Christianity

How to walk in hope…

As most of the UCB team are now working from home, I have been in touch with them each day, sharing some thoughts that I am rediscovering, in my own times with God. For the past few days, I have been reading Mark 5 and looking again at the story of Jairus and how Jesus raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead.

Jairus was one of the rulers of the synagogues and he was also a loving father whose daughter was critically sick to the point of dying. When Jesus saw the situation, his first words were, “Do not be afraid; only believe” and those simple words, brought Jairus reassurance in his total despair. Instead of giving up and walking away in total hopelessness, Jairus did the unthinkable. He continued walking in HOPE, despite the seriousness of the situation. Is there a way we can capture this sense of hope too, in the middle of the situation our world is facing?

Here are some steps that I believe Jairus took, which helped him to experience his breakthrough.

1) Realisation – Jairus realised the gravity of his situation and he intentionally did something about it. The situation was desperate. His little daughter was not only very sick but she was clearly dying. For me, in this COVID 19 crisis, it’s important that we realise the seriousness of the situation and comply with all what we are asked to do. But it is also important that we take our fears and worries to Jesus too.

2) Desperation – Jairus became desperate. I’m sure that after having tried everything humanly speaking, he then sought to find Jesus. I think I can understand his pain and frustration as every day, as I watch reports from the media, there is only one word which jumps out at me – desperation. Today, can I encourage you, if you feel desperate, cry out to Jesus.

3) Attention – Jairus’ desperation caused him to focus his attention on Jesus.  In the busyness of life, it can be easy to lose our focus, but there is nothing quite like a crisis to remind us that we cannot do this alone and that we need God’s help in everything we do.  If you feel today that you have lost your attention and focus on Jesus, you can turn to him now.   He is the only one who can provide whatever you need in these difficult times.

4) Position – When Jairus found Jesus,  “he fell at Jesus’ feet”,  which was a sign of acknowledging a higher authority as well as being willing to humble himself.  In whatever you are facing, I urge you to approach Jesus and change your position as Jairus did, demonstrating humility and acknowledgement of His authority. Let’s also not forget that as Christians, He has given us the same authority to deal with any situation we face.  

5) Compassion I love the way that Jairus in his actions and his prayer demonstrates his compassion. You might be wondering, ‘what is the real definition of compassion?’ My own definition is, “having the awareness of the needs of others, which prompts a compelling desire to meet their needs”. How great it is to see compassion being displayed across the UK, with hundreds of thousands of people volunteering to help the NHS, their neighbours, strangers they have never met before. These people had compassion stirred up within them and now they are going out, to help meet the needs of the most vulnerable in our society.

6) Intercession – Jairus did not approach Jesus for himself, but went to stand in the gap on behalf of his much loved daughter. I am so impressed by the many prayer initiatives emerging throughout the UK and around the world at the moment. Let’s continue to stand on behalf of the many whom cannot pray for themselves, throughout this time and boldly believe for healing. Jesus is still the same as He was yesterday, today and forever.

I hope these few thoughts from my own study, encourage you, as much as they are encouraging me.

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.

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, 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, Faith

How to hear God’s voice.

 

Some years ago, I was facing a personal storm in my life.  I asked God to speak to me, but it felt as though I could not hear His voice.  A short while later, we had a guest speaker at church and I remember he spoke on Hebrews 13:5, where God assures His people; I will never, ever leave you nor forsake you‘.  At the time, although I heard the words, my mind wandered and it was only later that I wished I had listened more closely.

Almost one year later, the same speaker came back to church and he began his sermon with the exact same words from Hebrews 13:5.   This time, I hung on to every word, I did not let my mind wander and I knew that God had really, really spoken to me.  He had given me a second chance to hear His word!

At times in our lives, we struggle to hear God’s voice, but I believe God is speaking all the time.  I have a TV on the wall in my office.  Some days it is switched on and on other days it is not.  If the screen was blank, I would not ring the transmitter and ask why I could not see any pictures.  I would first check the television to see if it was switched on or defective. Serving in a media organisation, I understand that we are surrounded by invisible TV and radio waves.  We cannot see them or hear them, unless we switch a receiver on.  I believe our lives are the same – to hear God’s voice, we have to switch the receiver on or be tuned to the right frequency.

God’s voice can be heard in the silence. 

I was raised in the Pentecostal tradition and our prayer meetings were always exciting, with a lot of fervent prayers.  In that situation, sometimes it is easy to think that if we are silent, we are not praying.  It is great to pray out loud but at other times, we also have to tune out the background noise and understand that God does not need to shout, in order to be heard.   1 Kings 19 says that God spoke to Elijah in a ‘gentle whisper’ and Psalm 23 says that He leads us beside ‘still waters’.   God’s voice can often be heard most powerfully, when we take time to be quiet, ready and willing to listen.

God’s voice is distinct

There are many voices in our lives and if we do not learn to recognise them, we can confuse the voice of God with other voices around us.  There are many voices we can tune into.  There’s the voice of our flesh, the voice of our conscience, the voice of our reasoning, the voice of God and the voice of the enemy (to name a few).  There are two important distinctions.   The voice of the enemy has one agenda – to kill, to steal, to destroy.  The voice of God, on the other hand, is there to lead us to our ultimate destination.  His voice may not always tell us what we want to hear (sometimes He disciplines us), but His voice will always be focused – like the GPS in my car – on leading us to the place He wants us to go.

God speaks in more than one way

God speaks to us in many different ways.  He can speak to us through His Word, through timing and circumstances and sometimes, He can speak to us through other people.   God’s voice is always accompanied by ‘the peace that passes all understanding’.   When we are at peace, we will know that we have heard the voice of God.

I have known this peace in my own life on many occasions, even during the time when we lost our son Jamie. As I went to see Jamie in the Hospital’s Chapel of Rest, I did not want to hear or believe what God said in that moment, but yet, I knew it was the voice of God.

On another occasion (a few weeks before Jamie passed away)  I felt strongly prompted to go and pray for a friend’s daughter who had been taken suddenly and seriously ill.  I knew, that I knew, that I knew, that I needed to go and pray for this little girl.  I will share more about this story soon!

If you are listening for God’s voice today and struggling to hear what He is saying, can I encourage you to ‘tune in’ your receiver.  Even if you are looking for direction and cannot clearly hear God’s voice (like I was), keep believing and trusting.

God is speaking all the time.  Are we listening?

 

 

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