What we need

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What is the difference between what we WANT and what we NEED? This is a discussion I have with most year groups at some point throughout the year. Although it seems quite simple, it can actually be quite a difficult concept to get your head around. We often come up with examples to help us. The ones we often use are: I need food, I want chocolate; I need a drink, I want a Coke; I need a phone to be able to keep in touch with my parents; I want an iPhone (other makes are available!); I need a roof over my head, I want a huge house with a swimming pool.

We have probably all used the term need, when actually it is something we want. We may feel we need it because everyone else has one, but is it actually necessary?

Need suggests necessity. There are certain things we, as humans, need to survive. Oxygen, water, food, sleep to name the most important. But we often have so much more than is necessary. Most of us will eat and drink more than we need to in order to survive, that’s just called being healthy, but often we will eat and drink considerably more than we need to, because we want to.

Our promise this week is from Phillipians 4:19 and says

And it is he who will supply all your needs from his riches in glory because of what Christ Jesus has done for us.

We are told that God will supply all that we need. God will not supply all that we want, but all that we need. In the film Bruce Almighty when Bruce is given God’s powers he answers all the prayers with ‘yes’! This is mainly out of laziness. But inevitably it leads to problems, one person loses weight on the ‘Krispy kreme’ diet, one person gets taller over night, because lots of people win the lottery, nobody wins very much. Riots take place and Bruce has caused chaos just by saying yes to everything.

A lot of people struggle with the idea that God doesn’t always answer prayers. But what this verse shows us is that we have to trust and hope that God will provide all that we need. But more importantly, we have to trust that God knows what we need. There are many theological explanations for the question of God not answering prayers, which I’m not going to go in to now. BUT maybe actually what we need is to change the way in which we pray. Rather than asking God for specific things that we think we need. Asking God to provide what we need to get through a tough situation that we are going through.

Sometimes we need to take responsibility for ourselves as well. There may be things that we want to achieve in our lives. We can’t just ask God to make that happen! We have to do certain things to get there, whether that is working hard at school, training etc… We can’t ask God to make us good at something, but we can ask God to provide us with the strength and stamina to pursue those dreams.

We will have all asked our parents for something, claiming it was something we needed, and there is a likelihood they will have said no! Why? Because they know best! God is our father and we have to trust that he knows best!

Prayer: Father God we thank you that you love us, and you know us. We thank you that you provide all that we need, and pray that we will be able to put our trust in you. Amen

Challenge: Let’s be practical: think about something you would like to achieve. What do YOU need to be able to do to achieve that?

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God gives us strength

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It’s the final week before half term, and I think we are all at that stage where we are ready for half term. The question we are possibly asking ourselves is are we going to make it? It’s at times like this where this week’s promise The promise comes from Isaiah and says

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

There are so many promises within this verse, but the one we are focussing on is that God gives us strength. I don’t think I particularly chose that for this week, but the timing is perfect. This term is a short one but a busy one, and it is at times like this, when we get tired and worn down that it is good to know that God gives us strength.

I was just watching the Voice, and one of the ladies auditioning has competed in the world’s strongest woman events. Her party trick is to pick up two grown men! Now, I know that I don’t have that kind of strength, I tried giving my 6ft7 husband a piggy back once and damaged my back (not surprisingly). But I do know that when I feel I can’t go on any more, that God will give me the strength to do what needs to be done. Whether that is to get through the rest of the term, or whether it is to stand up on stage and take an assembly. I don’t have to do it in my own strength.

We all have a tendency to think that we have to do everything on our own, and that actually it is a weakness to ask for any help. This verse could be seen to encourage that, if people read it to say that God will strengthen ME and help ME. But actually one of the strongest things you can do is to ask for help, yes, ask your loving Father God, but also ask other people. God provides what we need, and sometimes the thing we need is a helping hand. If we are stuck on a piece of work, or unsure what to do in a friendship or family situation, rather than struggling with it God may give us the strength to ask for some support.

We also need to be looking out for people who are burdened by something; whether it is someone carrying a load of books to a classroom who needs some physical help; or whether it is someone who seems to be worrying about something. Maybe God wants to use us, to be that strength for that person.

Prayer: Father God, thank you that even when we think things are unbearably tough, you give us the strength to carry on. May we be able to see when other people need our help, to be the strength they need. Amen

Challenge: If you are stuck on something this week, don’t struggle on your own but ask for help. BUT ALSO look out for people who seem to be struggling, and be the strength they need. Whether that is opening a door, or being a listening ear.

No Anxieties?

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I do not like being late, I rarely am late, in fact a lot of the time I am early. I think this probably stems from growing up in Birmingham, attending a school with girls from all over the city, and without mobile phones (yes, such a time existed)! Therefore, whenever we met, we would set a time and a place, and you would have to be there. I was always the first one. I would get two buses earlier than I needed to, and then I would be about 20 minutes early and I would stand reading my book until my friends arrived. I didn’t want to miss out. I was always at school really early, and sat playing cards with my friends (I became quite the expert at Slam and Cheat). Even today, if I am catching a train I am normally there in time to catch the earlier one. I still get to school very early, although now I work rather than play cards!

Why am I telling you this? I do not like being late, and I get very worried and anxious if I am going to be ‘on the dot’ or late. I worry I am going to miss something, or that people will go without me. People may think I waste time by being somewhere so early, but I’d prefer to waste a bit of time than worry about being late. As an adult I have had to learn, with social occasions, that a meeting time is very much the earliest time. So I try to be ‘on time’ or a little bit late – but it is still a struggle to me. I do, what I need to do, to not worry.

Our promise from God this week is a promise that we do not need to be anxious. It comes from 1 Peter 5:7 and says

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

We all know now that I get anxious about being late, but we all have anxieties. Things which play on our minds and can get us wound up. What is really frustrating is that quite often our anxieties are things which only we understand, and I know I’ve said to people in the past “Why are you worrying about that?”. And then we worry that we are worrying about something silly and it becomes a vicious circle!  We worry because it plays on our mind, because it is something we are genuinely concerned about. It is very much a real thing.

It is frustrating that our anxieties are only understood by us, but what makes it even more frustrating is that our anxieties are often created by us. I know that my friends wouldn’t have gone on without me, and that I don’t need to be 20 minutes early, but that doesn’t stop it being a worry for me.

The promise from God though recognises this, it doesn’t say that there will be no anxiety, in fact it acknowledges that there will be. But it does say that we can give our anxiety to God, because he cares for us. Anxiety is almost a necessity, if we didn’t get anxious then we’d possibly never get stuff done! But it can be a burden, and we are told that we can give our anxiety to God. This is a promise we see Jesus talking about in the Gospel of Matthew as well where he says

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?

God cares for all of his creation, therefore we will be looked after. It is ok to be anxious, to care about things, but it can be unhealthy if we let it take over our lives. Therefore we need to trust that God will care for us, and will provide what we need. Afterall he has promised that he will.

Prayer: Thank you father that you created us, and you care for us. Help us to hand over our worries to you, so that we can work to your praise and glory. Amen

Challenge: If you see someone who is anxious about something this week. Don’t just say “There’s no need to worry about that” but acknowledge that it is something that they are worried about and ask if there is anything you can do to help.

God works for good

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“Why do we have to do this?” Is a question I get asked A LOT as a teacher. With some of my key stage 4 classes it has got to the stage now when others in the class respond on my behalf saying “when we get to our GCSE exam we will appreciate all the exam questions we have done”! It is very easy for me to explain why they will appreciate their education when they look back on it later in life, after all I’ve been there, done that, got the t-shirt, but it’s very difficult to see that at the time.

 

We all experience things which are unpleasant, sometimes horrible, we see atrocities on the news and we question why? God’s promise this week is from Paul’s letter to the Romans saying

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose

 

Although we may not understand why something is happening, we can know that God is working for good. I imagine God saying ‘it’s ok, you’ll appreciate this later on’!

 

Sometimes people misinterpret this to think that everything, when following God, is going to be good. That is not the case, it’s not going to be a hunky dory, easy pain free experience, but we can know that through everything God will work for good.

 

It is easy for me to look back at times when things have not been great for me, but I can see now where God was working. This is what we need to hold on to. But it’s not always easy when you are in the situation.

 

This isn’t about always looking on the positive side. That is a great skill, but sometimes it just isn’t possible. It is about trusting that through EVERYTHING God is working for good, even if you cannot tell, at the time, what that is.

 

Challenge: go back and look at some times which were really difficult, try to see what God was doing through that situation. This can then be something to hold on to when things get rubbish again.

 

Prayer: Father God, we thank you that you love us and care for us. We thank you that even when we don’t recognise it you are working for our good. Help us to recognise when you have worked in our lives so that we can give you praise. Amen

United with God

  
What are your barriers in life? What is it that just seems to get in the way of achieving your goal? As a pedestrian and a runner I get frustrated when there are works on the pavement, activities on the high street, or even slower pedestrians! They are getting in the way of me getting to where I need to.
On Friday I spent a lot of my day being told off by year 10&11 students. In my assembly in the morning I had given everyone the opportunity to come to the stage for a prize – the older pupils told me off because they were too far way so of course they weren’t going to make it!

Different things hold us back, or seem to be obstacles in our pathway in life.

Our promise of God this week is from Romans 8:38-39

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

When God created the world, humans were with Him in paradise, but when they went against Him, they were separated from Him. It took Jesus, dying on the cross, to reunite humans with God. But now that we are reunited with Him, Paul says, in Romans, that nothing can separate us.

This is a culmination of the two promises from the previous two weeks, that we are never alone and that any one is welcome. Once you are united with God nothing is going to separate you.

This is such a difficult idea to get our heads around because that is not the case in our world, everything has an ‘end’ everything decays, things change frequently. More and more we see that it seems that relationships are expected to end.

Throughout history there have often been ideas of things which are ‘unforgivable’. Things which we think must mean that we have ‘blown it’ with God and with others. But that is not the case at all. They are things which ‘we think’. I find that as humans we are very good at making obstacles for ourselves. We are very good at thinking well… ‘There’s no way I’m going to be able to do what God wants me to do now’ but God will make a way to unite you with Him, to get back on track.

I’ve recently been on a journey of discovery, working out what God wants me to be doing, I’d been putting it off for ages, but in the end I just had to bite the bullet and get on with it. It was difficult, there were lots of tears, but it was worth it.

God has a plan for our life, he will be with us. If we detour He will just carry on walking with us whichever way we go, gently steering us back on track. It will sometimes not be so gentle, if we think of the extremes of Jonah being swallowed by a large fish. But it is what we need for us.

Anyone can be reunited with God. Once reunited, nothing can separate you. Therefore you will never be alone. Three awesome promises as we start 2016, and I cannot wait to see what other promises are to come.

Challenge: what obstacles are stopping you from achieving your goal, or God’s goal? What can you do to get round them?

Prayer: Father God, we thank you that you created us, and that you have a purpose for us. We pray that you will continue to guide us as we are united with you in our everyday lives. Amen

Everyone is welcome

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What does it mean to be accepted? Sometimes you have to meet certain criteria to join different groups. That may be an age boundary; you may have to be at a certain level of something; sometimes it’s to do with gender; maybe even height (especially when it comes to fair ground rides). It’s understandable… for certain things. It would be silly to join a high level swimming club, if you can’t swim in the first place.

We continue this week to look at the promises of God. People used to think that the Kingdom was like a club with membership criteria, that only certain people were going to be accepted to be a part of that Kingdom, to be accepted by God. But Jesus taught us that actually everyone is welcome.

The verse we are looking at today comes from John 6:37

All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.

 Jesus not only told people that everyone was welcome but he also demonstrated it. There are so many examples throughout the Gospels where Jesus talks to and befriends those that others turned away from: Zacchaeus, the tax collector; Blind Bartimaeus; the Samaritan woman; the woman who had committed adultery; the lame man; the man possessed by demons; children; women. All of these people, and many more, were considered to be outcasts, not accepted by God. As they were considered to not be accepted by God, they were treated unfairly by society, and also by Religious leaders. But Jesus spoke to them, spent time with them, encouraged them.

Another great example is actually, Jesus’ disciples, the 12 men chosen by Jesus as his closest companions, friends, and followers. They were a mixture of all sorts, fishermen, tax collectors, zealots. They definitely were not scholars from the temple, religious leaders, but everyday people – like you and me.

Everyone is welcome to the Kingdom of God, but it does take something, one thing that we have to do. We have to accept the invitation to go. In the verse for the week it says “WHOEVER COMES TO ME I WILL NEVER DRIVE AWAY”. If we choose to go to Jesus, we will not be turned away, but we need to choose to go to him first. The Disciples were asked to follow him, and they accepted that invitation. The paralysed man was asked to stand up, take his mat and walk – and he did. Zaccheus was asked to give Jesus tea and he did.

We are all invited to be a part of God’s Kingdom. If the invitation is accepted an amazing journey awaits. The question is… are you going to accept?

Prayer: We thank you God that you welcome all of us to be a part of your Kingdom. Help us to be welcoming to those around us as well.

Challenge: Jesus spoke to those who other people ignored. How can you show God’s kingdom by being welcoming this week?

Not Alone

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Happy New Year everyone. I hope you had a fantastic, restful and fun filled break! As we start this New Year we are going to be looking at some of the promises that God makes in the Bible. In my first blog post about Hope, I spoke about the fact that Christian hope is being sure that the promises God makes will happen and become actuality. It therefore seemed fitting to consider some of those promises that God made thousands of years ago, and how they can still be promises to hold on to today.

The first promise we are going to look at is that we are not alone. The verse this is based on is Deuteronomy 31:8

The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.

 

January is a time when we start to think about the year ahead. We may have made resolutions, things that we are going to try and do – whether that is stopping eating junk food; doing more exercise; spending more time with family; trying harder with school work; or spending less time on games.

We start off with great ambitions but we never know how the year is going to pan out. The great thing about this promise is that we may not know but we are told that God has gone ahead of us, He has prepared the way for us, and He will be with us all the time. This is such a fantastic promise. It doesn’t say that life is going to be perfect and wonderful and rosy. But it does say that we will never be alone, God will always be at our side.

When I first moved to Canterbury I was 19 years old, and I had always lived at home, in Birmingham with my parents. Suddenly I was 200 miles away and I had to provide and cook for myself. My parents had given me provisions, they had prepared things for me, but they had to leave me. The great thing was, I knew they were on the end of the phone, and that I could go home whenever I needed to. That is still the case now, even though I’ve been married for 11 years!

It is even better with God, because He is there at our side all of the time. Because of that we do not need to be afraid about anything, or discouraged when things don’t go according to our plan.

Last week I went to London to see Wicked (it was SO good) when we were sitting in a restaurant eating some lunch I saw a family of four all on their phones looking on social media, texting, etc… We live in a time when it is so easy to be in touch with people and yet we can often feel alone. Just look at the infamous John Lewis Christmas advert.

It is very easy for me to write that God is by our side and with us at all times; but it is very difficult to recognise that sometimes. However, we can be God to others. If we see that someone is struggling, upset, lonely – we can ask how they are, ask them to spend time with us. God works in mysterious ways, and God works through us.

Prayer: Father God, we thank you that you have gone ahead of us, and prepared a way. We thank you that you are always with us. That we never need to be worried or anxious because you are by our side. Amen.

Challenge: As you think about what 2016 is going to bring for you. Think about what you can bring to others in 2016 to ensure that they know they are not alone.

Written by Mrs H Netherton