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How to be a radical disciple

How to be a radical disciple.

A few weeks ago, it was wonderful to have Jarrod Cooper with us, to speak at our Foundation event, for leaders.  We were so blessed by Jarrod’s ministry and I have asked him to share a few thoughts this week, as a guest blog.   I hope this encourages you too, to be radical in your discipleship.

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Radical disciples

God did not ask us to make ‘church members’, count ‘decisions’, or even have people say, ‘the sinner’s prayer’, (not that I’m against any of those things necessarily). He actually told us to be to make disciples.

“Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me!” Matt 16:24

A church member in some of today’s circles is more like the member of any social club. Some want to go to a certain church because it’s cool, big, glitzy or because it’s small, comfortable, not too demanding. All this has little to do with the real walk of faith and the real JESUS. In the gospels we find that Jesus-followers entered into a deeply life changing arrangement.

The disciples had to be…

Available

Busy people gave up their jobs and plans to follow Jesus after a single request. Would you or I? He may not require everyone to give up their careers, but all will have to make space for the learning and mission of being a disciple.

Teachable

Jesus told them, “I will make you fishers of men.” It was clear He was going to teach them. A disciple, by inference, has a teacher. If you are the leader, that’s you! Are we discipling our church members or filling in databases and doing hospital visits? Every church should be a training ground and every Christian a soldier either in, or preparing for, battle.

Breakable

Talented Peter went through some deep, humbling experiences. Disciples accept humility and brokenness as part of the journey. Pride is at the root of all sin and must be winkled out. God will line all of us up for some rejection, failure and being overlooked. Are we teaching our people to handle it? Are we preaching brokenness and teaching repentance? Are we confronting sin? We’ve all got to pass that test (or keep retaking it!)

Correctable

True discipleship involves some straight conversations. ‘Iron sharpens iron’, but soft, PC, marshmallow conversations rarely change anyone deeply! Our society is so hooked on approval that often we don’t know what correction or discipline looks like any more, so we call it rejection. But correction is not rejection, it is protection. And discipline is not disapproval, it’s the removal of stuff that is going to harm you! “God disciplines those He loves” (Hebrews 12:4-11) Are we raising disciples who will embrace correction and find life in it?

Connectable

Jesus called His disciples “to be with him”. Friendship with a more experienced man or woman of God and a group of fellow disciples is a vital part of healthy growth. Are we allowing a few to get close, to walk the walk with us, and not just listen on Sundays? You can’t be connected to everyone, but we all can disciple a few.

Sendable

Another new word! Jesus “sent them out”. Are we sending the troops somewhere, adventuring selflessly as part of a vision bigger than ourselves? Every true disciple is a missionary.

So are we raising disciples or gathering members? Some of us need to change the polarity of our relationship with our church members, because it should not be the leaders who are chasing around after members.

Instead, the leaders should be saying to others, “Follow me, and I will make you…” (Matthew 4:19). Leaders of the Church of the future won’t simply be carers and counsellors (though both are necessary), but pioneers who get a vision, make it plain for all to see, then march off to a brave new world with disciples following. In this way the Church will become more of a movement than a hospital. An army on the front line, not cadets locked in their barracks!


 

 

 

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

Darkness will never extinguish the light! 

I am in France this week taking part in a exciting mission with Pastor Marc Declaudure’s churches in three towns Saumur, Thouard and Ludun.   I woke up this morning, like many others to devastating news headlines;  ‘Manchester Arena blast: 22 dead and a further 59 people were injured’ after another suspected terror attack. 

Although I was born in France, I have lived in the UK for well over 40 years and my wife and I raised our family here. The UK is our home.

I was in France in November 2015, when terrorists attacked Paris. And just like these last few days, I was in the middle of an exciting week of mission at my brother’s church then too and we were seeing incredible miracles, lives set free and people commit their lives to Christ.

We were full of excitement at what God was doing and then we heard the horrific news about Paris. Our hearts were broken, just as they are today for the people of Manchester, for all those who have been injured, for all those who have lost someone.   

We are so thankful to live in a country that is able to respond quickly and with deep compassion in the face of a tragedy. 

As Christians, we sometimes wonder what to say in the face of such a terrible situation. Today I am again reminded of the words of Psalm 37, this very same psalm that we read the Sunday morning after the attacks in Paris.

Do not fret because of those who are evil

or be envious of those who do wrong 
Be still before the Lord

and wait patiently for him;

do not fret when people succeed in their ways,

when they carry out their wicked schemes.  

The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord;

he is their stronghold in time of trouble.

The Lord helps them and delivers them;

he delivers them from the wicked and saves them,

because they take refuge in him. 

How can we pray?

Firstly, let’s consider people. Let’s pray for those who are fighting for their lives. Let’s pray for the families and those who have lost someone they loved. Let’s also pray for those who witnessed the attack and for the local residents who have to come to terms with this enormous tragedy. Let’s pray also for the medical centres who are working with the injured.

Secondly, we need to pray for wisdom for our Governments as they discuss and debate what happens next, that they choose ways and responses which are inspired by God and not necessarily their own intuition.

Thirdly, let us always go to God’s Word for our answers. His Word (John 1:5) says that the darkness in the world will get darker, but that darkness will never extinguish light. In fact, it says that light (His light) will continue to shine brighter and the darkness CANNOT overcome it. 
That is where I get my strength and hope.
Let’s pray with passion for our world and all those who are suffering and grieving today.   

And may God’s light, his in-extinguishable light shine ever brighter in the middle of the darkness we see.

Christian Media, Christian Radio, Christianity, Devotional, Easter, Faith, Forgiveness, Healing

Jesus will meet you at your point of need – Mary Magdalene’s story

I have spoken before about some of the losses our family has faced. In the immediate aftermath of a bereavement, without God’s help, it can feel as though life cannot continue without that loved one. However, thank God for His Word that sustains and holds us together during the very darkest times of our lives.  

As we prepare to celebrate Easter, I have been trying to put myself in the shoes of the friends of Jesus; the disciples, the people who were his companions during his life on Earth. I have been wondering what they must have felt after he was executed? What was it like after Jesus was resurrected? How did they feel when they saw him again for the first time, since the atrocity of his death? 

Mary Magdalene was one of those friends. She was a woman with a dark past whose life had been changed forever after an encounter with Jesus. Although she must have known he was the messiah, did she experience any doubt after she witnessed his death? We do not know what she felt, but did she wonder if Jesus was really coming back? Did she experience despair and grief? Even when we know the truth, in the dark experiences of our lives, it can be easy to focus on the circumstances of what we see.   

Whatever she felt, whether it was hope, or hopelessness, we know that on Resurrection morning, after Jesus rose from the dead, everything changed. Matthew 28 says, ‘Suddenly, Jesus met them’.    

This word ‘suddenly’ is very important to me personally, because it reminds me that just at my point of need, just when I need him most, that is when Jesus appears.  
For Mary Magdalene and the others who saw the risen Christ, when Jesus met them, in an instant, hope and peace was restored, they could see a future. They knew they would get through this. In that moment, they experienced the resurrection for themselves.  

This is what Easter means to me. The resurrection was not just an event in history, it was an event which brought hope to the friends of Jesus, hope to all who witnessed it and hope for today’s world, thousands of years later.   

Whatever you are going through, even if it seems like an impossible situation, the death and life of Jesus reminds us that there is a future and that because of the resurrection, whatever life brings our way, we can have hope and peace. When Jesus meets us, everything changes.

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

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.


 

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

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.  

     

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

Don’t trust your feelings. Ignite your faith.

I was recently reading 1 Kings 19, which tells the story of Elijah and the enormous personal battle he fought, after winning a great victory against the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel.

Elijah had called on the name of the Lord and saw fire fall from heaven.  The disbelievers in the crowd fell on their faces and worshipped the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  The one true God had been glorified and the Godless prophets of Baal had all been killed.   This extraordinary day of miracles shook the country and without a doubt, Elijah was operating out of the anointing of his calling. He was serving God and was at his very best.

But then Elijah received news that Jezebel was after him.   She was enraged by Elijah’s ‘rebellion’ and sent a messenger to say;  “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life, like that of one of them.” (1 Kings 19:2).   Elijah had been full of faith, sure of his identity and yet, those few words plunged him into fear and into an identity crisis.

At this point, a few things happened:

He became deeply emotional and fearful – his mind was affected.

He became physically tired and exhausted – his body was impacted.

He could not hear God’s voice – his spirit was drained.

A few days before, he would have sought God for the answer, but now he was depressed, despondent and Scripture says he’d had enough and wanted God to take his life.  He was being attacked by an unseen enemy which wanted to steal the victory, kill him and ultimately destroy all of God’s work.

As I look around me, I see this so often in our churches.  I believe that one of the biggest attacks of the enemy on the church today, is the attack of depression and despondency.   The Word tells us that the enemy’s weapon is to steal and there is no greater way to make an army ineffective, than to steal their joy, their confidence, their identity and replace it with fear and exhaustion.  This often happens too, just after a big victory.

The story of Elijah shows that the enemy often works through our feelings,  The enemy tries to mentally suck us dry and create a battle ‘between our ears’ of being overwhelmed.  I believe if the enemy can win the battle ground in our mind, he knows he will successfully distract us from God’s plans and get us to focus on the problem and how we feel about it.

If you are in that place, of feeling despondent, depressed, overwhelmed or in fear (just like Elijah), you might be wondering if there is a way out.   I have been there and I know it can be a difficult journey,  but there is a way out and there are many great guidelines to be found in God’s Word.

Deal with the physical

Firstly, on a very practical level, God dealt with Elijah’s physical needs. I love that God is a God of practicalities!    Immediately, God sent Elijah some food and water  (delivered by an angel) and then allowed him to sleep. Once Elijah had been strengthened on a very physical level, God began to speak to Him. He did not give Elijah all the answers, but He asked him questions and allowed him to experience His presence.   If you are feeling overwhelmed by situations in life, it is first good to check all the physical, practical causes, such as lack of rest or proper nutrition.

However, it is also important to deal with the spiritual causes and here is some advice, based on things I have learned in my own life.

Instigate disciplines

Discipline is a part of discipleship.  If you have the discipline of regular devotionals in your life (so that it becomes a daily habit), you will be able to continue reading God’s Word even when you are in a dry patch.  If you create frameworks of discipline in your life, before you experience despondency, you will find that you have a ready-made oasis just when you need it.

Phone a friend

Find a friend you trust and ask them to do the journey with you.  For many years (until he passed away), I had a wonderful friend who knew me so well, that he could detect even a change in my voice and understand if something wasn’t right.  He was great at provoking me to speak out and to share what was going on.  He and I were often able to travel the journey together and support each other in prayer, when the other was going through a difficult time.  Having good strong friendships is very important.

Practice the presence

Jesus was led into the wilderness for 40 days and was tested in many different ways before His work could begin.  Often, the enemy will try to attack our identity (just as he did with Jesus;  ‘If you are the son of God…’) he said.  Jesus knew His identity and He knew God’s Word and He was able to stand firm against the test.  At the end of the test, he experienced God’s presence and He left the wilderness refreshed, anointed and ready for His assignment.   Often in church, we work first and rest later, but I believe that God wants us to operate from a place of rest.  When we work and live in God’s presence, we can act from a position of faith, rather than what our feelings tell us.

Go back to God’s Word.  

I love Psalm 13. To me, it sums up a feeling of despondency and downheartedness so very well.

How long Oh Lord?  Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day, have sorrow in my heart?  (Psalm 13) .

This Psalm is wonderful because after David has poured out his heart to God, a switch happened, something changed.  By verse 5 and 6, he says, ‘But I trust in your unfailing love. my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the Lord’s praise for He has been good to me’.  

As he wrote and cried out to the Lord, his heart started to move toward praise.  One minute, here we have a guy who feels forgotten and forsaken and then as he cries out to the Lord, he moves into the realm of praise.

It is ok to feel forgotten, forsaken, despondent, depressed – none of these things are a sin. But it is important to not rely on these feelings, and instead go back to the reality of God at work in your life.   God has never failed you (or me!) in the past and He will not fail you now.   Ask Him today to help you move beyond your feelings and instead, into an atmosphere of praise and faith.

It is in His presence, that we can find true rest and also once again begin to find God’s purpose in our lives.

faithblog

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

The Power of a Story – Sid’s story

Once a year, the UCB team (staff and volunteers) gather together to celebrate all that God has done and share some of our thoughts and hopes for the future.

Our Staff Away Day was last Thursday and what a wonderful day we had.  We had a wonderful time of worship together, led by our friends from CfAN, followed by a great word from the Chairman of our Board, Alan Scotland, who heads up Global Horizons.    We themed the event, ‘The Power of a story’ to coincide with a new book we have published for UCB’s 30th anniversary. The book tells the stories of 30 people whose lives have been changed by the power of God’s Word.

Two of the people in the book, Sid O’Neill and Margaret McGuckin, came to join us (as a surprise for the staff) at the Away Day.  We shared their stories on video and then invited them to talk in more detail about how God has impacted their lives.


This is Sid’s story in his own words:

When I was 12 years old, I went to live with my grandmother. The house we lived in had a lot of strange spiritual activity and, as a child, I used to see and hear spirits. That was my only experience of anything ‘spiritual’. Years later, I was working in a print factory and one of the bosses, Neil, was a Christian. I think I made his life a misery, as I used to tease him and try to embarrass him. I’d never met a Christian before – I thought it was really amusing. I wondered why he always read his Bible, rather than the newspaper like the rest of us.

Although I knew there was a spiritual world (because of my childhood experiences), the only thing I now did religiously was go to the pub on a Friday night. One night, a group of us were heading off for some drinks when we were involved in a terrible car accident – one of my friends in the car was killed. I was seriously injured and spent a long time in hospital with broken legs and a broken back. I had a lot of time to think and I blamed God for what He had done to me and to my friends. When I got better, I took off to a new job in the Middle East. I made a real mess of things there, started drinking and ended up breaking my contract in order to get back to the UK. When I returned, Neil, the supervisor from my old factory, was now running his own busy printing firm and he was printing this little booklet called the UCB Word for Today.

He offered my wife a job and one day when I went to pick her up, the printing press was broken. Neil was distraught and at the point of tears, as he couldn’t find anyone to fix it and the UCB Word for Today needed to be urgently printed. I don’t know how, but I looked at the machine and I was able to fix it…and the printing continued. Even though I wasn’t a believer, I believe that God helped me to fix that machine.

Somehow, I knew that I needed to be there, working for Neil. It meant a 50% pay cut but I was drawn back there, and I used to read the UCB Word for Today as it came off the presses. One night, Neil gave me a CD with a man singing a song from Psalm 23 and as I sat there, alone in the factory, I raised my hands and I was crying. I knew that God was speaking to me, and I knew that if I asked for forgiveness, God would set me free and He would heal me of all my pain. That was the day I stopped running from God and since then, I have not looked back. Today, I am working with the Christian motorcyclist Association. I can’t say how thankful I am to God for all that He’s done in my life. He’s fixed my hurt and pain, He’s stopped me from running and He’s given me hope. In my life, God has worked through so many different means: through Neil, through the bikers, through the Word For Today and through everyone who prayed for me.

Today, Sid works with the Christian Motorcyclists Association and he brought some of his biker friends from CMA, who also shared how God was working in their lives.

Hearing stories like these blesses me so much.  I know that it is not because of anything UCB has done, but because of God at work in people’s lives.  Sometimes, God allows us and UCB to be part of that journey.  We are so thankful that we are!

This week is a very busy one for our team, as we launch our National Appeal on UCB 1 and UCB 2.   It will be three days of inspiring radio and we will share many more testimonies of God working in people’s lives.

I hope you will be able to listen in.

p.s   If you are able to support the work of UCB this week, it is very easy to get in touch.  You can text the word TEAMUCB to 70500 to give £10 and 100% of the donation comes straight to UCB (the text will cost you 1 network charge + the £10 from your donation).