Posted on: 25th November 2019
“Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.”
1 Corinthians 12:7-11
This week we are considering the purpose of the spiritual gifts that God gives us. Generosity is a spiritual gift. Because of your generosity, last year we were able to give a gift to each of our sponsored children. This has been used to buy animals that will increase the chance of the families producing crops. This will lead to then being able to provide for themselves this year. In the letters we have received this week, we hear of the ambitions and dreams of our children to become pilots, doctors and nurses. What a privilege to be part of these dreams.
Consider the words of Marianne Williamson, that were used in the film ‘Coach Carter’:
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
Interestingly, in the film, the lines underlined were omitted. Take time to consider your response to the challenge included in this quote. God has given you the gifts, talents and abilities for the common good. It is good for you to use them and encourage others to use theirs also. What is your gift? How will you use it today?
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: 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: 10th June 2019
“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”
I love meeting up with people who I have not seen in a long time. Some people hate it, especially if it is a relative who likes to grab your cheeks and squeeze them. The words, “Oh, haven’t you changed!” are regularly used as a recognition that time changes things.
There are other times, when you have been with a certain person or group and it is noticeable by the way you now act or speak. Do you have any of those people in your life who seem to bring out the worst in you? Do others notice it? In 1 Corinthians 15:33, St Paul says, “Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.””
Are there any relationships that you know that are draining you of your good character? If there are, make a wise choice to change your company.
King Solomon, in Proverbs 27:17 said, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”
There are relationships and friendships out there for you that will keep you sharp and focused if you take the time to develop them and allow others to develop you. These mutually beneficial relationships are seen throughout the Bible (Joshua and Caleb, David and Jonathan, Paul and Silas, Paul and Timothy etc…).
But the most life changing relationship you can enter into is with God.
We see from the life of the early apostles that their encounter with the Holy Spirit made a radical change to them. They received POWER. The literal translation is DYNAMITE.
Imagine if your relative turned up to see you and recognised you had received the Holy Spirit in your life! That’s what the early church received and the Holy Spirit is the same now as then.
My challenge for you this week is to read in Acts about the impact the Holy Spirit made to those early disciples.
If you believe in God and have accepted that Jesus died for you, then why not pray, like those early disciples did, for the Holy Spirit’s power to fill you.
What impact do you think that would have on St Wilfrid’s, Blackburn, Lancashire, England, and the ends of the earth?
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: 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: 21st Jan 2019
“…but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.”
1 Corinthians 13:3
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. For me it is the rubix cube. I have managed to solve the 3×3 grid, the mirror cube and the 2×2. My latest challenge is the wonky cube. I am inspired by those who never thought they could run, only to read stories of them having completed 5Ks, 10Ks, half marathons, then full marathons. For those who think they won’t be able to do anything like that, maybe 2019 is your year to face a challenge.
The apostle Paul sets a list of achievements that would challenge anyone; from the abilities to communicate and interpret all languages, to the ability to understand all mysteries, or be able to overcome all adversities with faith. However, something is above them all. Love.
In all our challenges and achievements this next 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 be challenge yourself this year, but I also challenge you, above all, to love.