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: 9th October 2017
“You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?”
Honesty is marked as being free from deceit or untruthfulness, being sincere. The Christian life should be one marked with integrity and honesty, yet because we all sin and find it easy to do so, honesty is something we must work hard at! An honest life is important on so many levels from relationships with peers, children, at our workplace, and interacting with our community. Matthew 7:16 tells us that we are known by our fruit. Let us be examples of a God of truth and life by living lives of integrity and truthfulness.
What did Jesus say about our honest faith? 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?