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: 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.
Posted on: 25th Feb 2019
“This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”
1 John 4:10
I asked a student today, “What will the temperature in Rwanda be next week?” They knew the forecast and answered in detail. I asked them about Tanzania, but they didn’t know. I already knew about Rwanda, but only for the week to come. Why? Love.
I love that a group from Oswaldtwistle, including member of St Wilfrid’s, are going to Rwanda this week to visit projects with Compassion and meet Jeanette, Olivier, Romeo, Guadence and Joseph. I love it so much that I am interested in the details of the journey, the weather and the things they will be doing. My challenge to you is to ask them about how the trip went. Interest shows love.
When you read the gospels, you will see story after story of Jesus showing love. One of my favourite stories can be found in Luke 19. Zacchaeus was not a liked man. He was a tax collector. He was a Jew who worked for Rome. His only comfort was his wealth. There is a sense that he had come to the realisation that wealth was not enough to save him from himself. An encounter with Jesus, however, that brought salvation.
For Zacchaeus, an encounter with Jesus brought salvation. Jesus changed his life. It cost Zacchaeus financially, but he found salvation.
My prayer is that you experience the love of God in your life as you consider Jesus. I pray that the sacrificial love of God that cost Jesus his life, brings salvation to you today.
Posted on: 4th February 2019
“For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted”
Before our current students and many staff were born, there was a film released called ‘Brewster’s Millions’, starring Richard Pryor and John Candy. The storyline is that Brewster’s long lost relative (who he had never met) died and left him all his money, amounting to over $300,000,000. The condition was that he had to lose $30,000,000 in 30 days to be able to claim the rest. There were rules – he could not give it away or tell anyone about it. In order to gain the full inheritance he had to lose. Brewster loved to lose.
Jesus’ teaching often sounded contradictory too. He taught, “The first shall be last and the last shall be first” (Matthew 20:16). He said, “If anyone wants to be great in the kingdom he must become the servant of all” (Matthew 20:26). He also taught, “If anyone loses their life for my sake, will find it” (Matthew 16:25). Jesus was the ultimate example, giving his life so that we can live.
In Luke 14, Jesus was at a Pharisees house. The Pharisees were a religious group that really struggled with the way Jesus seemed to contradict their teachings and rules. The Pharisees kept the Sabbath day holy; Jesus healed on the Sabbath. The Pharisees kept away from tax collectors and sinners; Jesus came to heal the sick and the lost.
Jesus talked in parables. There was once a wedding feast. When the guest sat down for the meal, the host asked one of the guests who had sat in the seat of honour to move for another guest. Imagine having to take the walk of shame from a position of honour to a lower place. Alternatively, imagine the feeling if the host took you from a low position and gave you a seat of honour.
We all face situations which can challenge our thinking. This week, as we think about loving to lose, we can have a fresh realisation that, as Paul says in Romans 8:28, “…that God works all things together for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to his purpose.”