Christian Media, Christian Radio, Christianity, Devotional, Faith

Don’t live in bitterness

I have been thinking this week about the subject of bitterness and how much it can impact lives (yes, even the lives of Christians).

In Exodus 15, the Israelites (led by Moses) had seen a tremendous victory and they were celebrating and thanking God for their deliverance. They were singing, ‘I will sing to the Lord, for He is highly exalted…the Lord reigns for ever and ever’.

But just three days later, they were in the desert and their water supplies had run out. They came to the waters of Marah but they couldn’t drink from it, as the water was so bitter. The same people who had been praising God just a short time ago were now grumbling and complaining. Moses cried out to God and the Lord showed him a piece of wood, which he was able to throw into the water and verse 23 says, ‘the water became fit to drink’. Later, God led the people to Elim, which had ‘12 springs and 70 palm trees’ and they camped there near the water.

In our lives, many of us face difficulties, which could leave us feeling bitter. When faced with tragedy or hard times, we have a choice to walk through the situation (with God’s help) and get better, or we can stay in that situation and camp out in our bitterness. The story in Exodus paints a clear picture of how I believe God wants us to respond, when faced with life’s hardships.

Don’t camp at Marah

The word ‘Marah’ (the place of the bitter springs) actually means ‘bitter’ and it is interesting that in the Exodus story, although Moses led the people there, God did not command them to camp and stay there. It was just a passing through on their journey.

Later when they arrived at Elim (which means ‘roots’ and also means ‘a place of refreshing’) they were able to stop and set up camp. We all go through times of feeling bitter but I believe it is important to not camp in that place and instead view it as an experience, a place we have to walk through, with God’s help.

We already have the answer

When Moses cried out to God for an answer, the Lord provided him with a tree branch which would make the water drinkable. Trees take decades to grow and long before Moses and the people encountered this problem, God had already provided a way out, a growing tree which would be used to solve the problem.

We see this again later in the story of Zaccheus in Luke 19. Zaccheus was the chief tax collector and was not well-liked. Luke says he was a man of small stature and because of the great crowds (and his height) he was not able to get through the crowds to see Jesus. Zaccheus climbed a nearby sycamore tree in order to see Jesus and later, met with Jesus personally. We do not know how long it took, but it is likely that tree had been growing there for a long time. I like to imagine that maybe God even sent an angel to protect that tree, knowing that one day it would be used as an important tool in allowing a man to hear the life-changing words of Jesus. It reminds us though, whatever we are going through, God has already provided the answer.

Believe the promise

In our world today (maybe you are going through this yourself), many people have become stuck in a place of bitterness. Bitterness can be like a spiritual cancer and if we allow it to, it can overtake our thinking and lives.

If you are experiencing that today and wondering how you can break free, can I encourage you to go back to the promises of God. Whatever you are going through, I believe that God has already provided the answer (even if you cannot see it) and that if you walk diligently, God will eventually lead you to ‘Elim’, to a place of rest and security.

The tree in the stories of Moses and Zacheus are also a symbol of the cross. If you look to the cross and look to the promises of God, he will lead you through.

It may not be easy, but living a life free of bitterness, is living life to the full. And this is how I believe God wants us to live.

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

Darkness will never extinguish the light! 

I am in France this week taking part in a exciting mission with Pastor Marc Declaudure’s churches in three towns Saumur, Thouard and Ludun.   I woke up this morning, like many others to devastating news headlines;  ‘Manchester Arena blast: 22 dead and a further 59 people were injured’ after another suspected terror attack. 

Although I was born in France, I have lived in the UK for well over 40 years and my wife and I raised our family here. The UK is our home.

I was in France in November 2015, when terrorists attacked Paris. And just like these last few days, I was in the middle of an exciting week of mission at my brother’s church then too and we were seeing incredible miracles, lives set free and people commit their lives to Christ.

We were full of excitement at what God was doing and then we heard the horrific news about Paris. Our hearts were broken, just as they are today for the people of Manchester, for all those who have been injured, for all those who have lost someone.   

We are so thankful to live in a country that is able to respond quickly and with deep compassion in the face of a tragedy. 

As Christians, we sometimes wonder what to say in the face of such a terrible situation. Today I am again reminded of the words of Psalm 37, this very same psalm that we read the Sunday morning after the attacks in Paris.

Do not fret because of those who are evil

or be envious of those who do wrong 
Be still before the Lord

and wait patiently for him;

do not fret when people succeed in their ways,

when they carry out their wicked schemes.  

The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord;

he is their stronghold in time of trouble.

The Lord helps them and delivers them;

he delivers them from the wicked and saves them,

because they take refuge in him. 

How can we pray?

Firstly, let’s consider people. Let’s pray for those who are fighting for their lives. Let’s pray for the families and those who have lost someone they loved. Let’s also pray for those who witnessed the attack and for the local residents who have to come to terms with this enormous tragedy. Let’s pray also for the medical centres who are working with the injured.

Secondly, we need to pray for wisdom for our Governments as they discuss and debate what happens next, that they choose ways and responses which are inspired by God and not necessarily their own intuition.

Thirdly, let us always go to God’s Word for our answers. His Word (John 1:5) says that the darkness in the world will get darker, but that darkness will never extinguish light. In fact, it says that light (His light) will continue to shine brighter and the darkness CANNOT overcome it. 
That is where I get my strength and hope.
Let’s pray with passion for our world and all those who are suffering and grieving today.   

And may God’s light, his in-extinguishable light shine ever brighter in the middle of the darkness we see.

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

Heaven is real

Last year, I told the story of losing our son Jamie when he was 13 months old. Our hearts were broken and as I cried out to God and asked Him to bring Jamie back, I felt God speak into my spirit; ‘He will not come back to you, but you will go to him one day’.
I learned later that these were the words God spoke to King David after the loss of his own son. Over the years, those words have given me great hope and comfort, because they remind me there is a world beyond this one.  I believe we will see Jamie again one day.

If you have lost someone you love, I would like to encourage you to know and believe that Heaven is not a myth. Heaven is real.

The Scriptures give us quite a lot of detail about Heaven.  Heaven is where God lives (Psalm 23:1) and Heaven was designed for us.   God does not need a place to live, He is self-sufficient, but He made Heaven for us.  God’s heart was to create a home and a family and God loves us so much that He has adopted us into the family so we can spend eternity with Him.   But He also gave us a choice.   Where we spend eternity will be determined by the choices we make in this life, whether we choose to accept the free gift of Jesus, or not.

What is Heaven like? 

Jesus said that He would go to prepare a place for us (John 14:3) and in Revelation 22, we are given a beautiful picture of a place with trees and a river ‘clear as crystal’ which flows down the middle of the street.  Heaven is also described as a place where God’s people will live with Him forever, and where all tears, grief, pain and death will be wiped away.  It is a place where the ‘old order of things has passed away’.  (Revelation 21).   If you are like me, sometimes you might think, ‘Lord, it’s dreadful down here…’ But the thought of a perfect world to come with no pain, gives us great hope.

Living for today

Although we look forward to eternity with great expectancy, it is still important to live with our purpose while on this Earth, to be fully present in the life we have been given.  It is ok to dream and look forward to a day when we can take off our ‘suit’ of flesh and blood, but we should not forget that God has a purpose for us now.

In 2 Corinthians, Paul says that we are ambassadors of Christ.   If I were a political ambassador, it would mean that I had an important purpose, but that ultimately I was the citizen of another country.  The same is true when we are Christ’s ambassadors.  Our appointment and purpose is from God and we have a heavenly assignment, to speak God’s heart to the country and situation we are currently in.

If you are in a difficult situation or have lost someone you love too, can I encourage you, Heaven is real.  As believers, it is a place we can look forward to with expectancy.   I believe that I will one day be reunited with both my son and grandson, but until that day, let’s live for the here and now.

Let’s make it our goal to share this truth, this hope with as many people as possible, until the day God finally calls us home.


 

Christianity, Faith, Forgiveness, Hope

When you lose the most precious thing in the world.

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.  

Our three children, Natalie, Jamie and Richard
 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.  

Jamie

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.