Archive for the 'God' Category


Remember your creator

I was recently asked to speak at a school leavers service. An audience comprising 17/18 year olds at the end of their school career and their parents and staff at the school. There were clearly people there with a range of understandings of faith. What I said was warmly received and as I have reflected on it, I feel sure that I pitched it right. The text of what I said is below. Since there were no visuals available I have just reproduced the text. Enjoy!

They came on boats of all shapes and sizes, leaving behind most of their possessions they had set off with their hearts full of hope. For many it was a difficult journey, cramped conditions, lack of food stormy seas. But they knew they were nearly there when they saw the statue in the harbour entrance of the river. That statue, a present from France symbolised a new world of great opportunity, and as they disembarked at Ellis island they knew that their adventure was only just beginning.

In January I spent a few days with the family in New York on holiday and visited the Statue of Liberty and the immigration centre at Ellis island. I was surprised at how small they were. But of course it was not their size that mattered – it was what they represented to those who had crossed the ocean for this amazing new world.

In many ways I am speaking today to a group of leavers who in a similar position. A new world of opportunity lies in front of you. Just like those who travelled across the Atlantic Ocean to America, you are about to enter a new world. What will you do with that opportunity?

Today we have had two readings from the Bible
The first is an old man looking back on his life
He has had everything you could dream of – success, fame, women, stuff. In his day he had it all. What does he say?

‘Remember your creator, fear God and keep his commandments.’
‘Remember your creator in the days of your youth’

King Solomon had everything and yet he realised that it was all nothing compared to knowing his creator.

The second is a young man at the peak of his popularity. Crowds follow him everywhere he goes. They hang on his every word and follow him e everywhere . What does he say?

‘What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his soul?’

This man, Jesus ultimately died penniless and as a criminal but had more impact on the world than anyone who ever lived.

What will you do with the choices you have before you?
It may not seem like it but over the next few months you will have the opportunity to make choices that will potentially shape your whole future.
Who you are friends with? What you do with your leisure time?
These two pieces of wisdom are really significant pieces of advice to take account of?
Take time to consider the idea of a creator, take time to consider what is beyond the here and now

So as I have been given the chance to speak to you now what would I say?

1. Be yourself
Steve Jobs said . ‘Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become.’
It’s so easy to waste time trying to emulate someone else when what you really need to be is you. After all when there is only one of something it’s precious, and only you can be you so that makes you valuable. God made you to be you – don’t waste time trying to be someone else.

2. Remember God
The world we live in is amazing. But it’s easy to rush by and miss what it has to offer. No-one ever says I wish I had spent more time at the office. So savour life and live it to the full.
Jesus said ‘I have come that you might have life, life in all it’s fullness (John 10:10).
Fullness of life comes when you remember your creator that’s what Solomon realised.

3. Make a difference
It was 31 August 1997. My youngest son came up to tell me because there was no children’s TV on that morning because Princess Diana has died in a car crash. A nation mourned publicly and retold and relived her life. It was a story of tragedy and pain – of someone who never really came to terms with herself, her status and how to make a difference in the world. On the same day someone else died. On any other day this would have made headlines but because of Diana, it went by almost unnoticed and I think that she would have been quite pleased at that. Mother Theresa spent most of her life living and working in the slums of Calcutta with those that nobody else thought mattered. Here we are 15 years after her death and the work she started continues and grows with over 4000 people working in the charitable order she began. She knew that it was worth investing in making a difference in the world.

So what will you do? Will you be yourself? Will you remember God? Will you make a difference?

I want to end with some words that have been credited to Mother Theresa. They were either on the wall of the orphanage she ran in Calcutta or on the wall of simple room where she lived in that same orphanage. They sum up what I would suggest is an alternative way to live that will mean you do those things I have mentioned.

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centred.
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives.
Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies.
Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you.
Be honest and sincere anyway
What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight.
Create anyway.
f you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous.
Be happy anyway
The good you do today, will often be forgotten.
Do good anyway.
Give the best you have, and it will never be enough.
Give your best anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God.
It was never between you and them anyway


love and obedience – april 19

Reading Matthew 26 36-56

I can’t read this passage without remembering it being brough vividly to life at an out door mystery play in the Museum Gadrens in York. I remember the tension, the fear as the mov got nearer – the noise level and the torches. I remember the actor playing the devil laughing as Jesus is taken away. I remember the dignity of Jesus as he obeyed his father in allowing himself to be taken

It stopped being a nice story – instead it was nasty and violent and unpleasant. But it was real! Jesus knows failure, betrayal and desertion from those he loves. In that moment he must felt so alone and afraid. Yet he faced it because he knew that was what obedience meant.

So nothing I can do can stop him loving me – no failure betrayal or desertion is too great – what an amazing truth


who is your hope in? – march 24

Reading: Matthew 12. 1-21, Highlighted Passage: 12:15-21

Jesus is at it again – turning the ideas of the day on their head. He challenges the normal expectations of the Sabbath and then reminds them that God always works through the unexpected and unusual ways – but therein lies hope.

It reminds me of Paul’s words in 2 Cor 4:7, ‘we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all surpassing power is from God and not from us’. That’s what I call hope!


jesus the terrifying!? – march 17

Reading: Matthew 8: Highlighted reading: Matthew 8:23-34

I wonder what type of Jesus I portray to others? I always want to avoid the gentle Jesus meek and mild but do I replace that with a loving caring forgiving Jesus: never offended, somehow friendly and compassionate. Of course we do see that in the way he deals with people – but to only portray that side would be false

Matthew contrasst the compassionate Jesus healing people with the frightening Jesus who people beg to leave then alone. When was the last time my picture of God was so awesome that I felt uncomfortable in his presence?


resist the devil – march 12

What have been the desert times in your life and how have you survived them?

I wonder what sort of temptations the devil would try on me. In Jesus’ case he connects with his desires for food, acceptance and power. Not much different to us then!

Jesus replies using his knowledge of scripture. What verses help you when you are facingf the temptation to give up?


Come follow me – March 11

Reading: Matthew 4: Highlighted reading Matthew 4:18-25

Jesus is tempted by the devil and is able to resist: this is the ideal preparation for the start to ministry. Trusting in God rather than his own ability; obedience at the heart.

We often imagine that it is the times of blessing in life that give us strength, but again and again it is the times when life is difficult and we are tempted not to trust God that are the times of growth in our lives.

How have the times of difficulty and temptation helped you to grow in your faith? Share some stories with others

Jesus calls the first disciples to follow him to join him as he starts his ministry. Think about God’s call on your life, the first time that you responded to his call and what it means for you to follow him today. As you do pray for the people who you will meet today, that you would be able to fulfill your calling to minister Jesus to them.


LENT 2011

What are you doing for LENT 2011?

I hear lots of conversation about what people are giving up for LENT – chocolate, facebook, phones, TV and although I think some of these are very worthy, I wonder if they miss the point. The idea was that giving up these things is so that we can give more time to focus on God. Hence my real question which is…

‘What are you taking up for LENT that will help you get to know God better?’

Well if you aren’t doing anything here is a chance. As part of Biblefresh why not taking up a personal Bible reading challenge and interact with others via e-mail and/or facebook? My proposal is that we create a virtual group and join in with The Big Read 2011. The idea is to read through the whole of Matthew’s gospel during Lent and share what you learn with others. You can do this by joining the facebook group SU – The Big Read 2011 online here or by sending an e-mail to me with the subject line ‘SU – The Big Read 2011’.

What will happen then is

EITHER: every day you will get an e-mail that tells you what to read, asks a few pertinent questions and offers some other links to explore. These will be posted on my blog ‘To Ephesus and beyond’ and you will be able to comment there.

OR: you will get the same information via a facebook message and you can post your comments on that page.

So why not do something for LENT this year – it could change your life.

John Stephenson – Scripture Union

In the Alps

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