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.
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.
As the UK welcomes Theresa May into the top job at Number 10 (and she assembles her new team) I have been thinking this week about what makes a good leader.
We are all leaders of one kind or another. You do not have to run a country or a big organisation to be a leader. You might lead a group at church, you might be the leader in your home. Nearly all of us have the capacity to lead and there are some good principles about leadership qualities in Psalm 15. However, I think the way Jesus lived His life, gives us the best model of how to be a good leader.
Jesus wasn’t self-promoting
As leaders we can sometimes fall in to the trap of thinking we are better than others. Sadly some leaders have achieved their position, by self-promotion and by dishonouring others on their way to the top. But Jesus never promoted Himself. He did not have to. His good works were so obvious, that others talked about him and news about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee. (Mark 1:28).
Jesus was all about relationships
Jesus knew how to assemble a good team, but unlike selecting a new Cabinet, He did not always pick people with experience and the right skills. The disciples were a mixed group of individuals from very different backgrounds. Jesus was more concerned about relationships and about releasing people into their full potential. True leadership should be relational, not transactional. In other words, leadership is not about what I can get from other people, but about the relationships and the people I can develop. I believe a strong leader builds a good team, in order to eventually release them to go into all the world (Mark 16:15)
Jesus knew who He was
Jesus knew who He was. He wasn’t threatened by others or insecure. We have to get our ultimate security from who we are in Christ, not in our job, in leadership or our position in life.
Jesus wasn’t afraid of confrontation
Jesus wasn’t afraid to deal with issues as they came up. He confronted the Pharisees and in one very famous scene, overthrew the merchants’ tables in the temple. As leaders, we should not be afraid to confront issues, but at the same time, we have to be discerning about the issues we do confront. It is easy to confront the wrong thing, so we need to know when to speak and when to remain silent.
Jesus knew when to stop talking.
When facing the toughest test of His life, standing before Pilate, Jesus did not speak. He was being confronted with vile, untrue allegations and was being mocked, but He chose to remain silent. Sometimes we feel the need to defend ourselves and it is true, that sometimes we do need to speak up and stand for what is right, but we must also learn when to speak, and when to remain silent. Sometimes saying nothing at all, is the best thing we can do.
Jesus was compassionate
Jesus met many sick and dying and distressed people and His heart was always filled with compassion for them. I think compassion has to ‘possess’ us. We need to feel compassion for those around us, dream it, live it and experience compassion in all areas of our lives. It is easy to become hardened to the things we see around us, but Jesus’ life was all about compassion, about seeing the needs of people and releasing them into freedom.
The UK is in a time of unprecedented change and with a new Prime Minister and Government in charge, we need to keep the leaders of our country in prayer. My personal prayer for Theresa May is that God would bless her and that He would enlarge her capacity for peace, compassion, care, love and mercy.
I pray that as the Government leads our country into an unknown future, that God would give our leaders wisdom so that together, we can stand united once again.
Over the last few weeks, I have been spending some time with God, seeking the way forward for UCB as a ministry. I have been rejoicing about the past and those who have gone before us, but also rejoicing about the many lives which have been changed and transformed by the power of God’s Word.
I recently met with a group of UCB supporters and shared what I see for the future. I want to share the same message with you and give you a glimpse of what I am seeing today. It is a glimpse that came from the challenge Jesus gave to his disciples when He said to them, ‘Lift up your eyes, and look at the fields and see how white and ready they are for the harvest’. (John 4:35).
Instead of looking at the gloom and despondency and the brokenness that is in our world today, God wants us to see what He sees today.
Here is what I see.
I see God turning the hearts of a godless society back to Himself.
I see a church living and operating in the power of the Gospel.
I see our Government, our laws, our society being reshaped by the truth of God’s Word.
I see family units coming together into the knowledge and the transformation of God’s power, from the toughest parts of the cities to the most rural parts of our country.
I see every generation, should it be young or old, knowing their worth and experiencing value and a purpose for their lives.
I see people standing for what it is true and becoming intolerant for all the right reasons – intolerant of wrongdoing, intolerant of injustice.
I see people getting ready to answer God’s call, like they have never done before. I see people standing together totally united for their cities and not afraid to say, ‘We are the Church’.
I see the Church mobilised to take the Gospel to the towns, villages and the cities, making disciples and being totally committed to what God has called them to do.
I see changing statistics; relationships being restored, addictions broken. I see miracles to be the order of the day in the life of our society, because the Church is acting like true light and salt, like never before.
I see an army of young people having visions and I see older people, instead of being put ‘on the shelf,’ having dreams like they have never had before, supporting and standing with the younger generation.
I truly believe and see a day is coming when God will pour His Spirit upon all flesh. I see the young and the old, the children and the grandparents lifting the banner of victory, looking at their society and truly believing that God has a message of hope, and using every means possible to lift up that message of truth.
You might say, ‘Dave, you’re living in cuckoo land, you’re dreaming!’
But I am seeing only what Jesus spoke of to his disciples and I am saying that it is time that we lift up your eyes from the negative, from the oppressive, from the depressive and recognise that the fields are white for harvest.
And therefore it is time, I believe that we as a ministry and you as partners and supporters, that we actually start to switch on and see what God wants us to see.
And let’s believe that the enemy will not have the upper hand. He may think that he has the best strategy, to steal, to kill, to destroy, but the verse does not stop there, because Jesus says even to us today, through His Word that He came that we might have life, not just life, but life to the full. (John 10:10).
I strongly believe we are moving into an unprecedented hour and that we as a ministry need to be ready like never before. We need to be ready for people to be resourced and helped in their faith. And we need to be ready to resource the church, as I believe they will not be able to cope with the amount of people who will be coming in. They need to have reliable content.
There is a saying in Media that ‘content is king’. This means that all our strategies are of no use, if our content, if what we write or share on air is not good. I believe today though that God is turning that around and saying, ‘The KING is the content’.
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.
In February 1988, our lives as a family were going well. We had three beautiful children and I was moving up the ladder in my career with a retail chain.
I have always been an early bird and my morning routine before leaving for work, was to check on our youngest son Jamie, who was 13 months old. On the morning of February 9, I left for work but for some reason that day, I did not check on him. I arrived at work and just after 9am, I received an urgent phone call from a neighbour who said, ‘something has happened to Jamie, you need to come home’.
The details were not clear at that point, so I jumped into the car and drove home, like I have never driven before. As I was racing along, the word ‘death’ kept coming into my head and I screamed out to the Lord, ‘No, Lord…no, this CANNOT be true’.
As I arrived at home, the front door was open, the paramedics were working on Jamie and I could hear the desperate cries of my wife. I still did not know what was going on, but I learned that our son Richard who was 10, had found his brother unresponsive in his bed. The paramedics took Jamie to hospital, blue lights and sirens blazing and my wife and I followed behind in the car. When we arrived at Casualty, we were met by the doctor and were not allowed to see Jamie while they worked on him. Eventually a doctor came out and we could see by the look on his face, that it was not good news. Our beautiful son had died at 13 months old, from sudden infant death syndrome.
We were numb, confused, angry and had many questions. Jamie had been for a routine check-up just a few weeks earlier and was fine. Had we done something wrong? Could this have been stopped? It felt as though we were trapped in a nightmare and we struggled to understand.
The hospital staff eventually told us that Jamie’s body was in the Chapel of Rest and asked if we wanted to see him. My wife did not feel able to go, so I went to spend some time there on my own. As I stood there, my heart cried and ached and I said, ‘God, I KNOW you can do this, I know you can bring him back’. As I prayed, I suddenly felt a strange tap on my shoulder. I immediately looked around but no one was there. This happened 3 times and each time, there was no one behind me, but then very clearly I felt God speak into my spirit. I cannot say for sure if it was an audible voice, but I know God spoke:
‘He will not come back to you, but you will go to him one day.’
I learned years later, that these were words spoken by King David in 2 Samuel 12:23, after he lost his own infant son. Although I did not recognise at the time where the words came from, I knew God was saying there was nothing more we could do. He had taken Jamie home. In one sense, it released me from the burden of praying for God to restore Jamie to us, but that did not stop us from feeling the desperate agony of grief.
In the days ahead, although our lives were shattered, we tried to keep things as normal as we could for our children, Richard and Natalie. Our church family gathered around us and our pastor, John Mosey was a wonderful friend, supporting us through the many practical arrangements we had to make. Little did we know that John would face his own terrible family tragedy toward the end of the year, but I will talk more about that in another blog post. The church’s support was incredible but we still had so many questions. I felt God speak to me clearly one day; Stop asking me why. Ask me what I am going to do through it.
Two weeks later, I had been due to speak at our church. Our pastor said I did not have to do it, but I was able to share a short word on Romans 8:31: ‘If God is for us, who can be against us’. I asked our church family to pray for us and I also encouraged them to be as normal as they could with us. We didn’t want people to stay away or think that we did not want to see their children or their babies. We knew this would be an important part of rebuilding our lives.
Throughout all that time, I can say that I felt God was lifting me. I had to grieve but I also had the responsibility of caring for my wife and children too. My mother gave me a copy of the famous Footprints poem and I knew that despite our shock and grief, God was carrying us through the darkest time of our lives.
Today as a family we live and enjoy a good life. It is a different life which will always be scarred by losing Jamie, but we are not broken. We have been through many stages of grief and up until recently, I was struggling with many private emotions. In a future blog post, I will share more on this and how I feel God has set me free from the burden of guilt which I carried for many years.
If you are facing your own tragedy today, then if you are a believer, you can know that God is with you and will carry you through it. As believers, we are not protected from pain and we should not con ourselves and think we can go through this life without heartache. But God can hold us together powerfully through the most terrible times of our lives and give us strength to keep going.
After a terrible loss, your life may never be the same again, but with God, it can still be a good life. He is the reason for our hope and we know that one day we will see Jamie again.
I am very pleased to hand the blog over to my friend Bruno Kondabéka this week. Bruno and his wife Joanne are great friends of our family and are also the pastors of Chichester Family Church.
Some years ago, their son (who was then 7 years old) was struck by a terrible illness, but God did something remarkable.
It’s an incredible story of God’s power at work. Bruno will share what happened next.
My wife Joanne and I have three boys and as pastors of a church in Chichester, our lives are often busy. About two years ago, I was preaching a sermon series on the issue of suffering. I remember asking our church, when trouble comes, will you stay the course? We didn’t know then, that soon ‘trouble’ would visit our home and put our family to the test.
It began without any warning, when one day our youngest son Samuel started to feel unwell. He had a slight fever but didn’t seem too ill, so we gave him Calpol and he stayed home from school for a few days to recover.
Five days later Samuel started to get visibly worse, his temperature went up and he was complaining his head and neck were hurting, so we rang NHS Direct who advised we take him to the emergency Doctor. On Sunday the hospital checked him over but they felt satisfied that it was probably a virus and in time it would pass. However, by the middle of the week, Samuel was still not any better, so we took him to our GP and that’s when things became very worrying. Samuel was very agitated that day, which was not like his usual cooperative self, and he seemed to be in pain and was very confused. The GP rang the paediatric unit at the hospital and the Consultant suggested we take him straight there.
We were greeted at the hospital by the Consultant and his team, and we started to realise that this was maybe very serious indeed. Again Samuel was very agitated and confused and had become light sensitive, so he was sedated in order to calm him down so he could be examined and given a CT scan.
After the scan, our son’s condition deteriorated rapidly. He was finding it hard to wake up, his heart beat was erratic and he was not responsive to anything we said to him. The results of his CT scan were passed onto the specialists in Southampton Hospital and because they were concerned with what they saw, they arranged for Samuel to be transferred by ambulance to the Paediatric Intensive Care Unit in Southampton. To stabilise him he was put in a drug induced coma and he was quickly taken to Intensive Care.
After further tests, we were told Samuel had Meningoencephalitis – a very rare and potentially deadly infection on the brain, caused by mycoplasma, a cross between a virus and bacteria, which causes the brain to swell. As parents, our hearts were broken and the tears flowed as we watched what was happening to our little boy, but we did what we could to hold on to God and to trust Him to take us through this.
I remembered that just a short time previously, I had asked our church family if they were able to ‘stay the course’ when suffering came and now we were facing that exact situation ourselves. We felt all the emotions you could expect – we wept and we worried, but we were also encouraged by remembering words spoken over Samuel’s life when he was dedicated as a baby, by our friend Pastor Brian Downward from Bournemouth. The words at that time were that God had a purpose for his life and it was a good purpose. He was to be a man of God.
I was also aware that our friends in Angers, France, were holding a week of mission at their church that week. I lived in France for some years and the church there had helped to sponsor me in my theology studies in South Africa. I had a phone call from David L’Herroux who told us that the church wanted to pray for Samuel. David felt it was important that the church prayed together during one of their services and so that night at 8.30pm at the hospital in Southampton, we connected by phone with the church in France (as David paused in the middle of his preach). We laid hands on Samuel as David prayed, and then because we were in the ICU and couldn’t make too much noise, I went outside the ward and continued to pray (with my arm outstretched toward my son’s bed) while the church prayed that God would heal Samuel. That day had been particularly hard as we watched the nurses struggling to get Samuel to wake up out of the coma and they were not succeeding. So, we were encouraged by this prayer and support and it gave us courage to believe for a miracle.
I walked back to the ward and we continued to sit beside Samuel’s bed and literally just 30 minutes later, we had the biggest surprise of our lives when Samuel just opened his eyes. He had been unconscious for 3 days. The nurses rushed to see him and confirmed he was conscious – they removed his breathing tube and from that moment, he started to make a full recovery.
The next day he was moved from the ICU and 14 days later, he was discharged from the hospital. The neurosurgeon who had worked with Samuel took us to one side and said that although she was amazed at his recovery, we should also expect the worst, as there could be long term damage.
But just over two weeks later, Samuel was back at school part-time, and the following week, he went back to school full time. He will soon be celebrating his tenth birthday and has suffered no ill effects whatsoever.
We thank God every day for the amazing miracle he gave us for our son.
Bruno’s story is a wonderful reminder to us that God is very much at work in the world around us. At UCB, I encourage the team to keep being expectant and believing for the impossible. We live in a world which is bound by fear but I believe God wants to set us free in every area of our lives. I trust Bruno’s story has encouraged you to believe for more. We serve a mighty God!