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Face fear with your faith!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Heaven is real

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

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

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

What is Heaven like? 

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

Living for today

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

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

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

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


 

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.

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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).



 

 

 

Christian Media, Christian Radio, Christianity, Devotional, Hope

How to deal with conflict

There is a story in Philippians 4 about two women called Euodia and Syntyche, who it seems were quarrelling.   Paul was so concerned about this lack of unity, that he wrote a letter to the wider church in which he pleaded with them to ‘be of the same mind in the Lord’.   Paul wanted to nip it in the bud.

In our lives, conflict is inevitable.  I think sometimes we are afraid of conflict and perhaps we think that as Christians, we shouldn’t ever experience disagreements?   I believe that disagreements are normal and are to be expected – we are all imperfect human beings with our own struggles and agendas.

However, while disagreements and differences of opinion may happen, we must always fight against division.  I believe this is what Paul was trying to deal with in his letter to the church.    Jesus spoke too on the issue of division.  In Mark 3 he warned that ‘if a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.’   We must always guard our hearts, ministries and organisations against the poison of division.  It is one of my biggest challenges as a leader, to ensure that disagreements don’t lead to a lack of unity.

If you are dealing with conflict as a leader, or in your ordinary working life, here are a few ways to deal with it.

Are you listening? 

If you are mediating between two people, it is important to listen.  Take time to hear both sides of the story and prayerfully ask God for His wisdom and His solutions.  It can be easy to get caught up in the emotions and forget to listen to what is being said.  When I was a young man, I was very zealous and sometimes I made mistakes in how I communicated. The message of what I was trying to say may have been right, but the way I said it was wrong.   Sometimes I look back now and think, ‘what a wally!’   But thank God, I had wise people around me who made allowances for my youth.  Listening is an incredibly important skill.

Be decisive

If we have to make tough choices or challenge bad behaviour, it is important to be decisive and clear.  In his letter to the church, Paul dealt with the issue publicly and decisively.   It may not  be wise to deal with a matter publicly, but we can be intentional in our decision-making.  If we say we are going to find a solution, we must make sure we follow through and do not dodge the issues.

Ask for help

We have all met people who seem to enjoy disagreements and arguments.  It is true to say that even with the best intentions in the world, God will not override the will of a person who does not want to change.  If the will is there, true reconciliation is always possible, but you might need outside help.  Do not be afraid to ask for help, by calling in a trusted advisor or mediator.  Sometimes a person on the outside can bring clarity and a new perspective to the situation.

Show love

Love is the key thing.  I believe we can deal with almost any situation, if we choose to deal with it in love. This is not always easy – I understand, as I have been there.   But, Christ’s love is the glue which brings true healing and reconciliation in relationships, marriages, churches and organisations.   My role as a leader is to drive the desire for unity.  But I need the Prince of Peace first of all in my life to make sure that I am operating from His agenda, not my own.  When I choose to deal with issues in love, I can still challenge behaviour, but I can do it with grace.

It does not matter how bad the situation is, if there is the will to change and be reconciled, I believe that any issue can be turned around.  With the Holy Spirit in the mix, there is always hope for healing and for unity to be restored.

If you are facing a situation that needs God’s restoration and would like our team to pray for you, please email us at davidlh@ucb.co.uk    We would love to pray for you, so that unity can be restored.

Christian Media, Christianity, Devotional, Healing, Hope

Failure is not the end…

On Saturday, I spoke at a We are Men event on the subject of ‘Accountability’. The danger of speaking on a topic like this, is that it can sound like a ‘telling off’, but I wanted to make sure that the men who attended, felt encouraged and understood what the real meaning of accountability is.   Accountability is based in relationship and ensures that as leaders and believers, we do what we say we will do.

We live in an age where the media frequently reports leadership scandals, from extra marital affairs, to embezzlement and abuse.  As Christians, surrounded by temptations and lies from the enemy, we need accountability in our lives.  We need people and processes around us, to help us have integrity.

How can we be accountable?  Is there a way forward for people who get it wrong?

We are servants

Sometimes in churches (or in any organisation), there can be a culture at the top where the person in charge acts as though they are ‘lord and master’.  As leaders, we must always remember that we are primarily servants.  We are there to serve the vision of the organisation we work for.  Our leadership style needs to be based on the life of Jesus as it is written in God’s Word, not on a version we have created for ourselves.

We need relationships

To be truly accountable, it is good to have people in our lives who can be direct and honest with us at any time.    Although I have lived in the UK for many years, I am not a native English speaker and sometimes friends will correct a word I have used in the wrong way. I would always prefer that people gave me the right word, than laugh at my use of the wrong one.   It is the same with accountability, we need people who will gently and lovingly speak correction when it is needed.  If this correction comes from a person who is trusted and who has our best interests at heart, they will never use this to hurt us, they will say these things in order to help and restore us.

Processes are important

In every leadership position, it is important to have processes in place, to prevent abuse of systems.  For example, at UCB, we have procedures in place to help keep us financially accountable.  If we have to buy expensive items (such as new equipment), the forms will need more than just one signature.  It doesn’t mean that we don’t trust our team, but it means that important financial decisions are not in the hands of just one person.   That helps to keep us accountable to each other and to the people who support the ministry.

We can all fail

As the saying goes, no one plans to fail, but some can fail to plan.  To me, this means that we must plan ahead and be aware of our own weaknesses and vulnerabilities.  We must never assume that we are above temptation or incapable of falling.   By putting true accountability, processes and relationships in our lives, we are reducing our capacity for failing.   We spend a great deal of time mopping up messes, when it would be much better to spend time preventing spills in the first place.

However, what if you (or someone you know) has failed?  Is there a way to be restored?

In the Bible, we have many examples of leaders who have failed but the two examples of David and Saul stand out to me, because of their different responses.  When Saul was confronted by the prophet Samuel in 1 Samuel 13 about his disobedience before God, Saul’s response was to blame others and make excuses.  He was not able to take responsibility for his actions.

In 2 Samuel 12, when Nathan confronted David over his affair with Bathsheba, David immediately said, ‘I have sinned against the Lord’.

If you have messed up, then it is important to find someone you trust, who can help to restore you and help to make you accountable.  This process may mean that you have to confess to others, there may be legal repercussions, you may even need to resign from your position, but in the process of vulnerability and humility, God’s power is still at work.

I have seen friends and key leaders who have fallen, who are later restored in a wonderful way, with their marriages and lives intact.   Your response in the early days is important. Will you deny or seek to blame others?  Or will you be vulnerable and use it as a time to get right with God?

Proverbs 24:16 says, ‘for though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again, but the wicked stumble when calamity strikes’.

This is true for anyone who stumbles, whether they are a leader or not.  God is so good, He is a God of restitution, of healing and restoration.  God’s heart is for everyone to be restored and in a right relationship with Him.

Even if you have messed up, because of God’s goodness, there is still hope.

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