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.

Christian Media, Christian Radio, Devotional, Faith, Hope, Miracles

Pick your team wisely

This week, UCB’s Board of Trustees met together to review UCB’s activities and accounts for the year so far. It has been a busy few days with our Board travelling in from different areas of the UK, but I am so thankful for each of our Trustees, for their wisdom and ability. 

In any leadership position, it is important to have a GOOD team around you. We are blessed at UCB to have a Board and Executive Team made up of Godly, skilled men and women who have the right balance of professional skills and a heart for ministry. When we look to appoint new people to our team, we are above all, looking for people of integrity with a heart for UCB’s vision, who can help and support UCB to stay focused on the big picture and keep us accountable in all things.

Our Board meetings are a mixture of time spent together with God (this is a non-negotiable) and time spent going over the business and operational side of UCB. 

This meeting was no exception and we began by looking to God’s Word. Although we are governed by a great Board, ultimately God is our chairman and we always start with worship and devotions. This time, one particular area of scripture stood out for me; 1 Samuel 15.  

The prophet Samuel gave Saul an assignment from God. He was to destroy the Amalekites and all their possessions, because they were a people who had dishonoured God. Saul accepted the challenge and defeated the Amalekites but he preserved the life of king Agag and saved the best of the cattle. Knowing that Saul had been disobedient, Samuel went to confront him. Saul declared that he had ‘carried out the command of the Lord’ but (perhaps with a hint of humour), the prophet Samuel said, ‘what then is the bleating of sheep I can hear?’  

Saul had been disobedient but he argued that all these fine lambs would make an even bigger and better sacrifice to the Lord. Samuel reminded him, ‘to obey is better than sacrifice’.

This story reminded us all of the need to be obedient. It is easy sometimes to be focused on matters of business and governance but it is important, first and foremost to fear God. This is not a kind of terrified fear, but a reverent fear which ensures we stay close to Him and when He tells us to do something, we do it!  

That is why, for me, it is important to be surrounded by Godly, discerning people such as our Board, as they bring an ‘outside’ perspective and help to keep us on track. In all areas of life, we each need a ‘team’, a team of people who will support us in the good and bad times and also, if needed, provide a voice of correction. Do not be tempted to surround yourself with ‘yes men’. Find a Samuel.

Our trustees have now gone home but we will be meeting again soon for prayer and updates. 

Can I ask you to join us in prayer for a few issues? For wisdom and discernment for our Board and Executive team? And also for a breakthrough in UCB’s finances. We continue to experience many challenges with UCB’s income stream, but we are looking to the future with faith (not fear). 

Please could you stand with us and believe for a breakthrough?

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

 

 

Christian Media, Christian Radio, Christianity, Devotional, Hope

How to deal with conflict

There is a story in Philippians 4 about two women called Euodia and Syntyche, who it seems were quarrelling.   Paul was so concerned about this lack of unity, that he wrote a letter to the wider church in which he pleaded with them to ‘be of the same mind in the Lord’.   Paul wanted to nip it in the bud.

In our lives, conflict is inevitable.  I think sometimes we are afraid of conflict and perhaps we think that as Christians, we shouldn’t ever experience disagreements?   I believe that disagreements are normal and are to be expected – we are all imperfect human beings with our own struggles and agendas.

However, while disagreements and differences of opinion may happen, we must always fight against division.  I believe this is what Paul was trying to deal with in his letter to the church.    Jesus spoke too on the issue of division.  In Mark 3 he warned that ‘if a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.’   We must always guard our hearts, ministries and organisations against the poison of division.  It is one of my biggest challenges as a leader, to ensure that disagreements don’t lead to a lack of unity.

If you are dealing with conflict as a leader, or in your ordinary working life, here are a few ways to deal with it.

Are you listening? 

If you are mediating between two people, it is important to listen.  Take time to hear both sides of the story and prayerfully ask God for His wisdom and His solutions.  It can be easy to get caught up in the emotions and forget to listen to what is being said.  When I was a young man, I was very zealous and sometimes I made mistakes in how I communicated. The message of what I was trying to say may have been right, but the way I said it was wrong.   Sometimes I look back now and think, ‘what a wally!’   But thank God, I had wise people around me who made allowances for my youth.  Listening is an incredibly important skill.

Be decisive

If we have to make tough choices or challenge bad behaviour, it is important to be decisive and clear.  In his letter to the church, Paul dealt with the issue publicly and decisively.   It may not  be wise to deal with a matter publicly, but we can be intentional in our decision-making.  If we say we are going to find a solution, we must make sure we follow through and do not dodge the issues.

Ask for help

We have all met people who seem to enjoy disagreements and arguments.  It is true to say that even with the best intentions in the world, God will not override the will of a person who does not want to change.  If the will is there, true reconciliation is always possible, but you might need outside help.  Do not be afraid to ask for help, by calling in a trusted advisor or mediator.  Sometimes a person on the outside can bring clarity and a new perspective to the situation.

Show love

Love is the key thing.  I believe we can deal with almost any situation, if we choose to deal with it in love. This is not always easy – I understand, as I have been there.   But, Christ’s love is the glue which brings true healing and reconciliation in relationships, marriages, churches and organisations.   My role as a leader is to drive the desire for unity.  But I need the Prince of Peace first of all in my life to make sure that I am operating from His agenda, not my own.  When I choose to deal with issues in love, I can still challenge behaviour, but I can do it with grace.

It does not matter how bad the situation is, if there is the will to change and be reconciled, I believe that any issue can be turned around.  With the Holy Spirit in the mix, there is always hope for healing and for unity to be restored.

If you are facing a situation that needs God’s restoration and would like our team to pray for you, please email us at davidlh@ucb.co.uk    We would love to pray for you, so that unity can be restored.

Christian Media, Christianity, Devotional, Healing, Hope

Failure is not the end…

On Saturday, I spoke at a We are Men event on the subject of ‘Accountability’. The danger of speaking on a topic like this, is that it can sound like a ‘telling off’, but I wanted to make sure that the men who attended, felt encouraged and understood what the real meaning of accountability is.   Accountability is based in relationship and ensures that as leaders and believers, we do what we say we will do.

We live in an age where the media frequently reports leadership scandals, from extra marital affairs, to embezzlement and abuse.  As Christians, surrounded by temptations and lies from the enemy, we need accountability in our lives.  We need people and processes around us, to help us have integrity.

How can we be accountable?  Is there a way forward for people who get it wrong?

We are servants

Sometimes in churches (or in any organisation), there can be a culture at the top where the person in charge acts as though they are ‘lord and master’.  As leaders, we must always remember that we are primarily servants.  We are there to serve the vision of the organisation we work for.  Our leadership style needs to be based on the life of Jesus as it is written in God’s Word, not on a version we have created for ourselves.

We need relationships

To be truly accountable, it is good to have people in our lives who can be direct and honest with us at any time.    Although I have lived in the UK for many years, I am not a native English speaker and sometimes friends will correct a word I have used in the wrong way. I would always prefer that people gave me the right word, than laugh at my use of the wrong one.   It is the same with accountability, we need people who will gently and lovingly speak correction when it is needed.  If this correction comes from a person who is trusted and who has our best interests at heart, they will never use this to hurt us, they will say these things in order to help and restore us.

Processes are important

In every leadership position, it is important to have processes in place, to prevent abuse of systems.  For example, at UCB, we have procedures in place to help keep us financially accountable.  If we have to buy expensive items (such as new equipment), the forms will need more than just one signature.  It doesn’t mean that we don’t trust our team, but it means that important financial decisions are not in the hands of just one person.   That helps to keep us accountable to each other and to the people who support the ministry.

We can all fail

As the saying goes, no one plans to fail, but some can fail to plan.  To me, this means that we must plan ahead and be aware of our own weaknesses and vulnerabilities.  We must never assume that we are above temptation or incapable of falling.   By putting true accountability, processes and relationships in our lives, we are reducing our capacity for failing.   We spend a great deal of time mopping up messes, when it would be much better to spend time preventing spills in the first place.

However, what if you (or someone you know) has failed?  Is there a way to be restored?

In the Bible, we have many examples of leaders who have failed but the two examples of David and Saul stand out to me, because of their different responses.  When Saul was confronted by the prophet Samuel in 1 Samuel 13 about his disobedience before God, Saul’s response was to blame others and make excuses.  He was not able to take responsibility for his actions.

In 2 Samuel 12, when Nathan confronted David over his affair with Bathsheba, David immediately said, ‘I have sinned against the Lord’.

If you have messed up, then it is important to find someone you trust, who can help to restore you and help to make you accountable.  This process may mean that you have to confess to others, there may be legal repercussions, you may even need to resign from your position, but in the process of vulnerability and humility, God’s power is still at work.

I have seen friends and key leaders who have fallen, who are later restored in a wonderful way, with their marriages and lives intact.   Your response in the early days is important. Will you deny or seek to blame others?  Or will you be vulnerable and use it as a time to get right with God?

Proverbs 24:16 says, ‘for though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again, but the wicked stumble when calamity strikes’.

This is true for anyone who stumbles, whether they are a leader or not.  God is so good, He is a God of restitution, of healing and restoration.  God’s heart is for everyone to be restored and in a right relationship with Him.

Even if you have messed up, because of God’s goodness, there is still hope.

david-blog_failure

 

 

 

 

Christian Media, Christian Radio, Christianity

How to be a good leader

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.

leader