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: 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: 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?
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: 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: 19th June 2017
“If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.”
Luke 17 v 6
(Story of a Mustard Seed)
Have you ever gone to watch a football game and not really believed your team can win? Alternatively, have you ever started out doing something (maybe late homework or a mountain of housework) and looked at the amount to think, “I’m never going to get this done?” Maybe you have questioned why you cannot believe more, why you have not been better at believing or why you cannot see things happening the way that would be ideal. The apostles quizzed Jesus regularly or they challenged him. On this occasion, they wanted more faith.
The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” He replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.
This week we are talking about trust; the firm belief in what we know to be reliable. The bible verses above share that the capability of our faith is not equal to the size of our faith; it flips what we know as logic to for our minds. From a young age, we are taught that as we learn more knowledge the better we will do in life, but the size of our faith does not necessarily equal the actions that can take place because of it.
So why faith the size of a mustard seed? When a mustard seed is planted, it is one of the smallest seeds, yet when it grows and flourishes; it will be one of the largest trees around. This journey from the smallest to the biggest is how Jesus explains our trust and our faith. See trust starts with a step, just one. The tiniest of steps to say I believe, I trust.
So what are you trusting in this week? What are you trusting for? As we may waiver and wobble from time to time let’s remember that even the faith and trust of a mustard seed has the potential to move the largest mulberry tree from the land to the sea.
Posted on: 15th May 2017
“For life is more than food, and your body more than clothing.”
Luke 12 v 23
(Tradition vs Honest Faith)
This week we are looking at the story that Jesus tells to the Pharisees in Luke 12 as they challenge his disciples for their practice of eating without doing a wash ritual first. Let’s remember though why Jesus told stories and parables. One reason was to explain what the kingdom of heaven was like and another was to explain the law of the old scriptures to people who didn’t understand it or who were using it wrongly. This story was told for the second reason, to help people understand what the bible said about rituals and traditions.
So Jesus was out with his friends, his disciples and they had just started eating as Jesus was talking to the crowd that was gathering around. The Pharisees were quick to point out that they hadn’t washed their hands before they began to eat, so one raised their voice, “Why don’t your disciples do the traditions and rituals of our elders? Why don’t they wash their hands?” (Mark 7 v 1-5 abbreviated).
Jesus responded to them by calling them hypocrites (sometimes he just said it as it was). But what the Pharisees hadn’t realised that the disciples had been serving the people through their ministry, they had been with Jesus for a few days (or maybe more) working hard and were ready to sit down and eat. The Pharisees were letting the traditions get in the way of their honest faith. No, we shouldn’t forget that some traditions that we may do today are reminders of our faith and help strengthen our faith when we do them. However, we must be careful to not fall into a trap of doing it for traditions sake or just for going through the motions but through our focus on God and in faith.
But what do we do when it comes to our honesty? Do we let our traditions, timetables, to-do lists get in the way of our honesty towards other people? Would we say we would look after someone but when given the responsibility to do so would be prioritise our own traditions?
This story illustrates a challenge to us all as to how we live out our faith. Do with live it with all honesty and integrity or do we hope our traditions keep us in the ‘good books’ of God?
Posted on: 8th May 2017
“For life is more than food and your body more than clothing.”
(The Parable of the Rich Fool)
What do you want to achieve in your life? How will you measure the success you have? How will you know if you have made it?
More frequently, we are seeing the measure of success to be something like how much money we have made; how many followers we have on social media; or what possessions we own. That however does not really match up with God’s idea of success. See God is not opposed to us gaining possessions nor does he dislike our achievements in both the big and the small. But God does want us to know that this life in which we live in now can only offer us so much. In fact, a better way to look at it is to remember is how much is the worth of our possession or our achievement in light of eternity.
If we hold tight to the things we think are valuable now, we are going to waste our time on the wrong things.
The story of the Rich Fool reminds us of our contentment in what we have from God; it reminds us of the worth of temporary items or achievements.
The story Jesus shared was about a farmer who had an amazing harvest one year, all the crops were too big to fit into his barn. Instead of sharing the rest of his crops that overflowed his barn with his friends and siblings, the farmer built a new barn that was bigger than the original one. But God challenged him and asked him if he was to die tonight what would happen to his crops? (Luke 12 v 13-20 abbreviated)
The labour and effort that this man had put into his barn was wasted, he had enough when he had filled his barn but he was greedy and he wanted more. The man was rich in his earthly possessions but he wasn’t rich in the eyes of God as his greed had overcome him.
So this week the challenge is this, what are you storing up? What are you aiming for? Is there one thing that you could spend less time on or give up completely to give that time to God?