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

The ultimate sacrifice

Last week, the world watched in shock as a gunman took hostages in a French supermarket.  There was a tense siege and then in a remarkable act of courage, policeman, Lieutenant Colonel Arnaud Beltrame offered to step in and trade places with one of the hostages. As we now know, sadly Arnaud Beltrame was later shot by the gunman and some time later, died from his injuries.

Arnaud was willing to walk to his death by offering to swap places with a hostage victim, who was being held by a man we now know was a terrorist who had declared his allegiance to Islamic State.  What an extraordinary act of courage!  I would like to express our thoughts and prayers to Lt Col Arnaud Beltrame’s family and all those who have lost a love one in this tragedy.

This very sad story (although amazing in itself) reminds me of another even more extraordinary story that we find in the scriptures. It’s the story of a man called Jesus who was willing to leave all glory behind and come down here to earth to trade his life, for the life of mankind.

In other words, he willingly swopped his life for ours, to give us the opportunity to be freed from the enemy who was holding us hostage to sin.

John 15:13 tells us, ‘There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends’. We can say that Lt Col Arnaud Beltrame demonstrated an amazing sacrifice by being willing to give his life for hostages that were strangers to him. How amazing is that?  And it is right that he is honoured.

But how much should we honour Jesus Christ?  He not only became our ultimate sacrifice but He actually chose and willingly gave Himself up, yes even to the horrible death of the cross!  Nothing that happened in His life was ever forced on Him or came to Him by surprise or even by accident, but it was all something Jesus consciously and willingly gave Himself over to do.  Jesus says very clearly in John 10: “No one takes My lifefrom me … but I lay it down of myself.”  Isn’t it amazing that he would become our substitute so that you and I would live not just for the now, but for eternity?

Lt Col Arnaud’s incredible act of courage is almost hard for us to believe or understand, and although it can’t compare to the Gospel story, it paints a vivid picture to us and helps us to understand (in human terms) the extraordinary sacrifice Jesus made.

Jesus planned, pursued us and in fact willingly gave Himself in every detail, from His incarnation to His last breath on the cross. Jesus as the Good Shepherd came to give life and that more abundantly, even as He voluntarily gave Himself over to death, so that sinners like me and you could be redeemed.  I believe that is a good reason to trust Him and to live also in humble gratitude, giving endless thanks to God the father who gave us his only son!   Just the thought that God would spare his son, to save someone like me, makes me want to shout “Hallelujah … what a Saviour!”  I trust that you know that feeling too!

And so on Good Friday, as we mark the day that Jesus paid the ultimate sacrifice, let us never forget the message of Easter; that Jesus not only took our place in dying for us but rose up triumphantly that you and I may not only have life but life to the full.

Happy Easter!

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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, Easter, Evangelism, Faith, Hope, Miracles

Face fear with your faith!

After the arrest of Jesus and later His execution, we know that the disciples were afraid. 

John 20:19 tells us that on the evening of the first day, they were together, ‘with the doors locked’. 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 fear for his life, Peter had denied knowing Jesus and now, they were all hiding behind locked doors. 

This picture hidden away in a room, is an illustration to me, of what the enemy tries to do in our lives. I believe fear is the greatest weapon of the enemy – fear literally paralyses us and stops us from moving forward.

It might be the fear of ill health, of losing your job, the fear of what others think. 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. 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.
The amazing part of this story to me is that when Jesus appeared to them, He asked them, ‘Why are you frightened?’. Luke 24:36 says 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!

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 disciples in the middle of all their doubt and 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.

Christian Media, Christian Radio, Christianity, Devotional, Easter, Faith, Forgiveness, Healing

Jesus will meet you at your point of need – Mary Magdalene’s story

I have spoken before about some of the losses our family has faced. In the immediate aftermath of a bereavement, without God’s help, it can feel as though life cannot continue without that loved one. However, thank God for His Word that sustains and holds us together during the very darkest times of our lives.  

As we prepare to celebrate Easter, I have been trying to put myself in the shoes of the friends of Jesus; the disciples, the people who were his companions during his life on Earth. I have been wondering what they must have felt after he was executed? What was it like after Jesus was resurrected? How did they feel when they saw him again for the first time, since the atrocity of his death? 

Mary Magdalene was one of those friends. She was a woman with a dark past whose life had been changed forever after an encounter with Jesus. Although she must have known he was the messiah, did she experience any doubt after she witnessed his death? We do not know what she felt, but did she wonder if Jesus was really coming back? Did she experience despair and grief? Even when we know the truth, in the dark experiences of our lives, it can be easy to focus on the circumstances of what we see.   

Whatever she felt, whether it was hope, or hopelessness, we know that on Resurrection morning, after Jesus rose from the dead, everything changed. Matthew 28 says, ‘Suddenly, Jesus met them’.    

This word ‘suddenly’ is very important to me personally, because it reminds me that just at my point of need, just when I need him most, that is when Jesus appears.  
For Mary Magdalene and the others who saw the risen Christ, when Jesus met them, in an instant, hope and peace was restored, they could see a future. They knew they would get through this. In that moment, they experienced the resurrection for themselves.  

This is what Easter means to me. The resurrection was not just an event in history, it was an event which brought hope to the friends of Jesus, hope to all who witnessed it and hope for today’s world, thousands of years later.   

Whatever you are going through, even if it seems like an impossible situation, the death and life of Jesus reminds us that there is a future and that because of the resurrection, whatever life brings our way, we can have hope and peace. When Jesus meets us, everything changes.

Christian Media, Christian Radio, Christianity, Easter, Forgiveness

What Easter means to me.

I was blessed to grow up in a Christian family. My father was a minister and Easter was always a very important time for us. A lot of the local churches (in my home town in France) would get together to hold special meetings.  We had speakers and worship and it was an exciting time for the churches to work together on evangelism.   I have great memories of those days!

Today, Easter is just as special for my family and I.   It is a reason to celebrate the gift of life that Jesus has given us, through His death.

The team at UCB know that I like to use acronyms and a few years ago I shared the below with friends and supporters of UCB.

E.A.S.T.E.R.

ETERNAL– (John 3:16) – Through the gift of His son Jesus, God the Father offers the gift of ETERNAL LIFE to all those believe in Him.

ACCEPTED – (Ephesians 1:6) – We are ACCEPTED in Jesus Christ.

SAVED – (Ephesians 2:8) – Anyone can be SAVED if they believe – because of God’s Grace and God’s unmerited favour.

TRANSFORMATION – Only real and lasting transformation takes place in Jesus Christ.  (2 Corinthians 5:17) – “If we are in Christ … we are a new creation …. old things have passed away, behold all things have become new.”

ENDURES – (Psalm 100:5) God’s love ENDURES forever.

RISEN– (Luke 24:34) Meaning He is alive today and we have access to a living and true God.

Here is a link to one of my favourite worship songs, ‘Forever’ by Kari Jobe.  It is a tremendous and powerful song that describes the fullness of the Easter message.

Let’s never forget that, ‘Forever He is glorified, forever He is lifted high, forever He is risen, He is alive, He is alive!’  It reminds us that we are worshipping a true and living God.

I learned as a young man, that the Gospel has the power to transform every life, even the most broken and at UCB, we often receive letters and emails from people who have experienced it for themselves.    Sid O’ Neil discovered God’s love after a terrible accident which left him with serious injuries.  He experienced the power of the resurrection, which changed his life.  Thank God for His sacrifice and for restoring countless lives.

Can I encourage you this week, to take time to consider what the resurrection means to you?  Why not tell your story to someone who hasn’t heard it before?