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, Devotional

The power of telling your story.

I believe that we each have a story to tell and I think it is important that we are ready (at any time) to tell it, both in words and in the way we live our lives.

In Mark 5, the story is told of Jesus healing the daughter of Jairus.  She had been very sick and as the daughter of a religious leader, it is likely she would have been well-known in her community.  As Jesus arrived at her home though, it was too late, she had already died.

All around and inside the house were mourners, people yelling and crying about the loss of this little girl.  Jesus was confronted with the reality and finality of human death.  He immediately told all the mourners to leave the house and then he took the girl’s hand and restored her back to life. And then in a puzzling verse, Jesus told the family to ‘tell no one’. It was not just a suggestion, it was a command.

In other parts of Scripture, we are told about the power of testimony, so why would Jesus command the family to keep quiet?   I read this story again recently and I believe there is a simple answer.  As Jairus was the leader of the synagogue, he and his family would have been well-known and respected in the community.  When Jesus arrived at their home, the house was already full of mourners, so the locals already knew that she was dead.  So when Jesus brought her back to life, there was no need to tell anyone.  She was a living, breathing testimony.  She was the story.

Saint Francis of Assisi once said, ‘Preach the Gospel, use words if necessary’.  Many have debated this saying, but personally, I believe it means that when we have been transformed by the power of God, our lives are a walking, living testimony.  We can use words to tell our story (and it is important to do so) but the words need to be backed up with evidence of a life which is changed. We can all debate words and philosophies and theology, but no one can argue with a story and a life which has been transformed.

When Jesus healed a blind man in John 9:13-25, the Pharisees questioned the man to ask how this had happened.  They wanted to debate theology with him, but he simply replied, ‘I was blind, but now I see’.   Who can argue with that?!

We all have a story to share.  Some may have been healed and set free or restored and for others, it may be that you were aware of God’s presence in a difficult time, but I believe we should always be ready to demonstrate and tell our story.

Here are some practical ideas;

Tell the truth

This might seem obvious, but it is important to not tamper with or change the details of the story.  It can be tempting to add (or take away) details, but in doing so, we can remove all the power.  Tell your story and allow God to add power to your words.

Tell your story in chapters

Imagine your life story as a book, full of different chapters.  You do not have to tell the full story, but you can share different chapters at appropriate times.  Depending on who I am speaking to, I use different ‘chapters’ of my testimony.  Sometimes I will share the story of how I as a rebellious young man came to England and met God powerfully.  Or I might share about the time we had no money or petrol in the car, but we prayed and God provided in a miraculous way.   Or, as I have shared here, I might tell the chapter when we lost our son Jamie.  You do not have to tell the whole story. The individual chapters can be just as powerful.

Some stories don’t end well

In 1988, a few weeks before we lost our son Jamie, our friends’ daughter Sarah was taken very seriously ill with meningitis.  I will tell her story in a future blog post, but God stepped in and healed Sarah in a miraculous way.  A few weeks later, we lost our son and it led to many questions about why God would heal one child and yet take another.  Even though our family’s story did not end the way we wanted it to, it is still a story of God’s amazing provision and faithfulness.  Even if your story did not conclude the way you wanted it to, you can still tell of how God sustained you in the difficult times.

The enemy will try to stop you.

I believe the enemy knows the power of testimony. The original Hebrew root of the word ‘testimony’ means to ‘do it again’.  In other words, when we share our testimony, we are literally encouraging others to believe that God CAN ‘do it again’.  The enemy will try to quench the power of stories and he will try to stop you from sharing yours, but when you tell your story, you are saying to the world, ‘God is alive and He is at work in my life’. There is huge power in that.

I believe that God wants to ‘do it again’.  Do you have a story to share?   Why don’t you start to tell it?

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At UCB, we love to hear your stories.  If UCB has helped you in some way (either through something you have read, heard or watched), we would love to hear from you.  You can fill in the form below and one of our team will contact you for more information.

 

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Christian Media, Christian Radio, Christianity, Evangelism, Faith, Forgiveness, Hope, Miracles

God is the God of the impossible

Early one Friday morning over five years ago, our Company Secretary came to see me. ‘David, we have a problem,’ he said.  ‘Our cashflow is bad. We need half a million pounds’.

When you are responsible for a large organisation, this is never good news to hear. Coming from a commercial background, I knew it was quite common to operate a business out of an overdraft, but I did not feel this was the answer for UCB.  I did not know what the solution was, but firstly,  I knew that we needed to pray.

When facing unexpected news, it is easy to get caught up in meetings and discussions but at that moment I wanted to be alone so that I could ask God for His answer.  I took out my Bible and felt God prompt me to read Jeremiah 17.  My eyes fell initially to Jeremiah 17:7-8.

But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit’.

As I read this, I felt encouraged especially that we were to ‘have no worries in a year of drought’, but in my heart, I still didn’t feel fully peaceful.   I felt God prompt me to read Jeremiah 17 again, but this time I needed to read the whole chapter.  I have to admit that verses  4 to 6 shocked me – they were curses about goods being plundered and lives being destroyed!

I remember I prayed,  ‘God, ‘I do not understand. First you gave us a promise and a blessing and now I am reading about a curse?  What are you saying to us?

However, as I read it again, Jeremiah 17, verse 6 suddenly came alive to me;

This is what the Lord says: “Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who draws strength from mere flesh and whose heart turns away from the Lord.

I felt this was our answer!  I knew I had a decision to make.  Where should we take our strength from?  Should we rely on an overdraft which came from ‘mere flesh’ or could we find the courage to trust God, believe His promise and see what He would do?

I gathered all the UCB staff together for a time of prayer.  I remember we stood in a circle in our Hanchurch building, all holding hands and we prayed and asked God for a miracle.  I told the team that I believed God wanted us to trust Him.   I later wrote to our Board of Trustees and asked if they would support us in this decision, and they all agreed.Those were difficult months but we believed God had given us a clear promise from His Word – His divine instruction manual.

That was at Easter time and we had to wait until nearly October before we began to see the financial breakthrough in our circumstances.  However, we did not ever need to use that overdraft and we give God all the glory for seeing UCB through a very difficult time.

There have been many other challenging times since then, but prayer remains an essential everyday part of what we do.  I do not believe we can function properly as a ministry unless we purposefully choose to spend time in God’s presence.  It’s in His presence that (combined with His Word) we can find answers to the problems that we all face.   In God’s presence, we are able to talk openly and honestly with our Father.  We can tell Him our problems, our fears and frustrations.   It’s in that place that we can truly find our peace.

We continue to believe that God is the God of the impossible and He will never let us down.

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Christianity, Evangelism, Healing, Hope, Miracles, Spiritual healing

God is still in the miracle-working business.

A few weeks ago, our wonderful friend  RT Kendall came to speak at UCB’s Foundation event.   It was such a privilege to spend time with RT and his wife Louise – they are being used powerfully to help others understand God’s Word.   RT has a great knowledge of the Bible, but he also lives what he preaches and isn’t afraid to be honest about the tough times they have  experienced in full time ministry. It was such a blessing to have them here to speak to some key leaders from around the UK. The talks will be on UCB TV soon and will also be available on UCB Player.

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A few days after hosting RT and Louise, I went home to France to spend time with my brother Daniel again at their church’s evangelistic mission which took place in three locations.

I am always amazed at the level of expectancy in the churches, not just from all the churches’ members but also from people (often non- Christians) who have been invited.  To me, expectancy, coming and fully expecting that God will do something, is a fertile ground for God to move in and transform lives.

We have once again been overwhelmed by God’s faithfulness, grace and mercy.   Over 50 people stood to receive Christ and many more came forward to request prayer.  They were facing many terrible situations; physical, emotional, domestic, addictions and more, but all came ready and expectant to receive a breakthrough. We have been doing these mission for two years now and every time we receive testimonies of transformed lives and incredible healing.  We also encourage people to seek and bring medical evidence of what has happened, wherever possible.  Angers

There are so many stories I could share, of people who have been set free from cancer, alcoholism and who have received Jesus, but it was particularly great to talk to Dominque. Six months ago after prayer, Dominque recovered full sight in both eyes.

She has just been given her driving licence back and is now able to drive to church. She is also being trained for a new job and is looking forward to going to work! Dominque

I had the incredible privilege of baptising her last Saturday during a special evangelistic event.

I am again reminded of Hebrews 13 where the writer reminds us that God will never leave us nor forsake us and that Jesus is the same, yesterday, today and forever.   More than 2000 years have passed since Jesus was physically here, but He hasn’t changed.  He is still in the business of changing lives, healing broken bodies and bringing freedom to souls.

If you are trusting God today for your own miracle, can I encourage you to approach Him with expectancy, knowing that God loved you so much that He gave his one and only Son, so that if you believe in Him you can have eternal life.   Just as a child approaches their Dad with an expectation that they will be given what they have asked for, we can approach our Heavenly Father in the same way.

Keep believing!