Christianity

What is your purpose?

Sometimes, if I ever drive past a cemetery, I don’t think about the people who are buried there, but about the purpose buried there. How many songs went unsung? How many poems and stories went unwritten? The truth is, many people leave this world not knowing or realising their purpose. And today, many more are also living without knowing or realising their purpose. Many people simply do not know that God breathes purpose into every living thing and he has also breathed purpose into you and into me.

For me personally, I discovered my purpose when I rededicated my life to God. I did not yet know what God’s plans were for my life, but I knew I had a purpose. It took me many years to discover God’s plan, but because I knew he had a purpose for me, I was just as content back then being a janitor, as I am today being a CEO.

So, how do you find your purpose?

Don’t confuse plans with purpose

The definition of purpose is, the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists.

The definition of plan is, a detailed proposal for doing or achieving something. An intention or decision about what one is going to do.

We all have plans for our lives. Someday I will do this or someday I will do that. That is not your purpose, those are your plans. And all our plans are meaningless if we do not understand our purpose. God first puts a sense of purpose into our heart. We might not know what the plan is, but he will use our lives, our natural gifts, our sense of purpose, to help move us into his plan.

If we knew the plan in advance, we might run away.

In the Bible, God gave Joseph a clear purpose. Joseph knew, through dreams that he was to be a leader. He did not know that to get to that point, he would face rape allegations, prison and isolation. If God had revealed the plan up front, he might have run in the opposite direction. But through all of those trials, God was shaping Joseph, making him ready for the plan of leadership

It’s not about you

When God started to reveal his plan for my life, I began to realise his plan was not about me at all. It was about him using me, to reach others. God wanted to take my passion, my gift, my sense of purpose and use them all to bring about his plan in my life and also help to release that in others’ lives. So many Biblical characters were used by God to bring about change for others. Mary was handpicked to deliver a messiah who would save the world. Paul was given the task of leaving everything behind, in order to carry the message of salvation all across the Middle East. They were not ‘special’ people. They simply knew they had a purpose and they allowed God to use them (and their gifts) to bring about his plan.

Can I encourage you today, that you have a purpose. Everything God creates has a purpose and we each have a job to do. If you do not feel you do, ask God to plant His sense of purpose into your life. He might not show you what is ahead, but when you know deep down, that you have a heavenly purpose, everything in your life will change.

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

The ultimate sacrifice

Last week, the world watched in shock as a gunman took hostages in a French supermarket.  There was a tense siege and then in a remarkable act of courage, policeman, Lieutenant Colonel Arnaud Beltrame offered to step in and trade places with one of the hostages. As we now know, sadly Arnaud Beltrame was later shot by the gunman and some time later, died from his injuries.

Arnaud was willing to walk to his death by offering to swap places with a hostage victim, who was being held by a man we now know was a terrorist who had declared his allegiance to Islamic State.  What an extraordinary act of courage!  I would like to express our thoughts and prayers to Lt Col Arnaud Beltrame’s family and all those who have lost a love one in this tragedy.

This very sad story (although amazing in itself) reminds me of another even more extraordinary story that we find in the scriptures. It’s the story of a man called Jesus who was willing to leave all glory behind and come down here to earth to trade his life, for the life of mankind.

In other words, he willingly swopped his life for ours, to give us the opportunity to be freed from the enemy who was holding us hostage to sin.

John 15:13 tells us, ‘There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends’. We can say that Lt Col Arnaud Beltrame demonstrated an amazing sacrifice by being willing to give his life for hostages that were strangers to him. How amazing is that?  And it is right that he is honoured.

But how much should we honour Jesus Christ?  He not only became our ultimate sacrifice but He actually chose and willingly gave Himself up, yes even to the horrible death of the cross!  Nothing that happened in His life was ever forced on Him or came to Him by surprise or even by accident, but it was all something Jesus consciously and willingly gave Himself over to do.  Jesus says very clearly in John 10: “No one takes My lifefrom me … but I lay it down of myself.”  Isn’t it amazing that he would become our substitute so that you and I would live not just for the now, but for eternity?

Lt Col Arnaud’s incredible act of courage is almost hard for us to believe or understand, and although it can’t compare to the Gospel story, it paints a vivid picture to us and helps us to understand (in human terms) the extraordinary sacrifice Jesus made.

Jesus planned, pursued us and in fact willingly gave Himself in every detail, from His incarnation to His last breath on the cross. Jesus as the Good Shepherd came to give life and that more abundantly, even as He voluntarily gave Himself over to death, so that sinners like me and you could be redeemed.  I believe that is a good reason to trust Him and to live also in humble gratitude, giving endless thanks to God the father who gave us his only son!   Just the thought that God would spare his son, to save someone like me, makes me want to shout “Hallelujah … what a Saviour!”  I trust that you know that feeling too!

And so on Good Friday, as we mark the day that Jesus paid the ultimate sacrifice, let us never forget the message of Easter; that Jesus not only took our place in dying for us but rose up triumphantly that you and I may not only have life but life to the full.

Happy Easter!

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Christian Media, Christian Radio, Christianity, Devotional, Evangelism, Faith

What will be your legacy?

In the 1980s, I attended some of Billy Graham’s meetings, as part of Mission England.

At the time,  I was struck at how much preparation and particularly prayer, went into the planning and execution of these events.  The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association had a structure which was modelled around prayer and the Word of God.  This was a structure that Billy had used with his own family.  His son Franklin recalls that as a child, their days started and ended with family devotions and Franklin credits the longevity of his parents’ marriage to the fact they read the Scriptures together every day.

As news broke recently that Billy had gone home to be with the Lord, news sites across the world told the story.  For younger audiences who did not know who Billy was, his story was re-told.  Even here in the UK, our major news and radio channels covered his passing and for me, it was remarkable to see the amazing legacy that Billy Graham had left behind.

Billy was very much the ‘front man’ of his ministry but it was not something he sought or chased after.  His message was always faithful to the Gospel and he used every opportunity to tell people about Jesus.

He started his ministry on radio and by the end of his life, by preaching in auditoriums, stadiums and travelling globally, millions had been won to Christ, not just through his direct ministry but through the ministry of those who had come to faith because of attending a Billy Graham event.   George Verwer, the founder of Operation Mobilisation was one of them. He accepted to follow Jesus Christ at a Billy Graham crusade and years later, his ministry has impacted the lives of many, many more around the world.

In many ways, this was a revival that we never really called a revival.  We tend to see revival as being an experience of the manifest presence of God, which compels people  en masse to turn their hearts to Jesus.   This is what happened throughout Billy’s ministry.

During Mission England, I saw it with my own eyes, as thousands streamed to the front, to accept Jesus into their lives, filling the front and the aisles.   How we long to see this again!

Last week, as we heard the news of Billy’s passing, I thought of Mark 4:8-9, where Jesus tells the parable of the sower;  Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.’   If anyone’s life produced a ‘hundredfold’ crop, it was Billy’s!

There is much we can draw from the example of one man’s life.  We might never reach millions with the good news of Jesus, but each of us has a circle of influence.  We might never be a Billy Graham in terms of numbers, but we can each reach people we know.  We all have a story to tell and even the way we speak and live our lives can be a powerful testimony to a world looking for answers.

And we can pray!  We can pray for the people we might never meet or reach and a life soaked in prayer, can reap so much.

Can I encourage you today?  You might never speak in an auditorium of thousands or have a public ministry, but you can make a difference to one person, by sharing with them the love of Jesus.

Let our legacy one day say, that we were men and women of God who shared the Gospel with all who ‘had ears to hear’.

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Christianity

Making room for Jesus…

“Make room for Jesus the anointed one and allow Him to furnish your life with the essentials for successful living.”

Recently I have been reading 2 Kings 4, which tells the story of a notable woman who was so blessed by the ministry of the prophet Elisha, that she not only extended her hospitality to him but she and her husband built a room on their house, specifically for him to stay in, when he visited.

There are so many lessons for us in this story!  I believe that Jesus also wants to visit us, but he doesn’t want to briefly stop by.  Instead he wants to abide in us, dwell in us.  But, are we willing to make room for him?   In Timothy 3:17, we are reminded as God’s people to be ‘thoroughly furnished unto all good works’.

In 2 Kings 4, we are told that the noblewoman furnished Elisha’s room simply with a bed, a table, a stool and a candlestick.  Sometimes God’s Word does not give us much detail, but in this story, these 4 items are mentioned quite clearly.  I wonder if those items have a meaning?  As I looked into the text, I felt the room was designed to be simple and uncluttered.  It was to be the place where a great man of God slept and prayed and it was important the room did not have any distractions.  Did the simple items of furniture have any symbolic meaning too?  Here are my thoughts on what these items could represent.

Bed

Well, for most of us, our bed is a place of rest. On tiring days, it is the place we look forward to sinking into.  Rest and peace are important ingredients in our spiritual lives, to help keep us strong and replenished for what lies ahead.  Sometimes if my grandchildren are staying over, I will get up in the middle of the night to check on them.  There is something wonderful about watching how peacefully young children sleep and I wonder if this is how God views us, when he watches over us as we sleep too?  Rest and proper recuperation from all that life brings our way is very important.  It was important for Elisha in his simply furnished room and it is important for us too to make sure we de-clutter of anything that would rob of His peace.

Table

The table represents a place of communion and fellowship.  Many of us often sit at a table to enjoy dinner with our family or with friends and communion is another important ingredient of a healthy spiritual life.  We need to make time not just for the physical act of taking communion, but also to commune with God, to spend time in his presence, fellowshipping with him and getting to know his heart.

Stool

It is not easy to sit comfortably on a stool!  It usually means that we have to sit very still and in this story, I think the stool could represent stillness.  Sometimes, we need to learn how to shut out the noise and busyness of the world around us  and sit in the quiet.  Many of us will be familiar with the story of Mary and Martha when Jesus arrived at their home.  Martha was busy, running about, preparing for the arrival of Jesus and didn’t know how to stop.  Mary, on the other hand, was able to drop everything she was doing and just sit at the feet of Jesus and listen.  I do not know about you, but I want to be like Mary and not Martha, be still and giving all the attention that He deserve.

Candlestick

Well, candles always represent light and particularly light in darkness.  In the middle of a power cut, a candle pierces through the darkness but in a spiritual sense, we too are called to be candles in a dark world.  We certainly live in turbulent times where many are looking for light to help direct their paths and yet, too often, they are following the first light they see.  What if, we as God’s people, started walking as blazing candles, helping to point the world to the true source of eternal light?

The simple furnishings in Elisha’s room, represent to me, many of the ingredients for a healthy spiritual life. My prayer for myself (and for you!) is that we will each take the time to rest, be still and learn how to truly commune with the heart of God.

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Christian Media, Christian Radio, Christianity, Devotional, Faith

Are you ready to have your best year yet?

When you look ahead to 2018, what sort of year would you like to have? A good year? A better year?  Or the best year?

That sounds like an unusual question, as after all, we ALL want to have the best year we have ever had!  However, over Christmas, I was reflecting on 2017 (which was a very challenging year for UCB) and I was asking God for 2018 to be the best year we have ever had.  I felt God speak to my heart and challenge me on what ‘best’ actually means.  Why should we have the best year?  Do we have any right to ask for such a thing?  How can we plug into God’s best for our lives?

What are you talking about?

As we look back over the year that was, many of us tend to share the good and the bad experiences of the previous 12 months.  I have learned over the years that what we talk about, has the ability to change the atmosphere around us.  If we are sharing good news and giving thanks to God for what he’s done, it fills others with faith and changes the atmosphere to one of expectancy.  But if we are talking about the negative, those words too can change the atmosphere – but not for the better.  I believe that to see God’s best in our lives, we need to focus less on the experiences and instead, focus on our expectations.  What do we want God to do in those situations?  What do we ‘see’?  What do we expect?  Instead of talking about the physical circumstances, let’s instead set our eyes on the vision that God has given us.

We need to be changed

 To see God’s best, we need to be ready and willing to be changed.  That is an uncomfortable place for many people, but God is a God of transformation and he is never finished with us! Last year at UCB, we invested significantly in our team, giving them opportunity to meet with God in fresh ways.  We invited different speakers to address the staff and encouraged the team to seek out their own fresh experience with God.  A visit last year from itinerant minister Fergus Mcintyre was a turning point for many of our team, some experiencing the manifest presence of God in their lives for the first time.  But for God to move, each of us has to be willing to allow him to move in our lives.  2 Timothy 3:17  (KJV) says, ‘All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.’

We need to be equipped for all that God is going to do and that means his process of transformation in our lives is never finished (not while we are on this earth anyway!).

What is your room furnished with?

2 Kings 4 tells the story of a noblewoman who was so impacted by the ministry of the prophet Elisha, that she and her husband built a room on their house, for him to stay in whenever he passed through their town.  They furnished the room with a bed, a table, a stool and a candlestick. In a future blog, I will share what I believe each of these items represents, but I think the simplicity of this furniture was designed to help Elisha find rest, peace and intimacy.  These three areas are so important for us too as believers.  What is our room, or our heart actually furnished with?  Is it cluttered and noisy and distracted?  Or is our heart furnished with peace and rest and stillness with God?

If like me (and UCB), you are looking ahead to 2018 then can I encourage you to speak with expectancy, allow yourself to be changed and transformed and to find that place of rest and intimacy?  Let’s believe together that God indeed will give us the BEST year yet!

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Christianity, Christmas, Devotional, Faith

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.

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Christianity

Expecting God to do great things (For with God nothing will be impossible – Luke 2:37)

I recently returned from France, where I helped to lead a mission at my brother Daniel’s church in Angers.

It is over 3 years since we started these yearly events and we have seen some incredible answers to prayer.  Some have asked me, why is there such a tangible sense of the presence of God in these meetings?  Why are people getting healed and set free, yet in other parts of the world, this is not being seen?

I believe that in the beginning, God placed man and woman in the garden of Eden, so that they could live in God’s presence, day in and day out.  Satan’s plan then (as it is now) was to expel people from the powerful presence of God because he knows that if he can get us out of the presence of God, he can make us weak and ineffective.  Thanks to God for his redemption plan, which has restored that relationship and leads us to a place of expectancy.  When we are expectant and live in the manifested presence of God, we start to see incredible things happen.   When I go to France, I sense a real hunger in the people and that is a fertile ground for God to move.  That is the place where breakthrough begins to happen.

Over the years, we have seen God move in remarkable ways and I wanted to share some of those stories with you.  This is taken from a report compiled by my brother Daniel and where possible, the stories of healing have been verified by doctors.

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A woman from a church in another town was suffering with severe pain in her stomach and was in hospital undergoing tests.  One day during the mission, she discharged herself from hospital for a few hours to come to the service. After the service she went back to the hospital and the doctors declared her completely healed.  A week later she came back to Church to testify what God had done in her life.

A young 14 year old girl suffered terrible pain in her knees due to a bone problem.  She was getting worse, her knees were swollen and she could walk less and less.  Her rheumatologist told her that no surgery could heal her and she would suffer more and one day she might not be able to walk at all and her only treatment was to wear braces which would keep her legs straight.  In May 2014, she went for prayer (her dad who was deaf had just been healed) but wasn’t healed instantly and in the following weeks and months she had more pain, no sign of healing but she kept asking God in faith with her parents.  In the summer of 2015 (over a year after the first prayer) she was completely healed. That summer she went on holidays in the Alps and she went hiking almost every day in the mountains with no pain.   She has since committed her life to the Lord and was baptised last May.

In June, a lady who is a radiologist, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, stage 4.  Her ex-husband is an oncologist and confirmed that the cancer was too developed to try any treatment or surgery and she had only 2 or 3 months to live. A Christian lady from the Church has an IT business and the radiologist is one of her customers. Just before the mission in June, she was called to her office to fix some computers. The radiologist spoke to her about her cancer and Aurélie told her about the Church and the many miracles God has done these past few months.  On Sunday morning,  we felt that the Church should pray for people not present in the meeting and asked the believers who knew someone sick to stand up for them. Aurélie stood up for this  radiologist and 4 weeks later she went back to her office and as soon as they met, the radiologist threw herself in her arms jumping with joy telling her that she was in the process of healing. Since the prayer, the cancer had so decreased, they could do surgery. In August she went to Paris for surgery and we are waiting for her to testify of her miracle.

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These are just a few of the amazing miracles we are seeing and we know that Angers is not an example on its own.  All over the world, where God’s people are hungry and expectant, God is doing something new.  We know this is just the beginning of what God wants to do through his church, all across the world.

(Jesus Christ is The Same yesterday, today and forever – Heb. 13:8)

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