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: 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: 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: 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: 14th May 2018
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you… I set you apart…I ordained you a prophet to the nations”
Did you know you have a purpose? Are you ready to discover it?
In the book of Jeremiah, we read, ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you… I set you apart…I ordained you a prophet to the nations.’
We read 3 key things in this scripture:
1) God knew you. The word knew means ‘to have intimate knowledge of’. When your delicate fingers were just a web, before your heartbeat registered on the monitor or the doctor could predict your gender, God knew all about you. ‘You…scheduled each day of my life before I began to breathe’ (Psalm 139 v 16). God knew what you were born to be you and provided you everything you’d need to fulfil your life’s purpose.
2) God set you apart. He fixed it so you wouldn’t fit in, and designed you so you couldn’t rest in any place He didn’t want you to be in. He intended you to discover, to find your purpose. That’s why you’re uncomfortable in certain places and around certain people. It doesn’t matter how hard you try, you won’t fit in because God has set you apart.
3) God ordained you. Stop worrying about who does or doesn’t recognise you or your gifts. John Mason says, ‘Each person has been custom-made by God the Creator. Each of us has a unique and personal call on our lives…to be our own selves and not copies of other people.’
This week, remember your life has purpose worth discovering because God knows you, He set you apart and he has ordained you!