Christian Media, Christian Radio, Christianity, Devotional, Faith, Healing, Hope, Spiritual healing

When you feel crushed…

My family and I spent our Summer holiday in the Loire Valley, an area famous for its vineyards and wine making.  During my time there, I started to think about the journey of the grape and the long process it goes through, from vine to wine glass.   I felt God challenge me about that journey and how it could apply to the long process we each go through in life, to become who God would have us to be.

If I was to imagine myself as a grape, this is what the process might feel like.

It is a fresh sunny day in early spring and I am hanging on the vine, with a bunch of others, covered with morning dew. I feel like I am part of something and life’s prospects seem good, but then suddenly, the rain and hail hits.

I try to hide behind the vine leaf to shelter from the storm, but it is hard to keep dry, for the vine has been pruned back and I am now exposed, unable to hide.

Where has the sun gone?  Is this Spring or Winter? No one told me this would be so hard!  It feels like hell. Surely this will be over soon?

And then after a turbulent and stormy and wet Summer, now Autumn has come. Early morning early frost settles on the vine and again I found myself wanting to shelter, but then before I know it, it is harvest time and suddenly, I am being picked from the vine.

There are loud engines and machines all around and I find myself being ripped from all that is secure and safe.

I am put into a large, dark, smelly container and then turned into another metal large box, where I am being pressed and squeezed.  My very shape itself is being moulded into something else and all I can feel is intense pressure and deep, deep crushing.  It hurts!

Finally, just when I think it is over, I am then poured into a wood barrel and wheeled into a dark cellar.  Surely this is it?  All this crushing, this pain, this change, surely I am now ready and finished?  This must be the final stage which will last a few hours, no?

But no, this process takes a few years, but then something remarkable happens.  Suddenly, a light shines into the darkness and the wine is being tasted.  ‘It is ready’, I hear the voices cry, as they pour me into a much smaller container, a bottle.

There’s a label on the outside of the bottle, to describe what I now am, but just when I think I am about to be released into my purpose, I am once again now laid carefully on a shelf, to wait and wait and wait.

It seems as though the waiting goes on forever but then once again, the light shines into the darkness and I am being gently handled, the cork on the bottle is carefully removed and I am being poured into a large glass.  I can hear all the voices around the table and I can hear the host of the party, saying, ‘Try this fine wine…this is the best I have ever made’.

Everyone is smelling and swirling and tasting and agreeing with the host, that this long process has been worth it all.  All the seasons, all the crushing, the pressing and the waiting, has produced something that not only looks beautiful, but which also smells and tastes wonderful.

If we apply the picture of a grape to our own lives, I am sure we will see many similarities.

We each walk through many seasons, many of them very painful, which at times, feel as though they will never end.

And yet, through the whole process, God is making something beautiful and precious out of everything we go through.

What season are you in today?  And if you were squeezed, what aroma, what taste would come from you?   My prayer is that we can stand with Paul, who said, “But I will rejoice even if my life is poured out like a liquid offering to God, over your sacrificial and surrendered lives of faith. And so no matter what happens to me, you should rejoice in ecstatic celebration with me!” Philippians 2:17

I pray that whatever season you are in, you will believe and be encouraged that no matter what is happening, God can use this time to make something beautiful out of us.

DLH-Blog-WhenYou'reBeingCrushed

 

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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#EUReferendum, Christian Media, Christian Radio, Christianity, Evangelism, Faith

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

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, 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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