We all know what worry feels like. The racing heart, sweaty palms, dry mouth amd racing thoughts. Its a rubbish feeling...
When I was at school I was a real worrier. I would always have to pack my school bag and PE or rugby kit the night before. Then I wouldn't be able to sleep until I'd gotten out of bed to drag my school bag so I'd be falling over it the next morning. Then I still wouldn't be able to sleep until I'd gotten up again to scrawl a note in capital letters, ''DON'T FORGET YOUR PE KIT'', and then leave it on my PE kit...
But one day God showed me something. Its a promise in the Bible; Philippians 4v6-7
Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.
Did you catch that?
Dont worry about anything.
Pray and thank God for everything.
His peace will keep you safe in Jesus.
This promise changed my life. And not just with regard to forgetting my school bag! It changed my perspective: in every situation remember Jesus is right there with you.
As I've gotten older and worries have gotten more worrisome - knowing this to be true has made a huge difference.
Let me end with some encouragement. Whatever it is that's troubling you, whatever you or your friends are struggling with at the moment, whatever is a real burden - know that there is a promise from God for you.*
*here are some suggestions
I don’t know what you think of prayer. Maybe you do it everyday. Maybe you do it when you need something. Maybe you never do it at all. Personally, I try to do it everyday, and where possible, I try to do it with others. The Bible says that when two or three gather in God’s name, He is there with them. That doesn’t mean that He’s not there when you pray on your own, it just means there’s something special about praying with others.
This is shown really clearly in the book of Acts. Two men called Paul and Silas had been thrown into prison when they didn’t really deserve to be. However, their response wasn’t to scream and shout about how unfairly they’d been treated. It wasn’t to plot revenge on their jailers. They sat in their jail cell and simply prayed. The outcome was amazing! There was an earthquake. The foundations of the prison were shaken. The doors flew open. Paul and Silas escaped. God heard their prayers and acted on them. It’s amazing what can happen when God’s people pray together!
Just the other day, me and a few friends prayed for someone who had a bad back and dodgy knees. We didn’t use fancy words or long prayers. We just stood together and asked God to heal our friend. After our prayer the person we were praying for said his back and knees felt a bit better. He wasn’t fully healed but he was better. Next time we meet up we’ll pray for our friend again and we’ll see what happens.
The fact is, when Christians meet up, God gets involved too. So, find some Christians near where you live and get praying for what’s on your mind. It can be as big or as small as you like, just start praying. And, once you’ve started, keep meeting up to pray. Don’t stop! You could even write down what you’ve prayed for. As you look back over what you’ve prayed for, you’ll be amazed how many have been answered without you even realising.
So go for it! Get praying and see what foundations your prayers will shake.
A couple of months ago I had the privilege of treating a premature baby boy on the neonatal ward.
I remember the persistent bleeping of monitors from every direction, the way he laboured over taking each shallow breath and the inpatient band that hung loosely from his spindly ankle. As I stood clutching this bundle weighing little more than a bag of sugar, I was stuck by how fragile and vulnerable life is in its infancy.
In moments like these, the notion that a tiny baby could amount to anything seems inconceivable. And yet, in the Bible we hear of a baby Jesus, born just like any other, whose arrival had been foretold for generations and whose significance was unprecedented from the start.
For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
If this sounds all a bit too much to digest or too good to be true, some advent advice:
Let Him challenge your assumptions – Just like the wise men who expected Him to be born in a palace, we all have preconceived ideas about who this Jesus is. As we consider the ‘well known’ Christmas story, let’s pray He continues to surprise us and show up in the most unlikely of places.
Prepare Him room – Just like the inn keeper, we lead lives so cluttered and busy that we often deny Jesus the time and place. As we frantically busy ourselves in the lead up to Christmas, let’s give Him the space He deserves, and remember just how far He came to dwell with us.
Surrender your crown – Just like King Herod, we are bent on self-sufficiency and like to maintain the position of authority over our lives. Within all of us, there’s that inherent desire to sit on the throne. And so, as we give presents this year, let’s consider giving Him the ultimate gift, the invitation to rule in our hearts.
We like to think we are completely independent. We can do everything by ourselves and don’t need anyone. The thing is, as followers of Jesus, we are called to be in relationship with Him and with our brothers and sisters in Christ. God Himself said, “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18) after making Adam at the beginning of time. We’re made for community. This doesn’t mean we have to be massive extroverts, but developing and deepening friendships is such a blessing, particularly when it comes to our faith.
Friendships with fellow believers can be a huge encouragement when we’re going through a tough time and need reminding of God’s love and presence in that situation, or need people to be there to pray for and with us or to join us in the journey of learning about Jesus. Crucially, we can also be that person for a brother or sister who’s needing a bit of extra prayer and support.
It can be difficult if you’re in a school with few fellow-believers around (or in a church with few people of your own age) to find this support, so what can you do if you’re in this situation? If you haven’t already then I highly recommend getting settled at a church and getting stuck in.
For the older among you, maybe see how you can help out? In my experience this is a great way to meet a whole new bunch of people. Attend the events put on by your church and other churches in the area? Join a small group or youth group? This way you’re more likely to develop deeper friendships while growing your relationship with God. Attend a Christian camp? This is another great way of meeting new people, particularly if you’re in the my-church-doesn’t-have-many-people-my-age category (I’ve been there and summer camps hugely helped me get through this time).
There are loads of things you can do but, at the end of the day, seeking a deeper relationship with God is the thing that matters…and if this can be done while hanging out with friends then that’s just a bonus.
Praying can be a strange thing, especially if you haven't done it before or you're just not used to doing it. However it is as easy as talking to your best friend. In fact it's exactly that!
God knows us intimately ('And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.' Matthew 10:30) and is the only one apart from you that knows what is going on inside your head. It might sound crazy but I actually think it's comforting to know that there is someone who I can share every thought I have with because He already knows it! It's important to bring everything before Jesus, including our thoughts and feelings.
Having a conversation with a best friend is great. There are times when you laugh, cry, shout and scream - we probably go through most of our emotions when we talk with our best mates. There are also times where we ask for things, say thank you and also say sorry. A conversation should also move in two directions - you speak and then listen, you talk some more, developing the conversation, and listen again for a response to develop it further. These are all things that that should be and can be involved when we pray.
Our relationship with Jesus should be no different than the relationship we have with our best friends, in fact it should be even stronger because we are able to lay all of ourselves down with Him without the fear of being let down or being rejected.
God is always there to listen to our worries and He is always there to encourage and build us up. It may not seem that our prayers are always answered, but it needs us to start a conversation with Him. We need to talk and listen through ALL emotions to develop and grow as followers of Jesus.
How do you keep going with the Bible? Life is busy, other things come up – is spending time getting to know God better through the pages of the Bible, his Word, something extra? Admittedly, it’s not always the easiest to read and I want to explore why it might be worth keeping going with it and how best to do it.
Why keep trying?
It helps us understand God and teaches us how to live as Christians. It can be long and confusing, but there’s good stuff to be found in these pages. Romans 5:8 says:
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
We learn here that God loved us so much that he sent his son, Jesus, to die for us while we were still sinners, while we were still rejecting him. How awesome is that?! One of the best ways to understand God better is by reading about him in the Bible.
Also, look at this (2 Timothy 3:16):
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,…”
‘Scripture’ (i.e. the Bible) is useful for helping us to learn how to live as Christian people. We can be sure that as we read the Bible, God guides us, teaches us, warns us and makes us strong in our faith.
I hope that brief explanation has cleared up why it’s worth keeping going with the Bible – I’m aware I’ve backed up what I’ve said with two Bible verses; why we can trust the Bible sounds like another blog post altogether, if Claire lets me…(spoiler alert – because it all fits together)
How is best to keep going?
The key here is that different things work for different people, so let me encourage you to find the way which works best for you to keep reading the Bible. Personally, I’ve found it important to set aside time every day to read my Bible, otherwise I don’t do it. ‘Bible notes’ are a useful tool to help you along, and your youth leader/church may be able to point you towards some good ones - basically, you get a small passage to read every day and some questions/thoughts to help you understand it. That’s just me though – other people like listening to the Bible or doing arty stuff with it…whatever helps you spend regular time doing it, getting to know God better.
So, it’s been about a couples of months since Ripon finished. And if you are feeling lost without the hundred people just like you around you every day; we know exactly how you feel.
I started coming to Ripon when I was 12, and as soon as I got home each year that I was a member, I remember missing the atmosphere, the people and the space just be me.
For a brief aside, I haven’t missed a year yet. Now I’m 26.
Some of my closest friends are people that I’ve met through Ripon Ventures.
And I firmly believe that we all need people around us to keep us dancing through life and growing virtues like in faith and perseverance.
I know that for me, something that I struggle with, is trying to deal with every situation I go through on my own, because I thought I can. But I have to say over the last couple of years, I’ve learned that I’m not invincible or anything close.
I have also learned that it’s ok not to be.
But the thing that made the difference for me was keeping in touch with friends that have I met at Ripon over the years and getting involved with a church and youth activities locally. So please, please, please, try to get involved with your local church or a youth group so that you don’t have to rely on the randomness of Ripon to keep going with God.
Your church is the place where you can encounter God, but you can do that on your own too or in a room of a hundred people like at Ripon.
We believe God meets us where we are and shows us the plans for our lives.
The bible talks about plans to prosper us and not to harm us,
plans to give you hope and a future. (Jeremiah 29:11-13)
I believe we were created to be in relationship with God, and as we learn about who God is, and Jesus is, we learn who we are, or can be through having his teachings guiding our lives.
We all need people around us, people who we can be ourselves with.
I’ve made friends for life through coming to Ripon.
I hope that you all have people in your lives like I’ve described.
So, if you can, I recommend keeping in touch with the people that you have met through camp this year.
I will be praying that God blesses you this year.
Hope to see you again next year.
As we head back to school and settle back into the normal rhythms of life, it’s important to remember that God isn’t just for Ripon.
Sometimes everything seems to go right. There’s no drama in your friendship group, that boy you fancy likes you back, school seems easy and you actually understand things as teachers explain them. At times like these it’s easy to thank God for what He’s doing and to rejoice in His love for us. That’s not a bad thing, but Habakkuk 3:17-18 says:
Though the fig-tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the sheepfold
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Saviour.
Habakkuk is saying here that nothing in his life seems to be going well. There’s no food, all the crops have failed and it doesn’t look like it’s going to get better. He doesn’t say to God, “You have to sort this for me”, he simply says, “God, I know you’re good even though all these bad things are happening and I rejoice in that”. Whether we can feel God’s presence closely, whether things are going well, it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that we rejoice and be joyful in God our Saviour. We know God is 100% good, and he’s got His reasons when things aren’t going well for us. Although we can’t always see what those reasons are, there’s always cause for joy.
My prayer for you is that you’ll be able to praise God for who He is every day. That it doesn’t matter what God does and He doesn’t always work in the ways we expect but He is always 100% good.
Ok for all of you who were at Ripon this year, it's been over a week since it ended (how did that happen?!?) and I wonder whether some of those best laid plans made in the middle of the meeting room or in the prayer tent or during dorm time seem like a distant memory....well don't worry! That's pretty normal!
What we know is that God is not interested in whether or not those plans were kept down to the letter - He is much more interested that we make space for Him in our day at all, whether that's 5 minutes or 5 hours. So unless you're one of the few who gets up at 3am each day to read the Bible (and completely impressed if that is you!), here are some top tips about making room for God:
- Bible Apps - lots are free, it means you can have Bible on the go even on the bus, some great devotionals also included on some of them to help focus your time
- Find something you do every day that you have to be doing (e.g. walking to school, brushing your teeth, having a shower) and make that time you spend with god
- Spotify is a great way of getting some worship music on your phone cheaply and on the go - maybe add on the Ripon Facebook page what you're listening to at the moment and give each other some new ideas
- Change up where you talk and listen to God - keep it interesting
- Write/draw things God has done for you or has said to you as well as answers to prayer - helps you to remember all that He is doing in your life day to day
- Stick post-it notes on your mirror or somewhere where you'll see it regularly with your favourite verses on
- Get in the habit of praying for the person nearest you (doesn't need to be out loud, especially if the teacher is talking!) - maybe sat in your lesson or in the queue for dinner or walking past someone - this not only deepens your relationship with Him but also helps you focus on the bit of the world He has placed around you
Finally - get some people round you and do it together - this might be your mates from church or some of your fellow dormies from this summer. All I know is I find it a whole lot easier to keep up with God if I've got friends alongside me giving it a go too, plus it might even be a whole lot more fun :)
It’s so easy to think that we’re not good enough; in our studies, not good enough for our parents, feeling guilty when we mess up and thinking we’re not a good person. More than ever the media tells us our appearance isn’t good enough. The world makes money from telling us we’re not good enough, always pushing us to buy the next new thing. I struggle with this mentality often, and I can sometimes slip into thinking that I’m not good enough for God either.
But this is not true:
‘For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.’ (Ephesians 1:4).
We were not a mistake. God, the huge amazing God, made us, and he thinks we’re perfect as we are! The reality as a Christian is that we don’t have to do anything to make God love us, because of Jesus’ death on the cross. We don’t deserve this, but it is real.
Recently, when I’ve been feeling unsatisfied with myself, and wishing ‘if only I was ….’, I’ve been reminded of the image of a plant. We’re not a finished product; like a plant, we are constantly growing and changing, and as long as we face the sun (God) we will grow stronger and taller. I need to accept that I’m far from perfect, and it’s unrealistic to aspire to be perfect, because I never will be. Rather, I need to remember that God loves me in my imperfection, and praise him that I am so ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’ (Psalm 139:14).
So I hope this can be an encouragement if you are feeling that you’re not good enough in some way. Don’t let yourself be defined by any human definition of worth, whether your own or someone else’s. God thinks you are worth it, and he is so pleased with you.
Because of Jesus, you are more than good enough for His love.