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: 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: 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: 14th January 2019
“And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.”
Do you have the gift?
What is your gift? We have just gone through the Christmas season where gifts have been given and received. Did you get what you want? Did you get what you need? Did you get a gift that you thought you needed, but realised that it wasn’t what you thought it was going to be?
My favourite present is still partly unopened on the coffee table in my living room. It is a jar containing 58 pieces of paper. It is the most special gift I have ever received. On each piece of paper there is a statement that begins, “I love you because…” Every time I read one of the statements, I feel like a giant, a hero and a champion. Every word written by my wife and children is an encouragement that I am loved for being me.
In Romans 12:8, Paul describes encouragement as a spiritual gift. This doesn’t mean that only certain people can do it, but it makes it clear that God is into encouragement enough to empower people to do it through his Spirit. As a school, our mission statement acknowledges that the Holy Spirit is inspirer. Do you have the gift of encouragement? Maybe you don’t know the gift that God has entrusted to you. Maybe 2019 is your year of discovery and development.
Proverbs 18:20-21 says, “Wise words satisfy like a good meal; the right words bring satisfaction. The tongue can bring death or life; those who love to talk will reap the consequences.”
When we meet up in our houses this week, we are challenged to come together as a team, working together towards a goal. I have been part of enough teams to know that encouraging others is a far better team dynamic than criticism.
This week, take time to encourage others. If you feel it comes naturally to you then maybe you have identified a gift. Gifts are for giving, so give the gift of encouragement this week.
Posted on: 1st October 2018
“For the wages of sin is death…”
Last week in our theme we asked the question, ‘Is respect earned or deserved?’ We considered that when we work for something then the reward is earned, but when something is given for something we do as part of our character or as a result of an action, then we say it is deserved.
The writer in Romans makes it clear to the readers that there is something that is earned by us all because of sin – death. This seems a harsh, bleak prospect, but please read on, as the rest of the verse offers hope and salvation to all!
Looking at characters in the Bible, I found someone described as, ‘A man after God’s own heart’ (1 Sam 13:14). The character is David the shepherd boy, who went on to become King David. But David’s life is riddled with incidences of how he ‘fell short of the glory of God’, like Paul described in Romans 3:23. Paul says that all have sinned, including me and you.
David’s sins were many. That’s not me judging him but that is his own admittance in the Psalms. In 2 Samuel 12, the prophet Nathan is responsible for telling him that he shouldn’t have sent a commander to the front line in his army, to guarantee he dies, so that he could take his wife for himself. Nathan does this in a parable. He describes a rich man who had many sheep and a poor man who had just one sheep, that he loved and cared for like a child. When the rich man had a visitor he decided that he would rather sacrifice the poor man’s sheep than his own. Is that ok? David was outraged by this story, until he realised he was the rich man and Bathsheba was the sheep. 2 Samuel 12:13 says that Nathan admitted his sin. 2 Samuel 12:14 says that ‘The Lord has taken away your sin.’
I take hope from David’s story. Yes, the wages of sin are death, but admitting our sin (repentance) and receiving forgiveness (salvation) results in us receiving God’s gift…
“… but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Posted on: 4th September 2017
“25 In that way, the parts of the body will not take sides. All of them will take care of one another. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it. If one part is honoured, every part shares in its joy.”
1 Corinthians 12:25-26
It’s September, which means NEW! New academic year; for some a new place of education, new jobs, new friends, there is lots going on here at St Wilfrid’s. However, there are some things that remain the same. The key one in the Academy being our worship.
At the outset of this term, we want to bring the focus back to what it means to be a part of an Academy that shares a Christian Education where all can thrive. Over the next two weeks we will spend time looking at how we come together in worship as a collective group of people and also why we as individuals are a significant part of that group. In the Academy, we are all needed to play our part and there is a passage in the New Testament of the Bible that suggests the same when it comes to our worship. We can read it in 1 Corinthians 12:12-26 but here is just a few key sections of it:
12 There is one body, but it has many parts. But all its many parts make up one body. It is the same with Christ…14 So the body is not made up of just one part. It has many parts. 15 Suppose the foot says, “I am not a hand. So I don’t belong to the body.” By saying this, it cannot stop being part of the body. 16 And suppose the ear says, “I am not an eye. So I don’t belong to the body.” By saying this, it cannot stop being part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, how could it hear? If the whole body were an ear, how could it smell? 18 God has placed each part in the body just as he wanted it to be. 19 If all the parts were the same, how could there be a body? 20 As it is, there are many parts. But there is only one body.
21 The eye can’t say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” The head can’t say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” 22 In fact, it is just the opposite. The parts of the body that seem to be weaker are the ones we can’t do without. 23 The parts that we think are less important we treat with special honour…25 In that way, the parts of the body will not take sides. All of them will take care of one another. 26 If one part suffers, every part suffers with it. If one part is honoured, every part shares in its joy.
27 You are the body of Christ. Each one of you is a part of it.
It can’t be said much better than that! We are each an essential part of the body that builds the worshipful community of St Wilfrid’s Church of England Academy. If we all remember that over this coming year, what a year it’s going to be!
It’s week two of our new year and our new term, how are we finding it? Are we running at a sprint? Are we struggling to keep up? Wherever we are at this week we are going to pause, take a moment and think about our everyday ordinary lives. There may be somethings we do that are second nature to us, eating, drinking, getting dressed. There are many things we do that we don’t really remember doing because in the moment they don’t feel significant or special. Yet, here is what the bible says about these things:
So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life – your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life – and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
This letter from Paul (the guy who wrote a lot of the New Testament books and whole lot of letters) was writing to the Christians in Rome, a group of people most likely to have converted from Jewish ways to Christianity though it isn’t certain how the church in Rome began. All Paul is doing here is teaching these people the basics. When we put our lives, every little bit of our everyday ordinary lives, we are transformed and changed from the inside out. It may be a process but our offering can gain reward.
So what does this mean for us? Simply, be open to what God might do in the big and the small. Really give thanks for the things that are insignificant. Raise the level of maturity in our lives and encourage those around us.
It’s week two, let’s consider our worship and how that looks with our everyday ordinary lives.