Category: Uncategorized

Happy Birthday

Did you watch the wedding? I have to admit that I wasn’t that excited about it all but I did watch it. I also have to admit that I was amazed by the address given by the Bishop Michael Curry. I think it was unlike any message that has been given in any ‘official’ service in the U.K. This was for a number of reasons but mainly the animation and passion. He spoke so passionately about love, and the power of love, not just romantic love, but the love of God and how that love could and should be reflected in our lives. To imagine what the world would be like if we all lived and acted in love.

This week we celebrate Pentecost which is, essentially the birthday of the Church. After Jesus resurrected he spent 40 days with his disciples before ascending to heaven. He gave them instructions that they should wait until God sent the gift that had been promised of the Holy Spirit which would enable them to share the good news all over the world. The disciples did this and on the day of Pentecost a wind came in to the house where they were staying and they were filled with the spirit. This spirit enabled the disciples to have the confidence to leave the house, to speak in languages so that others could understand them. They were able to spread the good news of Jesus Christ, his death and resurrection and this is how the Church started.

What does this mean for us? John Stott said

“We do not need to wait for the Holy Spirit to come. He came on the day of Pentecost. He has never left the Church”

When Jesus ascended to heaven he told the disciples to wait for the spirit to come, but there is no longer any need for us to wait. The spirit is here, and can fill us and enable us. The Holy Spirit enables us to do God’s work, it gives us strength and courage, it comforts us. It enables us to show love when it may be the last thing we feel like.

With birthdays we have a tendency to celebrate on the day, or maybe the surrounding days, but we don’t tend to celebrate our existence every day. I think it can be the same with the Holy Spirit. We tend to focus on the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and can have a tendency to focus on the other two members of the trinity – the Father and the Son. Yet what John Stott reminds us and challenges us with our thought for the week is we don’t have to wait for Pentecost to be filled with the Holy Spirit, yes it’s a fantastic opportunity to celebrate the sending of the Spirit. BUT the Spirit is there, if we choose to be filled by it. Remember those fruits of the spirit? Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Imagine a world where everyone was filled by the spirit and showing those fruits! The disciples had been living with Jesus who showed these fruits all the time, how were they meant to live up to that example? Through the Spirit.

Prayer: Father God, in this week when we remember Pentecost we thank you for sending your spirit so that we can share your story, show your love, live your word. Fill us with your spirit we pray. Amen

Challenge: look at the list of the fruits of the spirit again. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control. Is there one you feel you need more help with?

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Promise

When do you make promises? Do you keep promises that you make? Or have you been known to make a promise to get something that you want? Maybe promising to tidy your room? Why are making and keeping promises important? It’s a short blog this week!

Over the last term we have been considering why the resurrection was important and what it means for us. Our final thing that we are going to consider is the idea of promise. Throughout the Old Testament there are promises given by God through the prophets about the Messiah. Throughout Jesus’ life we see that he is a fulfilment of those promises. The resurrection is that final act to show that he truly was the messiah, the saviour that God had been promising through the prophets for so long.

There are so many promises in the Bible, promises that God makes to us. That we will have eternal life, that there will be peace, that we will be forgiven to name a few. By seeing that God fulfilled the promise of a saviour of the world through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, we can have faith that he will fulfil all the other promises that he makes to us. How amazing is that!

Challenge: try to find some of the promises that God makes in the Bible

Prayer: thank you God that you fulfilled your promises of a saviour in the person of Jesus. Help us to trust that we can trust in the other promises you have made. Amen.

Grace

Consequences! Why do we have consequences? If we’re talking in terms of punishments then normally it is so that the person who has done something wrong takes responsibility for their actions, but also so that others see that responsibility is being taken. That’s one thing pupils are very ‘hot’ on at school, whether things are being done fairly, are people being punished. They quite like coming up with suggestions of punishments as well, a lot of the time you have to ask if they really think those punishments are fair. Essentially people want to know that they are getting what they deserved. We like to see people rewarded IF they deserved it. We like to see people punished IF they deserved it. Consequences are also there to hopefully stop people from doing something silly in the first place!

This term we are looking at what the resurrection means to Christians, what is it that Christians receive from Christ rising from the dead. This week our theme is Grace. Romans 6:14 says

For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.

At the moment I’m listening to the Bible in one year as I walk to work. I’m currently on the book of Judges in the Old Testament meaning that I have listened to Genesis Exodus Deuteronomy Leviticus and Numbers. These books, known as the Pentateuch, are full of complicated names and places and I have a lot of respect for David Suchet for reading them out, but there are also a lot of rules. A lot of things that people had to do to make up things to God. There are whole lists of if you have done this thing, then you must do this. That’s what it means in Romans by being under law, sin is called master because people had to keep a careful watch on what they were doing in case they went against God so that they could do whatever they needed to do to make up.

Paul says, in Romans that we are no longer under the law but under grace. What does that mean? Grace means the undeserving favour of God to those under condemnation. We’re under condemnation because we are human and we do things wrong, we are never going to be perfect, but we don’t have to follow all the laws of the Old Testament anymore because God has shown us his favour. A J Tozer says…

The cross is the lightning rod of Grace that short-circuits God’s wrath to Christ so that only the light of his love remains for believers

If we believe in the cross, and the resurrection, we are no longer faced by the wrath of God but only see his love. This doesn’t mean that we can do whatever we want, after all when someone is kind to you, or gives you an amazing gift, do you not want to do the same back to them. We will make mistakes but grace means we are forgiven, and are still in relationship with God without having to do anything to earn it. Therefore, for many, they will try to reflect that light, and try not to make mistakes in the first place.

Prayer: thank you God for your grace, that is completely undeserved, and yet so amazing. Help us to respond to your grace, and reflect your light. Amen

Challenge: can you give a gift to someone who doesn’t deserve it?

Peace

What do you associate with the word peace? For some of us we are going to link it with the idea of quiet – we might refer to something as ‘peaceful’ if there wasn’t much noise. We may associate it with war, or should I say no war, after all a definition of peace is lack of conflict. But what do we mean when we say that peace was something we received with the resurrection?

Our quote this week comes from Paul Chappell who has ‘because of the empty tomb, we have peace. Because of His resurrection, we can have peace during even the most troubling of times.’ And our bible verse is from a week after Jesus first appeared to his disciples following the resurrection, they are gathered together behind closed doors and he appears saying ‘peace be with you’ is this peace talking about a lack of noise or a lack of conflict? No. It’s talking about the peace of Fo – which, to be fair the Bible does say passes all understanding but let’s give it a go.

The peace of God is a state of tranquility which transcends circumstances. Even if we are feeling troubled, or anxious, then God’s peace can bring calm upon us. Why? Paul Chappell continues in his quote ‘because we know He is in control of all that happens. We live in a world where bad things happen and will happen, and although we can ask for them to be taken away if we pray for God’s peace then we will be almost in a sense of calm throughout it all.

If we look at the examples of Jesus he knew he was going to be arrested and tried and crucified. Before all of this happened he did go to pray to the Father to take the cup away. As he wen through the arrest, trial and crucifixion at no are we told of him getting upset or angry, but it is almost as if he was a visible sign of peace.

When Jesus said to the disciples peace be with you, he will have known the mix of emotions that would have been going through them at that time, anxiety, upset, scared, overwhelmed. He would know that they would need to know God’s peace.

The peace of God is readily accessible to us now, because of the crucifixion and resurrection, but it is something that grows within us the more we draw close to God. Maybe if each of us were to experience the peace of God it would and there would no longer be conflict around the world? So that is your challenge this week:

Challenge: what areas in your life do you think would benefit from a sense of peace? How can you bring peace in to them? Are there situations in the community or wider world that would also benefit from God’s peace?

Prayer: father God we thank you that you are peace and that allow us to experience peace. Help us to experience peace and to bring peace into the world. Amen

Hope

When was the last time you used the word hope? We will often use the word hope when talking about an event that is happening and how we hope it goes, what we hope happens in a day, how we hope friends/parents/teachers will behave, what we hope a sports result will be, what we hope the weather will be. As I write this I imagine there are thousands of people hoping that they will finish the London Marathon today.

The word hope refers to expectation, desire or trust. Most of the ways in which I have referred to the use of the word hope above are to do we expectation or desire. Things we’d like to see, or things we’d expect to see. However, when we talk, about hope as a result of the resurrection, we talk about it as something that we trust in. Our thought for the week comes from Ravi Zacharias who says

“Outside of the cross of Jesus Christ, there is no hope in this world. That cross and resurrection at the core of the Gospel is the only hope for humanity”

In 1 Peter1:3-6 Peter talks about the praise given to God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who in his mercy gave us new life in the living hope of the resurrection. Peter and Ravi aren’t talking about thing that it would be great if they did happen, something nice to wish for. Instead they are talking about a knowledge that because of the cross and resurrection we can hope/trust that God has given us new life and is protecting us. Peter acknowledges that this does not mean life is going to be all sweetness, light, and wonderful. In fact he refers to the fact that ‘you may have to suffer grief in all kinds of trials’ but you can have a hope that you are being protected and that you willing have a place in heaven in the future.

Suffering is one of the main reasons that people give for not believing in God. Many people have heard about what happened to me the last but one week before Easter. I had an epileptic seizure, this wasn’t any seizure but a face first one on a step leading in to the school. I was somewhat confused, and my face looked a complete mess. It has taken weeks to clear up, and there are still scars. For many that would be enough to turn away and take away hope, but for me… I have absolutely no idea why it happened, especially why it had to happen like that, but I also knew that it was part of the journey that I’m on. I’ve actually had more ‘dramatic’ and painful seizures in the past so this was relatively low-key. But most importantly at the centre of my life, is the core of the Gospel, the cross and resurrection, what Ravi Zacharias says is the only hope for humanity. It’s not a desire for my face to look better, for the drugs to start working, or for the electrics in my brain to work properly. It is a hope that I have a new life in Christ where I won’t have to worry about those things.

Prayer: thank you father for giving us the cross and resurrection that we may have a hope in a new life and inheritance. Help us to remember that hope when we get caught up in our trials and tribulations. Amen

Challenge: think about how you use the word hope on a day to day basis. Read the quote and the passage from 1 Peter 1:3-6 – how do you think the word hope is used differently?

New Life

We have just come to the end of our Easter holiday. Easter is arguably the most important celebration in the Christian calendar and this term we are going to be looking at why it is so important and what the cross and, more importantly, the resurrection mean for us, today in the 21st century.

The first thought for the term, and the first thing that the cross means for us is New Life. It seems quite bizarre that someone’s death can actually mean new life for us. What does it mean by new life? Does it mean that we forget everything that we have done? No. But it does mean that we can start afresh.

In the Old Testament there is a lot of talk about animal sacrifices that need to be made, as a gift to God, but as Watchman Nee says ‘Our old history ends with the cross; our new history begins with resurrection’. That life of sacrifice is no longer necessary because Christians believe that Jesus died on the cross in our place, so that we can have a new life not worrying about our past, just starting afresh.

That’s not to say that we’re not going to make mistakes anymore, after all we’re human and that is what we do, but we can move on from those mistakes. There’s no point being held back by them, yes we can move on and learn from them, but the whole point of the cross is that we can move on. In Paul’s letter to the Romans he says “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.”

It is very easy for us to focus on all the things that we want to move on from, possibly so we don’t make the same mistakes again, but instead we should focus on the resurrection life we have, the new life we have in Jesus.

Prayer: thank you father that you sent your son that we may have new life because of the sacrifice made on the cross for us. Help us to live that life to the full.

Challenge: think about things from the old history that are still holding you back from your new life. Make a note of those things and take them to something that represents the cross for you.

Patience

On Thursday I had a seizure where I landed face first. This has resulted in numerous cuts and scabs all over my face. Not only has it made me look pretty horrific, but I am also very aware of how I normally respond to scabs. I’m a scab picker, I always have been, but I know that this time I need to use the thought for the week ‘patience’! Edmund Burke says ‘Our patience will achieve more than our force’ which is definitely the case with scabs! By leaving scabs alone they will heal up and disappear without scars whereas with picking it can make them worse.

Patience is definitely not something that comes easily to me, and yet I always appreciate things more when I’ve had to wait for them or work for them. The bible verse this week is from proverbs 14:29 saying “whoever is patient has great understanding, but one who is quick-tempered displays folly”. That suggests that patience is something that benefits us, and enables us whereas without patience we are quick-tempered and can make mistakes.

The lent challenge for this week is to do something that you found hard last time. How many times have you just given up after giving it a go once and struggling? Patience encourages us to keep trying, even when we think we’ve failed at something. What is there that you have tried, and struggled with, that you gave up on? What could you give another go, what could patience help you with?