Christian Media, Christian Radio, Christianity, Devotional, Faith

Don’t be distracted

Some time ago, I felt God give me a very clear warning – to be on my guard against ‘distraction’.   When you are working toward a God-given vision, distractions will come and not every distraction immediately looks ‘wrong’.  Sometimes a distraction can come in the form of a compliment (which massages our ego) or in the form of an interesting invitation.  And sometimes it comes (more obviously) in the form of a fiery dart

In the book of Nehemiah, we are given some very clear principles on how to avoid distraction.  In chapter 6, Nehemiah was busy rebuilding the temple wall.  He had a clear vision and mandate from God but Scripture tells us that Nehemiah’s enemies tried several times to distract him from finishing the wall.  And they used many different tactics. There is much to learn from this story

Invitation

When Nehemiah’s enemies, Sanballat, Tobiah and Geshem discovered that Nehemiah had nearly finished the wall, they issued him an invitation.  We do not know how the invitation was sent, but we do know they requested to meet with Nehemiah in the plain of Ono.   As leaders, sometimes we are sent flattering invitations and to avoid embarrassment, we can say yes to things which distract us from the calling God has given us.  But Nehemiah was focused on the job he was meant to do and he had a sense that these people were planning to do him harm, so he turned down the offer.

Insinuation

Nehemiah’s enemies were not going to take no for an answer. Scripture tells us they continued to try and distract him and in fact, they sent him an invitation four times.  When this failed, they tried a new strategy – insinuation.  They told Nehemiah they had ‘heard a rumour’ that he was planning to build a new kingdom and make himself the king.   Nehemiah had the strength to simply say, ‘there is no truth in your story’ and once again, he declined their invitation to meet and discuss it.   This obvious distraction only strengthened Nehemiah’s resolve and he became even more determined to finish the project on time.

Intimidation

When insinuation didn’t work, Nehemiah’s enemies tried to intimidate him. Nehemiah was warned that he should lock himself in the temple as his enemies were going to kill him that night, but Nehemiah knew he could not run from danger and he also knew that if he went into the temple (a place reserved for the priests), he would be violating God’s law.   Through it all, Nehemiah remained intentional and focused on his goal, to get the wall built.  Scripture tells us that the wall was completed in just 52 days and his enemies realised the work was done ‘with the help of God’.

If you are a leader, can I encourage you to be aware of distractions?  I believe the enemy is trying to draw leaders into distraction and to divert them far away from the vision God has given them.  The enemy can do this through flattery, as well as by sending people to attack our character or intimidate us.  But staying intentional in all we do, focusing on the plan and the promise, will help us to see it through to its fulfillment.

Can I encourage you today too, to remain focused on the plan and the vision God has given you and like Nehemiah, to not be led astray by distractions.

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Christianity

Watch your words…

When I was 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. She said, ‘do you realise David, that is a lot of studying?  I can’t see you doing it, I can see you emptying bins’.

For many years, those words stayed with me and sometimes informed the decisions I made.  Was there any point in trying, if I wasn’t 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 I discovered that His Word could delete the past and delete all the harmful words that had impacted my life.  Although I had no educational qualifications, the Word of God showed me that man’s labels do not matter.  The only labels I should be concerned with are God’s labels!

Over the years I have discovered that while God’s words are the most important, the words we use and what we choose to believe, as a result, can also have an impact on our lives.  Proverbs 23:7 says, ‘as a man thinks in his heart, so is he’ and I believe it’s important to be aware of the reality of our words and our thoughts.

Our thoughts will affect what we say and our words will affect who we are.  Proverbs 18:21 says, ‘death and life are in the power of the tongue’ and so we should never underestimate the power of our thoughts and our words, to shape destinies and our own future.  Words can kill marriages and relationships and destroy churches and ministries.  But words can also bring life, hope, healing and reconciliation.

In a world which seems to be more divided than ever before (especially on social media), we need peacemakers and reconcilers, believers who will use their words to reflect the life and peace that is found through Jesus.  Luke 6:45 says, ‘a good man produces good deeds from a good heart. And an evil man produces evil deeds from his hidden wickedness. Whatever is in the heart overflows into speech.’

I want my heart to be full of God’s Word, full of praise to him, for what is in my heart will flow out into my words and then out into my actions.

Can I challenge you today?  What are you thinking about?  What are you saying? What are you believing?  Are they words of life and hope that reflect what God says about you and the situations you are facing? Or are they words of death and despondency?

As a young man,  another person’s negative words could have shaped my whole life, but I am thankful for the revelation of God’s Word which showed me the truth.

Christianity

What is your purpose?

Sometimes, if I ever drive past a cemetery, I don’t think about the people who are buried there, but about the purpose buried there. How many songs went unsung? How many poems and stories went unwritten? The truth is, many people leave this world not knowing or realising their purpose. And today, many more are also living without knowing or realising their purpose. Many people simply do not know that God breathes purpose into every living thing and he has also breathed purpose into you and into me.

For me personally, I discovered my purpose when I rededicated my life to God. I did not yet know what God’s plans were for my life, but I knew I had a purpose. It took me many years to discover God’s plan, but because I knew he had a purpose for me, I was just as content back then being a janitor, as I am today being a CEO.

So, how do you find your purpose?

Don’t confuse plans with purpose

The definition of purpose is, the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists.

The definition of plan is, a detailed proposal for doing or achieving something. An intention or decision about what one is going to do.

We all have plans for our lives. Someday I will do this or someday I will do that. That is not your purpose, those are your plans. And all our plans are meaningless if we do not understand our purpose. God first puts a sense of purpose into our heart. We might not know what the plan is, but he will use our lives, our natural gifts, our sense of purpose, to help move us into his plan.

If we knew the plan in advance, we might run away.

In the Bible, God gave Joseph a clear purpose. Joseph knew, through dreams that he was to be a leader. He did not know that to get to that point, he would face rape allegations, prison and isolation. If God had revealed the plan up front, he might have run in the opposite direction. But through all of those trials, God was shaping Joseph, making him ready for the plan of leadership

It’s not about you

When God started to reveal his plan for my life, I began to realise his plan was not about me at all. It was about him using me, to reach others. God wanted to take my passion, my gift, my sense of purpose and use them all to bring about his plan in my life and also help to release that in others’ lives. So many Biblical characters were used by God to bring about change for others. Mary was handpicked to deliver a messiah who would save the world. Paul was given the task of leaving everything behind, in order to carry the message of salvation all across the Middle East. They were not ‘special’ people. They simply knew they had a purpose and they allowed God to use them (and their gifts) to bring about his plan.

Can I encourage you today, that you have a purpose. Everything God creates has a purpose and we each have a job to do. If you do not feel you do, ask God to plant His sense of purpose into your life. He might not show you what is ahead, but when you know deep down, that you have a heavenly purpose, everything in your life will change.

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

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.

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Christian Media, Christianity, Devotional, Evangelism, Faith

Thank you!

On UCB 1 and UCB 2 last week, it was our National Appeal and if you were involved in some way, I want to thank you for your support.

The theme of the appeal, ‘Bring 4:35 alive’ was based on John 4:35 where Jesus says to the disciples; ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.’

I have been thinking about and studying this verse for a long time and I get so much from it. It reminds us to stop looking around at the problems we face and all the uncertainties in the world.  It tells us instead to ‘look up…to be ready…to reap the harvest.’  The time is now, people are ready to hear the incredible life-changing message of Jesus.  And at UCB, we believe that Christian media can be an important part of reaching people, and that by working together, we can reach the UK with the Gospel in an unprecented way.

The appeal last week was remarkable and as I walked around UCB, overhearing conversations on phone lines or between staff members, I could feel faith rising in all of our hearts. There was an air of excitement and expectancy and as we exceeded our original target on day 2 of the appeal, we were overwhelmed at God’s goodness and provision. By the end of the appeal, thanks to your support, more than £220,000 was raised to help UCB’s mission and ministry.

As we closed the phone lines on Friday night, our hearts were full of joy, not just due to the funds that were raised, but because of the feeling that God had heard our prayers and had opened the windows of heaven.

So, if you were part of UCB’s appeal, in giving, or in prayer, thank you.  We still have a long way to go, but these 3 days reminded us that we have a God who hears us when we pray.  We do not always get our breakthrough immediately, but when we begin to see God move in our circumstances, it is unmistakeable.

Can I encourage you, if you are waiting for a breakthrough in your own circumstances, keep praying, keep believing, keep holding on to God’s Word.  We serve a God who hears us when we pray.

Thank you again for all your support.

p.s If you would like to support UCB’s appeal, you can still do so at www.ucb.co.uk/support

thank you

 

 

Christian Media, Christian Radio, Christianity, Devotional

2017 – the year of ‘the SUDDENLY’!

First, let me wish you a Happy New Year!  For many, 2016 will be remembered as the year of surprises!  We had Brexit, a new Prime Minister, Theresa May, a new President elected, Donald Trump and we also saw many acts of terror and a growing refugee crisis.   For UCB, it was a year of distractions on many fronts, but I sense that as we enter 2017, it will be a year of God’s ‘suddenly moments’.

The verses which keep coming to me are:

“You crown the year with a bountiful harvest; even the hard pathways overflow with abundance.”  Psalm 65:11

“I declared the former things long ago and they went forth from My mouth, and I proclaimed them. Suddenly I acted, and they came to pass.” Isaiah 48:3

However, as we each begin this new year, I believe we need to be expectant and ask ourselves, what are we hoping for?  What are we waiting for?

Much of life is waiting for something to happen. Minutes turn into hours, hours into days, days into months and months into years.  Sometimes it feels as though the clock on our lives is standing still, and we are waiting for whatever will come next.  If you are in that place at the moment, waiting to see a word fulfilled or for God to move in your circumstances, you are not alone.   It can feel as though things will never change, but the Word of God is full of people who had ‘suddenly’ experiences.   Here are just a few examples:

  • Abraham was a very old man when he was ‘suddenly’ told that he would be given a much-longed-for son
  • Joseph went from being in jail to standing before Pharaoh. One minute, no one would listen to him. The next minute, the most powerful man in the country was asking his opinion.
  • Moses had raised a family and was content to stay hidden in the desert when God ‘suddenly ‘called him to the greatest of adventures.
  • Elizabeth and Zacharias! The Bible says they were well advanced in years and she was barren, when ‘suddenly’ an angel appeared and announced that they would have a son – John the Baptist.

God has been in the ‘suddenly business’ for years.

So, you might be asking, what about my ‘suddenly moment’?

Maybe you know and believe that God can do anything, anytime, anywhere and that there are no limitations to God’s ability, but you’re frustrated as to why it’s not happening now? We may become frustrated in the waiting, but God’s timing is perfect.  He is never too late and certainly never too early, but it surely comes! And I know that His timing and will are much better than mine!

How to pray as we wait.

Be specific

I really believe God wants us to be specific as we pray.  Sometimes we can feel as though we don’t need to tell Him the detail, but in any relationship, you share the detail, your thoughts, your hopes.  It is the same with God – when we pray, let’s be specific about what we see and about what we are asking God to do.

Dream big!

We need to be specific when we pray, but we also need to be open to God doing something different.   It can be easy to use our prayer to ‘shape’ what we want God to do, rather than be open to whatever it is He wants to give us.

The shape, size, colour and features of our destination may not be in the package that we have been describing to God… or to ourselves!   I often wonder if we have spent so much time focused on ‘telling God what to do’, that we might have missed a suddenly moment, or something unusual He wanted to bless us with?  God’s answers don’t always come in the way we expect and it can be easy to overlook His blessings, because the answer, he, she or it did not fit into our formula? It is something to ponder on!

Trust His timing

Allow God to set the timeline.  And instead of clock-watching,  let’s count every sorrow, every joy, every longing, every heartache as a precious gift that God is allowing to come our way to prepare us for the joy He passionately wants to share with us.   Be confident that He does have a ‘suddenly’ for you too!  The question is whether or not you will be ready to see and experience it.

For UCB, I believe our ‘suddenly’ moment is rooted in a Word I felt God gave us last year, which I wrote about in a blog post, Look to the future – what do you see? 

I continue to wait, believe and pray expectantly for a great move of God which will change the landscape of the world!

Therefore as we launch into this new year, let’s not forget the words of Jesus to His disciples (John 4:35), “Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’?  Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.”

Time is of the essence – can you join me in believing that 2017 will be the year of ‘the suddenly?’

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Christianity

In a world of change – trust God

We are in a season of political change.  We saw the UK begin to change in May with the surprising results of the EU Referendum and we saw this shift again recently when Donald Trump was voted in as President-elect of the United States.  In France, we are seeing political change too, as my home country prepares for its own presidential elections next year.

I am pleased that we live in a democracy and that we each have the ability (and responsibility) to vote, but now we need to consider how we should respond to the outcome of the decisions made.  How can we ensure unity in the church and keep positive relationships when our opinions can be so different?   The same applies to the decisions we’re confronted with on a daily basis.

Choose who you will serve

We must remember firstly, who we serve.  In Joshua 24:15, Joshua commanded the people to, ‘Choose you this day who you will serve’.  He told the people that the choice was up to them, it was their decision, but he ended by saying, ‘As for ME and My house, we will serve the Lord’.   Although as believers we ultimately serve the Lord, He gives us the choice and allows us to decide who we are going to serve.   I believe this is a very intentional verse, it encourages us to make our choice and then have the courage and commitment to stand by what we believe.

Agree to disagree


In life we are confronted by having to make choices on a daily basis and the choices that we make today will affect our tomorrow.

There will always be disagreements among friends and family over the choices we make.  But I believe some of these disagreements could be avoided if we tried to listen more.  Too often in discussion, we are set on persuading the other person to see things as we see them and we do not stop to listen.  If we don’t listen, we won’t hear others’ views.  And who knows, perhaps the opposite side might have a good point to make?   If we all agreed on everything, it would be a very boring world.  It is fine to say, ‘I don’t see it, I don’t understand it, but I respect how you feel’.  For me, my relationships with family and friends are more precious than my argument.

Who should have the final word?

We all like to have the final word, however, the final Word comes from God.

The Bible is God’s divine instruction manual and it tells us how to live our lives according to God’s will.   As I have said before, if we bought a new phone or gadget, we would always read the instruction manual, so that we knew how to operate this new gift in the best possible way.   The same is true of our lives and God’s Word – it tells us all we need to know about how to live a life aligned with God’s plan.

Even if we make wrong choices in life, and create mess through those choices, then our failures are not fatal – provided we are willing to acknowledge them.  God will always be there to help us.

Whatever situation you find yourself in today, and however you are feeling, whether it is fear or excitement, it is important to remember that God has a plan: “A plan to prosper you, not to harm you, a plan to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).