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.”
Posted on: 9th January 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?
We have been meeting weekly in the Chapel to pray, every Tuesday. 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. When you 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 opposed 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 differences in our lives. Whatever your resolutions for the New Year, consider prayer. What if this was the year that you began to ‘Love to Pray’.
Posted on: 17th December 2018
“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.”
What is the greatest gift you have ever received? When you got it, did it fulfil everything you hoped it would? My son really wanted a step counter last year. I found it at the back of the card drawer last week, unused. Frustratingly, he has asked for a step counter again this year.
As I grew up there was one gift I always wanted – Subbuteo. Last year I managed to fulfil my childhood ambition. I didn’t get it directly, I bought it for my son. Having played it only three times this year I can confirm that it wasn’t the life changing gift I had built it up to be.
Scholars and religious leaders had read the books of the prophets and were waiting in expectation for the Messiah to be born. Thirty years after the birth of Jesus, one of those scholars had questions that he was afraid to ask in the open, so he came to Jesus at night. His name was Nicodemus. I love the conversation he had with Jesus. He approaches Jesus and says “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no-one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.”
Jesus’ response is exceptional and is definitely worth reading over the festive period. In John chapter 3 verse 16, Jesus announces himself as the greatest gift ever. Imagine a gift that begins today and last for eternity.
“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.”
In preparation for Christmas celebrations, please consider the words of Jesus. If believing in him can lead to eternal life, as well as life to the full here, isn’t that the greatest gift ever given. If a gift like that was offered to you, how would you respond?
Posted on: 10th December 2018
“And she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.”
When I read in the gospels the story of the birth of Jesus, I read a verse like “Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem”, without stopping to consider the implication. Have you ever stopped to question how far that was, what the route was like or how long it would have taken? Let’s just say, it wasn’t close, easy or quick! Factor in the pregnancy and you must come to the conclusion that Mary knew what it was like to face adversity.
Compare this to the opening verses in the book of James 1:2, “Consider it pure joy when you face trials of many kinds.” I wonder if that is the sort of encouragement that spurred Mary on to the stable in Bethlehem. Interestingly, the book of James was written by Jesus’ brother, another son of Mary. I wonder if the story of Jesus’ birth as well as his death were in his mind as he wrote those words.
I heard a story once about a lump of rock that made me consider the meaning of James 1:2. In a busy museum there was a beautiful marble statue that people in their thousands would come and admire. The statue was magnificently crafted and showed the expertise of the sculptor. A marble tile from the floor looked up and grumbled at the statue, “It’s alright for you, everyone loves you and admires you. All I get is walked all over and trodden on each day.” The statue looked down at the tile and replied, “My friend, we were once the same but when the sculptor came at me with his tools, I allowed him to break me and shape me in the way he saw best. There were times when I wanted to crack and give in, but I trusted his workmanship.”
Maybe the reason Mary was able to face her adversity was because she clung to the promise in Isaiah 7:14, “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” During this season as advent, let us consider how we can be thankful for adversity, clinging to the promises we have been given.
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.
Posted on: 26th November 2018
“Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God.”
When was the last time you received a blessing? When did you last give a blessing? Would you know a blessing if it was given? Would you know if you had blessed someone else?
Jesus was a blessing. In Matthew 4 we read that everywhere he went he preached Good News about the Kingdom of Heaven and healed all the people who were brought to him. I love our mission statement that calls us to prepare our students to be citizens of this life and the next. Sometimes I have such an earthly perspective that I want everything to be sorted in this life. Jesus brought Good News of a heavenly future and comfort for those who were suffering now.
Does it surprise you that a great crowd followed Jesus? In Matthew 5 he begins teaching. The gospel writer takes three chapters to recall what was told. If you have time this week, please look it up and see how the Kingdom of Heaven challenges some of the ways we live as citizens of this world.
If you were going to write an entry requirement for ’seeing God’, what would be on it? Would it be a level of success? Would it be based on acts of service? Would it be status?
Jesus asks the crowds to consider their heart. I wonder how many of those who were following Jesus were doing it from a motive of what they could get from Jesus. I have to question my own motives when I pray, asking if it is “Your will be done”, or “My will be done”. When you consider your blessings this week, check your heart and identify ways you can be a blessing to others.
Posted on: 15th October 2018
“The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
The gospel writer records a wonderful account of an encounter with Jesus and the impact that can have.
Zacchaeus was a tax collector. To the Jews, there were sinners and below sinners there were tax collectors. Tax collectors raised funds for the enemy, Rome. They also took a tidy sum themselves as their cut. Zacchaeus was rich and that must have upset everyone around.
But Jesus defies the expectation of the crowd. They would have expected Jesus to chastise the corruption and greed that he lived by. But Jesus invited himself to his house for tea. Oh to be a fly on the wall at that tea party, for whatever was said brought transformation. Jesus changed the whole situation by meeting Zacchaeus where he was. This brought life and health, not only to him but to everyone he had ever cheated.
What chances will you have this week to respond in a way to someone else that would defy the expectation? This might be an opportunity for you to speak life. I pray that you will have courage and patience to make a Jesus style response to someone who has wronged you. Could this be a new way to show respect, in difficult situations?