What does the Bible say about Temptation?

Ginger nuts! I can resist most other biscuits, but put a ginger nut in front of me, especially when I have a cup of tea in my hand, and I will normally have to give in and have one…or two…or… I love ginger nuts so much that when I was searching for the definition of this weeks word I searched for ginger nuts rather than TEMPTATION!!!!

This week we continue to look at what the Bible says about different things that affect us and we are considering what the Bible says about temptation. The definition of temptation is

 The wish to do or have something that you know you should not do or have

We have all experienced temptation, and the things that tempt us will be different. When I was looking at videos for form time worship the majority of videos related to temptation were related to food. However, that isn’t going to be the case with all people. It might be that your temptation is to procrastinate when you have a job to do! Another one of mine, depending on the day I’ve had, will be to sit down on the sofa and watch TV rather than going out for a run.

None of these things are bad in and of themselves, but they could be if they became habit or the norm. For example, the issue is not having a ginger nut with my cup of tea, the issue is that I could easily eat the entire packet with my cup of tea, and an entire packet of biscuits is not going to do you any good whether you are on a diet or not. Procrastination can sometimes be helpful as thinking time, but if we always procrastinate then nothing will ever get done. There’s always a time for sitting on the sofa and watching TV, but if you do that every time you feel like it, or instead of doing something else then it’s not going to be beneficial. I know that running makes me feel better, but that’s hard work!

Temptations are often referred to as guilty pleasures. They are things that we like, that make us feel good momentarily but because we know that they are something we shouldn’t be doing they also make us feel guilty.

It is not bad to be tempted, it is human. The issue, is how do we deal with the temptations when they come. I’ve already used the word resist when I said that a ginger nut is the one biscuit I can’t resist. Resist is a word we often use in relation to temptation and the definition of resist is to fight against something or someone that is attacking you. One way in which the word resist is used is “antibodies help us to resist infection”. I liked this idea because a temptation can be like an infection, it may start off with something small, one ginger nut, one night on the sofa but can easily turn into a whole packet of ginger nuts and never doing exercise again.

How do we resist the temptation? I think it’s best to look at the example of Jesus. In fact our thought for the week comes from Rick Warren who says

Every time you defeat a temptation you become more like Jesus

I like the fact that Rick Warren uses the term defeating temptation. If we go back to the idea of the body resisting infection, eventually the resisting infection will result in defeating it and being healthy. I had a virus earlier in the year, it wiped me out completely, even when I was feeling better I was taken over by exhaustion every now and again but now my body has defeated it!

It makes me feel better that Jesus was tempted as well… it makes me realise that everyone really does get tempted. I imagine he was tempted a lot, after all he was fully human, but the temptations that we know of are right after his baptism when he goes in to the wilderness, where he fasts and prepares himself for his ministry. He is tempted with 3 things, turning stones to food, jumping from a high place knowing God would save him, and bowing down to Satan in order to have power. All of these things would have made his life much easier, especially as he knew what the next 3 years would entail and how it would end. However easy and momentarily pleasurable it would have been Jesus resisted and defeated the temptation. How? He reminded himself why he shouldn’t give in. He quoted scripture “man shall not live by bread alone” “do not put God to the test” “you shall worship only God”.

A temptation is wanting to do or have something you know you shouldn’t do or have. You KNOW you shouldn’t therefore the best way to defeat temptation is to remind yourself why you shouldn’t. But also to think about the things that you should be doing, and how those will make you feel. The Bible verse given with this topic was from Philippians 4:8 which says

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Focus on the good things in life, and good actions. These things will become our antibodies fighting against the infection of temptation, and helping us to defeat it one ginger nut, or one temptation at a time.

Challenge: think about the things that you are tempted by, come up with a sentence that you can repeat to yourself next time you are tempted.

Prayer: Father God we thank you that you came to earth and showed us that it is ok to be tempted, but also demonstrated how we can defeat temptation. Help us to focus on the true, noble, right, pure, lovely and admirable things, so that we can resist temptations when they come. Amen

What does the Bible say about anxiety?

Ironically I have been thinking more about what to include in this post more than any other. I wanted to be helpful, but not offend anyone, and not try to give medical Advice! I think that’s why I’m actually going to keep it quite short!

I was so pleased earlier in the year to see members of the royal family, William, Kate and Harry speaking about mental health, and raising awareness of it. Mental health is a real issue, and yet one which doesn’t seem to get as much support as others, but more horrifically one which is considered to be a taboo subject – one which people don’t talk about. This then means that people aren’t willing to share when they are struggling, which will often make the issue worse. There are many specific conditions within mental health, but this week we are going to talk about anxiety.

Everybody gets anxious. People will get anxious about different things and the anxiety will affect them in different ways but everyone gets anxious.

Rather than giving specific advice again, I’m going to talk about the affect that anxiety can have. Our thought for the week comes from Charles Spurgeon which says

“Anxiety doesn’t empty tomorrow of its sorrows but only empties today of its strength”

Quite often we can spend so much time worrying about things in the future, that we don’t necessarily have control over, that we lose the day that we are living. When I think about some of the things that I get anxious about I sometimes think “what on earth were you worried about that for?”. This isn’t to say that the anxiety wasn’t real in the first place, but actually when I look back I realise I was anxious about things that were out of my control, or things that wouldn’t have been so much of a concern if I had just tackled them in the first place.

Unfortunately this is all in hindsight, which is a wonderful thing, but not particularly helpful at the time.

So what does the Bible say about anxiety? There are a number of passages which express that we shouldn’t worry, but that we should trust that God make sure that we are OK. We saw in the garden of Gethsemane that Jesus himself was anxious about his crucifixion, and asked God the Father to “take this cup from me”. Which reminds me of a present I was given a few years ago which said “let go and let God”. As tempting as it seems to be that you can just write down everything that you are anxious about and give it to God, that isn’t what it means. Instead we should allow God to give us the strength to deal with things we can deal with, or if it is something beyond our control that we trust God to help in that situation. Talking is a necessity when it comes to anxiety, whether that is talking to other people or whether it is talking to God. Keeping it to yourself is never going to be beneficial, but talking to too many people isn’t always helpful either. I know I have a few people who I confide in regularly which isn’t too overwhelming.

Although there are many verses about not worrying in the Bible the verse that was given for this topic was actually from 2 Corinthians and it says

Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Paul, who wrote Corinthians went through a lot persecution, and was probably anxious a lot of the time. Here he is being honest and saying that he specifically asked God to take away his burdens from him, but instead he realised that God’s power is made perfect in weakness. There is a clip I’ve seen numerous times which shows how artists taken broken pots and then put them back together with Gold, which makes them all the more beautiful.

Quite often we will see God at work in our lives more when we are struggling than when things seem to be hunky dory. The famous Poem footprints talks about Jesus carrying the person during the tough times. This is not to say we should seek difficulties and make ourselves more anxious, but when we find ourselves in those situations, we should ask God to help us and strengthen us, and then we will see his glory.

Life is a journey, there are many twists and turns, highs and lows, but if we are walking that journey with God at all times, then we will have someone to rejoice when things are great, and someone to turn to, cry on and be carried by, when things are rough. Personally, that’s the kind of company I’d like to keep.

Challenge: write a list of things that you are anxious about. Which things can you do something about? Ask God to strengthen you. Which things can’t you do anything about? Hand it over to God.

Prayer: father God, we thank you that you walk alongside us. Help us to not hold on to our anxieties but to hand them over to you, to help us with them. Help us also to be an ear for others who are anxious. Amen

What does the Bible say about JEALOUSY?

When I was younger I spent a lot of time with a family that lived up the road from us, I always felt that the girl had all the toys and games that I wanted… including a Mr Frosty; an oak tree that opened into a doll house; and one of those mini oven/kitchen things. I was jealous… so jealous that I still remember it today. When I was in sixth form my brother got diagnosed with cancer, I felt like suddenly I was unimportant, and that he was getting all of the love and attention. I was jealous.

I have chosen these two examples because I think they refer to two different types of jealousy that we all experience. Jealousy of people’s possessions and jealousy of relationships. We all experience jealousy, it is a human flaw, and once again I’m not necessarily going to give you advice to stop being jealous, but consider the effects that jealousy can have.

Our thought for the week comes from Gary Allen who says

“You can be the moon and still be jealous of the stars”

No matter who we are, what our circumstances, we are likely to be jealous of someone else. So many of us may have had dreams of being famous, but how many times do we hear stories of people who are famous who miss the anonymity of walking down the street and not being recognised; of not having their entire lives scrutinised by the press. When we are children we are desperate to become adults, but when we are adults we miss the freedom and excitement and lack of responsibility that comes with being a child!

Lets take my two examples… the toys… I had so many games and toys, so why has it stuck in my brain that I wanted the ones my friend had? It turns out, she felt the same about my toys and games. I think our parents actually decided together what to get as we spent so much time together. I had so much but I wanted what I didn’t have. I admit I feel awful that I was jealous of my brother with cancer, but I’m just being honest. The truth, again, is that I wasn’t being ignored, in fact my parents did arrange some extra things with me and for me to ensure I didn’t feel it. But all I could see was that I was always being asked how he was, he was getting all the visits in the hospital and treats, whilst I had to get on with my everyday life.

Its about perception, we may have everything we need, but there is always that one thing which someone else has that we want and are convinced will make our lives better.

Adam and Eve were in paradise, they had 1:1 access to God, they could eat from any tree that they wanted except for one… but all Eve had to be told was that the fruit looked much nicer on that one and that it would bring special powers… so she ate it and that was that!

So… what does the Bible say about jealousy? There are many examples of it, especially with sibling rivalry, and even with the disciples wanting to know which disciple was favourite. This sh was, that it is human, but advice doesn’t really come… but Proverbs tells us “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones.” We cannot necessarily stop jealousy but we can know the effects of it. It doesn’t literally rot our bones but it can take away our enjoyment of life if we are constantly comparing what we have with other people. What benefit can it have to want what other people have? That’s what advertisers rely on, is that need to make better lives. That can only happen by buying one of their products. How many times does that ACTUALLY happen though?

So jealousy is going to happen, but when it does, when you get that feeling of “I wish I had that” or “their life is better than mine” take the time to stop and think abut all the good that is in your life, things to be thankful for, what will that thing/person add to your life. It’s not about not being jealous it’s about being content with what you have, that will bring you peace, and as proverbs says, that peace will bring you life.

Challenge: go through all the things in your life that you are grateful for and give thanks for them.

Prayer: Father God, we thank you for everything that you provide us with, we are sorry that we always seem to want more than we have. Help us to being content with what we have, and live the life that we have been given. Amen

What does the Bible say about procrastination?

I had a plan of what I was going to write for this week’s blog when I woke up to hear the tragic news of another attack in London. Let us just pause for a minute

Father God, we lift up this world, which you created, to your hands now. The world seems to be s broken and so divided, and we ask for your peace. We pray for those who have been killed and injured, for their families and friends. We also pray for those that felt that this act was necessary. Lord, most of all we pray that your light may come shining in to the world, and that we may be able to share that light. Amen

This term’s themes has been brought about by a pupil in year 9 who has recently been confirmed. For his confirmation he was given a book of devotionals and he wanted to show me the book to see if I wanted to use any of the quotes/ideas for worship at school. So, in true teacher fashion, I sent him away with a load of post-it type bookmarks and asked him to choose for me. He came back with loads of bookmarks, but it gave me an idea. So this final term, as we head towards the summer holidays, we will be looking at what does the Bible say about… various topics. Some weren’t necessarily appropriate for whole school worship but I will be running separate lunch time discussions.

This is a question I get asked a lot “miss, what does the Bible say about…” and often I can’t respond because a lot of issues that people ask me weren’t issues when the Bible was written, or aren’t necessarily specifically mentioned in the Bible. However we can look at teachings that are in the Bible and see what guidance that may give us to apply to the situation we are concerned about.

The question we are concerned about this week is “what does the Bible say about procrastination?”. I have to admit I am an expert procrastinator, but before we carry on I guess we should define the word… “the action of delaying or postponing something”. I find procrastination often comes into play when I’ve got a long list of work to do, it’s amazing how tidy the place can get, how many people I can find to help, or how many ‘important’ phone calls I can make. Why? To avoid the actual jobs that need to get done.

I know a lot of people who procrastinate to avoid work, but procrastination comes into play when having to deal with an important issue, maybe there’s an issue with a relationship which you know needs to get sorted, or an apology that needs to be made, but we always find something else to do instead. The amount of times I have put off starting to watch what I eat, or doing some exercise!

What is the thing that leads you to procrastinate?

As I have said I am an expert procrastinator, so I am not going to attempt to give any advice. The only advice I could give is ways in which to procrastinate, which defeats the point! Our thought for the week comes from Hunter S Thompson who says

A man who procrastinates in his choosing will inevitably have his choice made for him by circumstance

I am always very happy to have a decision made for me, but there have been times where because I’ve left making a decision to the last minute the decision has had to be made for me. This links in with the Bible passage which was given in the book which was from Luke 12:35-40 I have to admit when I first looked at this I was wondering what it was talking about. But then it all clicked in to place. The passage is talking about the second coming of Jesus, and our need to be prepared for it.

We never know what is going to happen, and we need to be prepared. This may be with work projects, or revision. A simple example – I know lots of pupils who will come to me on a Monday morning and say that they were unsure of what to do. When I asked when they looked they said the night before even though they had a week to work on it. If we leave things to the last minute they may not get done.

Now, saying that, although it is a fantastic principle to live by, I honestly don’t think that God is going to be too concerned with my to-do list – although I think he will be impressed with the colour and neatness (as I said I’m an expert procrastinator). However, when it comes to procrastinating over apologies to be made; hurt that has been caused; issues left unresolved; that is a different matter. The passage says you never know when the son of God will return. Therefore you should try to deal with those things when you can, rather than putting them off.

One of the things that causes most people upset during times of grief is that they weren’t able to say what they wanted to say whilst they still had that person with them. There have been two attacks in this country in the space of as many weeks, at no point did people think they were putting their lives at risk but they were going out to enjoy themselves. What things have been left undone or unsaid?

The thought for the week speaks about choices, and choices that can be taken out of our hands. We don’t know what is going to happen, but we can make choices on a daily basis, let us choose love.

Challenge: what leads you to procrastinate? Is there anything you can do to try to ensure that you deal with things rather than putting them off?

Prayer: father God, we thank you that you have given us creativity, but we pray that you will help us to use that creativity to do good, rather than to avoid jobs. Help us to stay focussed, and help us to choose love. Amen

I am part of His family

What role do you play in your family? Do you have things that you are in charge of? When we used to go camping as a family we each had different roles to play – especially when it came to putting up the tent. My role was sorting out the poles, and then putting them all together and pegs! My mum was definitely in charge and we knew we had to follow her instructions. There were often disagreements and frustrations but the tent always got put up!

Our final ‘I am’ statement that comes with our Easter identity is “I am part of His family”. Your response to this statement will be dependent upon your view of family. I definitely have gone through the frustrated and annoyed response to my family but on the whole I know that my family are people who I share a lot with who will be there to support me when I need it.

So… what does it mean to be a part of His family… God’s family?

Two weeks ago I had to actually pop back up to Birmingham to see my parents. When I was there I went to St. Giles Church on the Sunday. This was the church where I was baptised, where I attended junior church, went to confirmation classes, and actually worked for a year. It was so lovely to be able to go a place which really does feel like family. These were people who have been a part of my life, who have known me, loved me, supported me – I wouldn’t be the person I am now if it hadn’t been for St Giles Church.

I’ve also been to many churches in the country and around the world, and what I love, is the fact that we may have differences about the way in which we worship, and what biscuits we should have but there are many things which we share, especially the love of God and the love of others. This is what it means to be a part of God’s family.

As with all families there will be disagreements, there will be people who will drive us potty, there will be upset, there will be joy… but the love of God and the love of each other will be central. As with our own families each of us will have different roles but each of those are important. A couple of weeks ago Lou Funnell led worship at school and gave everyone a piece of jigsaw to demonstrate that we are all unique but fit together to make a fantastic picture. In a church we need people who can welcome, who can lead, who can sing, who can move furniture…. This is reflected in our thought of the week which says “We each belong to and are needed in the family of God”

Christianity is based on relationships. If we look at God, we have the trinity, each of whom have a role to play God the father – creator and sustainer. God the Son – example, teacher, saviour. God the Holy Spirit – guide and enabler. This is just to name a few. Relationships are essential in all aspects of life, they enable us to see what our role is but also to see that we need other people. Jesus was constantly in relationship as well, he had his 3 closest disciples who were part of the group of the 12 disciples, and we are also told that he sent out 72. The first thing he did after his baptism and time in the desert was to develop a group of people around him. You see his frustrations with them at times, and he still had times of solitude, but the main thing you see is a group of people who ate together (a very important part of being in God’s family) cried together, laughed together, learned together. Jesus’ ministry wouldn’t have worked if he hadn’t been in that relationship, and if he hadn’t shown how important it was.

We have already looked at what it means to be a child of God, and now to see that that means that we are part of a family as well – wow! Over the next week there is a global prayer movement entitled “thy kingdom come” this is one fantastic example of the family of God coming together to make a difference in the world! What part can you play?

Prayer: thank you God that we are adopted in to your family. May we know that we are not on our own but are part of a worldwide movement of people who all love you. Thank you that you demonstrate what it is to be in relationship, and may we learn the role we have to play and how we can rely on other people as well. Amen

Challenge: look into thy kingdom come and see what you can do as a family at home to join in with the family of God.

I am able to approach God

I find it quite amusing sometimes sitting in my office listening as pupils come in, and out, of the classroom. The walls are very thin so I can hear everything. Every now and again I hear pupils saying “just knock, it’s fine”. As I said I find it quite amusing but I imagine it can be quite daunting – having to go and speak to a teacher. Quite often if I ask someone why they haven’t completed something, or why they haven’t done their homelearning I am greeted with the response, “I didn’t understand” to which I respond “well why didn’t you come and ask me?” “I’m not sure”.

I think it is because people are worried that I’m going to get angry, or that I will think they are silly, it may well just be because I am an adult and am seen to have a position of authority at the school. I find it quite odd, but that’s because I don’t see myself as anything other than a human who quite often makes mistakes as well! But when I was at school… well yes… I probably did feel the same way.

So… we find it difficult to approach humans, especially certain ones, normally those older than us, or those in authority. However, within Christianity, because of the events celebrated at Easter, we are told that we can approach God. Yes God. This is the same God we believe created the world, who has always and will always exist, who is perfect, who is all-loving all-knowing, and all-powerful, and yet we can approach him! Now that is daunting!

We will explore what this means later but first let’s get a brief history

In Judaism, in the temple there was something known as the Holy of holies, this is where it was believed that God dwelt. The high priest was the only one allowed in there once a year. Sacrifices had to be made to appease God. God was seen as a distant character who was not available to the normal person.

Yet in Christianity we are told that we can approach God. Our thought this week comes from John’s Gospel and says

This is the confidence we have when approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.

We can approach God in prayer, and we can ask for things, and he will hear us – important to note that he won’t always say yes! But prayer doesn’t have to mean asking for things, it can just mean spending time with God. One of the greatest privileges as a teacher is when pupils come and see me, not because they need help, but because they want to tell me about something exciting that has happened to them, an achievement they have had, or because they are upset about something and they just need some space, and normally a hot chocolate! This is because they’ve seen past the scary teacher persona and have seen that actually I interested in their whole life not just their work.

Imagine how frustrating it must be for God (except he doesn’t get frustrated) to only hear from people in prayer when they are desperate or when they are in need. God wants to hear everything, yes he already knows it has happened, but he wants us, to want to tell him. That might mean being highly excitable and thankful, or it might mean sitting in tears not actually able to talk.

I’ve probably mentioned before that I love the Chronicles of Narnia, and one of my favourite parts during the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, is when Lucy and Susan approach Asian as he is walking to the stone table. He doesn’t have a go at them for spying on him, but he allows them to put their hands in his mane. No words are spoken, but it is a very special moment, we are told it is something they had always wanted to do but never dreamt they had been able to. We possibly think it would be great to sit in the presence of God but there is no way we would ever be able to.

The great thing is that because of the cross, we no longer have to wait for someone special to go to God on our behalf, we can approach him ourselves. When I talk about sin I often use an image of two cliffs, man on one cliff, God on the other, with sin separating the two. But then the cross goes in the middle, sin is taken away and man can walk across the bridge to God. Daunting yes, but amazing as well! God wants us to approach him, not because he wants us to be a part of his life (we already are) but because he wants to be a part of ours!

Prayer: thank you God that you sent Jesus to live on earth and to die on the cross, so that we may approach you with confidence. Help us to share all of our life with you not just the rubbish! Amen

Challenge: spend 5 minutes each day chatting with each other about your day, thanking God for the good, and praying for your concerns.

I am not afraid

Do you have a fear? Last year I saw a few people on social media answering quizzes about themselves ‘just for a bit of fun’ – I considered giving it a go. But one of the questions was what are your fears. I couldn’t think of anything. That sounds really big headed but I really don’t think there is anything. There are things I don’t like – I don’t like spiders, but I definitely wouldn’t say I’m afraid of them. I love scary rides at theme parks, and I laugh through horror movies.

The more I think about it, I guess I’m not afraid of specific things, but I do worry about upsetting people, letting down people, and what people think of me.

I have worries. I imagine we all do. All of our worries are going to be different. But we all have them.

This week is our year 11s last week before they start their GCSE exams, and for some it’s going to be their last week in lessons at Archbishop’s. They are going to be worried about exams, but possibly also anxious about how life is going to change for them after 5 years at the school. New challenges ahead of them. For the year 8s some of them might be anxious about going away from home for the first time when they go to France.

I think I’ve made the point, we ALL have worries. BUT part of our Easter identity is that we can say “I am not afraid”. In fact our thought for the week shows that it is actually a commandment! In Joshua 1:9 it says “have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged; for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go”.

The commandment seems quite harsh; after all, we have already realised that we all have fears and worries – how can we not? But the verse also gives us an answer – we don’t need to be afraid because the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Therefore, we are never alone, there is always someone holding our hand, walking with us, giving us the strength when we don’t feel we have it.

A few years ago when I was having anxieties a friend gave me something to go on my desk that says “let go and let God”. This has been the reminder I have needed regularly. I still come across issues, things that I worry about, but I try to hand it over to God. This doesn’t mean I give the job to God and use that as an excuse not to do it. But it does mean that when things start getting on top of me I go to God and ask for help. I ask God to walk with me through it. That might mean that God provides someone to walk alongside me, or that I suddenly get inspiration for how to get through it, or it might even mean that I have a good cry on God. But by acknowledging that there is something worrying me, I’m suddenly not dealing with it on my own. And sometimes that knowledge is enough.

So… as we approach the final term of the school year with changes ahead for us all, may we all let go and let God. Remembering we don’t need to be anxious because God is with us wherever we go.

Challenge: is there anything you are worried about that is taking over, that you need to hand over to God and ask him to walk with you?

Prayer: father God, we thank you that you have promised to always be with us, which means we do not need to be anxious or try to do anything in our own strength. Help us all to remember this promise, and to let you help us. Amen