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.
Posted on: 14th October 2019
“The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
What would you do if you had enough time? I recently listened to a podcast by Craig Groeschel, entitles ‘Cut the Slack, Part 2’. He defines slack as, ‘Sluggishness or lack of energy, characterised by slowness, not tight or taught, but blowing or flowing at slow speed’. Another way of looking at it is, ‘Any activity that absorbs resources but creates little or no value’.
The great thing about slack is that it is easy to recognise it… in others!
Craig suggests these four steps to reducing slack in your life. 1) Start with your not-to-do list, 2) Get your to-do list out of your head, 3) Break your to-do list into actionable steps, 4) Prioritise what’s most important, 5) Take the next step. For more information on these steps, check out the podcast!
Out of 400 top business people who were surveyed, they identified that, on average, the following activities stole precious time: 6.8 hours on activities that could be delegated, 3.9 hours on escapist, mental breaks, 3.4 hours on non-essential email, 3.6 hours on low-value, non-essential requests. The average leader wasted 21.8 hours per week.
In John 10:10, Jesus says there is a thief who wants the worst for you. I would like to think I would notice something as dangerous as that in my life, and put safeguards in place to protect myself. But this week I challenge us all to consider the small things we do that are preventing us living life to the full. If you feel like you have a strong enough relationship with someone and you notice areas that they could improve on, pray about whether or not it would be right to have that conversation.
Posted on: 7th October 2019
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others.”
Whenever I watch a programme that I have recorded on a Sunday evening, my first few minutes of watching is the tail end of a previous show. I see a person with a family heirloom, listening to a professional describing the period of history their item is from. I can see past their fake interest. Just like me, all they want to know is, “What’s it worth?”
During this week we are considering the value we place on others. In 1 John 3:1, we read that God has called us his children. Children and heirs. That is valuable. This implies that we are richly blessed. In Ephesians 1, Paul writes to the church, telling them that they have already received, “Every spiritual blessing through Christ Jesus.” We too are heirs of those spiritual blessings as God’s children.
Jesus tells a story in Matthew 13:44. “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.”
My challenge for us all this week is to consider that there is treasure in everyone we meet. When we spend time talking to others we realise this treasure and are able to help others find their worth. But this process takes time and may cost us. Are you prepared to pay the price to help someone else know what they are worth?
Posted on: 30th September 2019
“Jesus increased in wisdom and stature and in favour with God and man.”
The theme tune for an old film went like this, “If there’s something strange in your neighbourhood, who you gonna call?”
This week we are considering inspiring to the full. An inspiring person has the ability to draw people to themselves. People are drawn to inspiring people. Being around someone who is inspiring changes you. As we navigate our way through this life we will meet people who have a passion and enthusiasm for their field of expertise. The challenge for all of us is, what is our field?
In the Old Testament, we read of many inspirational characters. One of these is Belteshazzar. He was a young man, taken from his home land because he was smart and strong. He was given the opportunity to become a great leader in his own ability, but at every moment he did something inspiring, he always gave the glory to God. His inspirational ability was to interpret dreams; a skill that helped save both his life and others on a number of occasions.
In Matthew 4, we read about how Jesus inspired those around him. If you were to ask, “What was Jesus’ message?”, you would find it in Matthew 4:23. Everywhere he went from that point on, crowds followed him. He was able to do great signs and inspire many to change their lives.
But there was somewhere where Jesus was not inspiring. A place where he was not recognised for who he was, but who he used to be. That place was his home town, Nazareth. How sad is it that we read in Matthew 13:58, “Jesus did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.” The people that had seen Jesus while he was developing as a man could not recognise him as who he had become.
This week, I challenge you to find those people in your life who have inspired you, or who continue to inspire you, and tell them. If there are people you know who inspire others, but you just think of them as how they used to be, ask for forgiveness and see the best in them today.
Posted on: 23rd September 2019
“Jesus increased in wisdom and stature and in favour with God and man.”
Where do you go to find wisdom? We have been considering the vision statement for St Wilfrid’s and we will continue to do this in our assemblies and devotionals this half term. We started with considering that acknowledging God and accepting he has a direction for our lives is a great starting place. How can we be sure the direction we follow is from God? There seem to be so many voices out there pulling us in so many different directions.
Luke chapter 2 is a fascinating, brief insight, into the development of Jesus. Very little is recorded of his life from the age of twelve to thirty. But we do read that Jesus’ parents followed the customs and went to Jerusalem every year. I wonder what the response would be now to his parents supervision of him. We read that, “After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it.” It goes on to say that, three days later (!!!) they found him sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions.
Jesus knew that if he got around the right people, he listened and asked questions, he would grow in wisdom. The same applies to us. The challenge this week is to consider, who are you spending your time with? Are you listening to the right voices? Are you asking questions to deepen your understanding?
Posted on: 16th September 2019
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. What can YOU do to run your leg of the race well?”
If you could achieve a world record, what would it be? Do you know what Felix Baumgartner did? Or what David Goggins did 4030 times in 24 hours? Compare this to the achievement of Roger Bannister on May 6th, 1954. All of these challenges required great self-belief and determination. They all faced the challenge of something that hadn’t been done before.
What about you? Will you be the person that the history books will be mentioning? Do you love a challenge enough? Your challenge may not become a world record but I hope you are able to find something this year that causes you to grow to overcome it. I challenge you to enter a race that requires determination, effort and consistency. The house system represents such a competition. It is a marathon, not a sprint. I am inspired when people, who thought they could never run, go on to complete 5k’s, 10k’s, half, then full marathons. For those who think they will not be able to do anything like that, maybe 2019-20 is your year to face a challenge.
In all our challenges and achievements this academic year, let us remember that without love, they are worthless. The promise is that love is the greatest motivation and reward we can receive. I pray that you will love to challenge yourself this year, but I also challenge you, above all, to love.
Posted on: 9th September 2019
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”
What can we trust? What can we learn that will help us in our future? What does it mean to submit to God?
Trust me, I’m a … . What can we use to fill that sentence? Trust requires there to be a truth that you put your faith in. Trust requires faith. Speaking to a colleague recently about faith and facts, we discussed the possibility that something being fact now could possibly not be fact in the future. The changing nature of facts requires us to put a time limit on the fact, or for us to put our faith in the facts.
Gone are the days that I get my AA Roadmap out, or spend hours prior to a trip writing out the directions for my journey. Out comes the mobile phone, google maps (other map services are available) and off we go. I heard of a group of youth workers, heading to help at a school camp in Newtown, Wales. They confidently typed the postcode of the venue into their device and followed the directions. Having never been to Wales by car before, the devices directions as ‘gospel truth’. As they passed signs for Lockerbie (having set off from Oswaldtwistle), they received a call from the camp, asking when they expected to arrive. Unfortunately, the postcode they used was KY16 4AJ not SY16 4AJ. 1 digit changed the course of their journey.
Our school vision, ‘Lord direct us’, is a statement of faith. To trust God to direct us requires us to elevate his word above our own view of our situation. It requires us to self-reflect and admit that our own understanding may be flawed or incomplete. This requires an attitude of humility and submission.
The challenge this week is to consider the direction that God has for us, compare it to our own desires and trust that his way is best for us. We have the choice to go our own way, or ask that God will give us a desire to follow his way.