Posted on: 8th October 2018
“Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven…”
Verses like this in Matthew deserve making into fridge magnets, bumper stickers and t-shirts. What a fantastic encouragement to all who need encouragement. But we do not present the gospel fully if we just cherry pick the best bits. The whole verse reads, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”
When we look into the life of Saint Wilfrid, we see a saint who lived to establish the church in the north of England against many oppositions. His determination and strong confidence in his beliefs led him to face lots of opposition from all sides. But he showed resilience and character and stood strong for what he felt was right. Through our assemblies and form worships this week we will be looking more into the life and achievements of Saint Wilfrid.
James, the writer in the New Testament offers a gift money cannot buy. In James 1:4 it says, “…so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
What an offer! Who wouldn’t want some of that maturity, completeness and a life without lack? James precedes this offer with what it takes to achieve such rewards by saying,
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
Are you facing a trial at the moment? Whatever you are up against, my prayer is that you will see the fruit of your determination as you grow perseverance that leads to completion. If it is persecution from others because of your determination to do what is right, then take heart, rejoice and be glad, because God has reserved a reward for you.
Posted on: 1st October 2018
“For the wages of sin is death…”
Last week in our theme we asked the question, ‘Is respect earned or deserved?’ We considered that when we work for something then the reward is earned, but when something is given for something we do as part of our character or as a result of an action, then we say it is deserved.
The writer in Romans makes it clear to the readers that there is something that is earned by us all because of sin – death. This seems a harsh, bleak prospect, but please read on, as the rest of the verse offers hope and salvation to all!
Looking at characters in the Bible, I found someone described as, ‘A man after God’s own heart’ (1 Sam 13:14). The character is David the shepherd boy, who went on to become King David. But David’s life is riddled with incidences of how he ‘fell short of the glory of God’, like Paul described in Romans 3:23. Paul says that all have sinned, including me and you.
David’s sins were many. That’s not me judging him but that is his own admittance in the Psalms. In 2 Samuel 12, the prophet Nathan is responsible for telling him that he shouldn’t have sent a commander to the front line in his army, to guarantee he dies, so that he could take his wife for himself. Nathan does this in a parable. He describes a rich man who had many sheep and a poor man who had just one sheep, that he loved and cared for like a child. When the rich man had a visitor he decided that he would rather sacrifice the poor man’s sheep than his own. Is that ok? David was outraged by this story, until he realised he was the rich man and Bathsheba was the sheep. 2 Samuel 12:13 says that Nathan admitted his sin. 2 Samuel 12:14 says that ‘The Lord has taken away your sin.’
I take hope from David’s story. Yes, the wages of sin are death, but admitting our sin (repentance) and receiving forgiveness (salvation) results in us receiving God’s gift…
“… but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Posted on: 24th September 2018
“And [Joseph’s] master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord made all he did to prosper in his hand. So Joseph found favour in his eyes and served him.”
Do you have a favourite Bible story? Is there a character that you admire the most? Are there mistakes a character has made that you feel like screaming at them or taking them one side to have a quiet talk about how they could have gone about it differently?
Joseph’s life can be viewed from a number of perspectives. We have the end of the story so are able to reassure ourselves that everything he went through would eventually be worth it. If you do not know the story, please spend some time reading the following few chapters in Genesis.
But imagine now taking a young lad, with a bright coat, and describing the trial he would face. Imagine telling him he will start in a pit, then a slave line, then in prison for a good part of 20 years. Considering these events, do they support the verse that was used to describe Joseph? Is this the favour he would have hoped for?
Contrast another Bible character. In Luke 2:52 we hear of a young boy, aged twelve, developing in four different areas. The writer of the gospel mentions growth in wisdom, stature, favour with God and favour with others. Little is known of this character’s life until the age of thirty. At this point we begin to see the effects of this favour. Again, our perspective allows us to see that ‘all’s well that ends well’, but this favour with others led Jesus to the cross.
In the lives of both these characters, favour does not go hand-in-hand with ease and comfort.
As we consider respect, whether it is earned or deserved, let us consider how we can show favour to others. The promise in God’s word is that his favour is with you today. What does that mean to you? What would it look like if you were favoured by God? I hope you take time to consider this, even if you find yourself at the moment in situations outside of your control. Consider the promise in 1 John 3:1:
“See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are!”
Posted on: 17th September 2018
“The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ.”
1 Corinthians 12:12
I do not know how you read the Bible, but I love to picture what the writer is describing, or place myself in the narrative as a character or a ‘fly on the wall’. I think both of these are acceptable ways to access scripture and can lead to an interesting perspective. This is definitely true for the passage in 1 Corinthians 12. The writer asks the readers to consider a number of different outrageous scenarios.
Firstly, consider what would happen in the body if the foot ‘says’ to the body, “I am not part of you because I am not a hand.” Or the ear ‘says’, “I am not part of the body because I am not an eye.” Does the denial that they are not part of the body mean they are not part of the body? As a body of staff, students, parents and supporters of Saint Wilfrid’s, it may sometimes be easy to devalue or underappreciate the part we play as others seem to take a more prominent role. As we begin to establish our rhythm of the new academic year, maybe we could all take time to reflect on the impact of others and show our appreciation for their part.
Secondly the writer asks us to consider what it would be like if the whole body was an eye or an ear. This encourages me that my contribution to the body is important and I do not need to try and play the part of someone else.
Thirdly, the writer mentions the honour that is shown to the weakest and least important parts. He elevates these parts as the most necessary and therefore the most protected and cared for. As a school body, let us again take time to reflect on how we show care for all our members.
The importance of unity is summed up in verses 26 and 27. As we consider the role the house system plays in the life of Saint Wilfrid’s this week, may we be encouraged by this.
“If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honoured, all the parts are glad. All of you together are Christ’s body, and each of you is a part of it.”
Posted on: 10th September 2018
“The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit from the trees in the garden. 3 But about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden, God said, ‘You must not eat it or touch it, or you will die.’””
At the start of a new school year it is a good time to consider the early account of things going wrong for Adam and Eve. It remind me of a story I once heard at Sunday school that went like this…
A gardener was weeding his garden on a hot summer’s day. A church leader walked passed to hear the gardener ranting to himself, “If I were them, I wouldn’t have done it. If I were them I wouldn’t have done it!” The church leader couldn’t help himself, so he enquired as to what the man was referring to. The gardener was citing the account of Adam and Eve’s fall in the Garden of Eden, which resulted in the ground being cursed and producing thorn and thistle (Genesis 3 v 17-19).
The church leader listened with interest and at the end invited the gardener to tea. The gardener, never wishing to turn down an invite for food, agreed.
When the gardener arrived, the food was laid out on the table. The spread was lavish and in the centre of the table there was a silver platter, covered with a silver dome. The church leader said that he had to just nip out to prepare something else, but the gardener could begin to eat whatever he chose, apart from the special surprise that lay under on the silver platter.
Question – What would you do in this moment? Would you respect the wish of the host and choose only from the vast array of delicacies that you could see? If you would like to know what happened in the story, please come and ask!
Maybe part of showing respect is sacrificing your desires and submitting to authority. Maybe it is trusting that someone else has a better understanding of a situation than you. Maybe respect comes easier from a humble attitude, like the Apostle Paul mentions in Philippians 2 v 3:
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.”
Posted on: 4th September 2018
“And he [Jesus] was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when he opened the book, He found the place where it was written…”
Posted on: 9th July 2018
“So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God He created them; male and female He created them.”
For those of you who are involved in social media, you will know what a ‘Profile Pic’ is. From my experience the profile pic is the best representation a person can give, something that represents the image they wish to portray. For some it is of a great sporting achievement. For others it is of a time with family or friends. Very few profile pictures capture the nitty-gritty, day to day you.
When we read that we are ‘created in the image of God’, let us consider two responses. The first response is denial. If the imperfect me that I see in the mirror is a representation of God’s image then God cannot be God. The apostle Paul realised this too in Romans 6 when he wrote:
I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?
Paul came to the conclusion that there is part of him that wants to live a life that is the image of God, but there is part of him that is at war with that desire. Have you ever struggled like Paul with a decision or action that you want to do that you have not done?
King David too came to the realisation that he was not a great representation of the image of God. This is what he wrote in Psalms 139:
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.
The second response to imperfections is meditation. King David spent time with God, searching his heart, thoughts and actions. When was the last time you took a moment to search yourself? Maybe today is your moment.
However you respond this week, be cheered by Paul’s conclusion to the dilemma he described above:
Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.
Through Jesus we begin to reflect the image of God.
Posted on: 18th June 2018
“‘Each of us should please his neighbour for their good, to build him up.’”
Two men who shared a hospital room ended up becoming friends. One could sit up for an hour every day. His bed was beside the only window. The other man spent his life flat on his back. Each day the man at the window would describe the activity and colour of the outside world: the park overlooking the lake, ducks swimming, children playing, couples walking together, the skyline in the distance.
His friend, who could see none of this, smiled and imagined it all in his mind’s eye. One day the man by the window died and his roommate moved into his place. He propped himself up to look outside and was amazed to see a drab brick wall! Confused, he asked the nurse how come his friend had described the scenery in such glowing terms. She replied, ‘Actually, he was blind, and he couldn’t even see the wall. He just wanted to encourage you.’
Paul said, ‘Each of us should please his neighbour for their good, to build him up.’ There’s great satisfaction in encouraging people, especially when your own situation is less than ideal. One author writes: ‘When you tell someone they’re beautiful, you change how they see themselves. A girl in love thinks she’s the most beautiful girl in the world because her young man said so. When a teacher tells a student he’s smart, he works harder and achieves more. When a parent tells a child she’s loved, she has confidence to reach for the stars.
Posted on: 11th June 2018
“ ‘…will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope’ ”
When we’re facing a tough situation, or a hard time in our lives that doesn’t seem to be ending, we can sometimes start to lose hope.
We feel like things will always be this way and that there’s no possibility of anything changing. We may have been praying for years and not seen any change. It can be discouraging.
When we lose our hope, we lose our ability to see beyond our circumstances. We can become consumed by fear, disappointment and resentment that our situation isn’t changing. But God says He ‘will make the Valley of Achor a door of hope’ (Hosea 2 v 15). Achor means trouble. So here God is saying that He’ll turn trouble into hope. And the Bible says that ‘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’ (Isaiah 40 v 31).
We have spoken about the Israelites before on their journey to the Promised Land. When the Israelites were in exile, there must have been days when many of them doubted whether they would ever be allowed to return to the Promised Land. They may have even thought that God had abandoned and forgotten about them. But Jeremiah the prophet (one who God talks to about the future) says, ‘They shall come back from the land of the enemy.’ The word ‘shall’ is a definite; that was what was going to happen – and it did. And we can have that same expectancy.
When God promises us something, He’ll always come through. He is faithful and always keeps His promises. He has the power to completely change our situations and turn our trouble into hope.
Posted on: 4th June 2018
“‘Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant’”
In Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, Malvolio has the line,
“In my stars I am above thee, but be not afraid of greatness. Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ’em. Thy Fates open their hands. Let thy blood and spirit embrace them.”
Let us embrace our opportunities as part of the Saint Wilfrid’s community to take those opportunities we have to be great. We have recently celebrated the Sports Award’s where many students were recognised for their achievements. We look forward to Sports Day too where students have the chance to show their talents and achieve greatness. With seven school records broken last year, we are excited to see if these students have stepped up to the next level and can emulate last year’s achievements.
However, chasing fame has its warning signs. We can enter into competition with a ‘win at all costs’ mentality. How easy is it to elevate yourself by lowering others with our words and actions? We must remember the challenge in Philippians 2:3 to ‘consider others better than ourselves.’ Is this a challenge for you today?
In Matthew 20, Jesus is confronted by a parent who wanted greatness for her children. Her request was simply for her children to be given the seats of ultimate honour in the kingdom of heaven! Jesus told her that what she was asking was for God alone to grant.
Jesus then went on to talk about how to be great in God’s kingdom. His answer was culture changing then and the challenge still cuts against the flow now. How can lowering yourself to serve others, result in elevation to greatness?
At the start of a new half term, I pray that you will find your opportunities this week to serve. I also pray that your service brings a confidence that you are great in God’s eyes.