Posted on: 20th May 2019
“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
Have you ever received a gift from someone when it wasn’t your birthday or a special occasion? How did it make you feel? I find receiving a gift quite awkward. I was talking to a member of staff recently about how we like best to be recognised. According to the author Dr Gary Chapman, there are ‘5 love languages’. These are ways in which we prefer to receive adoration form others. My challenge for you this week – find your love language and the love language of the people closest to you.
My eldest daughter (now 14 years old) used to do ballet. On a Saturday morning I would drop her off at ballet in Accrington and go to Annie’s tea room for a brew and a scone (other tea rooms are available). When I arrived one Saturday morning with a pram and my young son in it, I decided to celebrate by ordering a Full English Breakfast. At the end of the meal I was informed that it was ‘on the house’! A great saving of £4.95. My response was to go to the local florist and buy a bunch of flowers for £5 and a box of chocolates for £2.99. The mathematicians reading this will recognise I paid 160% more for my meal that if I had just bought it myself.
Giving to others is not about the amount, it’s about opening a channel of flow from you to others. Jesus talks about the link between us giving and us receiving. My challenge this week for us all is for us to think about what we are holding on to, that we could be giving away.
In your prayers this week, be generous. Ask for God to bless those around you. Ask God to give you opportunities to be a blessing to others. If we all did that then we may be the recipient of someone else’s blessing.
Posted on: 13th May 2019
“For if you forgive others their sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”
As a parent, I sometimes feel I should know more than I do, especially after having three children and the oldest being fourteen. But I don’t. Here is my top mistake – I ask my children what they think, when actually I know their choice is going to be wrong, or unattainable. For example, “What would you like for tea?” should have been, “Beans on toast or soup?” You know full well that when asked what they wanted, those two options were not top of the list.
Looking back at the children of Israel’s choice in Deuteronomy 30:15, I should have learned how to set a question. “See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction.” Really! Was that an actual choice? What would you choose? Have a look at the rest of the story to find out about the choice they made.
Fast forward to the new testament, the Lord’s prayer. Jesus asks us the question “Will you forgive others?”.
I can think of lots of examples of situations that seem to be unforgiveable. This is especially true when the person who has done the wrong shows no remorse or isn’t feeling sorry for their actions. How can you forgive someone who is not sorry? How could the people of Rwanda forgive their neighbours who killed their loved ones, just because they were form a different ethnic group?
But Jesus’ question about forgiveness didn’t really have a choice. Your forgiveness by God is directly affected by your willingness to forgive others. The consequences of not forgiving are not worth considering, but the blessing of forgiving others and being forgiven by God, makes forgiveness the only option.
My challenge this week is that you will find the ability and courage to deal with any forgiveness you may need in your life. If this is too difficult for you to face alone, find someone you trust and talk about it with them. It may be that you are the one wronged, or you may be the one who needs to say sorry.
Posted on: 7th May 2019
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.”
I love the Bible. I love it when I find a story that seems out of place with the clean, sanitised, serene picture we can sometimes portray the message of the Bible to be.
In Numbers chapter 22, there is an amazing account of Balaam. Israel, God’s people, were defeating their enemies left, right and centre. Balak, king of Moab was rightfully worried. Enter Balaam. Balak spoke to him saying, “I know that blessings fall on any people you bless, and curses fall on people you curse.” Imagine having that super-power! What would you do with it? What did Balaam do? I challenge you to read the rest of the story and let me know what you think!
In Proverbs 18:21, King Solomon says, “The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences.”
What if we did have the ability to bless and curse with our words like Balaam?
Reflect on the times you have spoken life and hope to someone who is down. Did it bring life? Have you experienced the critical, hurtful words of another that have caused part of you to feel dead and sick inside? Have you ever been critical of yourself, putting yourself down? The words we speak to ourselves are just as crucial to the words spoken by and to others. Do you need to repent of negative self-talk?
My challenge for you this week is to listen carefully to the words you use. Take time teach day to reflect on the effect your words have had on others. If you have spoken death, ask for forgiveness. If anyone has spoken life to you, thank them: they may even do it again!
Posted on: 29th April 2019
“I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will empower you with inner strength through his Spirit.”
What would you do if praying made a difference?
Every Tuesday we have been meeting weekly in the Chapel to pray. During this time we have prayed for the school, for events, for those connected to the school, that there would be a sense of the presence of God in everything we do. Some of our prayers have been for loved ones who are sick. Many of these prayers have been answered. We continue to pray for people and situations that bring discomfort and pain and you are always welcome to come along.
Paul prayed. You can read the letters he wrote to the churches that were growing after the death and resurrection of Jesus. In Ephesians 3, Paul is writing to the group of believers in Ephesus. Paul had visited this city on his travels and lots of people had believed in Jesus and were choosing to live differently. The difference made by the message of Jesus had caused some to riot and oppose Paul and his companions. The message of Jesus had been accepted by some but was opposite to the way of life of others.
Jesus prayed. Throughout the gospels, Jesus went to be alone with God to pray. He taught his disciples how to pray. In Matthew 18, Jesus promises that when we gather in his name, he will be with us. He also promised that whatever we agree on in his name, will be given. What an amazing promise.
What would you do if praying made a difference? Prayer and meditation is a strong part of all major faiths. It is an opportunity to deepen our beliefs and faith. It can strengthen our inner beings and can make a difference in our lives. During the exam season we will be joining together to pray. We will be praying before exams. We will be praying during exams. We will be asking for prayer requests. We will be sharing praise reports. I invite you to begin a habit and a pattern in your life of inviting God into your world, through prayer.
Posted on: 8th April 2019
““I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the father except through me.””
What is in your attic? The daytime television programme encourages people to see if there is ‘cash’ in it. My attic is full of boxes. Each year we fill a memory box of all the amazing art work, projects, school books and cards from that year. In there go medals, certificates, achievements, clearing the way for the next season of success. These mementos of life will, I am led to believe, will fill our years of retirement with joy as we recall our early family experiences; looking back on the life we lived.
As we approach Holy Week, we are considering the words of Jesus, “I am the life”. Consider these words and the experiences that followed. Jesus is life, yet he died on the cross. I love how the New Testament writers record the real life examples of the responses to Jesus’ death.
John records of himself that he comforted Mary as they watched him on the cross (John 19:25). In John 18, we read of Judas who betrayed Jesus and Peter denied knowing him, three times. In Acts we read of Peter leading the early church, after he was restored by the resurrected Jesus and filled with the Holy Spirit. We read in Acts 1 of the pain and hurt that Judas felt, unable to continue with life and the decision he made.
Judas reminds me of a story from a Welsh, farming village. Two young men left their farm one day, climbed to a neighbouring village, stole some sheep and returned home. This practice continued until they were caught. The punishment was that they were branded on their foreheads, S.T. (Sheep Thief), and expelled from their community. One left and got a ship, for a distant land where no one knew what he had done. Whenever he met someone new, they asked him about the mark on his head. He never found any peace or acceptance and his wrong choices followed him for the rest of his short life.
The second young man turned to the local priest, who found him a place to stay and gave him the job of maintaining the church and the grounds. Over time, the young man was able to help members of the community, the elderly and the youth. He became a support and help to others. One day, he overheard some children talking. “Who’s that man over there? Why does it say ST on his head?” said one child. “That’s easy,” said the other. “He’s the Saint. He helps everyone!”
We know the end of the Easter story. Jesus’ death and resurrection became the only way to a relationship with God. My prayer for you this week is that you consider your choice and response to this message, as we reflect on the responses of John, Peter, Judas and the two young men.
Posted on: 1st April 2019
“I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the father except through me.”
Posted on: 25th March 2019
“Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.””
Have you ever lost your way? It was July 2004 and I had found a lovely circular walk around Cuerden Valley for myself and my wife in a book. To paint the picture, this was a few days after the due date of our first child. It is also worth noting that it was a hot summer’s day. My sense of direction is better if I have been somewhere before. But on this day, I was sure I would be able to find our way back to the place we started from. The problem was, we didn’t seem to be turning at any point of this walk. Our circular walk felt very linear. I hear the younger generations screaming as they read this, “Just use Google Maps on your smart phone!” This wasn’t a luxury we possessed in those days. After a few conversations with ‘real walkers’ and a few styles and fences to climb, we returned to the car.
Are you looking for the way through life? The disciples were. When Jesus called them, they had their lives changed. But in John 14, we read that the disciples didn’t realise who Jesus was. They heard the teachings and saw the miracles. But they didn’t recognise that Jesus was God or that he was the way to God. Why would they? This was a completely different route to what they thought.
In Acts 9:2, we meet Saul. He was a devoted follower of God. In Acts 22:4, he admitted that before following God, “I persecuted people who followed THE WAY and some of them were even killed.” This came after arrests, imprisonment and beatings, for following THE WAY!
Following THE WAY (Jesus) was a matter of life and death for those early believers. We may not face the same persecution and suffering in our lives for following Jesus (although many across the world do), but we too must make a choice. My prayer for you this week is that you consider the words of Jesus, the passion of Saul and the struggles of the early disciples to recognise who Jesus really is – THE WAY.
Posted on: 18th March 2019
“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were hurting and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”
A phrase used to challenge us to improve our lives and our work is, “If you always do what you’ve always done…” I will leave you to fill the rest in for yourself.
As we consider Jesus again this week, let us consider what he always did, wherever he went. In Matthew 4:23 we read that, “Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.” In Matthew 9:35, we read that, “Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness.”
There seems to be a pattern in Jesus’ behaviour. I would like to suggest that Jesus always did what he always did, and he always got the same reaction. Crowds followed him. The religious leaders hated him even more. I love the quote that Mother Teresa had on her wall. Part of it reads, “Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough: Give your best anyway.”
This week, my challenge for you is to consider all the good that you do, that strengthens your soul or makes a positive difference to others, and keep doing it.
My prayer for us all is that we will have the strength and motivation to meet the needs of those we can, just as Jesus did to the hurting and helpless. You may not have a gift of healing, but whatever gifts you have, consider how you can use them to be compassionate.
Posted on: 11th March 2019
“Come, and I will make you fishers of men.”
Have you ever met someone who is so full of life and energy that they seem to fill their lives to the full? After speaking to them you realise that there is so much you could achieve by adopting some of their habits. I was inspired recently by a colleague who fits in twenty squats whilst brushing their teeth and fifty press ups while the morning kettle boils! As well as giving up TV, sweets and games on my phone, I’m trying to do more reading over lent. One book is called ‘Atomic Habits’ by James Clear. It is an inspiring read and very practical. But reading the book is not revolutionising my life. For that to happen I am going to have to put it into practice.
At the start of Jesus’ ministry, he began by choosing, empowering and equipping twelve disciples. His words to Simon and Andrew as they were doing their normal working routine changed their future. “Come, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Mark 1:17).
Today is another day when you get to respond to the same call that those disciples did. Some opportunities you are presented with today will be ‘too good to say no to’. Others will require will power and determination. You will pay the cost of effort or investment today, but receive the rewards in the future. Some choices will give you instant rewards but they will cost you in the long term.
The response of those first disciples to Jesus shaped their future forever. It wasn’t an easy life but it was full of purpose and adventure. “At once they left their nets and followed him.” (Mark 1:18).
My prayer this week is that you find time to reflect on the call of Jesus to follow him. I hope that you feel empowered, like the early disciples, to “Live life to the full.” (John 10:10).
Posted on: 4th March 2019
“Bear with each other, forgive each other, as the Lord has forgiven you.”
During this half term we are considering how we can ‘Love like Jesus’. From reading the gospels, I think it is really clear what Jesus was about. Jesus was love. Sometimes this love was an obvious demonstration. In Matthew 4:23, after Jesus had returned from his testing in the wilderness and called the first disciples, he went throughout Galilee and preached, proclaimed good news and healed all who were sick. And people followed him.
This week we are considering how Jesus is forgiveness. The ultimate display of this is his sacrifice on the cross, for the forgiveness of all. In Colossians 3:13 it says we are to “bear with each other, forgive each other, as the Lord has forgiven you.”
It is a sacrifice to forgive. Forgiveness requires us offering something to someone who has wronged us, that they don’t deserve. So why does Jesus call us to forgive? We find the answer in Matthew 6:14.
In his book ‘Everybody always’, Bob Goff describes a person who he meets who is, “pure evil.” Bob gets the opportunity to meet with this man after his arrest for all the vile things he had done. During this encounter, the prisoner asked Bob to forgive him. Bob describes this as one of the hardest decisions he had ever made. This man had hurt someone Bob loved. If you are looking for an inspirational and motivational book to read, I cannot recommend this book highly enough, along with Bob Goff’s first book, ‘Love does’.
This week starts the period of lent. What are you going to sacrifice over the next 40 days? What is the reason behind your sacrifice. Jesus’ sacrifice was for the forgiveness of sins.
My prayer is that lent is a season of reflection, sacrifice and forgiveness in your life.