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Can you be friends, even when you disagree on politics?

Every day, our news channels and Social Media pages are filled with stories which could make us angry.  There are many viewpoints expressed on big political issues and it can leave us wondering if it is possible to have a sensible discussion, when we disagree with someone.

So, is it possible, as Christians to remain friends with people with whom we disagree?

I think the answer is simple: yes!  But it takes wisdom and discernment to find a way through.

In a time of tension, I thought I would share some practical tips.

Be intentional and attentive

My wife says I sometimes have ‘selective listening’ and in any political discussion, it is true that we often only hear what we want to hear.  If we are debating an issue with a friend, we have to make time to be intentional in the questions we ask and also to be attentive.  When we pay attention and really listen, we are able to hear not just the words that are being spoken, but what our friend is actually saying. 

Don’t crusade

This is an old word now but to ‘crusade’ means to be part of a vigorous campaign for political, social, or religious change.  When talking to friends, we can be guilty of this.  We might have strong views on a subject but our chief objective is to try and get them to ‘join our camp’ and change their views, rather than have an honest discussion.  When we stop trying to persuade others to our way of thinking, we open ourselves up to understanding their views.

Relationship over winning

This is an important question to ask ourselves in any discussion;  what is more important to me?  The relationship I have with my friend or ‘winning’?  It’s important to remember that in many senses, our friends’ views are sometimes a reflection of their identity.  So when we try to ‘win’, they might see it as a rejection of themselves as a person.  If we score our friendship highly and want it to remain in place, then we should always choose relationship over winning.

Beware of Social Media

I personally do not share political or controversial posts on Social Media.  There are a few reasons for this but one reason is that I do not want to be defined as a person who cannot have a reasonable discussion.  I would far rather talk about big issues around a dinner table, where people can understand my heart and passion.  On a screen (where many others can see), it is very easy to misunderstand what a person means, so I avoid anything like that.

Agree to disagree

Sometimes, if we feel ourselves getting emotional or angry, we need to have the courage to walk away from the conversation.  It is good to ask yourself the question; where is this conversation going?  Is it leading to a good resolution?  Or is it leading to more anger and upset?   We have to be able to agree to disagree.

So, in answer to the question, is it possible to remain friends with people, we have differences with, then I would go back to where I started and say a firm ‘yes’.  As always, we need to apply wisdom and kindness and above all, let us put our relationship first.

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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.

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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When God’s spirit moves

This week on UCB 1 and UCB 2, it has been our national appeal.  We have been talking on air about 1 Kings 18, and the ‘sound of a mighty rainstorm’. All around us, are small clouds and green shoots of the beginnings of revival and we are expectant and excited to see what God is going to do.

What you won’t have heard on air, is the move of God which has been happening in our own buildings here at UCB.

Last week, we invited Fergus Mcintyre, an itinerant pastor who has a prophetic ministry, to spend time with our staff, praying with each of them and speaking into their lives.

There is nothing like experiencing that refreshing ‘rain’ when the spirit of God touches and refreshes our lives!

As a result of these meetings, I have heard from so many of our team, who have been blessed by what God said to them.  I truly believe this is where revival begins.

There is a famous saying, ‘Lord, send revival and let it start with me’.

When we each develop and grow our intimacy with God, he begins to pour his spirit out. In Joel, it says, ‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.’

I believe these ‘last days’ are now and can I encourage you, to seek God for your own personal revival? When we have received it, we are then able to pass it on to others.

Here are a few stories from our team, of what has happened to them in the past week.

Amy’s story (UCB digital designer)

In my life, I have struggled and felt a lot of pain, but I can always sense when others need help.  When Fergus prayed for me, he told me I am a good listener and God trusts me. I can walk past someone and squeeze their hand and say, ‘I’m with you’ and they will feel God’s presence. This became really apparent during the appeal when I was able to listen and engage with our supporters on the phone. I was able to help a listener with a severe stammer, through the donation process and I was able to listen and let him know I was there to help. This confirmed many of the things Fergus said to me about listening and being trusted to help others through difficult situations.

Carl’s story (Prayerline Liaison Officer)

Over the past few years, I have been able to pray for many of the staff at UCB and have felt I could often feel other people’s pain.  At first, I thought I was just imagining it but when Fergus spoke to me, he said God wanted me to step up and tell people what I felt and then pray for them.  Fergus told me that I was a ‘Barnabas’ and encouraged me to step out in faith, but at the same time, use discernment and speak wisely.  A man I did not know at all, was used to speak encouragement and blessing into my life.

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Fergus spoke to me about how I’m very particular about all the jobs I do, I dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s as he put it.  Whilst this is true, the thing is however hard I try and whatever I do, I always feel like I’m not good enough – so I decided that I’d stay behind and ask Fergus if he’d pray with me about it.

We chatted and very quickly Fergus uncovered the root of the problem.  You see the thing is, I grew up with a violent and overbearing, perfectionist father, everything had to be ‘just right’ all the time.  Me and my siblings grew up constantly walking on eggshells, afraid to upset him and whatever I achieved, it was never enough.  The effect that growing up in this kind of environment has on you as a person is huge.  And whilst I do feel that I have forgiven my Dad for all this already, somehow I’ve just never been able to break free of the hold that it has over me.  So, Fergus then prayed with me and asked me to speak out all the things, all the un-truths that have ever been spoken over me and that I’ve believed.  Then the presence of God came over me in the most powerful way, the chains that have kept me bound since my childhood were broken and I felt the most amazing sense of peace like I have never felt before.  What I have to do now is to walk in the freedom and peace that God has graciously given me.

Paula’s story 

The last few months have been really difficult for me and I’ve been fighting lots of battles.  I knew that I needed to spend more time with God and rest but I’ll admit, instead, I just made myself really busy. I was exhausted.  I didn’t know what Fergus was going to say, but he started laughing and said I was the ’90-mile-an-hour lady, always on the go…and that God wanted me to slow down.  He also said I’d been dealing with the weight of other people’s expectations and God wanted to set me free from that. I honestly felt like a huge weight was lifted almost instantly, as soon as he prayed and this week has been truly incredible.  There’s a tangible sense of God’s presence in the building, spontaneous prayer groups are breaking out and I’ve been diving out of bed in the morning, excited to read my Bible and see what God has to say today.   It’s amazing to see what God is doing.   It’s not what God has done but what he is doing….this is just the beginning.

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Can I encourage you, to spend time seeking God in your own life.  When his spirit touches our lives, everything changes.  We are able to see with clarity and we are able to pass this incredible presence of God on to others too.  This is where revival starts.  As I said at the beginning, ‘Lord, send revival and let it start with me’. 

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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

 

 

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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!