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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, 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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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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In a time of terror, the Lord is the stronghold of my life. 

Just two weeks after the attack in Manchester, here we are again, facing yet again more devastating news; “Terror strikes again in London Bridge – at least 6 people have died and more than 40 injured”.

First, of all, our thoughts and prayers are with everyone affected; individuals, families, emergency services, the communities nearby, our Capital city of London as well as our Prime Minister and government. How they need God’s wisdom and guidance as they deal with another horrific tragedy.

And for us, where do we find healing when our broken hearts seem unable to recover? As a country, we have barely understood one tragedy, when yet another one hits. What can we do? 

Well, for me personally, my only advice is to stand firmly upon God’s Word, for that is where I find my comfort and strength. God’s Word has been the anchor for my own family in times of desperate tragedy and it is the one thing that we can ALWAYS rely on. God’s Word never changes and it contains all we need for hope, comfort, healing, for wisdom and guidance. 

If you are fearful, grieving or broken today, let the truth of God’s Word sink into your heart; 

The Lord is MY light and MY salvation. Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life, of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked advance against me to devour me, it is my enemies and my foes who will stumble and fall. Though an army besiege me, my heart will NOT fear, though war break out against me, even then I will be confident. (Psalm 27:1-3)

To me, in darkness and devastating times, the Lord is my source of light, that means He WILL guide and lead me. Darkness may be the symbol of distress, trouble, perplexity and sorrow, but light is the very opposite of these. God supplied King David with so much light, that his very darkness disappeared and his way became brighter, even in a time of real trouble. If we allow God to invade our lives, He gives us His peace (that surpasses all understanding) and He reminds us that He IS God and when we are with Him, we are safe.  

Today you may be broken-hearted, well let me tell you that He still heals broken hearts. I know, because He healed mine. Psalm 147:3 says, ‘He heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds.’

The definition of ‘broken’ is ‘reduced to pieces’, fragmented, ruptured, torn, fractured, not functioning properly, out of working order.

Is this how you feel? Do you feel like your heart has been reduced to pieces? Ruptured? Broken? Destroyed? YOU ARE REALLY HURTING! It’s like your heart has been shattered into many pieces and you feel emotionally crippled. Ask God to help you, to strengthen you and to heal you. Hand your situation over to Him, trust in Him, anchor yourself in His Word and allow Him into the broken parts of your life.  

He STILL heals the broken hearted! Why? Because He really loves you.

Our hearts and prayers today are with everyone who is broken, lost and who feels as though their lives have been shattered. The cry of our hearts is, ‘Lord God, heal our land!

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!