Christianity

How to walk in hope…

As most of the UCB team are now working from home, I have been in touch with them each day, sharing some thoughts that I am rediscovering, in my own times with God. For the past few days, I have been reading Mark 5 and looking again at the story of Jairus and how Jesus raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead.

Jairus was one of the rulers of the synagogues and he was also a loving father whose daughter was critically sick to the point of dying. When Jesus saw the situation, his first words were, “Do not be afraid; only believe” and those simple words, brought Jairus reassurance in his total despair. Instead of giving up and walking away in total hopelessness, Jairus did the unthinkable. He continued walking in HOPE, despite the seriousness of the situation. Is there a way we can capture this sense of hope too, in the middle of the situation our world is facing?

Here are some steps that I believe Jairus took, which helped him to experience his breakthrough.

1) Realisation – Jairus realised the gravity of his situation and he intentionally did something about it.  The situation was desperate. His little daughter was not only very sick but she was clearly dying.  For me, in this COVID 19 crisis, it’s important that we realise the seriousness of the situation and comply with all what we are ask to do.  But it is also important that we take our fears and worries to Jesus too.

2) Desperation – Jairus became desperate. I’m sure that after having tried everything humanly speaking, he then sought to find Jesus. I think I can understand his pain and frustration as every day, as I watch reports from the media, there is only one word which jumps out at me – desperation. Today, can I encourage you, if you feel desperate, cry out to Jesus.

3) Attention – Jairus’ desperation caused him to focus his attention on Jesus.  In the busyness of life, it can be easy to lose our focus, but there is nothing quite like a crisis to remind us that we cannot do this alone and that we need God’s help in everything we do.  If you feel today that you have lost your attention and focus on Jesus, you can turn to him now.   He is the only one who can provide whatever you need in these difficult times.

4) Position – When Jairus found Jesus,  “he fell at Jesus’ feet”,  which was a sign of acknowledging a higher authority as well as being willing to humble himself.  In whatever you are facing, I urge you to approach Jesus and change your position as Jairus did, demonstrating humility and acknowledgement of His authority. Let’s also not forget that as Christians, He has given us the same authority to deal with any situation we face.  

5) Compassion I love the way that Jairus in his actions and his prayer demonstrateS his compassion. You might be wondering, ‘what is the real definition of compassion?’ My own definition is, “having the awareness of the needs of others, which prompts a compelling desire to meet their needs”. How great it is to see compassion being displayed across the UK, with hundreds of thousands of people volunteering to help the NHS, their neighbours, strangers they have never met before. These people had compassion stirred up within them and now they are going out, to help meet the needs of the most vulnerable in our society.

6) Intercession – Jairus did not approach Jesus for himself, but went to stand in the gap on behalf of his much loved daughter. I am so impressed by the many prayer initiatives emerging throughout the UK and around the world at the moment. Let’s continue to stand on behalf of the many whom cannot pray for themselves, throughout this time and boldly believe for healing. Jesus is still the same as He was yesterday, today and forever.

I hope these few thoughts from my own study, encourage you, as much as they are encouraging me.

Christianity

When the disciples were in isolation…

Right across our world, we have not just a physical pandemic of sickness, but we also have a ‘pandemic of fear’.  Right from the start of Genesis, fear has always been used by the enemy of our souls, but praise God, His Word has so much to say about how we can face fear, with faith!  As we are approaching Easter, it is a good time to reflect on the death of Jesus and how, even after his execution, the close disciples became imprisoned in fear and went into hiding and isolation.  And one could even say ‘and rightly so’, because there was a very real threat to their lives.

John 20:19 tells us that on the evening of the first day, they were together, not just hiding in a room, but in self isolation ‘behind locked doors’. 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 fact in fear for his life, Peter had denied knowing Jesus and now, they were all hiding behind locked doors, isolated from the whole world.

This picture hidden away in a room, is an illustration to me, of what the enemy tries to do in our lives – he wants us to isolate from each other.    I am not in any way belittling the pandemic we are currently facing, but I believe the enemy knows that fear is his greatest weapon in all of this.   With just one news headline or a phone call from a friend, repeating something they have heard, whole families and communities can become paralysed by fear of ‘what might happen’.    It might be the fear of the coronavirus or any other ill health, of losing your job etc.    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 in this account in John.     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, they were in total isolation.


The amazing part of this story is that when Jesus appeared to them, He asked them, ‘Why are you frightened?’.

In Luke 24:36,  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!

In whatever situation we find ourselves in, even if we are in total isolation, Jesus has promised to be with us in every situation for His Word declares, ‘I will never leave us nor never forsake you (Heb 13:5).

From my own experience I found His manifest presence to be the strongest, when I have been in the middle of the fiercest, raging storms of life.

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 isolated disciples in the middle of all their doubt, 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.

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, Faith

Are you ready to have your best year yet?

When you look ahead to 2018, what sort of year would you like to have? A good year? A better year?  Or the best year?

That sounds like an unusual question, as after all, we ALL want to have the best year we have ever had!  However, over Christmas, I was reflecting on 2017 (which was a very challenging year for UCB) and I was asking God for 2018 to be the best year we have ever had.  I felt God speak to my heart and challenge me on what ‘best’ actually means.  Why should we have the best year?  Do we have any right to ask for such a thing?  How can we plug into God’s best for our lives?

What are you talking about?

As we look back over the year that was, many of us tend to share the good and the bad experiences of the previous 12 months.  I have learned over the years that what we talk about, has the ability to change the atmosphere around us.  If we are sharing good news and giving thanks to God for what he’s done, it fills others with faith and changes the atmosphere to one of expectancy.  But if we are talking about the negative, those words too can change the atmosphere – but not for the better.  I believe that to see God’s best in our lives, we need to focus less on the experiences and instead, focus on our expectations.  What do we want God to do in those situations?  What do we ‘see’?  What do we expect?  Instead of talking about the physical circumstances, let’s instead set our eyes on the vision that God has given us.

We need to be changed

 To see God’s best, we need to be ready and willing to be changed.  That is an uncomfortable place for many people, but God is a God of transformation and he is never finished with us! Last year at UCB, we invested significantly in our team, giving them opportunity to meet with God in fresh ways.  We invited different speakers to address the staff and encouraged the team to seek out their own fresh experience with God.  A visit last year from itinerant minister Fergus Mcintyre was a turning point for many of our team, some experiencing the manifest presence of God in their lives for the first time.  But for God to move, each of us has to be willing to allow him to move in our lives.  2 Timothy 3:17  (KJV) says, ‘All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.’

We need to be equipped for all that God is going to do and that means his process of transformation in our lives is never finished (not while we are on this earth anyway!).

What is your room furnished with?

2 Kings 4 tells the story of a noblewoman who was so impacted by the ministry of the prophet Elisha, that she and her husband built a room on their house, for him to stay in whenever he passed through their town.  They furnished the room with a bed, a table, a stool and a candlestick. In a future blog, I will share what I believe each of these items represents, but I think the simplicity of this furniture was designed to help Elisha find rest, peace and intimacy.  These three areas are so important for us too as believers.  What is our room, or our heart actually furnished with?  Is it cluttered and noisy and distracted?  Or is our heart furnished with peace and rest and stillness with God?

If like me (and UCB), you are looking ahead to 2018 then can I encourage you to speak with expectancy, allow yourself to be changed and transformed and to find that place of rest and intimacy?  Let’s believe together that God indeed will give us the BEST year yet!

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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.

DavidBlog-July2017

 

 

#EUReferendum, Christianity

Looking ahead to God’s future…

I woke up this morning, like many others, to surprising news about the #EUReferendum.  What a night!

The political campaigns have dominated our headlines for many months and today, both inside and outside of the church, some will be rejoicing and some will be very disappointed.

As a nation, we need time to evaluate the choice that has been made and when we have processed the decision, we need to look forward to the future.

When we are reading the newspapers or looking at bad reports on Social Media, it can be easy to be fearful and feel concerned about the future.    However, even  in the middle of turmoil, we can experience God’s rest and have His peace guard our hearts and minds.

In uncertain times like these, we need to remain focused on who we are in God.  As believers, we are in this world but we are really citizens of the Kingdom of God.  God’s Word says that we are ambassadors to this world, and it is our job as believers and as the Church to be salt and light to the world around us.

I believe that in the days to come, the Church is being presented with a wonderful opportunity. If we stand together, united and work hard to preserve the bond of unity, we could see an unprecedented change in our country.

I believe there is a much bigger picture and God often does not reveal the whole plan to us immediately. He shows us step by step and as the saying goes, ‘the opportunity of a lifetime has to be taken in the lifetime of the opportunity’.

What if we were to dream and begin to see a field of opportunity?  What if we could see a Church which rises up in unity to bring truth and salt and light to our world?  God could be positioning and appointing His people for a far greater plan than anything we could have ever imagined.

Despite how we each might be feeling today, whether we are disappointed or rejoicing, let us still keep our focus on God and what He is doing.  With the prospect of a new Government being formed, let us also pray ‘in the gap’ for Godly leaders to be raised up.  Let’s pray that God’s man or woman will be appointed for the job ahead.

If you are unsure of how to pray, then why don’t we join together and pray as Jesus said we should;  Your Kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven.

David-Blog20