position. Are you free? If you are, what can you do with your freedom to show compassion to others. You may decide that you would like to personally sponsor a child through compassion, or give to your local food-bank, or give your time to help others. The challenge for us all is this, “Speak out on behalf of the voiceless, and for the rights of all who are vulnerable.”
Posted on: 4th November 2019
“It was for freedom that Christ set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”
What things hold us back from living life to the full?
What an amazing verse that we read in Galatians 5:1. The whole story of God and his people is one of slavery, bondage, freedom, repeat. Slavery, bondage, freedom, repeat. We read again and again in the old testament of the people, “Doing evil in the eyes of the Lord.” (Judges 2:11, Judges 3:12, 1 Kings 15:26 and many more).
In the new testament we read Paul’s struggle between his desire to follow God’s will and his desire to serve his feelings and flesh (Romans 6-7). Paul talks about us being free from slavery to sin. But he also talks about becoming, “A slave to God.”
I heard a story of a boy who was visiting the circus, who marvelled at the mighty elephants parading around the ring. “Dad”, he said, “Why doesn’t the elephants just pull out the pegs that are holding them and escape? He’s strong enough.” His dad answered, “Once, they were held by unbreakable chains until they learned they couldn’t get free. Then weaker ropes were substituted for the chains, but the elephants had already given up on breaking free. Now, just a thin cord tied loosely to one foot and connected to a small stake in the ground is all it takes to “trap” the elephant into believing he’s still being held tight with chains that no longer exist.”
At this time of year, we consider the brave lives of those who sacrificed their freedom for us to be free. My challenge is that, whatever you have let tie you down from living life to the full, will be released as you consider the gift of freedom you have been given.
The promise in Romans 6:22 is that when you become a slave to God, “The benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.” My prayer is that you consider how you could choose to serve God with all he has given you.
Posted on: 28th October 2019
“If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously.”
How self-aware are you? There seems to be a craze at the moment, to find out your Enneagram. Have you heard of this term? In light of recent training, let me mention the morphology of the word. Ennea is the Greek word for ‘nine’ and Gramma means, ‘something this is drawn or written’.
The test asks you a long series of questions in which you decide how strongly you agree or disagree with a range of statements.
The nine refers to the different personality types that you can fit in to. They are: The Perfectionist, The Giver, The Achiever, The Individualist, The Investigator, The Loyalist, The Enthusiast, The Challenger, The Peacemaker.
The strap line for the Enneagram is, ‘Nine ways to be normal’. It is a great reminder that God has given us all gifts and abilities. We therefore have a responsibility to find out what our gifts are. But finding a gift is only the beginning. In 1 Corinthians 14:12, Paul encourages the believers to, ‘Excel in the gifts that build up others.’
My challenge for us all this week is to consider the gifts you have, and then find ways that you can use them to build others up. My prayer is that you will realise your own gifts and support others as they find theirs too. In doing this we can build and strengthen each other.