Christianity

When a Christian leader fails

Over the past few weeks, I have been deeply shocked and saddened to read the reports about the late apologist Ravi Zacharias. As a broadcasting ministry (both here in the UK and with many of our affiliates across the world), we aired teaching from Ravi Zacharias for some years. In the UK, we stopped broadcasting these teaching programmes in 2015 (due to a change in focus for our radio stations) but when Ravi Zacharias died in 2020, we paid tribute to his life (as we knew it) on UCB Radio and on Social Media.

Today, as more about his life and unconscionable actions are revealed, our hearts ache for the devastation and pain this has caused both to the victims and to the many people who will also feel hurt and confusion to read of these terrible events. We continue to pray that God will bring the kind of restoration and healing that only He can bring.

These events have reminded me personally of how much we need God’s grace and wisdom in our lives as leaders. The enemy’s strategy has always been focused on three main areas: to steal, kill and destroy. This is why Paul reminds us of the importance of putting on the full armour of God – “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places”.

However, although we do wage war against an unseen enemy, this in no way belittles sin. Sin is sin and whether we like it or not, all sin has consequences. I am reminded of the story of David and Bathsheba. David not only committed adultery with another man’s wife, he sought to cover up his sin by murdering Bathsheba’s husband. Although it is very clear in Psalm 51 that David was repentant, he still had to pay the consequences for his actions. 

So as believers (and leaders), how should we respond when we hear reports like these?

1. Firstly, I believe that those who are confused and hurting should be our priority. If we do not know them personally, we can pray for them (God knows their names) and we can ask God to bring transformation, healing and restoration.

2. We can use reports like these as a ‘check up’ for our own ministries. Are we as accountable as we should be? Do we have proper structures in place to prevent misuse of power and misdeeds? If not, if you are a leader, can I encourage you today to put these structures into place. A crucial (practical) part of putting on our armour, is to ensure that there are processes in place to hold ourselves accountable

3. If we have sinned, we have a duty to confess this and put the matter right. We may even have to pay the consequences through loss of a job or status or in some cases, even the loss of family (as King David did) but we must also know that when we are truly repentant, God’s grace has capacity to forgive us. Our lives may never be the same again but we can know that in the sight of God, we have been forgiven.

In conclusion, let me encourage you as leaders to be very aware of what God has entrusted us with. He has entrusted us with the power to influence for good and to do that well, we must understand the full weight of this responsibility and make ourselves accountable, first to God but also to some good and trusted people. 

And if you are on the other side of the coin and have been the victim of someone else’s terrible actions and have been hurt or damaged, I want to remind you that God is a healer not just of our physical needs but our emotional and spiritual wounds too. He has not changed and is still in the business today of restoring broken lives. With the right support from good and trusted friends, prayer and counselling, God can once again restore ‘fullness of life’ to you, so that one day you too will be able to be a positive influence in the lives of others.

If you have been hurt by this or other actions, can I encourage you to share this hurt with someone. You could reach out to UCB’s Prayerline and the team there will pray for you and can point you to organisations which can offer help. You can contact them through our website at www.ucb.co.uk/pray

Christianity

Going home another way

After all we have been through in 2020, I think it is impossible to still be the same! I don’t know about you, but I want to take as much as I can from all that happened last year and allow God to use it for good.

Just before Christmas, I was reading Matthew 2:11, which tells the story of the birth of Jesus. We are told that the wise men ‘departed into their own country another way’. In other words, their plans changed and they went home a different route to the one they had planned.

The wise men travelled miles to see Jesus the King of the Jews, and when they found Him, they responded with joy, sincere worship, and abundant gifts. To be honest, it was quite different from the way many people approach God today! Many people tend to expect God to come looking for them, prove Himself to them, and give them gifts. However, we are told that after the wise men found Jesus and worshipped Him, they went home another way. What does that mean to us today?

1.  When you encounter Jesus in your life, you can never be the same again

Having an encounter with Jesus means our life has to take a different direction, and just as the wise men (after being in the presence of the Living God) were changed, so must we be changed too. After the unprecedented experience of the last twelve months, I do not believe that we can move into 2021 the same way that we entered 2020.

As I look through God’s Word, I am amazed to read story after story of people who experienced an encounter with the Almighty God and could not ‘return home’ the same way. Their lives were turned upside down and their direction changed.

Let’s look at a few examples of people ‘going home another way’.

Mark 5:1-20 — The demon possessed man

No man could bind or tame him; he had a legion of demons and was running wildly in a totally possessed state. And then after meeting Jesus, he was totally set free, clothed and in his right mind to the point that he begged Jesus to be able to travel with him. Jesus said: ‘Go home to your friends and tell them the great things the Lord’s done.’

Let me tell you: he definitely went home ‘another way’ – joyful, dancing, praising God, and telling many what Jesus had done for him.

John 8:3-11 -The woman caught in the act of adultery

By law she shouldn’t have gone home at all (never mind another way). She should have been stoned to death. But as she encountered Jesus, He said to her: ‘Go and sin no more.’ And she went home another way!

Luke 19:1-10 – Zacchaeus  

Jesus stood still, lifted his eyes, and called Zacchaeus down from the tree: ‘Zacchaeus, quickly come down; for this very day I must stay in your house.’ Jesus knew the mess that Zacchaeus‘ house was in! And Scripture tells us that ‘Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord, “behold Lord, half of my goods I give to the poor and if I have taken anything from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold.”‘ Jesus said: ‘This day salvation comes to this house.’ He went home not only by another way but with Jesus. How awesome is that!

All those who met with Jesus, all went home different than they came: the woman with the issue of blood, Blind Bartimaeus, the man at the gate called ‘Beautiful’, the crowds on the day of Pentecost. I tell you that even those in the upper room – they all went home different than the way they came: full of the Holy Ghost and totally transformed.

I believe we will discover in this new year that many are entering 2021 totally transformed because of what they have experienced in 2020. But at the same time, we also have to be aware of the enemy’s strategy to ‘steal, kill and destroy’ if we do not take heed of God’s instructions.

Matthew 2 tells us: ‘So the wise men decided not to go back to Herod as he’d commanded them, but to go home by another way…’ Herod’s intention was to find Jesus – he certainly didn’t plan to worship Jesus as king but rather to kill him and destroy all what he stood for. In this there are warnings for all of us:

1. Not everyone is going to embrace your visions and dreams, hence it is wise sometimes to keep them to yourself to prevent the enemy from killing what God has given you.

2. Remember that the enemy hates your experience of transformation and will tempt you in every way for you to return home ‘the same way’ and deny what God has done for you.

3. Be sensitive to the voice of the Divine Shepherd, for His instruction is for your good: to protect you from the wiles of the enemy.

Don’t ever forget that just as God dealt with Herod – who set out to destroy Jesus and everything that He stood for over 2 thousand years ago – God dealt with Satan, who then too tried to kill him. Praise God that Jesus arose on the third day triumphant and glorious that you and I might be victorious too!

And because of this victory and this transformation experience, we can enter this New Year full of joy, full of worship, ready to fulfil the assignment that we have been given for His glory. Therefore today make sure that ‘YOU GO HOME ANOTHER WAY!’

Christianity

God has already provided the answers

In a previous blog, ‘How to turn a crisis into a testimony’, I wrote about the people of Israel and how they quickly turned from rejoicing to murmuring when they hit difficult times. 

As I have been continuing to look at Exodus 15, I have been reminded that in the middle of a crisis, our response’ to what is happening is very important.  As Moses faced the people, who were angry and irritable because of the lack of water, I love his response.  He could have sought to justify himself but instead he did not reply.  In verse 25, it says that his first response was to go to the Lord, to intercede on behalf of the people.  And guess what, it says, ‘The Lord showed him a tree’.  And as Moses threw a branch into the water, ‘the waters were made sweet’.

As I studied these verses, several things came to mind.

A tree does not grow overnight

Any gardener knows just how long trees take to grow – many, many years.  God used a tree to bring help to the people of Israel, which means that God created an answer, long before there was even a problem.  And I believe he has done that for us too.  Whatever bitter waters we find ourselves in today, God has already gone ahead of us, making sure that the answer is there and ready, just when we face our most bitter crisis. 

The answer was right there

In this particular situation, the answer was right there, in front of their eyes, but they could not see it!  In my experience, I have learned that often God’s answers are so close and yet we can fail to see them.  Just like the widow with the small jug of oil in 2 Kings 6 – the answer to her problem was there in her own house already, but she needed the prophet Elisha to reveal it to her.  Can I encourage you that if you know the Lord as your personal saviour, then the answer to your situation is hidden within you, just as the same spirit that rose Christ from the dead, also lives in you.

A miracle tree

In this story, God used a tree to make bitter waters sweet but that tree also reminds me of the tree that Jesus died on over 2000 years ago.  God threw his beloved son on to a tree, to take the bitter sin of humanity, so that anyone who believes in him, would be able to discover the sweetness of life.  You see, through Jesus, we can not only have life but we can experience abundant life. 

Whatever situation you find yourself in today, whether it is the stress caused by the global situation or you are facing your own private ‘bitter waters’, I would like to encourage you, that the answer to your problems lies in Jesus Christ, who also lives in you.   You might say, ‘David, I don’t know what to do, where to turn’.  Well, my advice is to at least call on his name.  He promises us in Psalm 50, ‘Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.”  

He who never changes, is able to bring peace to your bitter storm.  Try it…and see what happens.

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

Don’t despise ‘small beginnings’. (Zechariah 4-10)

In December 2013, I attended the funeral of a dear lady, who was 99 years old.  She had served God faithfully in the church (which my brother pastors in France) and for many years, her heart’s desire was to see a revival. In almost every meeting, her voice could be heard, ‘Lord, send yet again, a revival!’

I had the privilege of attending her funeral and it was a truly remarkable occasion, where the presence of God was felt so powerfully.  My brother Daniel said to me, “You need to preach in church on Sunday” and the following weekend, which was the last Sunday of 2013, as I spoke, we began to see and feel the expectation level in the church rising up in an unprecedented way. This led to the beginning of a mighty move of God and over the next few years, this move of God would lead to many people becoming saved and experiencing healing.

Sometimes I look back and wonder if the funeral of our dear 99 year old friend, was actually the spark that lit a flame.  Although she did not live to see it, her faithful prayers over the years, led to a new move of God.

I have been thinking about this recently, as I have been closely watching world events.

All around us, large churches which have seen 1000s of members walk through their doors each week, have had to go ‘back to basics’ and meet in small, sometimes online groups.  Throughout the Covid crisis, we have been forced to look at how we do things smaller, rather than how we make them bigger.

And we are learning how to not despise ‘small beginnings’.

Just like our 99-year-old friend in the church, her prayer life may have seemed ‘small’ to some but I believe her faithfulness (even to the end of her life) led to something very big being ignited.

Please don’t get me wrong.  I love to see churches filled with many members, but I also believe there is Biblical precedent for small gatherings too.

In Mark 5, Jesus goes to the home of Jairus to pray for Jairus’ daughter who was very sick. When Jesus arrived there, the Scripture tells us there were many people present, many of them were crying loudly and wailing and Jesus quickly sent them out of the house, so that there were just a few left.

It was in that very ‘small’ moment that an incredible miracle occurred and the little girl, who by this point was dead, was now brought back to life.   Often times, we can devalue and overlook what is seemingly little.

As Coronavirus has impacted churches all across the world and forced them back to ‘small beginnings’, it would be easy to see this as a setback, but what if this is a divine strategy to usher in a move of God like we have never seen before?

Matthew 18:20 says, ‘where 2 or 3 are gathered in my name, there I will be with them’.

The presence of God is just as powerful and real in a small gathering, as He is present in a large gathering.

Even here at UCB, our wider team (of more than 100 staff and volunteers) is not able to meet together in person, but I am hearing stories of UCB teams meeting together online, sharing Bible studies, praying for each other in new ways.

I firmly believe that for us as an organisation, we will not be ‘returning to normal’.  This pandemic is forcing us to think in new ways and to not ‘despise small beginnings’.

Throughout history, God has used small groups of people, to ignite something big.  From the disciples (just a group of 12 men) to people like my praying friend, small groups of faithful people have been powerfully used by God to usher in great moves of the Spirit.

If you are part of something ‘small’ today, can I encourage you to have a bigger vision for it.  By embracing something small and allowing God to use it, you could be part of ushering in a new move of God.

DLH-blog-Smallbeginnings-images

Christianity

Discover the many names of God

Recently, I have been sharing with the UCB team, some of my own discoveries about the names of God.  I have often said, ‘if you want to know who God is, look at His names’.  Throughout the Bible, God is given many names and each of them reveal a precious truth about his qualities and character.    I find it very encouraging, to read these names, as they help me to understand more and more about God’s ‘character’ and what He feels about us, His creation.

Jehovah-raah – The Lord is my shepherd (Psalm 23)

In Psalm 23, David describes the Lord as ‘my shepherd’.   I love the way David personalised it by saying not the Lord is The Shepherd but ‘MY’ Shepherd.  Praise God He is also our Shepherd too, for God is a relational God. This picture of ‘The Lord Our Shepherd’ reveals some of His characteristics:  He is good, He protects, He guides, He nurtures, He lays down his life.   And in times of confusion or grief, let’s never, ever forget that He is OUR SHEPHERD too.

Jehovah Jireh – The Lord will provide (Genesis 22:14 and Philippians 4:19)

In Philippians 4:19, it says, ‘my God shall supply all your needs according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.’   We are reminded that Jehovah-Jireh knows our every need because He sees everything including what you need.    If the Lord was able to meet Abraham’s need by providing a ram caught in the thicket that was offered in place of Isaac, He’s also able to meet our needs at just the right time.   Fear not, the name Jehovah-Jireh guarantees that your Heavenly Father is able to provide any need you have.

Jehovah Shalom – The Lord our peace (Judges 6:24)

The Hebrew word ‘shalom’ translated as ‘peace’ not only speaks of the absence of noise, strife or conflict,  it speaks of wholeness, completeness, trustworthiness and happiness.   True and ultimate peace is found in God alone and this comes to us when we focus our lives on God and put our trust in Him.   His Word says, ‘are you weary and troubled?   Well why not place your total trust in Jehovah-Shalom and He will keep you in perfect peace (Isaiah 26:3)

Jehovah Rapha – The Lord who heals (Psalm 23 and Exodus 15)

It was in the wilderness wanderings of the Israelites that God first revealed His name as Jehovah-Rapha.   After crossing the Red Sea, Moses led them into the Wilderness of Shur where they went 3 days without water.   Eventually, they came across the waters of Marah, but they could not drink from the waters for they were bitter.   So the people complained against Moses and Moses then cried to the Lord and the Lord showed him a tree, which when he cast into the waters.   In a moment, the waters were made sweet.   The Lord does not only heal waters,  He heals people too.  If the Lord was able to heal the waters at Marah so that His people could drink, He is also able to heal us from any disease. (Psalm 103:3)     When we’re weak, Jehovah-Rapha will renew our strength, the same way He did for David (Psalm 23:3 NLT).

Living in a stressful and chaotic world in these unprecedented times, the name Jehovah-Rapha speaks to us that our bitter experiences can be transformed into sweet ones, and yes, we are confronted with new problems every day that make us sometimes want to give up and give in.   But we can count upon the Lord to heal and renew our strength.   Jehovah is the Great Physician who not only heals our physical and emotional needs, but He also heals and restores whatever spiritual needs we may have.

Stand upon God’s promise today! His Word declares that, ‘The Lord is Your Keeper/ Your Provider/ Your Peace/ Your Healer’. Don’t ever allow the enemy to tell you otherwise.

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

A Christian response to Coronavirus

The news about coronavirus is all over the media and is heard in almost every conversation. This is a very unusual situation and we can choose to respond in one of two ways; with fear or with faith.

It is very interesting to see how people around the world are reacting differently. Some people are reacting by panic buying (and emptying the shelves) while others seem to be almost indifferent. For me, the question is, how should we, as believers, respond?

First of all, our thoughts and prayers are with everyone affected by this sickness; individuals, families, health services and communities as well as national leaders and governments. How they all need God’s wisdom and guidance as they deal with this situation. And for us as a nation, where do we find healing when every day, the news seems to grow even more serious?

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 very desperate times 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, wisdom and guidance.

If you are fearful, grieving or broken today, let the truth of God’s Word sink into your heart.

But you may say, ‘what if we can’t stop this virus?’ What if it becomes widespread in the United Kingdom or wherever I live, as some experts predict?

Well let’s stand firm upon his Word! Psalm 112:6-8 is a great encouraging reminder as to what our response should be. It says, “For the righteous will never be moved, he will be remembered forever, he is not afraid of bad news, his heart is firm, trusting in the Lord, his heart is steady, he will not be afraid”.

We all have to face bad news at some point in our life. If it’s not the virus, it will be something else. Let’s remind ourselves that we live in a fallen and broken world where suffering and even death are inevitable. To deny this truth would be lying to ourselves, but we as Christians do not need to fear bad news. It is important to not be in denial and as a nation, we should take all sensible precautions, but we do not need to be crippled by the fear of what ‘might happen’. The psalmist demonstrates that it is possible to look bad news right in the face and say, “You will NOT rule my heart.” Our emotions may sway, but we will not be blown off course.

You might think that is easy for me to write, but practically, how can we rise above the circumstances when we are surrounded by fear?

Well, here are some practical responses;

Prayer

Pray in FAITH. Remember faith is not denying fear but mastering it. What you fear the most, reveals where you trust God the least. Therefore put your faith in God and watch as He starts to eradicate your fears. “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer… believe that you have received it… and it will be yours.” Mark 11:24

Prepare

Prepare WISELY. Don’t deny the facts but plan wisely and let’s be aware of Paul’s words in Ephesians 6:12, KJV: “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities,against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” And the preceding verse tells us to be well prepared to “Put on the whole armour of God that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.”

Proclaim

Proclaim HOPE. In this world of uncertainty, we can have great confidence as we hold on to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. And it enables us to ‘Rejoice in hope…be patient in tribulation… continue steadfastly in prayer’ (Romans 12).

I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13

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.

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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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