Christianity

How to handle pressure

At different points in our lives, we all face pressure.  Like everyone else, I experience times of strain and in fact, recently, I have been going through some very ‘stretching’ experiences.

In time of pressure, it can be easy to be overwhelmed and to ‘react’ from that negative place, but is there a better way to handle the stresses and burdens of life?

Through my own experiences, I’ve learnt that it is not what happens to us that will make or break us, but the way we choose to react or respond to the situations.

I am learning that although we cannot always control the things which come against us, with God’s help, we can control how we respond.

Watch what you say

Words are important and can have a big impact on how we view and respond to a situation.  In times of pressure, I think it is very important to watch our words, watch what we say.  Are you speaking negatively into the situation?  Going over and over it with friends and family, always speaking ‘death’ by your words?  Our own words can become a self-fulfilling prophecy, so if we are going to speak words, let’s speak the Word of God.  We know the enemy comes only to steal, kill and destroy, so let’s be sure that when we speak, we do not do the devil’s work for him.

Check your attitude

In times of pressure, your real attitude comes out in your response to the situation.  I am learning (almost every day) about the importance of reactions.  I have to remind myself that I cannot do anything by myself and even though I am being challenged, I want my attitude to be aligned with what God has spoken to me.  When we align our attitude with what God says in his Word, our reactions will be measured and will demonstrate the heart of God.

Resist temptation

Temptation comes to us in lots of different ways but let’s also not be tempted to give up in tough times, to resist the temptation to become bitter and to make sure that we guard our hearts against temptation in all its forms. God’s desire is for us to be fruitful, to go to higher places, to be successful but giving way to temptation can destroy all that God has done (and plans to do) in our lives.

Demonstrate character

When you squeeze a lemon, what do you get? You get lemon juice!  But if you were to be squeezed by pressures today, what would come out?  Would it be Christ?  Or would it be self?  It is often only in times of pressure that we see who we really are, because difficulties tend to bring our true character to the surface.  In times of being squeezed, I want my character and my response to reflect all that God has done in my life.

Watch out for your loved ones

In times of stress, it’s easy to take it home and to vent it all on our families.  But we also need to remember that we have to protect our households.  We shouldn’t allow the pressures we face, cause us to react and change the atmosphere of our homes.  We all need support and we all sometimes need to talk through our issues and problems with the people we love, but we should always be mindful of protecting them too.

If you’re facing your own difficulties at the moment, can I encourage you to spend time in God’s Word and God’s presence. In his presence, our problems and trials will melt away like wax (Psalm 97:5) and it is in that place, that we can hear God speak to us most clearly.

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Christian Media, Christian Radio, Christianity, Devotional, Faith

Don’t live in bitterness

I have been thinking this week about the subject of bitterness and how much it can impact lives (yes, even the lives of Christians).

In Exodus 15, the Israelites (led by Moses) had seen a tremendous victory and they were celebrating and thanking God for their deliverance. They were singing, ‘I will sing to the Lord, for He is highly exalted…the Lord reigns for ever and ever’.

But just three days later, they were in the desert and their water supplies had run out. They came to the waters of Marah but they couldn’t drink from it, as the water was so bitter. The same people who had been praising God just a short time ago were now grumbling and complaining. Moses cried out to God and the Lord showed him a piece of wood, which he was able to throw into the water and verse 23 says, ‘the water became fit to drink’. Later, God led the people to Elim, which had ‘12 springs and 70 palm trees’ and they camped there near the water.

In our lives, many of us face difficulties, which could leave us feeling bitter. When faced with tragedy or hard times, we have a choice to walk through the situation (with God’s help) and get better, or we can stay in that situation and camp out in our bitterness. The story in Exodus paints a clear picture of how I believe God wants us to respond, when faced with life’s hardships.

Don’t camp at Marah

The word ‘Marah’ (the place of the bitter springs) actually means ‘bitter’ and it is interesting that in the Exodus story, although Moses led the people there, God did not command them to camp and stay there. It was just a passing through on their journey.

Later when they arrived at Elim (which means ‘roots’ and also means ‘a place of refreshing’) they were able to stop and set up camp. We all go through times of feeling bitter but I believe it is important to not camp in that place and instead view it as an experience, a place we have to walk through, with God’s help.

We already have the answer

When Moses cried out to God for an answer, the Lord provided him with a tree branch which would make the water drinkable. Trees take decades to grow and long before Moses and the people encountered this problem, God had already provided a way out, a growing tree which would be used to solve the problem.

We see this again later in the story of Zaccheus in Luke 19. Zaccheus was the chief tax collector and was not well-liked. Luke says he was a man of small stature and because of the great crowds (and his height) he was not able to get through the crowds to see Jesus. Zaccheus climbed a nearby sycamore tree in order to see Jesus and later, met with Jesus personally. We do not know how long it took, but it is likely that tree had been growing there for a long time. I like to imagine that maybe God even sent an angel to protect that tree, knowing that one day it would be used as an important tool in allowing a man to hear the life-changing words of Jesus. It reminds us though, whatever we are going through, God has already provided the answer.

Believe the promise

In our world today (maybe you are going through this yourself), many people have become stuck in a place of bitterness. Bitterness can be like a spiritual cancer and if we allow it to, it can overtake our thinking and lives.

If you are experiencing that today and wondering how you can break free, can I encourage you to go back to the promises of God. Whatever you are going through, I believe that God has already provided the answer (even if you cannot see it) and that if you walk diligently, God will eventually lead you to ‘Elim’, to a place of rest and security.

The tree in the stories of Moses and Zacheus are also a symbol of the cross. If you look to the cross and look to the promises of God, he will lead you through.

It may not be easy, but living a life free of bitterness, is living life to the full. And this is how I believe God wants us to live.

DLH-BlogAugust2017 (002)

 

 

Christianity

When church is difficult.

There is a well-known saying, ‘Going to church no more makes you a Christian, than sitting in a garage, makes you a car’. How true that is! And yet often we are surprised when we are disappointed by people we meet in church or if we feel our leaders have let us down.

The church is God’s idea and we, as His people, are the ‘living stones’ of the church. And regardless of the circumstances, I believe it is important for each of us to be part of a church and to be part of the ‘assembly’ (as it says in Hebrews 10). No man is an island and we all need that sense of community and accountability. However, it is not always easy. In a perfect world, church should leave us feeling fulfilled and built up. Church should be a place where we go to meet with other like-minded believers, where we are free to worship and where we can hear from God and be made strong in His word. For me, personally, it is not about the style of the church or the type of worship, it is about the connection we make with God when we are there. Church should be a place where we become aware of God’s presence, where we can get encouraged and also corrected, if that is what we need.

But for many, church is not like that and many people struggle within their church communities.

So how can we respond when church life is difficult?

The first thing to remember is that every church has a variety of personalities. We all worship and connect with God in different ways and we also each respond to situations in different ways too. However, when dealing with difficult situations, here are a few ways we can respond:

Deal with the issue, not the person

Personally, when dealing with difficult people and situations within church, I have always found it helpful to not point out flaws in the person, but to address the real issue, or in some cases, the spirit which is motivating the negative behaviour. For example in Acts 16, Paul and Silas were being followed by a woman who kept shouting, ‘these are men of God, they will show you the way to salvation’. That might not sound like a bad thing, but Paul identified there was a spirit at work. Instead of addressing the woman or the personality, he addressed the spirit of fortune-telling which was motivating this woman and commanded it to leave. He saw the situation through his spiritual eyes, not his natural eyes.

Commit to prayer

It can be easy to react to negativity, but we should always first of all, commit to prayer. Sometimes, there are no ‘quick fixes’ for awkward situations or conflict, but we should always commit to covering the whole situation (for however long it takes) in prayer.

God’s Word has the answers

I was in situation many years ago and a pastor approached me about a difficult couple in his church. ‘What should we do, David? he asked. It would have been very easy to give my opinion, but the truth is, it is not my opinion which counts, but the opinion of the Word of God. What does God’s Word say? I believe if we ask God for a revelation and an answer, He will always give us a strategy or shine a light on a piece of Scripture which will give us hope for the future.

When all else fails

You might be in a situation where you feel you have tried everything but there is no clear way forward. If that is the case, perhaps God has a different church community for you to be part of? If you feel it is time to move on, then it is important to ‘leave well’. Pastoring a church is a difficult job and for many ministers, it can be a lonely experience.
When a person leaves a church, as a pastor, it is difficult to not take it personally. So, if you are leaving, try to take everyone’s feelings into consideration and don’t slam the door on your way out. Instead, do all you can to leave with a right attitude and on good terms. If you are looking for a new spiritual home, the key questions to ask yourself are; ‘Do I fit in here?’ ‘Do I feel at home?’ What is their vision? Is it something I can give my heart, time and talents to? Are the leaders really called to the mission/vision of the church? Can I support their vision? And finally, is it a place where I can grow?
It’s important for all of us, to be part of a church community which enables us to grow spiritually and practically, but also to be encouraged and strengthened in God’s Word. Ask God to guide you to the right church home. He won’t let you down.

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

When church is difficult…

There is a well-known saying, ‘Going to church no more makes you a Christian, than sitting in a garage, makes you a car’.  How true that is!  And yet often we are surprised when we are disappointed by people we meet in church or if we feel our leaders have let us down.

The church is God’s idea and we, as His people, are the ‘living stones’ of the church.  And regardless of the circumstances, I believe it is important for each of us to be part of a church and to be part of the ‘assembly’ (as it says in Hebrews 10).  No man is an island and we all need that sense of community and accountability.  However, it is not always easy.  In a perfect world, church should leave us feeling fulfilled and built up.  Church should be a place where we go to meet with other like-minded believers, where we are free to worship and where we can hear from God and be made strong in His word. For me, personally, it is not about the style of the church or the type of worship, it is about the connection we make with God when we are there.  Church should be a place where we become aware of God’s presence, where we can get encouraged and also corrected, if that is what we need.

But for many, church is not like that and many people struggle within their church communities.

So how can we respond when church life is difficult?

The first thing to remember is that every church has a variety of personalities.  We all worship and connect with God in different ways and we also each respond to situations in different ways too.  However, when dealing with difficult situations, here are a few ways we can respond:

Deal with the issue, not the person

Personally, when dealing with difficult people and situations within church, I have always found it helpful to not point out flaws in the person, but to address the real issue, or in some cases, the spirit which is motivating the negative behaviour.  For example in Acts 16, Paul and Silas were being followed by a woman who kept shouting, ‘these are men of God, they will show you the way to salvation’.  That might not sound like a bad thing, but Paul identified there was a spirit at work.  Instead of addressing the woman or the personality, he addressed the spirit of fortune-telling which was motivating this woman and commanded it to leave.   He saw the situation through his spiritual eyes, not his natural eyes.

Commit to prayer

It can be easy to react to negativity, but we should always first of all, commit to prayer. Sometimes, there are no ‘quick fixes’ for awkward situations or conflict, but we should always commit to covering the whole situation (for however long it takes) in prayer.

God’s Word has the answers

I was in situation many years ago and a pastor approached me about a difficult couple in his church. ‘What should we do, David? he asked.  It would have been very easy to give my opinion, but the truth is, it is not my opinion which counts, but the opinion of the Word of God.   What does God’s Word say?  I believe if we ask God for a revelation and an answer, He will always give us a strategy or shine a light on a piece of Scripture which will give us hope for the future.

When all else fails

You might be in a situation where you feel you have tried everything but there is no clear way forward.  If that is the case, perhaps God has a different church community for you to be part of?  If you feel it is time to move on, then it is important to ‘leave well’. Pastoring a church is a difficult job and for many ministers, it can be a lonely experience.

When a person leaves a church, as a pastor, it is difficult to not take it personally.  So, if you are leaving, try to take everyone’s feelings into consideration and don’t slam the door on your way out.  Instead, do all you can to leave with a right attitude and on good terms.   If you are looking for a new spiritual home, the key questions to ask yourself are; ‘Do I fit in here?’ ‘Do I feel at home?’  What is their vision? Is it something I can give my heart, time and talents to?  Are the leaders really called to the mission/vision of the church?  Can I support their vision?  And finally, is it a place where I can grow?

It’s important for all of us, to be part of a church community which enables us to grow spiritually and practically, but also to be encouraged and strengthened in God’s Word.  Ask God to guide you to the right church home.  He won’t let you down.

DavidBlog-July2017

 

 

Christianity

You are loved more than you will ever know…

It’s Fathers’ Day today and this time of year often makes me reflect on the story of the Prodigal Son.

In Luke 15, it says the son, although living in a wealthy home, decided to break free from the family he had been raised with. He wanted his inheritance early so he could explore the world for himself.

He went to his father and asked for what was owed to him, not realising that by exploring the world on his own, he was removing himself from his foundation, from the source of everything that was good in his life.

Over time, the son ran out of money and found himself eating pig food to survive. However, despite making a terrible mess of his life, he was still the son of a very wealthy man. He had walked away and made very bad choices, but his father still loved him.

The son decided to go home and ask if he could be a servant in his father’s home to repay his debt. However God’s Word tells us that when the father saw his son, he ran to him and embraced him. You see, no matter what the son had done, he was still a son. No matter what he did, he would always be the son of a very influential man.

We can take many thoughts from this story but it makes me think about the nature of fatherhood and how can we rely on our Heavenly Father, no matter what we go through in life.

I am a father and a grandfather, and as a dad, I am part of the foundation of my family. It is my job to bear the burdens and responsibilities of my family, as well as enjoy the many blessings. Some years ago, I wrote an acrostic of the word ‘Father’, which has helped to remind me of what a Father looks like and what our Heavenly Father longs to do for us.

Our Father is…

Faithful: “It is because of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:23)

Although grown up with families of their own, my kids expect me to be faithful. I am committed to being faithful to them and our family and in the same way, we can trust God to be faithful to us. Just like the story of the prodigal son, He is faithful to us, even when we are not faithful to Him.

Able

‘Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us’. (Ephesians 3:20)

When my children were younger, I was aware that they hung on to every word I said. It is the same with our Heavenly Father, we can hang on to every word He says, because He is able, to do more than we can ever imagine or think.

Trustworthy

 “No, I will not break my covenant; I will not take back a single word I said.” (Psalms 89:34).”

In the same way that my children expected me to be faithful, they knew also that I was trustworthy. Although I did not always get things right, they could always trust me. It is the same with God – we CAN trust Him.

Hope in Hopelessness

 ‘Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles.’ Isaiah 40:31

Even after the death of our son Jamie, we discovered that God gave us hope in the middle of a hopeless situation. We don’t always get the good outcome that we hope for, but even in a very broken world, there is still hope. This is the hope our Father gives us – He came to die for us, to give us the gift of hope.

Everlasting

 “…I have loved thee with an everlasting love; therefore, with loving kindness have I drawn thee (Jeremiah 31:3).”

God is also everlasting, and His presence is with us wherever we go and whatever we do. As an earthly father, I love my kids with every cell of my being and over the years, I have worked hard to provide for them. As I have grown older, I have realised that the most precious gift I could give them was my presence, not any fancy gadget. God’s love for us is everlasting and He wants us to be and live in His presence.

Reliable/Relevant

 “….for He has said, I will never leave you, nor forsake you”. (Heb 13:5) – The LORD watches over you— the LORD is your shade at your right hand; (Psalms 121:5)

As a dad, when my children were younger, I would often get up in the night to check on them. If they were uncovered, I would pull the blankets up and make sure they were sleeping peacefully. The Word says that God watches over us, but (unlike a human father), He never slumbers or sleeps. He is reliable and relevant in every situation.

That is what a picture of our Heavenly Father looks like and it is a great picture to cling to.

But what if you did not have a good father? I am blessed because my father was a wonderful dad and a Godly man, but for those who did not have that experience, this is where you can learn to love your heavenly Father.

He is the Father to the fatherless! Humans and earthly dads can let us down, but the Creator of the universe calls himself ‘Abba’ meaning ‘Daddy’. We can go to Him at any time, He is our sustainer and He can lift our heads high with hope. He knows when we feel alone or unloved and even in death, He remains the resurrection and the life.

Even if your experience of fatherhood has been flawed, there is a great, heavenly Father who will always care for us, no matter what we go through.

He is the perfect example of Fatherhood and He is available to us all.

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

In a time of terror, the Lord is the stronghold of my life. 

Just two weeks after the attack in Manchester, here we are again, facing yet again more devastating news; “Terror strikes again in London Bridge – at least 6 people have died and more than 40 injured”.

First, of all, our thoughts and prayers are with everyone affected; individuals, families, emergency services, the communities nearby, our Capital city of London as well as our Prime Minister and government. How they need God’s wisdom and guidance as they deal with another horrific tragedy.

And for us, where do we find healing when our broken hearts seem unable to recover? As a country, we have barely understood one tragedy, when yet another one hits. What can we do? 

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 times of desperate tragedy 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, for wisdom and guidance. 

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

The Lord is MY light and MY salvation. Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life, of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked advance against me to devour me, it is my enemies and my foes who will stumble and fall. Though an army besiege me, my heart will NOT fear, though war break out against me, even then I will be confident. (Psalm 27:1-3)

To me, in darkness and devastating times, the Lord is my source of light, that means He WILL guide and lead me. Darkness may be the symbol of distress, trouble, perplexity and sorrow, but light is the very opposite of these. God supplied King David with so much light, that his very darkness disappeared and his way became brighter, even in a time of real trouble. If we allow God to invade our lives, He gives us His peace (that surpasses all understanding) and He reminds us that He IS God and when we are with Him, we are safe.  

Today you may be broken-hearted, well let me tell you that He still heals broken hearts. I know, because He healed mine. Psalm 147:3 says, ‘He heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds.’

The definition of ‘broken’ is ‘reduced to pieces’, fragmented, ruptured, torn, fractured, not functioning properly, out of working order.

Is this how you feel? Do you feel like your heart has been reduced to pieces? Ruptured? Broken? Destroyed? YOU ARE REALLY HURTING! It’s like your heart has been shattered into many pieces and you feel emotionally crippled. Ask God to help you, to strengthen you and to heal you. Hand your situation over to Him, trust in Him, anchor yourself in His Word and allow Him into the broken parts of your life.  

He STILL heals the broken hearted! Why? Because He really loves you.

Our hearts and prayers today are with everyone who is broken, lost and who feels as though their lives have been shattered. The cry of our hearts is, ‘Lord God, heal our land!

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

How to be a radical disciple

How to be a radical disciple.

A few weeks ago, it was wonderful to have Jarrod Cooper with us, to speak at our Foundation event, for leaders.  We were so blessed by Jarrod’s ministry and I have asked him to share a few thoughts this week, as a guest blog.   I hope this encourages you too, to be radical in your discipleship.

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Radical disciples

God did not ask us to make ‘church members’, count ‘decisions’, or even have people say, ‘the sinner’s prayer’, (not that I’m against any of those things necessarily). He actually told us to be to make disciples.

“Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me!” Matt 16:24

A church member in some of today’s circles is more like the member of any social club. Some want to go to a certain church because it’s cool, big, glitzy or because it’s small, comfortable, not too demanding. All this has little to do with the real walk of faith and the real JESUS. In the gospels we find that Jesus-followers entered into a deeply life changing arrangement.

The disciples had to be…

Available

Busy people gave up their jobs and plans to follow Jesus after a single request. Would you or I? He may not require everyone to give up their careers, but all will have to make space for the learning and mission of being a disciple.

Teachable

Jesus told them, “I will make you fishers of men.” It was clear He was going to teach them. A disciple, by inference, has a teacher. If you are the leader, that’s you! Are we discipling our church members or filling in databases and doing hospital visits? Every church should be a training ground and every Christian a soldier either in, or preparing for, battle.

Breakable

Talented Peter went through some deep, humbling experiences. Disciples accept humility and brokenness as part of the journey. Pride is at the root of all sin and must be winkled out. God will line all of us up for some rejection, failure and being overlooked. Are we teaching our people to handle it? Are we preaching brokenness and teaching repentance? Are we confronting sin? We’ve all got to pass that test (or keep retaking it!)

Correctable

True discipleship involves some straight conversations. ‘Iron sharpens iron’, but soft, PC, marshmallow conversations rarely change anyone deeply! Our society is so hooked on approval that often we don’t know what correction or discipline looks like any more, so we call it rejection. But correction is not rejection, it is protection. And discipline is not disapproval, it’s the removal of stuff that is going to harm you! “God disciplines those He loves” (Hebrews 12:4-11) Are we raising disciples who will embrace correction and find life in it?

Connectable

Jesus called His disciples “to be with him”. Friendship with a more experienced man or woman of God and a group of fellow disciples is a vital part of healthy growth. Are we allowing a few to get close, to walk the walk with us, and not just listen on Sundays? You can’t be connected to everyone, but we all can disciple a few.

Sendable

Another new word! Jesus “sent them out”. Are we sending the troops somewhere, adventuring selflessly as part of a vision bigger than ourselves? Every true disciple is a missionary.

So are we raising disciples or gathering members? Some of us need to change the polarity of our relationship with our church members, because it should not be the leaders who are chasing around after members.

Instead, the leaders should be saying to others, “Follow me, and I will make you…” (Matthew 4:19). Leaders of the Church of the future won’t simply be carers and counsellors (though both are necessary), but pioneers who get a vision, make it plain for all to see, then march off to a brave new world with disciples following. In this way the Church will become more of a movement than a hospital. An army on the front line, not cadets locked in their barracks!