Posted on: 26th June 2017
““You are the light of the world, a city on a hill that cannot be hidden.” People do not light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.”
Matthew 5:15 (paraphrased)
What are your strengths? Your weaknesses? What are you good at? Where do you flourish?
Jesus was sat with his disciples when he encouraged them with this passage. You can find the same story being told in three of the gospels, so here it is from Matthew. Early in chapter 5 He discusses who as a team they are to serve, who they are to love, but then he goes on to encourage them personally.
“You are the light of the world, a city on a hill that cannot be hidden.” People do not light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.
However, this does not just apply to the disciples and their ministry. In fact, this parable has morale value too:
Did you know you could be a light to the world? Like a city that cannot be hidden?
At the beginning, this devotional asked what your strengths are. However, what else it should say is, how do you share them with others?
Did you know that when you use what you are good at for yourself it is as if you have just put your light underneath a bowl so no one can see it? However, when you use it to teach, encourage, and share it with others, both you and those you are helping shine a little bit lighter?
This week, think about where you are a light, think about the areas of your life where you potentially aren’t sharing your light.
Posted on: 19th June 2017
“If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.”
Luke 17 v 6
(Story of a Mustard Seed)
Have you ever gone to watch a football game and not really believed your team can win? Alternatively, have you ever started out doing something (maybe late homework or a mountain of housework) and looked at the amount to think, “I’m never going to get this done?” Maybe you have questioned why you cannot believe more, why you have not been better at believing or why you cannot see things happening the way that would be ideal. The apostles quizzed Jesus regularly or they challenged him. On this occasion, they wanted more faith.
The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” He replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.
This week we are talking about trust; the firm belief in what we know to be reliable. The bible verses above share that the capability of our faith is not equal to the size of our faith; it flips what we know as logic to for our minds. From a young age, we are taught that as we learn more knowledge the better we will do in life, but the size of our faith does not necessarily equal the actions that can take place because of it.
So why faith the size of a mustard seed? When a mustard seed is planted, it is one of the smallest seeds, yet when it grows and flourishes; it will be one of the largest trees around. This journey from the smallest to the biggest is how Jesus explains our trust and our faith. See trust starts with a step, just one. The tiniest of steps to say I believe, I trust.
So what are you trusting in this week? What are you trusting for? As we may waiver and wobble from time to time let’s remember that even the faith and trust of a mustard seed has the potential to move the largest mulberry tree from the land to the sea.
Posted on: 22nd May 2017
“This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
Matthew 18 v 35
(The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant)
“Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he, his wife, his children, and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. “At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, cancelled the debt and let him go. “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded. “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’ “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged, went, and told their master everything that had happened. “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I cancelled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger, his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
Have you ever held a grudge? Alternatively, maybe you have had a grudge held against you and more over you have let it affect you and how you communicate with that person? Maybe you have seen a grudge in effect, as someone disagrees with a brilliant idea just because of the person who said it.
Grudges are often held when one person feels like someone else owes them something. Maybe they do owe them something like the story above and yet they keep that thought as a hold over the other person. Yet, the bible tells us to forgive.
Forgiving is giving up your right to hate or hurt the person who hurt you. It is about letting go of the stronghold or grudge over an area of your life, not allowing it to control how you see someone else or how you judge what they do.
This week as we think about forgiveness, remember what this story teaches us, that we are forgiven by our heavenly father, that we should forgive as we hope others will forgive us and that we shouldn’t keep hold of the grudges that control how we see others around us.
Posted on: 15th May 2017
“For life is more than food, and your body more than clothing.”
Luke 12 v 23
(Tradition vs Honest Faith)
This week we are looking at the story that Jesus tells to the Pharisees in Luke 12 as they challenge his disciples for their practice of eating without doing a wash ritual first. Let’s remember though why Jesus told stories and parables. One reason was to explain what the kingdom of heaven was like and another was to explain the law of the old scriptures to people who didn’t understand it or who were using it wrongly. This story was told for the second reason, to help people understand what the bible said about rituals and traditions.
So Jesus was out with his friends, his disciples and they had just started eating as Jesus was talking to the crowd that was gathering around. The Pharisees were quick to point out that they hadn’t washed their hands before they began to eat, so one raised their voice, “Why don’t your disciples do the traditions and rituals of our elders? Why don’t they wash their hands?” (Mark 7 v 1-5 abbreviated).
Jesus responded to them by calling them hypocrites (sometimes he just said it as it was). But what the Pharisees hadn’t realised that the disciples had been serving the people through their ministry, they had been with Jesus for a few days (or maybe more) working hard and were ready to sit down and eat. The Pharisees were letting the traditions get in the way of their honest faith. No, we shouldn’t forget that some traditions that we may do today are reminders of our faith and help strengthen our faith when we do them. However, we must be careful to not fall into a trap of doing it for traditions sake or just for going through the motions but through our focus on God and in faith.
But what do we do when it comes to our honesty? Do we let our traditions, timetables, to-do lists get in the way of our honesty towards other people? Would we say we would look after someone but when given the responsibility to do so would be prioritise our own traditions?
This story illustrates a challenge to us all as to how we live out our faith. Do with live it with all honesty and integrity or do we hope our traditions keep us in the ‘good books’ of God?
Posted on: 8th May 2017
“For life is more than food and your body more than clothing.”
(The Parable of the Rich Fool)
What do you want to achieve in your life? How will you measure the success you have? How will you know if you have made it?
More frequently, we are seeing the measure of success to be something like how much money we have made; how many followers we have on social media; or what possessions we own. That however does not really match up with God’s idea of success. See God is not opposed to us gaining possessions nor does he dislike our achievements in both the big and the small. But God does want us to know that this life in which we live in now can only offer us so much. In fact, a better way to look at it is to remember is how much is the worth of our possession or our achievement in light of eternity.
If we hold tight to the things we think are valuable now, we are going to waste our time on the wrong things.
The story of the Rich Fool reminds us of our contentment in what we have from God; it reminds us of the worth of temporary items or achievements.
The story Jesus shared was about a farmer who had an amazing harvest one year, all the crops were too big to fit into his barn. Instead of sharing the rest of his crops that overflowed his barn with his friends and siblings, the farmer built a new barn that was bigger than the original one. But God challenged him and asked him if he was to die tonight what would happen to his crops? (Luke 12 v 13-20 abbreviated)
The labour and effort that this man had put into his barn was wasted, he had enough when he had filled his barn but he was greedy and he wanted more. The man was rich in his earthly possessions but he wasn’t rich in the eyes of God as his greed had overcome him.
So this week the challenge is this, what are you storing up? What are you aiming for? Is there one thing that you could spend less time on or give up completely to give that time to God?
Posted on: 31st March 2017
“For God so loved the World that he gave his only son so that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
Over the past term we have looked at the accounts and stories of the Old Testament, we have seen different characteristics of God and noticed how the Israelites and the surrounding people responded to certain circumstances and situations depending on their faith. However, we have seen through all the accounts these two themes:
- The Israelites faithfulness
- God love
Maybe we should take a pause there and just reflect on these two themes, firstly the faithfulness of the Israelites. The Israelites were called somethings in their time and yes, they had their downfalls but one thing remained throughout their story, their faithfulness. No matter the human leader, their priests, their situation, they always returned to looking to God. It wasn’t like it was just one group of people over 100 years either, we are talking about generation after generation seeking God in all they do.
The bible in 1 John 4 v 19 says: We love because God first loved us. The Israelites faithfulness was purely from a place of response to God’s love for them, from the miracles they had seen happen with their predecessors. Even Adam and Eve knew God’s love surrounded them; they were made in love, perfect love, they were made in God’s image (Genesis 1 v 27).
The bible tells us that God is Love (1 John 4 v 8). So, if we are made in image, surely we are also made in love? The bible also tells us thatperfect love casts out all fear (1 John 4 v 18). It tells us that we are more than conquers through Him who loves us (Romans 8 v 37). But most of all, the bible continuously directs us back to one point, that love has won.
God’s love won over death and still has the victory.
This year on Thursday April 12th we will remember the night that Jesus had supper, what we now call communion with his friends, and then he went out to the Garden of Gethsemane with his friends to pray. There, he was betrayed by one of his friends who handed him over to the officials, he was carried away. On the Friday morning, what we now know as Good Friday, Jesus was held in front of romans who handed him over to the Jews. The Romans found no ground to convict him of any crime or even punish him but the Jews jeered that his was claiming to be God and to crucify him. That is what the officials did; they freed a criminal and let Jesus go to the cross. On that day, Jesus was crucified, posed between two criminals, but that’s not where the story ends. See as Jesus breathed his last breath, there was a cry from heaven, the sky turned black and the curtain in the temple was torn (this is where they separated God into a small area in the temple). Some say the ground shook; some say it was a mighty storm, whatever it was the story was not over yet. Next week in our Easter service we will be both morning the dead of Jesus on the cross but celebrating the fact that through God’s love He defeated death. Now that is real love!
God is Love, and His love is very different from human love. God’s love is unconditional, and it’s not based on feelings or emotions. He doesn’t love us because we’re lovable or because we make Him feel good; He loves us because He is love. He created us to have a loving relationship with Him, and He sacrificed His own Son (who also willingly died for us) to restore that relationship.
For God so loved the World that he gave his only son so that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3 v 16).
Posted on: 17th March 2017
“And who knows but that you have come to the royal palace for such a time as this.”
Within Saint Wilfrid’s we have often spoken about patience as one of our pebbles or similarly perseverance in our own situations. The Old Testament person we are looking at this week demonstrates both patience and persevere in ways we could never imagine. Of course, it is the story of Esther.
Several noticeable things within the account of Esther stand out from the rest, for one the book of Esther, found after Nehemiah but before Job, does not even mention God once. Who would have thought, a story in the bible that does not mention God, or Jesus or the Holy Spirit, yet, this is more significant than we could think. For those that believe in God and are a Christian, how often do we walk around saying, “I am doing this because I believe in God,” or “I am doing this because God told me to?” It is more likely that we just do the act because God has placed it on our hearts to do so. In time, people may ask why Christians do what they do, but most of the time it’s the little acts and moments, like in Esther’s story, that we just get on with because of their faith.
However, what can we take away beyond our acts from the story of Esther?
Most important thing to note is God loved the Jewish people. Remember the Jewish people were the people who followed God before Jesus came in the New Testament to take away the sin of the world. Though the Jews were in a time of adversity, they still mattered to God and, He didn’t create Esther’s beauty and finesse for her and her alone. God placed Esther in a royal position to assist in the delivery of his divine plan, to take care of the Jewish people in the land. Mordecai, Esther’s Uncle who adopted her, said, “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to the royal palace for such a time as this” (Esther 4 v 14).
Esther used both the time and position she had been given to follow God’s plan that was in her heart. So, her story also taught us that God gives us divine moment to alter our circumstances. What circumstances are you in now that you wish to change? Do you let the ‘coincidences’ pass you by or do you take the divine chances you have to make a difference to make a change? Remember altering the course of your life by one degree now will change its direction in a dramatic way one, five, or ten years down the line. Is there a slight correction you could seek God’s help for now in order to make your future better?
Finally, one more thing we can take away from Esther’s story is that Esther’s entire story, although only 10 chapters in the bible, is that it did not happen overnight. Esther’s story took years to unfold, yet she stuck with is and pursued God and her faith first before all else.
We have spoken about Moses who served God for 80 years before God used him to lead a nation. We have mentioned Noah who followed and sought God so fervently he built and ark for him which took ages. We have thought of Samuel who dedicate his entire life to following the call of God and seeing two kings to the throne. While this week we look at the story of Esther, a woman with a heart for God, let us not forget the impact that she also had on a whole nation because she did not deviate from her calling.
“But they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40 v 31)
Wait. (Verb) To remain in readiness for a purpose.
Patience. (Verb) the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, problems, or suffering without becoming annoyed or anxious.
There are certain periods with the Christian calendar that are all about waiting; Lent & Advent to name two. However, throughout the bible there are many powerful verses that suggest that Christians are to consistently be waiting. Waiting on God.
- God has the perfect timing for things to happen – Isaiah 60 v 22 & Ecclesiastes 3 v 1
- Waiting on God brings fruition – Psalm 37 v 7
- Waiting on God brings deliverance and answer to prayer – Psalm 33 v 20 & Psalm 38 v 15
- Waiting on God gives you strength – Isaiah 40 v 31
As the dictionary’s definition above suggests, to wait is to remain in readiness for a purpose. That is what Christian’s do, wait on God their greater cause, as their guide, their prompt and their light in their life.
Charles Spurgeon says it best like this:
“Stand still” – keep the posture of an upright man, ready for action, expecting further orders, cheerfully and patiently awaiting the directing voice; and it will not be long ere God shall say to you, as distinctly as Moses said it to the people of Israel, “Go forward.”
If the Lord Jehovah makes us wait, let us do so with our whole hearts; for blessed are all they that wait for Him. He is worth waiting for. The waiting itself is beneficial to us: it tries faith, exercises patience, trains submission, and endears the blessing when it comes. The Lord’s people have always been a waiting people.
What are you waiting on this week? If God was to call, would you be ready? Are you waiting with nerve or patiently knowing God has the perfect time for all things in and under heaven?
“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:17)
What do you think of when you think of a hero? Maybe a loved one? Someone you look up to? Most of the people we would call our heroes would have a story that sets them apart from the rest. They might have done something remarkable, incredible or outstanding something that you wouldn’t have thought ordinary or they may have shown longevity, commitment and fought through situations we thought were impossible to overcome. Whatever we think of a hero, of our hero they are special to us.
The bible talks of many heroes that were faithful to God. In the Exodus we hear of Moses, in 1 Samuel we read of David, we read of Ezra and Jeremiah throughout the Old Testament as well as many more. Even when we come to the New Testament we read of several, in fact hundreds of heroes who inspired and paved the way. More who empower and remained faithful to God even after the crucifixion.
For Christian’s there is one name that stands out in the bible above them all and that is Jesus. John 3 v 17 says: For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
Throughout all the stories of the heroes in the bible you can see Jesus at work, in all sixty-six books in the bible you can see Him work through people and in people we now read about.
Many theologians have used different phrases but from in Genesis where Jesus is the Creator & promised Redeemer, to Revelation where He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, He is woven through out like a scarlet thread on an intricately woven tapestry. For Christian’s He is the greatest hero.
This week when we come to read and learn about Saint Wilfrid or hear stories of our heroes and those that we know to be Saint’s, have a think, who do you know Jesus as? From what I read could He be my hero too?
“Carry one another’s burdens and this way you will fulfil the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2)
Each person has a community around them, whether we like it or not we are connected in some way to others that we have both similarities and differences with. Each of us belongs and though sometimes we don’t believe it or feel it our belonging makes us a part of something bigger than ourselves.
Whilst last week we explored how we can set ourselves up to win and the fact we are all unique in our own way, this week we are looking at how us as individuals can set our community up to win. In the bible we read of Paul, who we thing wrote 13 books in the New Testament. We know for a fact that the majority of these books were based upon his letters he sent to several communities that had been established as new Christians. Paul’s letters teach us three things that we can do to set our community up to win.
- Pray – Each time Paul wrote to the different communities he declared at the beginning or the end of his letters that he was praying for them, often for the specifics that he knew of them too.
Do you pray for your community? For those you are in direct contact with? For your faith leaders? For those in positions of power?
- Connect – Meet people where they are at. Paul never wrote above the understanding of those who were to receive his letters. He targeted areas in his letters that the individual communities were working on in order to warn them of danger or encourage them. It’s easy to think of people in your community that may sometimes get missed due to information being in a format that they can’t cope with. Be the one who connects beyond others. Remember the phase from last year “When you support the 100, the 100 support you.”
- Build Relationships, Build Culture – throughout Paul’s letters we read of people Paul has sent out to do works within those communities he is writing to. Paul however never sent them out without the intention of them bring the culture of Christ into those communities. What relationships are you actively and intentionally seeking to build? What culture are you taking into you community?
See as communities we all feel the same things. Hopes and fears, the comfort and strength of a hug, a chat with a neighbour, a moment to enjoy a cup of tea or coffee, 5 minutes of peace all to yourself, awe found in a fabulous view, beauty found in nature, a warm breeze, a generous smile, happy tears, sad tears, the assurance of a friend, the delightful laughter of children -their fun, adventure, innocence, curiosity and energy, the satisfaction gained from working hard and learning something new, a desperate prayer spoken to a gracious and listening God, who so desperately loves us all, the power of saying ‘sorry’ when it is needed and mileage that comes from a word of appreciation. The list goes on but it’s as community that we are able to empower one another to succeed far beyond what we can on our own.