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)

 

 

Christian Media, Christian Radio, Christianity, Devotional, Faith

Don’t be distracted

Some time ago, I felt God give me a very clear warning – to be on my guard against ‘distraction’.   When you are working toward a God-given vision, distractions will come and not every distraction immediately looks ‘wrong’.  Sometimes a distraction can come in the form of a compliment (which massages our ego) or in the form of an interesting invitation.  And sometimes it comes (more obviously) in the form of a fiery dart

In the book of Nehemiah, we are given some very clear principles on how to avoid distraction.  In chapter 6, Nehemiah was busy rebuilding the temple wall.  He had a clear vision and mandate from God but Scripture tells us that Nehemiah’s enemies tried several times to distract him from finishing the wall.  And they used many different tactics. There is much to learn from this story

Invitation

When Nehemiah’s enemies, Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshem discovered that Nehemiah had nearly finished the wall, they issued him an invitation.  We do not know how the invitation was sent, but we do know they requested to meet with Nehemiah in the plain of Ono.   As leaders, sometimes we are sent flattering invitations and to avoid embarrassment, we can say yes to things which distract us from the calling God has given us.  But Nehemiah was focused on the job he was meant to do and he had a sense that these people were planning to do him harm, so he turned down the offer.

Insinuation

Nehemiah’s enemies were not going to take no for an answer. Scripture tells us they continued to try and distract him and in fact, they sent him an invitation four times.  When this failed, they tried a new strategy – insinuation.  They told Nehemiah they had ‘heard a rumour’ that he was planning to build a new kingdom and make himself the king.   Nehemiah had the strength to simply say, ‘there is no truth in your story’ and once again, he declined their invitation to meet and discuss it.   This obvious distraction only strengthened Nehemiah’s resolve and he became even more determined to finish the project on time.

Intimidation

When insinuation didn’t work, Nehemiah’s enemies tried to intimidate him. Nehemiah was warned that he should lock himself in the temple as his enemies were going to kill him that night, but Nehemiah knew he could not run from danger and he also knew that if he went into the temple (a place reserved for the priests), he would be violating God’s law.   Through it all, Nehemiah remained intentional and focused on his goal, to get the wall built.  Scripture tells us that the wall was completed in just 52 days and his enemies realised the work was done ‘with the help of God’.

If you are a leader, can I encourage you to be aware of distractions?  I believe the enemy is trying to draw leaders into distraction and to divert them far away from the vision God has given them.  The enemy can do this through flattery, as well as by sending people to attack our character or intimidate us.  But staying intentional in all we do, focusing on the plan and the promise, will help us to see it through to its fulfillment.

Can I encourage you today too, to remain focused on the plan and the vision God has given you and like Nehemiah, to not be led astray by distractions.

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You are not a failure…

Failure is part of life.  I can tell you this from personal experience.  From seeing dreams not fulfilled, to making regretful mistakes, we all have the capacity to fail.  But failure can also be a fundamental process, the ‘missing ingredient’ which helps to push us toward success.

When we fail at something, our natural instinct is often to feel ashamed and disappointed.  We don’t like feeling degraded and humiliated, but this is where we need to shift our thinking.  If we can begin to see failure not as the end, but as part of a valuable process on the way to success, we can learn a great deal.

Proverbs 23:7 says, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he”.  And this is so true!

The way we think about ourselves will determine our beliefs. Our beliefs will determine our expectations, our expectations will determine our attitudes, our attitudes will determine our behaviour, our behaviour will determine our performance. And our performance will determine who we become and which ultimately determines our destiny.

We need to make sure that failure is seen from the right perspective – as the greatest teacher and not as the greatest shame!  The sooner we stop devaluing ourselves because of our failures, the easier it will be to turn them to our advantage.

I remember as a child, on my first day at a new school, a teacher asked the class what we wanted to do when we grew up. When it was my turn, I told her I wanted to be a surgeon and she laughed and said, ‘do you realise David, that is a lot of studying?  I can’t see you doing it. I can see you emptying dust bins’.

For many years, those words affected my thoughts.  I felt like a failure and I thought to myself, ‘what is the point in trying, if I am not capable of achieving much?’

However, when I rededicated my life to the Lord when I was 18, everything changed!  I discovered what God thought about me and that His Words could erase the past and delete all the harmful words that had impacted my life. I remember as if it was yesterday! God gave me a dream, that although I was a porter/cleaner at that point, I could get to the boardroom.  I remember saying these words, “how can this be?” as I had messed up my education and had no qualifications.  And yet I soon learned that God’s Word had everything I needed to educate me for a successful life.  God was able to reveal business principles to help me with my dreams and years later my dream became a reality, when in 1995 I was appointed to lead a discount chain of a major organisation.

Here is what I’ve learned in that journey!

  • Man’s labels must not affect what I think about myself.   The only labels that should shape my thought process, should be the label that God has put on me! He says that I am called, that I am qualified, that with his power and strength at work in me, I can do great exploits for the kingdom
  • Beware of how you think about yourself.  Never forget that when you are speaking, YOU are listening.  Negative self-talk can be very destructive especially after failure or if you’re struggling with the labels that people have put on you.  Ask God to help you resist the thoughts that lead you to label yourself as useless and worthless.  God thinks more highly of you than you will ever imagine.
  • Remember disappointment is inevitable but make sure that it doesn’t take over your life. Pick yourself up after any failure and allow your failures to become your greatest teacher.
  • Your past failures will shape your future if you allow it and too often we allow our past mistakes to define us.  WELL DON’T!! Even failure does not have to be fatal …. failure can be your greatest teacher!  If your past is a total failure, your future does not depend on it. God can turn your past mistakes into miracles, for your future depends not on what you’ve done but on what He’s done for you.

Christian Media, Christianity, Devotional, Evangelism, Faith, Forgiveness, Healing, Hope, Miracles, Spiritual healing

Is God your Facebook friend only? Or much more?

A few days ago, we had a visitor to UCB and as I walked into Reception, a member of the team said to the guest, ‘This is David, do you know him?’

The guest said, ‘Yes, we are friends on Facebook’.

Later, I was thinking about this and realised that in many ways, for some of us this could be our main experience of God, we are ‘Facebook friends only’.   It might be we have experienced him in some way,  we are acquaintances, but we are not in an intimate relationship with him.  We have lost our connection and although we are still ‘friends’, he is not our confidant or the person we go to when we are in a storm.

As a young man, I used to cry out to God for a deeper relationship with him, for an experience of his manifested presence.  I wanted to know God in a deeper way, I wanted a visitation.  It was frustrating waiting for that moment.  But as I began to study the scriptures and seek God, I discovered something which blew my mind.  You see, God’s manifested presence is already here!

In Genesis, we read the familiar story of Adam and Eve.  God created these first humans to live daily in his presence in the garden of Eden.  In the Hebrew language, ‘Eden’ refers to 5 words, spot, moment, presence, in other words, ‘the delightful spot on the earth where the manifested presence of God was an open door between heaven and earth’.

It is where God originally destined humans to exist.  God created water for fish, air for birds and for humans, he gave us his presence.  Because, it is in his presence, that we discover true intimacy with God, it is the place where we are changed and where our situations, thinking and the people around us are also transformed.

But as we know from Genesis, Lucifer did not like this.  As a former angel himself, he too must have experienced the manifest presence and glory of God, but he wanted that glory for himself.  He also knew just how powerful it was and so he was on a mission, to take it away from Adam and Eve. If he could somehow negotiate with them and persuade them (of their own will) to forsake the presence of God, he then knew that man would fail.

And we know that a decision made then by Adam and Eve, had an impact on mankind for generations to come.  But thank God, that God’s original plan could not be thwarted or changed.  Lucifer must have thought at the time, ‘Ha! I have them now’, but he was wrong.

You see, when Christ died, he took back the authority, dominion and power that Lucifer had taken for himself and he restored you and me and anyone else who accepts it, back into the manifest presence of God. Christ gave us our purpose back, our meaning for living, as members of the body of Christ, as members of God’s family.

When I first started to discover this, things began to change in me.

Through God’s plan of redemption, I no longer needed to cry out for a special visitation.  The Kingdom of God, God’s manifest presence was already living in me.  And because of that revelation, I can live in it daily.

It means that whatever storm I am walking through, I am never alone and it also means, that while in human terms, things may look impossible, in the presence of God, ALL things are possible.

When we choose to live in his presence daily, in our workplaces, school, church and in every situation we walk into, we start to see things change.  We are changed and our situations and the people around us are changed too.  And the reason is simple, God’s manifest presence is already here and in God’s presence, anything is possible.

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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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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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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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