Forgiveness

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I didn’t get any of my wedding cake! I don’t like rich fruit cake, so although that was what our main 3 tier wedding cake was, we had a special chocolate cake made as well! But… The person handing out the chocolate cake never gave me any 😔. I was told it was delicious, but I wouldn’t know because I DIDN’T GET ANY!!!!! As you can tell, 11 years on, I still haven’t quite managed to move on from the situation.

Have you ever held a grudge? I imagine we all have at some point in time, it may have been something silly like NOT GETTING ANY WEDDING CAKE or it may be something much more serious. As we approach Easter we start to discover a couple of the more substantial, life-changing promises that God gives us. Today’s is that God doesn’t hold a grudge, because of God we can be forgiven. The promise is in the first letter of John and says

But if we confess our sins to him, he can be depended on to forgive us and to cleanse us from every wrong. And it is perfectly proper for God to do this for us because Christ died to wash away our sins.

On the cross, Jesus was crucified between two criminals. We are not told what their crimes had been, but we can assume it was major. One of the criminals on the cross recognised who Jesus was, and although we don’t hear that he actually verbally asked for forgiveness, I think that through that recognition, in his heart, he recognised what he had done wrong and he said sorry for it. Jesus then said that he would see him in heaven.

As with many things in Christianity this idea can be misunderstood. Some people think that this allows anybody to do anything. But that is not the case. There needs to be a recognition from a person, that they have done something wrong. Normally whenever a child gets told off, their automatic reaction is “I’m Sorry”. But quite often, that is all it is, it is an automatic reaction, not actually said with any meaning or understanding.

Yes God can and will forgive anything, after all there is no sin that is bigger or smaller than any other, but it has to be asked for; you can’t really ask for forgiveness, and therefore be forgiven, if, actually, you don’t really know you’ve done anything wrong.

In the story of Jonah, he is sent to Nineveh to tell the people to turn away from their wicked ways, otherwise God will smite them. The people of Nineveh took those words on board, they declared a period of fasting, and wore sackcloth. Whilst this was happening Jonah went up on to a local hill so he could watch the smiting take place, he was quite looking forward to it – afterall it was what they deserved. But God was true to his word, they had turned away, so he did not smite them. Jonah was not happy.

Because we are forgiven it doesn’t mean that we can just do anything, knowing that we can just say sorry for it after. It means we can try to make amends for what we have done, but it must also mean that we can try not to do those things in the first place.

A sin is ANYTHING that separates us from God. Therefore we are not going to live sin free lives. But we can try to, and we can recognise when we do those things, and we can ask God’s forgiveness, and we will be forgiven.

Afterall the promise says it is perfectly proper for God to do this for us because Christ died to wash away our sin. God knew that we would make mistakes, and that is why he came to earth as Christ and died on the cross. That does not mean that we shouldn’t try to avoid making mistakes in the first place though.

God doesn’t hold a grudge, as with the people of Nineveh, they then moved on in their relationship with God. Therefore, as we have been forgiven, we should also forgive. That doesn’t mean that we have to accept any wrong that is done to us, but we should accept apologies, and we should move on with our relationships. We should not keep holding that one event against that person. I have made a decision whilst writing this blog that I am never going to mention the wedding cake again!!!!! Forgiving others, is a very difficult topic and I imagine that requires a whole blog just for that! But what I want you to take away from this is that if you recognise what you have done wrong, and you acknowledge that and ask God, he WILL forgive you, because Jesus died for that reason. WOW! I know I say this every week, but what an awesome promise!

Prayer: Father God, we thank you that Christ died so that we may be forgiven and reunited with you. We thank you that you forgive us, but we pray that we will not take to mean we have an excuse to do anything but that we will try to live lives that are worthy of you. Amen

Challenge: Spend some time with saying sorry but also thanking him that we can go to him when we do wrong. Think about if there is anyone that you still hold a grudge against – try to let it go.

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Strength in Weakness

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“There’s no way I’m going to manage this”

“I won’t finish it anyway”

“I can’t cope anymore”

“I quit”

We have probably all said one or all of these statements at some point in our lives. But that’s fine, the fact is, we are human. We make mistakes, and we struggle. We get fooled in to this false sense that if we are struggling, we are failing. I see it with pupils (and staff) all the time; and it can be really upsetting; and I just want to shout… that is not the case.

As Human’s we are made to be in relationship…

With each other. What might be my weakness may be someone else’s strength. I am very good at trying to do everything myself; this inevitably leads to me getting completely and utterly wiped out. I have had to LEARN, and I mean LEARN, that I need to ask for help. I am not invincible and actually I need to work with other people.

As Human’s we really are stronger when we are working together. Yes, we each have our own giftings which mean we need each other. But also when someone is going through a tough time, we are able to be their help and support at that time. Whether that is to give physical help; giving advice; being an ear to listen; or being there to be ‘normal’ when things in their life are not. We can be the strength for each other when we can’t find it for ourselves.

Jesus asked for help; whether that was asking if anyone had any food so he could feed 5000 people; or whether it was allowing someone else to carry the cross for him, because he did not have the strength to do it.

We need to ask for help when we need it; but more importantly, I think, we need to accept help when it is offered rather than being martyrs.

2. With God. God didn’t need to create human’s, but he chose to, because he wanted to be in relationship with us. How awesome! Our promise this week comes from Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians

My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness.

How FANTASTIC is that promise? God is our strength in our weakness. If I’m honest the main thing I love is that it actually states that I am going to be weak! God doesn’t expect me to be invincible so why do I expect it of myself?

But what is this promise saying? Through God’s grace, he came to earth, he suffered, he rose again, in order for us to be reunited with Him. And because of that he is there for us and he is strong for us, when we can’t do it anymore.

God’s strength is there all the time, but we may not recognise it, But there will be times when all we can do is to shout out to God and ask him for help, and it is then that his strength comes into it’s own and we see it for what it is. Suddenly, what we thought was impossible, because we couldn’t see how we could carry on, is possible because God is being the strength we need. I don’t think it will always be supernatural strength, but sometimes God will provide those around us to be our strength and our support.

My Granny’s favourite poem, which I read at her funeral, was Footprints. If you haven’t read it, please do, and I always remember the part where it talking about during the hardest parts of the life there was only one set of footprints, why did God abandon at that point? God didn’t abandon, that was when God carried.

Once again though, we cannot just expect God to be our strength, we need to recognise that we need help; and we need to come to God. Below is a link to a song which talks about this verse, and the idea that we need to fall at God’s feet – quite a powerful idea.

Challenge: Look out for those who need help and support this week. Look at what you are doing and see if you need to ask others for help. Listen to the song, sit at God’s feet and ask him to be your strength.

Prayer: Father God, we thank you that you sent your son, so that we may be able to come and sit at your feet. We pray that we will not try to do things in our own strength but that when we are struggling we will come to you and to seek you. Amen.

This is the link to the song. Your grace is enough, more than I need

Rest

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Over the last few weeks I’ve had to speak about the Genesis story of creation with a variety of classes. There’s a few things that I have been picking out. Firstly every day God looks at everything and says “it’s good” not “it’s alright” or “it’s not too shabby” but “it’s good”. Secondly he didn’t need to create any of it but he wanted to, he chose to. Thirdly, on the final day he rested. Again, he didn’t rest because he was tired, he rested in order to enjoy what he had created.

Last year I made a decision, which has changed my life. That decision was that I was not going to do any school work on Saturdays. Saturday was going to be my day off. Don’t get me wrong, my Saturday’s are still usually very busy, whether that’s catching up with friends, tidying the house, making soup, visiting family, but I didn’t do school work. I take a rest from it. That means in a Sunday afternoon, once I’ve got back from church and had lunch, I have about 4-5 hours when I am focused and I actually get more done. I’ve been remote when I’ve got a lot to do, just to work that one Saturday, but then I stop myself, knowing that if I do it just that once I will do it again.

This has changed my life because it means I am enjoying the rest of my life. I have a day which enables me to rest and relax, to not be focused on the job, to not even think about it, but to cherish the life I have. I have a day off!

Rest is essential in any person’s life. It is what we need to help us to grow as people. If we work constantly we will burn out. We need to have time which is just for us, to do whatever it is we do to relax. That may be meeting up with friends, it may be playing a sport, it may be sitting watching a film, but it is for us.

God sets us the great example by resting on the seventh day, as I said, it wasn’t because he needed to, but it was because he wanted to enjoy his creation. God also knows us a bit too well and that brings us to the promise of this week, spoken by Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew

Come to me and I will give you rest—all of you who work so hard beneath a heavy yoke.

God knows that we don’t always rest, and that sometime we feel that we can’t rest, until our bodies have given up on us. So he promises that if we go to him, he will give us rest. We live in a world where expectations are so high, that we often feel we have to be working constantly to meet those expectations. But actually we aren’t  going to be effective if we don’t have rest.

There are so many tests that have been done that I could quote stressing the importance of rest, but I’m not going to. Instead I’m going to talk about chocolate! Mars got it right, you need to  Work, Rest, and Play. All three are essential to a healthy, productive, successful life. But remember if you struggle to do any of these, then just make sure that you underpin all of these with pray!

God will provide what we need, and if we need rest then that is what God will provide.

Prayer: Father God we thank you that you chose to create us, and that you give us so many opportunities. We pray that you will give us the strength to recognise when we need to rest, and to see the opportunities that we have to rest, and to use those for your glory. Amen

Challenge: Work out what it is that you do to relax, look through your week ahead and fix in a time of rest. Then the challenge is to stick to it!

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?

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