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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

 

 

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!


 

 

 

Christian Media, Christianity, Devotional, Evangelism, Faith

Thank you!

On UCB 1 and UCB 2 last week, it was our National Appeal and if you were involved in some way, I want to thank you for your support.

The theme of the appeal, ‘Bring 4:35 alive’ was based on John 4:35 where Jesus says to the disciples; ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.’

I have been thinking about and studying this verse for a long time and I get so much from it. It reminds us to stop looking around at the problems we face and all the uncertainties in the world.  It tells us instead to ‘look up…to be ready…to reap the harvest.’  The time is now, people are ready to hear the incredible life-changing message of Jesus.  And at UCB, we believe that Christian media can be an important part of reaching people, and that by working together, we can reach the UK with the Gospel in an unprecented way.

The appeal last week was remarkable and as I walked around UCB, overhearing conversations on phone lines or between staff members, I could feel faith rising in all of our hearts. There was an air of excitement and expectancy and as we exceeded our original target on day 2 of the appeal, we were overwhelmed at God’s goodness and provision. By the end of the appeal, thanks to your support, more than £220,000 was raised to help UCB’s mission and ministry.

As we closed the phone lines on Friday night, our hearts were full of joy, not just due to the funds that were raised, but because of the feeling that God had heard our prayers and had opened the windows of heaven.

So, if you were part of UCB’s appeal, in giving, or in prayer, thank you.  We still have a long way to go, but these 3 days reminded us that we have a God who hears us when we pray.  We do not always get our breakthrough immediately, but when we begin to see God move in our circumstances, it is unmistakeable.

Can I encourage you, if you are waiting for a breakthrough in your own circumstances, keep praying, keep believing, keep holding on to God’s Word.  We serve a God who hears us when we pray.

Thank you again for all your support.

p.s If you would like to support UCB’s appeal, you can still do so at www.ucb.co.uk/support

thank you

 

 

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

UCB needs your help

I am taking the unusual step of putting these thoughts into a blog post, due to an urgent need we are facing at UCB.

We live in uncertain times. Our political systems are changing and the world is shaking in a way that we have not seen before. But do you know what? God is moving and we know that He has great plans for our nation.

UCB is seeing a great demand upon its resources. Every year we reach well over one million people through our radio, television, Word for TodayPrayerline and many other aspects of our ministry.

Can I really share my heart to you?

Right now we urgently need your help. Demand upon our free resources is growing, but in 2016 our income dropped by almost £1 million pounds and it’s continuing to decline.

We are asking you to stand with us, but you may be asking, ‘how can I do that?’

Number one, you can pray for us and you can also tell people about how to engage in our resources.  But right now I am asking you to stand with us to support UCB with a donation. Regular giving from people like you allows us to plan for the future so that we can meet this growing demand.

You may not be aware but UCB is a charity. We receive no government funding and are completely reliant on God. But God uses people like our faithful listeners, viewers and readers, just like you to support this ministry.  Our heart is to reach as many people across the UK to see God’s light shine in the darkness and to see lives transformed by the power of God’s Word.

Time is of the essence and we must not let the enemy’s strategy prevail, which is to steal, kill and destroy. Thousands of people rely on receiving God’s Word through the UCB Word For Today, UCB Radio, UCB TV and much more to bring hope and spiritual encouragement.

Will you stand with UCB today?

 

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Face fear with your faith!

After the arrest of Jesus and later His execution, we know that the disciples were afraid. 

John 20:19 tells us that on the evening of the first day, they were together, ‘with the doors locked’. It must have been a very distressing time. Their best friend and Saviour had been publicly executed and they must have been very shocked by all they had witnessed. In fear for his life, Peter had denied knowing Jesus and now, they were all hiding behind locked doors. 

This picture hidden away in a room, is an illustration to me, of what the enemy tries to do in our lives. I believe fear is the greatest weapon of the enemy – fear literally paralyses us and stops us from moving forward.

It might be the fear of ill health, of losing your job, the fear of what others think. It does not matter, it all has the same outcome – it holds us back from all that God wants us to do. It was the same for the disciples. Just a few days before, they had been enjoying a Passover meal with Jesus and now they were in hiding, trying to preserve their lives. They were unable to move forward.
The amazing part of this story to me is that when Jesus appeared to them, He asked them, ‘Why are you frightened?’. Luke 24:36 says Jesus asked them, ‘“Why do you doubt that it is really I? Look at my hands! Look at my feet! You can see that it is I, myself! Touch me and make sure that I am not a ghost! For ghosts don’t have bodies, as you see that I do!” As he spoke, he held out his hands for them to see the marks of the nails and showed them the wounds in his feet.

Luke 24:41 says, ‘Still they stood there undecided, filled with joy and doubt’.

Even when Jesus appeared to them in power and wonder, after being so brutally killed, they were still not sure whether they could believe their eyes!

The journey of faith is not always an easy one and sometimes even when we know and experience Jesus in the middle of the situations we face, we wonder if He really will save us. This story speaks to us of the heart and mercy of Jesus. He appeared to the disciples in the middle of all their doubt and confusion and then he ate a meal with them. As they listened to all that he said, the Word of God tells us that they, ‘opened their minds to understand at last the Scriptures’.

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

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

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Heaven is real

Last year, I told the story of losing our son Jamie when he was 13 months old. Our hearts were broken and as I cried out to God and asked Him to bring Jamie back, I felt God speak into my spirit; ‘He will not come back to you, but you will go to him one day’.
I learned later that these were the words God spoke to King David after the loss of his own son. Over the years, those words have given me great hope and comfort, because they remind me there is a world beyond this one.  I believe we will see Jamie again one day.

If you have lost someone you love, I would like to encourage you to know and believe that Heaven is not a myth. Heaven is real.

The Scriptures give us quite a lot of detail about Heaven.  Heaven is where God lives (Psalm 23:1) and Heaven was designed for us.   God does not need a place to live, He is self-sufficient, but He made Heaven for us.  God’s heart was to create a home and a family and God loves us so much that He has adopted us into the family so we can spend eternity with Him.   But He also gave us a choice.   Where we spend eternity will be determined by the choices we make in this life, whether we choose to accept the free gift of Jesus, or not.

What is Heaven like? 

Jesus said that He would go to prepare a place for us (John 14:3) and in Revelation 22, we are given a beautiful picture of a place with trees and a river ‘clear as crystal’ which flows down the middle of the street.  Heaven is also described as a place where God’s people will live with Him forever, and where all tears, grief, pain and death will be wiped away.  It is a place where the ‘old order of things has passed away’.  (Revelation 21).   If you are like me, sometimes you might think, ‘Lord, it’s dreadful down here…’ But the thought of a perfect world to come with no pain, gives us great hope.

Living for today

Although we look forward to eternity with great expectancy, it is still important to live with our purpose while on this Earth, to be fully present in the life we have been given.  It is ok to dream and look forward to a day when we can take off our ‘suit’ of flesh and blood, but we should not forget that God has a purpose for us now.

In 2 Corinthians, Paul says that we are ambassadors of Christ.   If I were a political ambassador, it would mean that I had an important purpose, but that ultimately I was the citizen of another country.  The same is true when we are Christ’s ambassadors.  Our appointment and purpose is from God and we have a heavenly assignment, to speak God’s heart to the country and situation we are currently in.

If you are in a difficult situation or have lost someone you love too, can I encourage you, Heaven is real.  As believers, it is a place we can look forward to with expectancy.   I believe that I will one day be reunited with both my son and grandson, but until that day, let’s live for the here and now.

Let’s make it our goal to share this truth, this hope with as many people as possible, until the day God finally calls us home.


 

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God will get you through it…

I would like to tell you about my grandson Emile. Emile is 8 years old and is so loving and caring (especially with his new baby sister) and I believe God has a great purpose for his life.

My daughter Natalie had a normal pregnancy with Emile and as a family we had no idea there was anything wrong. Emile surprised everyone by arriving two months early and at first the doctor thought he might have a blockage in one of the tubes leading to his stomach.

However, as the doctors did many more investigations, they discovered that Emile actually had Vacterl Syndrome, a genetic condition which affects multiple areas of the body. Emile had a hole in his heart, problems with his spine, his oesophagus was fused to his lung (instead of his stomach) and he had only one kidney. In addition, he had a problem with the thumb on his hand and one of his eyes remained shut, as there was no nerve in the eyelid.


At the beginning of his journey, when we were first told of Emile’s diagnosis, our family was devastated. Having lost a child of our own, my wife Jackie and I did not want to see Natalie and Antoine go through a similar heartache. I remember spending a lot of time with God and I felt Him tell me clearly that He would not lift us out of the situation, but He would lead us through it. All around the world, other ministries and friends were praying for Emile and his parents and we felt so lifted by their prayers, knowing that we were not alone.

Emile was finally released from hospital and Natalie and Antoine had a wonderful first day as a family at home with him. For the first time, they felt like real parents but that evening, Emile choked and had to be resuscitated and rushed back to hospital. It felt as though we were facing yet another setback, and yet through it all, we sensed that victory was coming. 

Emile remained in hospital till he was four months old and had many operations during that time and over the following years.


The doctors said that Emile would probably never sit unaided, and if he did, he would probably never stand. And if he was ever able to stand, he would never be able to walk or run. And yet, Emile has done all of those things and much more. 

We wondered if he would ever be able to eat normally. At the time he had a button fitted in his stomach to allow tube feeding. When he was five years old, Emile started to eat and finally this year he had his button removed, as he is now eating enough on his own. I remember the weekend that Emile came to stay with us and ate a whole plate of spaghetti. For Jackie and I, it was an incredible event and even now when I sit at the table and see him eat, there is a silent cry of thanks that wells up inside me. Thank you God, thank you Father for ALL you have done in his life.

God has been so faithful and although Emile faces many challenges, we know that God has been true to His word when He said he would not take us out of the situation, but He would lead us through it.  

Did I ever doubt? I can honestly say I do not think I did. However, there have been times that have been overwhelming. Seeing someone you love in so much pain is devastating and stressful and yet even through pain, God has been there.  

On one occasion I felt God tell me to ‘talk to the mountain’ and so sitting with Emile as he was in his hospital bed, I asked if he could feel any pain. He said yes and I told him that in Jesus’ name, he could tell the pain to go. As we prayed and Emile told the pain to leave his body, I wish I could have taken a photograph, as a huge smile lit up his face. Even now, several years later, our daughter tells us that Emile will shout out, ‘Pain, go, in Jesus name!’

His simple faith has been such a blessing to us and God has spoken to us so many times.

On another occasion, I was with Emile at a physiotherapy appointment, to help correct a malformation in his thumb. The physiotherapist explained that in order to get the thumb into the right position, they would need to ‘stretch and pull’. This would be a repeated process until eventually the thumb stayed in a more natural position. It would not be pleasant but as the physiotherapist explained, ‘when the thumb stays in the right position, we will know we have won’.  

It spoke to me so clearly of how God works in our lives. Sometimes our lives and purposes need to be realigned and we need divine physiotherapy to put us into the right position. It is rarely a pleasant experience, but God uses this stretching and pulling, to shape us into the people he wants us to be.

Today, as we look back on all God has done in Emile’s life so far, we are overwhelmed and so very grateful. There is much physical healing still to be done in Emile’s life, but we know that the God who has brought us this far, will continue to see us through.