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Pick your team wisely

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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!


 

 

 

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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.

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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.