Posted on: 24th June 2019
“There was a man sent from God whose name was John.”
What makes a great leader, great? We are shown so many examples of leadership in different areas of our lives. There are influencers in the social media world, there are winning managers and players in sport and there are political leaders responsible for making difficult decisions in difficult times.
All these leaders require others to empower their leadership. Influencers require followers, managers require team-work, captains require the support of their players, politicians are elected. Leadership requires followers. But what is it about the influencer, manager, captain or politician that elicits the support of others?
God set John apart. In Luke chapter 1:41, we read that, when the virgin Mary approached the home of Elizabeth, “The baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.” John was the fulfilment of a prophecy in Isaiah. He preached something completely different to the other religious leaders of the day and had many followers. Many of them though he was the Messiah because he had such authority. So what made John such a great leader? Maybe it was that he knew what his mission was and was content with that. John’s mission was to prepare the way for someone greater than he. He prepared the way for Jesus.
In John 1:8 we read our memory verse for this week – “He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.” I love this about John. He knew that someone greater was coming and he did what he needed to do to make the way straight.
The challenge this week is for us all to consider our calling, our mission, and our area of leadership. Spend some time this week to consider how your leadership role can support and prepare the way for others. My prayer is that you will find contentment in what you have been given to do and a joy in serving and supporting others.
Posted on: 10th June 2019
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
I love meeting up with people who I have not seen in a long time. Some people hate it, especially if it is a relative who likes to grab your cheeks and squeeze them. The words, “Oh, haven’t you changed!” are regularly used as a recognition that time changes things.
There are other times, when you have been with a certain person or group and it is noticeable by the way you now act or speak. Do you have any of those people in your life who seem to bring out the worst in you? Do others notice it? In 1 Corinthians 15:33, St Paul says, “Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.””
Are there any relationships that you know that are draining you of your good character? If there are, make a wise choice to change your company.
King Solomon, in Proverbs 27:17 said, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”
There are relationships and friendships out there for you that will keep you sharp and focused if you take the time to develop them and allow others to develop you. These mutually beneficial relationships are seen throughout the Bible (Joshua and Caleb, David and Jonathan, Paul and Silas, Paul and Timothy etc…).
But the most life changing relationship you can enter into is with God.
We see from the life of the early apostles that their encounter with the Holy Spirit made a radical change to them. They received POWER. The literal translation is DYNAMITE.
Imagine if your relative turned up to see you and recognised you had received the Holy Spirit in your life! That’s what the early church received and the Holy Spirit is the same now as then.
My challenge for you this week is to read in Acts about the impact the Holy Spirit made to those early disciples.
If you believe in God and have accepted that Jesus died for you, then why not pray, like those early disciples did, for the Holy Spirit’s power to fill you.
What impact do you think that would have on St Wilfrid’s, Blackburn, Lancashire, England, and the ends of the earth?
Posted on: 3rd June 2019
“Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
What does that mean? What is God’s kingdom? What would it look like for us at St Wilfrid’s if God’s kingdom and will was done on earth as it is in heaven?
In Matthew 6:25, Jesus tells his hearers, “Do not worry.” I believe that the message of the kingdom of God is the same today. Do not worry. He tells them not to worry about their food, clothes or length of life. He doesn’t just tell them not to worry, he tells them what to do instead… “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.”
There are some things in this world I just don’t get. Like sand art. Artists spend hours making elaborate sculptures. I’ve even seen the last supper depicted in sand. Then what happens? A few waves later…gone. We do our best at our house to keep tidy. What happens? Children! As time goes by, things change.
What if there was something that you could build that would last forever? In Matthew 6:19-20, Jesus says, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth… But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven.”
The challenge for myself (and you if you dare) this week is to consider what I treasure the most. Do my treasures match the Lord’s Prayer? Do the things I treasure cause worry? Will my treasure last forever?
If you are experiencing periods of worry in your life at the moment, my prayer is that God will reveal to you those things that are of His kingdom, things that will last, that will bring you His lasting peace.
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.