Christianity

Turning a crisis into a testimony

I have been thinking this week about how quickly things can change!  All around us, the news reports seem to change every day, making it difficult to plan ahead. But ‘change’ is not a new thing and while reading Exodus recently, I was reminded that the people of Israel knew all about living moment by moment. 

In Exodus 15, they had seen with their own eyes how God had released them from captivity in Egypt but now the Egyptian army was closing in on them.  They had been in captivity for 430 years, God had set them free and they were celebrating this incredible victory and yet just 3 days later, tired, drained and thirsty, they started complaining against Moses.  They soon found water but as they rushed toward it, they were disappointed to discover it was bitter and undrinkable.  And so once again they began to complain. 

How quickly things had changed for them!  They had gone from rejoicing to murmuring in just 3 days.   Reading this again recently has caused me to ask, ‘is there anything we can learn from this story?’

I believe there is so much we can learn, but it reminds me especially that in a time of crisis, it is incredibly important to stay close to God. 

In verse 25 of Exodus 15, it says that when the people of Israel got to the bitter waters of Marah, God tested them. As always God’s plan didn’t end when He had delivered them from Egypt. He wanted the people to enter into a covenant relationship with Him and to learn to trust Him implicitly. Over the years, I have learned that God is not just a God of one-off miracles but He is a relational God who wants us to experience His presence and blessings daily. 

This is demonstrated in Exodus 19:4-6 where God says, “You have seen what I did to the Egyptians… and brought you to Myself. Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and an holy nation”

Often, God’s way of conforming us to the image of His Son is a path that includes reshaping, moulding, training and developing our character.  And often all of those things happen through trials and crises.  I am reminded again of James 1:2-4 where it says,  “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. And let patience have its perfect work that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing”.

Whatever time of testing you’re experiencing right now, you can be assured that it is under God’s sovereign control, just as it was for the Israelites at the water of Marah.  Never forget that “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28).

And so as we stand at this moment in time, facing many changes, let’s not focus on the trial itself but instead, draw close to God and allow him to turn your crisis into a testimony.

Christian Media, Christian Radio, Christianity, Devotional, Evangelism, Faith, Healing, Hope, Miracles

Don’t despise ‘small beginnings’. (Zechariah 4-10)

In December 2013, I attended the funeral of a dear lady, who was 99 years old.  She had served God faithfully in the church (which my brother pastors in France) and for many years, her heart’s desire was to see a revival. In almost every meeting, her voice could be heard, ‘Lord, send yet again, a revival!’

I had the privilege of attending her funeral and it was a truly remarkable occasion, where the presence of God was felt so powerfully.  My brother Daniel said to me, “You need to preach in church on Sunday” and the following weekend, which was the last Sunday of 2013, as I spoke, we began to see and feel the expectation level in the church rising up in an unprecedented way. This led to the beginning of a mighty move of God and over the next few years, this move of God would lead to many people becoming saved and experiencing healing.

Sometimes I look back and wonder if the funeral of our dear 99 year old friend, was actually the spark that lit a flame.  Although she did not live to see it, her faithful prayers over the years, led to a new move of God.

I have been thinking about this recently, as I have been closely watching world events.

All around us, large churches which have seen 1000s of members walk through their doors each week, have had to go ‘back to basics’ and meet in small, sometimes online groups.  Throughout the Covid crisis, we have been forced to look at how we do things smaller, rather than how we make them bigger.

And we are learning how to not despise ‘small beginnings’.

Just like our 99-year-old friend in the church, her prayer life may have seemed ‘small’ to some but I believe her faithfulness (even to the end of her life) led to something very big being ignited.

Please don’t get me wrong.  I love to see churches filled with many members, but I also believe there is Biblical precedent for small gatherings too.

In Mark 5, Jesus goes to the home of Jairus to pray for Jairus’ daughter who was very sick. When Jesus arrived there, the Scripture tells us there were many people present, many of them were crying loudly and wailing and Jesus quickly sent them out of the house, so that there were just a few left.

It was in that very ‘small’ moment that an incredible miracle occurred and the little girl, who by this point was dead, was now brought back to life.   Often times, we can devalue and overlook what is seemingly little.

As Coronavirus has impacted churches all across the world and forced them back to ‘small beginnings’, it would be easy to see this as a setback, but what if this is a divine strategy to usher in a move of God like we have never seen before?

Matthew 18:20 says, ‘where 2 or 3 are gathered in my name, there I will be with them’.

The presence of God is just as powerful and real in a small gathering, as He is present in a large gathering.

Even here at UCB, our wider team (of more than 100 staff and volunteers) is not able to meet together in person, but I am hearing stories of UCB teams meeting together online, sharing Bible studies, praying for each other in new ways.

I firmly believe that for us as an organisation, we will not be ‘returning to normal’.  This pandemic is forcing us to think in new ways and to not ‘despise small beginnings’.

Throughout history, God has used small groups of people, to ignite something big.  From the disciples (just a group of 12 men) to people like my praying friend, small groups of faithful people have been powerfully used by God to usher in great moves of the Spirit.

If you are part of something ‘small’ today, can I encourage you to have a bigger vision for it.  By embracing something small and allowing God to use it, you could be part of ushering in a new move of God.

DLH-blog-Smallbeginnings-images

Christianity

Discover the many names of God

Recently, I have been sharing with the UCB team, some of my own discoveries about the names of God.  I have often said, ‘if you want to know who God is, look at His names’.  Throughout the Bible, God is given many names and each of them reveal a precious truth about his qualities and character.    I find it very encouraging, to read these names, as they help me to understand more and more about God’s ‘character’ and what He feels about us, His creation.

Jehovah-raah – The Lord is my shepherd (Psalm 23)

In Psalm 23, David describes the Lord as ‘my shepherd’.   I love the way David personalised it by saying not the Lord is The Shepherd but ‘MY’ Shepherd.  Praise God He is also our Shepherd too, for God is a relational God. This picture of ‘The Lord Our Shepherd’ reveals some of His characteristics:  He is good, He protects, He guides, He nurtures, He lays down his life.   And in times of confusion or grief, let’s never, ever forget that He is OUR SHEPHERD too.

Jehovah Jireh – The Lord will provide (Genesis 22:14 and Philippians 4:19)

In Philippians 4:19, it says, ‘my God shall supply all your needs according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.’   We are reminded that Jehovah-Jireh knows our every need because He sees everything including what you need.    If the Lord was able to meet Abraham’s need by providing a ram caught in the thicket that was offered in place of Isaac, He’s also able to meet our needs at just the right time.   Fear not, the name Jehovah-Jireh guarantees that your Heavenly Father is able to provide any need you have.

Jehovah Shalom – The Lord our peace (Judges 6:24)

The Hebrew word ‘shalom’ translated as ‘peace’ not only speaks of the absence of noise, strife or conflict,  it speaks of wholeness, completeness, trustworthiness and happiness.   True and ultimate peace is found in God alone and this comes to us when we focus our lives on God and put our trust in Him.   His Word says, ‘are you weary and troubled?   Well why not place your total trust in Jehovah-Shalom and He will keep you in perfect peace (Isaiah 26:3)

Jehovah Rapha – The Lord who heals (Psalm 23 and Exodus 15)

It was in the wilderness wanderings of the Israelites that God first revealed His name as Jehovah-Rapha.   After crossing the Red Sea, Moses led them into the Wilderness of Shur where they went 3 days without water.   Eventually, they came across the waters of Marah, but they could not drink from the waters for they were bitter.   So the people complained against Moses and Moses then cried to the Lord and the Lord showed him a tree, which when he cast into the waters.   In a moment, the waters were made sweet.   The Lord does not only heal waters,  He heals people too.  If the Lord was able to heal the waters at Marah so that His people could drink, He is also able to heal us from any disease. (Psalm 103:3)     When we’re weak, Jehovah-Rapha will renew our strength, the same way He did for David (Psalm 23:3 NLT).

Living in a stressful and chaotic world in these unprecedented times, the name Jehovah-Rapha speaks to us that our bitter experiences can be transformed into sweet ones, and yes, we are confronted with new problems every day that make us sometimes want to give up and give in.   But we can count upon the Lord to heal and renew our strength.   Jehovah is the Great Physician who not only heals our physical and emotional needs, but He also heals and restores whatever spiritual needs we may have.

Stand upon God’s promise today! His Word declares that, ‘The Lord is Your Keeper/ Your Provider/ Your Peace/ Your Healer’. Don’t ever allow the enemy to tell you otherwise.

Christianity

How to walk in hope…

As most of the UCB team are now working from home, I have been in touch with them each day, sharing some thoughts that I am rediscovering, in my own times with God. For the past few days, I have been reading Mark 5 and looking again at the story of Jairus and how Jesus raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead.

Jairus was one of the rulers of the synagogues and he was also a loving father whose daughter was critically sick to the point of dying. When Jesus saw the situation, his first words were, “Do not be afraid; only believe” and those simple words, brought Jairus reassurance in his total despair. Instead of giving up and walking away in total hopelessness, Jairus did the unthinkable. He continued walking in HOPE, despite the seriousness of the situation. Is there a way we can capture this sense of hope too, in the middle of the situation our world is facing?

Here are some steps that I believe Jairus took, which helped him to experience his breakthrough.

1) Realisation – Jairus realised the gravity of his situation and he intentionally did something about it. The situation was desperate. His little daughter was not only very sick but she was clearly dying. For me, in this COVID 19 crisis, it’s important that we realise the seriousness of the situation and comply with all what we are asked to do. But it is also important that we take our fears and worries to Jesus too.

2) Desperation – Jairus became desperate. I’m sure that after having tried everything humanly speaking, he then sought to find Jesus. I think I can understand his pain and frustration as every day, as I watch reports from the media, there is only one word which jumps out at me – desperation. Today, can I encourage you, if you feel desperate, cry out to Jesus.

3) Attention – Jairus’ desperation caused him to focus his attention on Jesus.  In the busyness of life, it can be easy to lose our focus, but there is nothing quite like a crisis to remind us that we cannot do this alone and that we need God’s help in everything we do.  If you feel today that you have lost your attention and focus on Jesus, you can turn to him now.   He is the only one who can provide whatever you need in these difficult times.

4) Position – When Jairus found Jesus,  “he fell at Jesus’ feet”,  which was a sign of acknowledging a higher authority as well as being willing to humble himself.  In whatever you are facing, I urge you to approach Jesus and change your position as Jairus did, demonstrating humility and acknowledgement of His authority. Let’s also not forget that as Christians, He has given us the same authority to deal with any situation we face.  

5) Compassion I love the way that Jairus in his actions and his prayer demonstrates his compassion. You might be wondering, ‘what is the real definition of compassion?’ My own definition is, “having the awareness of the needs of others, which prompts a compelling desire to meet their needs”. How great it is to see compassion being displayed across the UK, with hundreds of thousands of people volunteering to help the NHS, their neighbours, strangers they have never met before. These people had compassion stirred up within them and now they are going out, to help meet the needs of the most vulnerable in our society.

6) Intercession – Jairus did not approach Jesus for himself, but went to stand in the gap on behalf of his much loved daughter. I am so impressed by the many prayer initiatives emerging throughout the UK and around the world at the moment. Let’s continue to stand on behalf of the many whom cannot pray for themselves, throughout this time and boldly believe for healing. Jesus is still the same as He was yesterday, today and forever.

I hope these few thoughts from my own study, encourage you, as much as they are encouraging me.

Christianity

When the disciples were in isolation…

Right across our world, we have not just a physical pandemic of sickness, but we also have a ‘pandemic of fear’.  Right from the start of Genesis, fear has always been used by the enemy of our souls, but praise God, His Word has so much to say about how we can face fear, with faith!  As we are approaching Easter, it is a good time to reflect on the death of Jesus and how, even after his execution, the close disciples became imprisoned in fear and went into hiding and isolation.  And one could even say ‘and rightly so’, because there was a very real threat to their lives.

John 20:19 tells us that on the evening of the first day, they were together, not just hiding in a room, but in self isolation ‘behind locked doors’. It must have been a very distressing time. Their best friend and Saviour had been publicly executed and they must have been very shocked by all they had witnessed. In fact in fear for his life, Peter had denied knowing Jesus and now, they were all hiding behind locked doors, isolated from the whole world.

This picture hidden away in a room, is an illustration to me, of what the enemy tries to do in our lives – he wants us to isolate from each other.    I am not in any way belittling the pandemic we are currently facing, but I believe the enemy knows that fear is his greatest weapon in all of this.   With just one news headline or a phone call from a friend, repeating something they have heard, whole families and communities can become paralysed by fear of ‘what might happen’.    It might be the fear of the coronavirus or any other ill health, of losing your job etc.    It does not matter, it all has the same outcome – it holds us back from all that God wants us to do. It was the same for the disciples in this account in John.     Just a few days before, they had been enjoying a Passover meal with Jesus and now they were in hiding, trying to preserve their lives. They were unable to move forward, they were in total isolation.


The amazing part of this story is that when Jesus appeared to them, He asked them, ‘Why are you frightened?’.

In Luke 24:36,  Jesus asked them, “Why do you doubt that it is really I? Look at my hands! Look at my feet! You can see that it is I, myself! Touch me and make sure that I am not a ghost! For ghosts don’t have bodies, as you see that I do!” As he spoke, he held out his hands for them to see the marks of the nails and showed them the wounds in his feet.

Luke 24:41 says, ‘Still they stood there undecided, filled with joy and doubt’. Even when Jesus appeared to them in power and wonder, after being so brutally killed, they were still not sure whether they could believe their eyes!

In whatever situation we find ourselves in, even if we are in total isolation, Jesus has promised to be with us in every situation for His Word declares, ‘I will never leave us nor never forsake you (Heb 13:5).

From my own experience I found His manifest presence to be the strongest, when I have been in the middle of the fiercest, raging storms of life.

The journey of faith is not always an easy one and sometimes even when we know and experience Jesus in the middle of the situations we face, we wonder if He really will save us.

This story speaks to us of the heart and mercy of Jesus. He appeared to the isolated disciples in the middle of all their doubt, confusion, and then he ate a meal with them. As they listened to all that he said, the Word of God tells us that they, ‘opened their minds to understand at last the Scriptures’.

I believe that faith is a journey. We do not always feel full of faith, but we can make a decision to trust in all that God has said to us.

Faith is not the absence of fear, it is the mastering of fear.

For me, the story of Easter speaks to us of hope, of life and of Jesus meeting us in the middle of our confusion, and reminding us that we have nothing to fear.

Christianity

A Christian response to Coronavirus

The news about coronavirus is all over the media and is heard in almost every conversation. This is a very unusual situation and we can choose to respond in one of two ways; with fear or with faith.

It is very interesting to see how people around the world are reacting differently. Some people are reacting by panic buying (and emptying the shelves) while others seem to be almost indifferent. For me, the question is, how should we, as believers, respond?

First of all, our thoughts and prayers are with everyone affected by this sickness; individuals, families, health services and communities as well as national leaders and governments. How they all need God’s wisdom and guidance as they deal with this situation. And for us as a nation, where do we find healing when every day, the news seems to grow even more serious?

Well, for me personally, my only advice is to stand firmly upon God’s Word, for that is where I find my comfort and strength. God’s Word has been the anchor for my own family in very desperate times and it is the one thing that we can ALWAYS rely on. God’s Word never changes and it contains all we need for hope, comfort, healing, wisdom and guidance.

If you are fearful, grieving or broken today, let the truth of God’s Word sink into your heart.

But you may say, ‘what if we can’t stop this virus?’ What if it becomes widespread in the United Kingdom or wherever I live, as some experts predict?

Well let’s stand firm upon his Word! Psalm 112:6-8 is a great encouraging reminder as to what our response should be. It says, “For the righteous will never be moved, he will be remembered forever, he is not afraid of bad news, his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord, his heart is steady, he will not be afraid”.

We all have to face bad news at some point in our life. If it’s not the virus, it will be something else. Let’s remind ourselves that we live in a fallen and broken world where suffering and even death are inevitable. To deny this truth would be lying to ourselves, but we as Christians do not need to fear bad news. It is important to not be in denial and as a nation, we should take all sensible precautions, but we do not need to be crippled by the fear of what ‘might happen’. The psalmist demonstrates that it is possible to look bad news right in the face and say, “You will NOT rule my heart.” Our emotions may sway, but we will not be blown off course.

You might think that is easy for me to write, but practically, how can we rise above the circumstances when we are surrounded by fear?

Well, here are some practical responses;

Prayer

Pray in FAITH. Remember faith is not denying fear but mastering it. What you fear the most, reveals where you trust God the least. Therefore put your faith in God and watch as He starts to eradicate your fears. “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer… believe that you have received it… and it will be yours.” Mark 11:24

Prepare

Prepare WISELY. Don’t deny the facts but plan wisely and let’s be aware of Paul’s words in Ephesians 6:12, KJV: “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities,against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” And the preceding verse tells us to be well prepared to “Put on the whole armour of God that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.”

Proclaim

Proclaim HOPE. In this world of uncertainty, we can have great confidence as we hold on to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. And it enables us to ‘Rejoice in hope…be patient in tribulation… continue steadfastly in prayer’ (Romans 12).

I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13

Christian Media, Christian Radio, Christianity, Christmas, Devotional, Faith, Healing, Hope, Miracles

Life lessons from the Christmas story

I have been thinking this week about the story of Mary.

Mary, the mother of Jesus was given an extraordinary assignment and if you have a dream and a vision for the future, her life story is a great encouragement.

Your past doesn’t matter.

God gave Mary a special job, despite the fact that by human standards she was too poor, too young and from the wrong part of town.  God could have gone to the palaces to find a ‘suitable’ mother for the Messiah, but instead he chose an unknown girl from a poor village.  To me this is a reminder that our past, our background or our culture is not a problem for God.  When I arrived in the UK, I was young foreigner but God took hold of me and changed my life in unexpected ways.  We are all born with a God-given purpose and God loves to take insignificant people (in the world’s eyes) and birth significance into their lives.

A vision for the future can make you feel hopeless

This might seem like a strange thing to say, but often when God gives us a dream, we can feel hopeless.  How will God accomplish such a thing? Is it possible?  Have I imagined this?  And yet, just like Mary, when God speaks to us and gives us a vision, His Holy Spirit can empower us, take us further than we could ever imagine and make the impossible, possible in our lives.

His Holy Spirit is bigger than our intellect, our talent and our ability.  His Holy Spirit is bigger than our past, our culture and our logic.   But like Mary, we have to stop arguing with our reason and thinking and instead say, ‘God, if you said it, I will align my will to your will’.

You have to step up

With any vision, talking about it, thinking about it, won’t make it happen. When Gabriel visited Mary, after the initial shock, she got up and went to visit Elisabeth. That was her response.  And likewise with us, we have to make a response and to begin to move forward into what God has called us to do.  We might not immediately see results but it is important to live in a culture which cultivates it.  Surround yourself with people who will speak life into your vision, and like Mary, rub shoulders with people who will make that dream ‘leap’ within your spirit.

Be patient

Mary had to wait 9 months to see the fulfillment of the vision God had given her.  You and I may have to wait much longer.  The process of waiting for the dream to come true can be a time of real preparation.

Here at UCB, we believe God has given us a vision for an unprecedented move of God which will sweep the UK and beyond.  We haven’t yet seen this (although we believe we are seeing small signs) so instead we are preparing ourselves, our infrastructure and our organisation to be ready for when it happens and to be able to support the Church 24/7, 365 days a year.  Mary had to prayerfully get ready for the arrival of Jesus.  She knew what was promised would come true and so she began to prepare for what she knew was to come.

Don’t despise small beginnings

The arrival of Jesus was a low-key affair. There was no room at the inn for the newborn king, there was no fanfare from the palaces, there was no state announcement.  In fact, if it were not for the angels who sang and the light of a star, His birth may have gone unnoticed for a long time.  Jesus himself was placed in a feeding manger, in rags, the most unassuming, ‘small’ beginning for the saviour of the world.  And yet, those small, humble beginnings, led to the plan of salvation for all of mankind.

It’s important to remember that great things (just like oak trees) can have the smallest and most humble of beginnings.

Can I encourage you today, that if you are waiting for God to fulfil your own vision and dream, to be faithful to what you believe God has shown you.  Use the time positively, to prepare spiritually (and physically) and to surround yourself with people who will help to keep you accountable.

If God has said it, it will come to pass.

Life lessons from the Christmas story

Christian Media, Christian Radio, Christianity, Devotional, Faith, Healing, Hope, Spiritual healing

When you feel crushed…

My family and I spent our Summer holiday in the Loire Valley, an area famous for its vineyards and wine making.  During my time there, I started to think about the journey of the grape and the long process it goes through, from vine to wine glass.   I felt God challenge me about that journey and how it could apply to the long process we each go through in life, to become who God would have us to be.

If I was to imagine myself as a grape, this is what the process might feel like.

It is a fresh sunny day in early spring and I am hanging on the vine, with a bunch of others, covered with morning dew. I feel like I am part of something and life’s prospects seem good, but then suddenly, the rain and hail hits.

I try to hide behind the vine leaf to shelter from the storm, but it is hard to keep dry, for the vine has been pruned back and I am now exposed, unable to hide.

Where has the sun gone?  Is this Spring or Winter? No one told me this would be so hard!  It feels like hell. Surely this will be over soon?

And then after a turbulent and stormy and wet Summer, now Autumn has come. Early morning early frost settles on the vine and again I found myself wanting to shelter, but then before I know it, it is harvest time and suddenly, I am being picked from the vine.

There are loud engines and machines all around and I find myself being ripped from all that is secure and safe.

I am put into a large, dark, smelly container and then turned into another metal large box, where I am being pressed and squeezed.  My very shape itself is being moulded into something else and all I can feel is intense pressure and deep, deep crushing.  It hurts!

Finally, just when I think it is over, I am then poured into a wood barrel and wheeled into a dark cellar.  Surely this is it?  All this crushing, this pain, this change, surely I am now ready and finished?  This must be the final stage which will last a few hours, no?

But no, this process takes a few years, but then something remarkable happens.  Suddenly, a light shines into the darkness and the wine is being tasted.  ‘It is ready’, I hear the voices cry, as they pour me into a much smaller container, a bottle.

There’s a label on the outside of the bottle, to describe what I now am, but just when I think I am about to be released into my purpose, I am once again now laid carefully on a shelf, to wait and wait and wait.

It seems as though the waiting goes on forever but then once again, the light shines into the darkness and I am being gently handled, the cork on the bottle is carefully removed and I am being poured into a large glass.  I can hear all the voices around the table and I can hear the host of the party, saying, ‘Try this fine wine…this is the best I have ever made’.

Everyone is smelling and swirling and tasting and agreeing with the host, that this long process has been worth it all.  All the seasons, all the crushing, the pressing and the waiting, has produced something that not only looks beautiful, but which also smells and tastes wonderful.

If we apply the picture of a grape to our own lives, I am sure we will see many similarities.

We each walk through many seasons, many of them very painful, which at times, feel as though they will never end.

And yet, through the whole process, God is making something beautiful and precious out of everything we go through.

What season are you in today?  And if you were squeezed, what aroma, what taste would come from you?   My prayer is that we can stand with Paul, who said, “But I will rejoice even if my life is poured out like a liquid offering to God, over your sacrificial and surrendered lives of faith. And so no matter what happens to me, you should rejoice in ecstatic celebration with me!” Philippians 2:17

I pray that whatever season you are in, you will believe and be encouraged that no matter what is happening, God can use this time to make something beautiful out of us.

DLH-Blog-WhenYou'reBeingCrushed

 

Christianity, Devotional, Evangelism, Faith, Hope

Inside the Bruderhof…

I first met Bernard Hibbs when he and his wife came to UCB to be interviewed for a programme on UCB 1.  Sometime later, myself and the Chairman of UCB’s Board, Alan Scotland, went to visit Bernard and the Bruderhof community in East Sussex.  We toured the site, ate with the community, attended a meeting and heard about their deep expression of faith.   It was a fascinating day.

This week, there will be a documentary on BBC 1 (Inside the Bruderhof) and in anticipation of that, I asked Bernard to write a guest blog, to share more about what the community believes and what everyday life is like.   I hope you will enjoy reading more, about this simple but remarkable way of life.

David L’Herroux


Bernard writes…

I have always been fascinated by the verses in Acts 2 and Acts 4 that describe the first church. ‘All the believers were together and had everything in common’ and ‘All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.’

Why would these first disciples suddenly depart so abruptly from the norm of looking after yourself and your family first, and voluntarily engage in sacrificial sharing with the needy?

It doesn’t take a lot of time looking through Jesus’ teachings to realise that the answer is actually quite clear.  He told his disciples to leave their nets and follow him; he told them to not worry about food or clothes; he said that they would not be able to serve God and mammon; he praised the widow who gave everything; he told a rich ruler to give everything he had to the poor and to follow him; he said that to love our neighbour was an excellent way to love God.

The members of that first church weren’t engaging in an experiment in socialism or trying out some new-fangled method of resource management. They were acting in obedience to Christ.

How did the Bruderhof begin?

 Roughly 1900 years later, Eberhard and Emmy Arnold and a handful of others added themselves to the list of people who have similarly tried to obey by giving up everything and radically sharing in Christian community. They called it “the Bruderhof”.  They started in a village just east of Frankfurt, Germany, pooling their possessions and committing to each other.  Young people, uprooted by the turmoil of post-WW1 Europe, joined the fledgling community in droves.  Here was a life of freedom, of discipleship, of love and of peace.

The Bruderhof grew rapidly but was ultimately suppressed by the Nazis. Members fled to England, where they encountered people passionately committed to pacifism. Many of these joined, seeing in the community an answer to the root causes of war. Forced to leave England after the Second World War was declared, the Bruderhof moved to Paraguay and eked out an existence in the jungle.  In the 1950’s we established ourselves in North America; we now have communities around the world.

The Bruderhof still exists, a mere 99 years later. It is the focus of a BBC1 documentary which will air on 25 July at 10:35pm.  The documentary (which features more footage of me than I might wish!) explores what life is like inside the Bruderhof. The cameras also followed one young person who grew up in our community as she decided where to go from here.

The Bruderhof today…

 The Darvell Bruderhof in East Sussex, where I live, is like a small village.  300 people live together, sharing everything – our money, possessions, our struggles and our joys.  Not only are our elderly or disabled brothers and sisters looked after, they can still contribute to the community.  Children grow up unburdened by the pressures of social media or consumerist society, and learn that caring for others is more important than acquiring things for themselves.

Nobody gets paid anything, so status is pretty much not an issue.  People are valued for who they are, not for how much they earn.  We have a simple mode of dress so that we can try to uphold Jesus’ teachings about not worrying about what we’re going to wear. It frees us up to think about things that are more important than clothes.  Living together provides endless opportunities for good times, whether it’s an early morning of fishing or birding; a weekend afternoon of cycling, hiking, or playing soccer; or an evening campfire with a card game followed by folk songs.

When some people hear about the Bruderhof, they are worried that we are somehow “closed off” from the world. Christians might start to wonder how this fits in with the Great Commission but in reality, we are very conscious that our communal life only makes sense if it can be a witness to the world. We’re not just doing this for ourselves. And thus we have visitors here every day, our kids play on local sports teams: cloistered we are not.

We take the Great Commission seriously – we send out missionaries around the world and run a publishing house called Plough.   It is a false dichotomy to say that to be salt and light, you have to ignore the teachings of Christ about the dangers of money.  Not only is it possible to do both: you can’t do one without the other.

It’s not a perfect way of life – we are all imperfect people who make mistakes.  But when we are prepared to admit that, life actually works pretty well.

The hardest part of living at the Bruderhof is trying to explain it.  Generally, we find that people only really understand when they come and see. So watch the documentary, then sign up for a visit at https://www.bruderhof.com/en/inside-the-bruderhof. We would love to host you, and (since part of our vocation is to have joy with each other) I think I can promise good food and fellowship.

Bernard Hibbs

Bernard will be interviewed by Paul Hammond on UCB 1 at 10.40am on July 24. Listen on DAB/online or with UCB Player.

Inside the Bruderhof airs on BBC 1 on July 25 at 10.35pm (and will be available on BBC iPlayer)

 

 

Christianity

‘Hope’. What does it REALLY mean?

This week on UCB 1 and UCB 2, it is our Appeal and we have been talking on air about ‘the plan for hope’. Last week, I met with our presenter team and I asked them to think about their definition of hope.

If I were to ask you, what would you say? What is your definition of ‘hope’?

Well, for me, I have to go back to the Word of God and what Scripture says. Looking at God’s Word, I believe that the right definition of ‘hope’ is ‘a joyful expectation of something good’.

If you picture for a minute, the story of blind Bartimaeus (Mark 10). He was sitting in the dust, in complete darkness and all of a sudden he could hear all this noise. I imagine he said, ‘hey guys, what’s going on? What’s happening’. The people nearby told him that Jesus was passing by and suddenly Bartimaeus was filled with hope. He has this joyful expectation that something good was going to happen for him and he was so eager to get it, he started to shout his head off, in order to attract Jesus’ attention.

In another story, a sick woman was so desperate for her breakthrough, she left the house and pushed through crowds just to touch the hem of Jesus’ garments. She should not have even left the house but she wanted her breakthrough so badly and she was ready to do what she had to do to get it.

These people were not just ‘wishing’. A wish is really just a lucky draw, it might happen, it might not happen. But ‘hope’ (by the Scripture’s definition) led these people to have a joyful expectation. The anticipation of what might happen became almost visual, tangible. They knew, that they knew, that they KNEW, that they only needed to call out or touch him. They knew that if they had a touch from the king, their situation would be changed.

Even later in the New Testament, when Paul is shipwrecked and facing prison, he was shouting ‘we are going to be ok. We are in the middle of the wreckage, but I am joyfully anticipating that we ARE going to make it.’

In my own life, I know this to be true too. Even after the death of our son Jamie, though our world was falling apart and everything was in chaos, there was still this sense of peace, this hope, that though we could not see it yet, God would bring something good out of our sorrow.

Please do not get me wrong. We do not rejoice in such terrible suffering, but we can know that somehow God will bring good out of it. Real hope is not a ‘wish’, it is a deep down expectation and anticipation that good will come from whatever situations we may face.

Worldly hope is just a wish. Godly, Biblical hope is what carries you through. I believe that when we look to God’s Word for our definition of hope, suddenly so many stories in the Bible make sense. We are also able to view our situations and circumstances differently. We are able to see them not through a worldly system of ‘wishing’ that they will improve, but with a Godly anticipation and expectation that sooner or later, good will come.

If you are in need of hope today, can I encourage you to not just ‘wish’ but instead ask God to fill you with expectancy of what he can do. When you have that real, God-inspired hope, your perspective will change.