SWANBANK BLOG

Saturday 26th July

SELF CONTROL

 

“Knowing God leads to self-control.  Self-control leads to patient endurance, and patient endurance leads to godliness”

2 Peter 1:6

Well I don’t mind telling you this is a tough one for me sometimes. And, when it comes to Cadburys (other chocolate is available!) self-control is not something that comes easy to me!   

There have been many times when I have really had to work hard at self-control, whether its been not to lose my temper, or not to over- indulge, or over-spend etc, etc. 

But, when I have persevered, come out on the correct side of my thinking so to speak, its been quite liberating, honest!

As we look at this verse from 2 Peter 1, its important to know what was going on.   False teachers were telling Christians that self-control was not needed because works do not gain salvation anyway.   It is true that works and good deeds, cannot save us.  But! Its false to think they are unimportant.   God wants to produce his character of active love in us. But even His work in us requires some effort and thought on our part.   

Self-control is a vital part of spiritual growth.

Jan Scotcher-Husband

Saturday 18th July

HEBREWS 11:3

“By faith we understand that the entire universe was formed at Gods command, that what we now see did not come from anything that can be seen”

During Coronavirus Lockdown I have discovered new things about myself.   One of those things is creativity in ways I didn’t really know that existed in me.

Looking at Hebrews 11 and verse 3, we see that the Word of God is powerful, creative, world-forming.   He spoke and the world came in toexistence.   Its important to remember that Gods love is at the heart of his creativity.   God has given us the ability to be creative, after all, we are created in His image (Genesis 1:27).  He created the world so that we could enjoy it.

Since we are made in His image, it would seem logical then, that our creativity has it.

What motivates your creativity?

Jan Scotcher-Husband

Saturday 11th July

This is a powerful passage of scripture for the season we find ourselves in. More so than ever, being built together in Christ is paramount so that even in our isolation we can be united in our pursuit of God’s kingdom and our sharing of the gospel.

Peter reflects back, as he does so often in these letters, on Old Testament writers who point towards the Messiah – the one who is the cornerstone.

Peter speaks such powerful words over us as God’s people;

“…a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession…”

It’s some important that we remember and acknowledge the transformation brought by our holy God. As we encounter Him, as our lives are touched by His glorious grace, we are brought out of darkness, we are given an identity and we are gifted the most magnificent mercy.

Sam Taylor

Saturday 4th July

‘Be holy, because I am holy’ (v16)

A couple of questions to reflect on before you read on…

What does it mean for us to be holy?

What makes God holy?

Peter is quoting here from Leviticus (19:2). It’s a part of Leviticus which outlines the moral, ethical and religious identity of the Israelites. These were the things that made them either pure or impure to enter the temple.

But here it has a new meaning. The way Peter speaks about it is as a holy way of life. When we are confronted by God’s holiness, we cannot help but be transformed. Then, with alert and sober minds, can we begin to address those areas of our lives that God wants to purify by his grace.

What does holiness look like for you today?

What are the areas of your life that God need to transform and purify?

Sam Taylor

Saturday 27th June

There is so much I could pull out of this opening passage of Peter’s letter. But before I say anything, it’s important to remember who the author is. Peter is one of my most favourite characters from the New Testament story – I love his honesty, his realism, his willingness to have a go, and his faith in Jesus. Characters like Peter give me hope that God can use me, because Jesus saw all of Peter’s mistakes, and still have a great calling upon his life.

His letter is powerful because we know that Peter speaks from that real experience of knowing and being loved by Jesus himself. Peter is someone who has been through a whole rollercoaster of emotions with his relationship with Jesus, and unpacks some of that for us in these letters.

Here is his great introduction, before he moves on to his challenge to his readers.

Currently we are surrounded by much talk and experience of death – and we have an acute awareness of the fragility of life as we hear numbers on the news and know stories of those who are close to us who have passed away over rent weeks and months.

More so than ever, we need to know the new life that is offered through Jesus Christ – displayed in His conquering of the grave, and articulated in a throwing off of chains, as a move from darkness into light, as a stepping away from the old and jumping head first into what it could mean for us to be a new creation in Christ Jesus.

‘Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.’ 1 Peter 1:3

The hope that Peter speaks of is not just a hope for when our earthly life has faded, it’s a hope that transforms us in the here and now. It’s the hope of a world where righteousness and justice reigns, it’s the hope of a world where we do not have to be afraid because God Himself walks the journey with us, it’s the hope of a world where our sin doesn’t have to mark the end of the road for us.

‘Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.’ 1 Peter 1:8

We all need some hope today. I pray that you choose to find your hope in Jesus Christ, our living hope, and as you look to Him you would be filled with that inexpressible and glorious joy.

Sam Taylor

Saturday 20th June

John 17 is a whole chapter of Jesus, turning towards heaven, and praying to His father.

He first commits himself to the task he’s been appointed too. Second, he prays for his disciples – that they would be protected and sanctified. And finally, Jesus turns His prayer toward all believers. 

He prays for unity. His prayer is that all believers would be one, just as Jesus and the Father are one.

As God’s people trying to live out our fait in the word, we should mirror the unity of Jesus and His Father.

Tom Wright its it like this… “That can only mean that we ourselves are to be united. And, in case we might miss the point, the result of this will be that the world will see, and know, that the kind of human community, united across all traditional barriers of race, custom, gender or class, can only come from the action of the creator God.”

We are to be a church united in God. We are to be a church that is united in reflecting the heart of God into the world. We are to be a church that is united in sharing the truth, the hope and the joy of the gospel with the world.

We are to be a church that lives so that the world would know the love of Christ as a reality for them. 

Sam Taylor

Saturday 13th June

It’s amazing how the Bible continues to speak into our today.

Jesus was speaking into their grief. We are in a time that is marked, for so many, by grief and loss. We have seen, by the amazing response to our Wall of Remembrance, how desperate people are to remember those they have lost.

Jesus speaks into the disciple’s grief and offers them a word of hope. Not a vague idea of a distant hope, but hope in the person of the Holy Spirit, this advocate that will come alongside the disciples and lead them into all truth.

That’s what the Holy Spirit does. The Holy Spirit comes alongside us, and speaks truth into our circumstances, and reminds us that God hasn’t abandoned us, rather He lives within us.

Grieving what we have lost is the right thing to do. Knowing that we are not alone in our grief makes the world of difference.

Today, I pray you know the Holy Spirit as the one who comes alongside you and brings you comfort and brings you peace.

Sam Taylor

Saturday 6th June

This passage is based around a very simple concept…

When the branch is connected to the vine, it is able to bear fruit. When the branch tries to go it alone, then it can bear no fruit.

We want to be people who bear fruit. We want to be people that God can use to grow His kingdom, because we have experienced glimpses of God’s kingdom, we have known glimpses of God’s love and the transformation that comes by His amazing grace.

The question therefore remains, how can we make sure that we are a branch that stays connected to the vine?

The answer is in the text…

“my words remain in you”

If we can be people who are centred in God’s word, then we are able to live lives that are centred around who God is, because God is revealed through His word.

His word shows us what it is to be loved, and to love.

The heart of the gospel, the heart of God himself, is love. If we can be people who know ourselves to be truly loved, and people who overflow with that love, then we can bear fruit – fruit that will last.

How might your world be transformed by love today?

What more can you do to keep yourself centred in the word of God?

What of God will be revealed to you today through His word?

Sam Taylor

Saturday 23rd May

This passage is based around a very simple concept…

When the branch is connected to the vine, it is able to bear fruit. When the branch tries to go it alone, then it can bear no fruit.

We want to be people who bear fruit. We want to be people that God can use to grow His kingdom, because we have experienced glimpses of God’s kingdom, we have known glimpses of God’s love and the transformation that comes by His amazing grace.

The question therefore remains, how can we make sure that we are a branch that stays connected to the vine?

The answer is in the text…

“my words remain in you”

If we can be people who are centred in God’s word, then we are able to live lives that are centred around who God is, because God is revealed through His word.

His word shows us what it is to be loved, and to love.

The heart of the gospel, the heart of God himself, is love. If we can be people who know ourselves to be truly loved, and people who overflow with that love, then we can bear fruit – fruit that will last.

How might your world be transformed by love today?

What more can you do to keep yourself centred in the word of God?

What of God will be revealed to you today through His word?

Sam Taylor

Saturday 16th May

Spend a moment picturing this scene…the sounds, the smells, the emotions…imagine you’re there…..

Jesus was a Rabbi, he taught his disciples.  They would sit at his feet and learn from him BUT words are only one way to learn.  We often learn best by seeing and then by doing; Jesus knew this and so he was teaching by example. 

As he washed their feet he was teaching them how they were to live – they were to wash one another’s feet.  Jesus was showing them that their lives as disciples were to be lives of service. 

A good question to ask ourselves is how are we serving others in these days?

Kathryn Stephens

Saturday 9th May

Jesus has just entered Jerusalem and enters unto a conversation with Phillip & Andrew. A conversation full of powerful, strong statements from Jesus about what was to come for him and for us.

‘Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life.’ v25

If we live solely focussed on being successful and prosperous in this life, then we’re missing the point. As we live lives that seek to serve God, the promise is eternal life with him. What could be better?!

At a time like this, it’s important to keep that eternal perspective. It’s important to remember that what we’re living through right now is not the end, but to lift our vision to see the incredible promise and amazing hope that is to come for us. To see that God is in control, that God is still good, and ultimately He is so much greater that anything of this world. Even COVID-19!

In our lockdown situation, find ways that you can serve God – small acts of kingdom building, acts of generosity and kindness, time spent in God’s presence to hear His voice.

‘Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honour the one who serves me.’ v26

What does following God look like for you today?

What difference will it make to your life today knowing that Jesus chose the cross for you?

Sam Taylor

Saturday 2nd May

Here we have a picture painted for us of Mary and Martha welcoming Jesus.

A few days earlier Jesus raised their brother Lazarus from the dead and as Jesus comes near they welcome him.  They give a dinner for him and Mary anoints Jesus feet with expensive perfume and dries them with her hair. 

Clearly they want to honour Jesus’ presence with them.  Putting on a dinner for him and anointing him is a way to show their love and appreciation for who Jesus is and what Jesus has done. 

Jump forward to today, Jesus is with you now by the presence of the Holy Spirit. 

How do you honour Jesus presence in your life?

What acts of love do you show to honour Jesus?

Kathryn Stephens

Saturday 25th April

We read in our passage about Jesus the Good Shepherd. A good shepherd who knows his sheep incredibly well and a flock of sheep who hear the voice of the shepherd and immediately know that it’s him. 

I wonder whether, during this time, you’ve been able to slow down, lessen some of the chaos and the noise, and really listen our for the voice of your Good Shepherd. 

The Shepherd’s purpose in life revolves around the love and care for his flock. He tends to their every need, he stands with them in the face of danger and trials, he lays down his life for them. 

I wonder if today, you truly know that God is for you? That God cares about your every need, that God stands alongside you in the midst of these challenging times, and that God laid down His life just for you. If you were the only person on the planet, he’d still have done the same. 

Sam Taylor

Saturday 18th April

Jesus talks about finding pasture in this reading.
 
It reminds me of one of the best known Psalms – 23. This Psalm speaks of still waters and green pastures – it’s a lovely picture for us. Peaceful, restorative, nourishing.  
 
In this reading from John’s Gospel Jesus says he is the gate which leads to the good pasture.  In Jesus we find good things even salvation – life in all its fullness.   
 
Come to Jesus afresh today…
 
 
Kathryn Stephens

Saturday 11th April

Over the last couple of years, I’ve been fascinated by this character of Joseph of Arimathea.

He’s a character that doesn’t often get much air time, but plays such a crucial role in the story, alongside Nicodemus (making a reappearance from his conversation with Jesus in chapter 3).

It makes me think of those hoard of people still going to work behind the scenes, risking their own health to play a crucial role in society – social workers, delivery drivers, admin staff to name just a few. We are so thankful to God for them.

Easter Saturday is a strange in between time. A time we can identify with not just today, but in this whole season of life at the moment. A time when life feels like it’s on pause. A time where some of us are grieving. A time where some of us are anxious, isolated and feeling particularly alone. A time where some of us simply cannot find the hope of Easter Sunday just yet.

Here, we find Joseph & Nicodemus, both of whom were secret followers of Jesus, are bold in approaching Pilate to take Jesus’ body away, and when they have it take such care in laying it int he tomb.

How would it have felt to be there?

Can you identity with that sense of emptiness and defeat they would have felt?

The in-between is important, because it makes the victory to come so much sweeter. Take some time this Easter Saturday to pause, to feel the emptiness and defeat Jesus’ followers would have known, and be thankful that tomorrow there is hope and there is new life for us.

Sam Taylor

Saturday 4th April

Are you good at listening?

Do you listen well?

Do you give you absolute attention when listening?

 
In this passage, Jesus talks particularly in verses 4 & 5 about listening – specifically following the voice we recognise.
 
We follow Jesus, but how well do we know his voice?  How well do we listen to his voice?
 
Today, think about listening for the voice of Jesus.
 
How do you pick out the voice of Jesus amongst all the noise that goes around us?
How might the particular season of our lives help us to listen better for the voice of Jesus?
 
Kathryn Stephens

Saturday 28th March

The various ‘I am’ sayings, dotted throughout John’s gospel give us a glimpse into various characteristics of Jesus.

In the lead up to Jesus speaking to the crowd here, we’ve seen him feeding a crowd of 5,000 with five loaves of bread and two fish, he’s appeared to the disciples in the middle of a storm.

We often speak of God’s presence in the midst of the storm, but in this passage Jesus speaks of God’s provision in all situations – he is the bread of life. Whatever situation we’re in, Jesus will never drive us away when we come to him and the offer of eternal life will always be open as long as we choose to believe in Him.

In the midst of our current situation, what does Jesus being the bread of life mean for us?

For me, it speaks into the way in which God is present with us through the storms of life. Jesus is our sustainer – much like the manna from heaven was what sustained Moses and the Israelites in Exodus. He doesn’t just meet us in the storm, but he provides for us also. God’s provision goes far beyond our material needs, he gives rest for our souls, he speaks words of hope and life into our lives even when the world seems to crumble all around.

Sam Taylor

Saturday 21st March

It’s interesting that we have a story in which a man has been disabled for many years and it appears that each time he has tried to make his way down to the pool to receive healing others have got in before him.
When I read that it reminded me of some of the stories recently of people squabbling over a loaf of bread or a pack of toilet roll – where survival of the fittest is seen. Meaning anyone a little slower on their feet, struggling with mobility or living with some kind of disability that affects movement hardly stands a chance!
It’s good news then that survival of the fittest is not how God works. This story from Johns Gospel reminds us that we are to look to those who might otherwise be marginalised, left out or continually find themselves unable to access the help that they need.
I wonder how this account challenges us during these difficult days?….
Kathryn Stephens