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

The ultimate sacrifice

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Easter!

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

What will be your legacy?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Christian Media, Christian Radio, Christianity, Devotional, Faith

Are you ready to have your best year yet?

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

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

What are you talking about?

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

We need to be changed

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

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

What is your room furnished with?

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

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

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Christianity, Christmas, Devotional, Faith

Life lessons from the Christmas story

I have been thinking this week about the story of Mary.

Mary, the mother of Jesus was given an extraordinary assignment and if you have a dream and a vision for the future, her life story is a great encouragement.

Your past doesn’t matter

God gave Mary a special job, despite the fact that by human standards she was too poor, too young and from the wrong part of town.  God could have gone to the palaces to find a ‘suitable’ mother for the Messiah, but instead he chose an unknown girl from a poor village.  To me this is a reminder that our past, our background or our culture is not a problem for God.  When I arrived in the UK, I was young foreigner but God took hold of me and changed my life in unexpected ways.  We are all born with a God-given purpose and God loves to take insignificant people (in the world’s eyes) and birth significance into their lives.

A vision for the future can make you feel hopeless

This might seem like a strange thing to say, but often when God gives us a dream, we can feel hopeless.  How will God accomplish such a thing? Is it possible?  Have I imagined this?  And yet, just like Mary, when God speaks to us and gives us a vision, His Holy Spirit can empower us, take us further than we could ever imagine and make the impossible, possible in our lives.

His Holy Spirit is bigger than our intellect, our talent and our ability.  His Holy Spirit is bigger than our past, our culture and our logic.   But like Mary, we have to stop arguing with our reason and thinking and instead say, ‘God, if you said it, I will align my will to your will’.

You have to step up

With any vision, talking about it, thinking about it, won’t make it happen. When Gabriel visited Mary, after the initial shock, she got up and went to visit Elisabeth. That was her response.  And likewise with us, we have to make a response and to begin to move forward into what God has called us to do.  We might not immediately see results but it is important to live in a culture which cultivates it.  Surround yourself with people who will speak life into your vision, and like Mary, rub shoulders with people who will make that dream ‘leap’ within your spirit.

Be patient

Mary had to wait 9 months to see the fulfillment of the vision God had given her.  You and I may have to wait much longer.  The process of waiting for the dream to come true can be a time of real preparation.

Here at UCB, we believe God has given us a vision for an unprecedented move of God which will sweep the UK and beyond.  We haven’t yet seen this (although we believe we are seeing small signs) so instead we are preparing ourselves, our infrastructure and our organisation to be ready for when it happens and to be able to support the Church 24/7, 365 days a year.  Mary had to prayerfully get ready for the arrival of Jesus.  She knew what was promised would come true and so she began to prepare for what she knew was to come.

Don’t despise small beginnings

The arrival of Jesus was a low-key affair. There was no room at the inn for the newborn king, there was no fanfare from the palaces, there was no state announcement.  In fact, if it were not for the angels who sang and the light of a star, His birth may have gone unnoticed for a long time.  Jesus himself was placed in a feeding manger, in rags, the most unassuming, ‘small’ beginning for the saviour of the world.  And yet, those small, humble beginnings, led to the plan of salvation for all of mankind.

It’s important to remember that great things (just like oak trees) can have the smallest and most humble of beginnings.

Can I encourage you today, that if you are waiting for God to fulfil your own vision and dream, to be faithful to what you believe God has shown you.  Use the time positively, to prepare spiritually (and physically) and to surround yourself with people who will help to keep you accountable.

If God has said it, it will come to pass.

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

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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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.

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

Pick your team wisely

This week, UCB’s Board of Trustees met together to review UCB’s activities and accounts for the year so far. It has been a busy few days with our Board travelling in from different areas of the UK, but I am so thankful for each of our Trustees, for their wisdom and ability. 

In any leadership position, it is important to have a GOOD team around you. We are blessed at UCB to have a Board and Executive Team made up of Godly, skilled men and women who have the right balance of professional skills and a heart for ministry. When we look to appoint new people to our team, we are above all, looking for people of integrity with a heart for UCB’s vision, who can help and support UCB to stay focused on the big picture and keep us accountable in all things.

Our Board meetings are a mixture of time spent together with God (this is a non-negotiable) and time spent going over the business and operational side of UCB. 

This meeting was no exception and we began by looking to God’s Word. Although we are governed by a great Board, ultimately God is our chairman and we always start with worship and devotions. This time, one particular area of scripture stood out for me; 1 Samuel 15.  

The prophet Samuel gave Saul an assignment from God. He was to destroy the Amalekites and all their possessions, because they were a people who had dishonoured God. Saul accepted the challenge and defeated the Amalekites but he preserved the life of king Agag and saved the best of the cattle. Knowing that Saul had been disobedient, Samuel went to confront him. Saul declared that he had ‘carried out the command of the Lord’ but (perhaps with a hint of humour), the prophet Samuel said, ‘what then is the bleating of sheep I can hear?’  

Saul had been disobedient but he argued that all these fine lambs would make an even bigger and better sacrifice to the Lord. Samuel reminded him, ‘to obey is better than sacrifice’.

This story reminded us all of the need to be obedient. It is easy sometimes to be focused on matters of business and governance but it is important, first and foremost to fear God. This is not a kind of terrified fear, but a reverent fear which ensures we stay close to Him and when He tells us to do something, we do it!  

That is why, for me, it is important to be surrounded by Godly, discerning people such as our Board, as they bring an ‘outside’ perspective and help to keep us on track. In all areas of life, we each need a ‘team’, a team of people who will support us in the good and bad times and also, if needed, provide a voice of correction. Do not be tempted to surround yourself with ‘yes men’. Find a Samuel.

Our trustees have now gone home but we will be meeting again soon for prayer and updates. 

Can I ask you to join us in prayer for a few issues? For wisdom and discernment for our Board and Executive team? And also for a breakthrough in UCB’s finances. We continue to experience many challenges with UCB’s income stream, but we are looking to the future with faith (not fear). 

Please could you stand with us and believe for a breakthrough?