Fresh Hope – 26th September 2016

Good morning?

You hoped so, but then you decided to get out of bed.

Bad morning?

Shouted at the kids, took it out on the dog, found your work shirt in the ironing basket, late for the school run, no time for breakfast and it’s still only 8am.

Here’s the good news …things can only get better.

Fresh Hope is here to lift you, encourage you, help you, direct you, teach you and give you a God perspective.

History records for us how ancient cities were always built around a constant flow of water.
They’d figured out that no matter what battles they’d face on the outside, they could survive and even thrive because they had their own supply and would never die of thirst.

No matter how long you live, there will always be a problem. Once one problem is solved then before too long, another will rise up. If you don’t build your life around an inner supply then you will always fall at the first attack.

Taking care of the externals is what we do most in life, but without taking care of our inner selves we will have no resources to draw from each day; let’s face it, driving a nice car doesn’t help you one bit in a day of trouble.

When Jesus met the woman at the well in John 9, He asked her for a drink, and then replied with these words…”Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

Jesus is like having living, thirst quenching water springing up within you so that at anytime and in any circumstance, He can be an everlasting source of hope to you.

Do you have some battles that you are facing right now that you feel want to take you down? Then draw inner strength from Jesus with the words of this old song…

‘Got any rivers you think are impossible?
Got any mountains you can not tunnel through?
God specialise in things thought impossible
And He can do what no other can do.’

However your day has started out, stop right now and give it over to God, by simply calling on His name.

He may not get rid of your problem, but He’ll certainly give you the inner strength to get through it.

Have a blessed day.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 24th September 2016

I want to encourage you today not to give up on your dream – not to give up on God’s promise to you.
Just because things don’t go as planned, that is no reason to give up.

I love the story of Joseph, it teaches us that no matter what goes wrong, keep believing for God’s promise and God’s best for your life.
He was misunderstood by his family, thrown into a pit and then sold into slavery by his own brothers.

Then he ended up in a strange country far from home, where he was wrongly accused by Potiphar’s wife and thrown into prison through no fault of his own.
He was forgotten by the chief butler when he asked him to remember him and he had to stay in prison for a few more years.
But then…He interpreted a dream and became ruler of Egypt!

He had lots of reasons to give up, lots of negative things happened and nasty surprises came along the way – yet he realised that every time, God was still with him. Even when things made no sense, God was all over Joseph’s life.

Be encouraged today, whatever your circumstances or situation, God is watching for your persistence and patience, and He is looking for your heart and attitude even in the midst of your troubles.
Your promise is just around the corner, because God never forgets a promise.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 23rd September 2016

When a successful person retires from their profession, you will often find them being interviewed about their career. They will relook over the highs and the lows, the successes and the failures, and almost every time, you will find them being asked one question…’Do you have any regrets?’

Now, one thing that every human being has in common is that we all make mistakes. We all go through challenges. We’ve all done something that we wished we hadn’t have. However, we have a decision to make – whether we live in regret of these things or not.

Mistakes will either cause you to become better or bitter. I do believe that in every mistake, in every challenge, and in every trial, there is something within it that can teach you a lesson.

I read an article recently with Bear Grylls and he said, ‘You control whether or not you fail.’

You can either allow failure to knock you down and keep you down, or you can allow it to be the catalyst that brings you back better and stronger than before.

I want to encourage you today to get the benefit of the lesson without having the burden of the regret.

There is nothing in your life that God won’t work out for your good and so you don’t have to wait for the mountaintops of life to arrive, for we understand that our most fruitful days may well be in the valley.

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 22nd September 2016

I’ve been interested this past week in reading how many people ‘ran’ to Jesus.

In Mark 5, the man who was in desperate need because he was in mental torment RAN to Jesus because he knew no one else could help him, but maybe Jesus could.

In Mark 10, a young man with many questions RAN to Jesus to get his questions answered – questions about eternal life, that were very important to him.

In Luke 19, the story of Zacchaeus is a very famous one- his life wasn’t right, he was involved in deceit and wrong doing, but did we know that he actually RAN to that tree so that he could see Jesus?

Whatever your situation today, whether desperately in need of a miracle, or you have questions that need answering or you want to get your life right…RUN to Jesus.
HE has your answer and HE is there waiting for you.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 21st September 2016

J.K. Rowling, author of the phenomenally successful Harry Potter series, was once clinically depressed and living on welfare in Scotland.

She later shared, in an interview with Oprah Winfrey, that she was still having trouble coming to terms with herself since her newly found fame and fortune.

It had been many years since she had to fight to scrape together enough money for her and her child to live on, but she recalled how her poverty mentality was still causing her to live like a pauper.

One day whilst trying to write her last book, her concentration was continually broken by noisy workmen in her apartment, which was already filled with children and pets. Suddenly she realised that she could afford to travel anywhere in the world to finish her book, but her old poverty mindset had gotten the better of her.

She recalled the days when she would write sitting in a local coffee shop just because it was warmer than her flat and didn’t cost her any money. Now, in reality she could afford to go anywhere, but her mind still told her to watch every penny.

How many reading this today have recently come to faith in Jesus, and yet are still held back by that old mindset?

It may well be a poverty mindset that still grips you, not realising that the God that you now serve can meet your every need daily from his abundant supply.

Receiving Jesus’ forgiveness means that you can now live totally free from the sins of your past, but how many times a day does your past life come back to haunt you, causing you to live like you did before?

Freedom from guilt is a massive weight off the shoulders of any man or woman and yet how many days do you still spend trapped by those old reoccurring feelings that want to pull you back into your old life?

Don’t let your thoughts rob you for even one more day, by wanting to take you back to that old life that Jesus has once and for all taken you out of.

When those old thoughts want to invade your mind, then take a hold of them and tell them that you are a child of God…forgiven and set free.

Live today in all that Jesus has done for you.

Don’t give the devil credit he doesn’t deserve for authority he doesn’t have.

Be blessed.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 20th September 2016

Half of being smart is knowing what you’re useless at.

Do you ever feel frustrated that you are hopeless at doing certain things? No matter how hard you try, you don’t seem to improve and end up feeling frustrated.

Maybe you should consider the thought that you weren’t ‘wired up’ for such things.

Many people want to feel that they are high achievers in every area of their lives, but it actually creates unrealistic expectations.

I’ve known people that have had lessons on piano for more than 10 years and yet still couldn’t play one piece that wouldn’t annoy you.

Some men have tried to be good at DIY and yet have frustrated their wives with their total incompetence.

You may be great running a small business, but the moment you try to do the invoicing you come unstuck.

All this tells us is that whilst we may be brilliant at certain things, we will also be pretty useless at lots of other things.

We are told that the average person can be competent at around four or maybe five things, leaving them incompetent at tens of other things that they can’t do. So, feeling frustrated at the things that we can’t do, we set about putting all our energies into them, not realising that we are wasting precious time that we should be devoting to the things that we are already gifted at.

As someone once said, if you try to teach a pig to sing you will annoy the pig and waste your time.

Why not write down today the handful of things that you feel you are good at, and then set about devoting all your attention to those few things?

Within a short space of time, you will notice how you have increased your skill in that area, taking you from good to great.

Stop trying to be good at everything. Instead, be master of a few things that God has entrusted to you.

Matthew 25:14-15 ‘Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them. To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey.’

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 19th September 2016

I read this quote the other day and it grabbed me:

‘Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.’

I always want to be generous but often wish I had more money to be generous with. I think this quote can help us understand not to worry about what we can’t give but look at what we can.

As Christians, we’re often keen to look for opportunities to reach people by talking about our faith. In reality, if we want to impact people around us, it’s not what we say but how we make people feel.

There’s no worse feeling than talking to someone who is clearly distracted. It’s a statement that there are more important things than you. The reality is no matter what pressure you are under in your life there is nothing more important than people.

Sometimes we live with the pressure of wanting our lives to count, to be part of something great, to create or do something significant. We often overlook the opportunities every day to invest in people’s lives around us and all it takes is for us to stop and listen.

Let someone waffle and talk rubbish. Don’t correct them, be generous. Is your correction going to save them or could your generosity change the course of that person’s day?

I challenge you today to look for an opportunity to really impact someone, not by chewing their ear off, but let them chew yours off. Look for an opportunity to be generous and make someone feel the wonderful emotion of having someone care enough to stop and listen. When we do we’ll be surprised at the impact and the doors that can open into people’s lives.

Luke Cartwright

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 17th September 2016

We all like to wear different shoes –  some of us live in training shoes, and some of us would not be seen dead without our heels on.

Whatever your taste in shoes is,  whether you would consider them to be boring or exciting, whether you wear expensive or cheap, the Bible tells us to wear shoes that carry the gospel of peace. Ephesians 6 tells us to have our feet ready to take peace wherever we go.

We are meant to be peacemakers and whatever situation you may be in or whatever you may face today, I would encourage you to wear shoes of peace. The world and those you meet today need God’s peace, and you are that person to take it.

Today, I walked around London in a pair of broken shoes! They weren’t broken when I left home, but half way into my day trip, they completely broke.
The rest of my day was spent wearing those shoes. I had to keep going.

Whatever life has in store for you today, you can do it. Wear those peace shoes today – that’s God’s purpose for you.

“How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news.” (Isaiah 52 v 7).

Be that person today and wear those beautiful shoes.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 16th September 2016

I love the verse in the Bible found in Proverbs 11:24. It says,
“The world of the generous gets larger and larger; the world of the stingy gets smaller and smaller.”

One of the things that amazes me about God is that He lets us choose what size life we live.
In this verse we are given a choice – to live big or to live small. Now, if I were to ask you today which kind of life you’d prefer, I know which one you’d choose.

Not only does God give us a choice, but He also provides a way for us to experience both outcomes. If you want your world to decrease in size, then it’s simple: don’t live a lifestyle of generosity. But for those of you who want your world to continually enlarge, then it’s also pretty straight forward…learn to be generous.

You need to know that God’s promises never fail and so when you make the decision to live a generous life, watch how your world will grow.

Not only will you see financial growth, but you will see growth in your relationships, growth in your joy, growth in your sense of fulfilment…

The size of life that you get to experience is down to you. Make the choice today.

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – 15th September 2016

How many of us have been turned down for a job with the words ‘needs more experience’?

If you consider yourself to be a young person today, then those words will be some of the most frustrating words you will hear during this season of your life.

Time after time those well-meaning words will be spoken over you, carrying with them the sentiment that you are being told to wait your turn.

As I started out leading in my early 20s, I was disappointed to find that the ‘well seasoned’ older leaders around me, were actually none the wiser from getting older – in fact, they seemed to have learnt little from the passing of the years. Some behaved worse than small children, which led me to the conclusion that experience is not the best teacher after all.

I couldn’t understand why experience had helped a few, but the vast majority it had not.

If experience was supposedly the best teacher, then why wasn’t it working with the more experienced older people surrounding me?

The great leadership coach, John Maxwell, gave the answer: “experience teaches little, but evaluated experience teaches everything”, he said.

All of us gain experience throughout our lives, however, what we learn and evaluate from that experience is what changes everything.

I passed my driving test more than 35 years ago and therefore have bucket loads of experience. However, that does not make me a good driver.

I could well be a lousy driver, never having learnt from experience; in fact what I may have done, is simply repeat 35 times what I learnt in year one.

Be careful not to grow old with the thought that you are automatically gaining more experience than people younger than yourself, when in actual fact you are standing still and in many cases going backwards.

I encourage you to evaluate today what you are learning from the lessons of yesterday.

Growing old is automatic, growing up is optional.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 14th September 2016

Most of us feel that there is never enough time in the day to do everything we need to do…there are just too many things pulling at us.

Why do we feel this when all throughout history, men and women alike have accomplished incredible things with just the same 24 hours a day that we have?

The issue therefore, is not the time that you have or the busyness of your life, but whether or not the activities of each day are leading you to your destiny, or are they simply the priorities of others that want to live out their own agenda through you?

Is the time spent each day being busy actually hindering you from living out what God created you to do?

I realised many years ago that the security of the career that I was pursuing, was no longer leading me to the life that I should ultimately be living. I had a choice to make and the choice went like this…’I am willing to surrender my life, my dream, my career for the higher purpose that God has for my life.’ Instead of seeing that the choice was too expensive to make, I realised that not making that choice was the most costly decision I would ever have to make.

In 2006, the then senator Barack Obama, gave to a group of college students these wise words about success: “Focusing your life solely on making a buck shows a certain poverty of ambition. It asks too little of yourself. Because it’s only when you hitch your wagon to something larger than yourself that you realise your true potential.”
Your future is not rooted in how you feel, but in how you act each day.

See each day from now on as something that is either leading you towards or away from your destiny.

Make your choice.

Seek God.

He knows the way.

Remember: destiny is not something we decide, but something we discern.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 13th September 2016

3 simple rules to live by:

1. Don’t live for what’s URGENT…live for what’s IMPORTANT.

If you live every day for what’s urgent, it will mean that you live chasing around after everyone else’s demands on your own life.

It’s amazing how quickly everyone else will fill your diary for you if you let them, leaving little or no space for the things that you need to accomplish with your life.

I’m not talking about living selfishly here, as in fact living for what’s important can be the most unselfish thing you ever do.

Make a choice today to take back control of your life, rather than allowing everyone else to live it for you.

There will be times when you have to drop everything and run to someone’s aid, but that should never be the everyday norm.

2. Don’t live for SUCCESS…live for SIGNIFICANCE.

Being successful should never be frowned upon, but it should never be the ultimate goal of our lives. Significance, on the other hand, should be something that we embrace at all times.

If success says ‘I’ve made it’, then significance says ‘I’ve changed it’.

Success is what you achieve for you, but significance is what you achieve for others.

If you desire success, then do so in order that you can live a significant life.

3. Don’t live to BLESS…live to BUILD.

At first glance, this seems wrong, considering that we all know how good it is to be a blessing, right?

However, too many people get caught up in what I call ‘Honey bee’ mentality, which is to go from one flower to another and leave no space in their lives to build something that will last. A dear friend of mine that I looked up to many years ago, was totally consumed with this kind of living. There was never a day that went by where he was going here, there and everywhere in order to bless someone or something.

At first glance, his life looked so appealing, but when it came to an abrupt end, he left the planet with his marriage and family in tatters and little to show for all the years of racing around. He had blessed so many at the expense of building so little.

Making these small increments of change in your life can be quite painful and will take time, but the rewards will be out of this world.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 12th September 2016

The story of Ruth is a great example of how being resolute in your decision to follow Jesus can simplify your life and bring you into greater purpose.

In the first chapter, we read…’Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her.’

Ruth actually proclaims that she should be punished if even death should separate her from what she so resolutely has decided to do.

This challenges our comfortable western lives, where we have so many options, so many eggs in so many baskets, distractions coming out of our ears! Imagine being so set in a decision that even death is no excuse. ‘Sorry Death, you’ll have to come back another day. I am doing something else!’

If you read the story of Ruth, you hear a lot of sorrow from Naomi,  her mother-in-law about her loss. “Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter.”

Yet, we never hear Ruth complain. She must have struggled – after all she lost her husband and made a decision to stick with her bitter mother-in-law and went to live as a complete stranger in a foreign land.

Ruth doesn’t have time for pity, if death isn’t an excuse to slow her in her pursuit, then she certainly isn’t going to entertain the pointless emotional distraction called ‘disappointment’.

At the end of the story, we read how incredibly blessed she is by marrying a wealthy businessman;  her great grandson is King David and she becomes an ancestor of JESUS!

I truly believe that when we ‘make our mind up’ and fix resolutely to our faith without flinching, despite what we face, God is faithful. This is easier said than done as we can’t see Jesus but we can see our problems. So it’s not easy but that’s no excuse; there are no excuses – not even death!

The minute we start to compromise, we lose peace of mind which leads to being bitter and complaining. It’s not about being right. Naomi was right to be upset, but Ruth was awesome to be resolute!

Either Jesus is the answer, the way and the life or He isn’t. Make a resolute determined choice today and simplify many of the battles you face. Even death is a battle already won.

Luke Cartwright

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 10th September 2016

You won’t ever become anything great in life without a challenge.
How often do we want to be better? Yet we don’t actually like the challenge.
How many times have we prayed “Lord make me more like you?”- yet when God challenges us, we don’t appreciate it and decide not to change.

Growth will only ever come about when we are challenged. Start to see challenges in your life not as an enemy but as a friend.
If you are going through a storm right now, a difficulty, or even a bump in the road, take that challenge and ask God ‘what is it that I should be learning right now that will help me through this time and make me come out stronger, more mature and better than when I went in?’

Our eyes and focus should not just be on the destination, but on that which we are going through right now that can help us, mould us, change us, and make us more like we should be. Too often we want to get out of the situation so quickly, that we don’t learn from the difficulty.

Start to see challenge as a good thing. As long as your attitude is right (and that is a big key), you will embrace this process and most importantly, grow through it.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 9th September 2016

The gifts that God has given to you are not the same as the gifts that He has given to anyone else.

Why do you keep being frustrated by looking at what God has done in someone else’s life, and then belittle what He has done in yours?

If you compare yourself with others, you’ll never be at peace; somebody out there will always be great at something you’d just love to be good at, but maybe you weren’t supposed to be good at that, instead, you were supposed to be great at something else.

One sentence, just one, was spoken to me many years ago, after trying to succeed at being someone that I wasn’t created to be. As I looked around at those that were doing amazing things with their lives, subconsciously I’d try to emulate what they were doing.

I’d listen to those that preached amazingly and tried to be like them, but all was in vain.

That one sentence went like this…’why don’t you just be you, because we like you just the way you are.’

In a moment, I realised that I was putting all my effort into being who I wasn’t, rather than using my energies to make a difference through who I was.

I was almost 40 years of age when that happened, but you don’t have to wait a day longer than necessary to have that revelation – be who you were created to be.

By all means change and be inspired by others, but don’t try to be a copy…you’re an original.

When you live happily in your own skin, the pressure to prove and to be approved of lifts off you, and you become free to be you.

Remember: there will always be someone that can do what you do better than you, but there’s only one person that can do it just like you – YOU!

Psalm 139:14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 8th September 2016

It’s a new season!

As regular as clockwork, the first week in September is taking us into our beautiful Autumn season here in the UK.

As you hang out the washing in an attempt to keep the central heating off as long as possible, you realise that the Autumn dew is soaking through your slippers.

The chill in the air each morning is signalling to us all that its getting time to change your wardrobe and put on that long awaited vest, or in my case, the vest I’ve been wearing all through summer.

No matter how much you want to hang on to the warmer days and the light nights and warmer days, there’s no holding back the fresh new climate that’s coming our way.

Maybe this week you’ve joyfully or tearfully sent your children back to school; with each new term, there comes the expense of buying the next size uniform.

In just the same way that we start to pack away our summer clothes and replace them with the ones more suited to the temperature, we have to be aware of the differing seasons in our spiritual lives as well.

The truth is that we each need to discern what to wear in each season of our lives, and not just feel that we only have one set and one size of clothes.

There comes a time in our walk with God, that we have to be willing to wear the bigger jacket.

It’s so easy, and so comfortable for that matter, to keep pulling out last year’s fashions, knitwear and styles in the hope that you can just slide straight back into business as usual.

My son Caleb, doesn’t have much money, but he’s always going through his wardrobes seeing what he can give away in order to make way for his new stuff as well as being a blessing to someone else.

In life, it’s so easy to keep wearing those old well worn things that in reality don’t fit or even suit where we are at anymore.

Is it time to embrace this new season in your life by getting rid of your out of date, restrictive thinking, by replacing it with a new mindset?

I well remember going back to school after the long summer holidays in my ‘next size up’ uniform.

My mom used to say every time I moaned about it being too big that “you’ll soon grow into it!”

She was right – I always did, and so will you.

Thinking bigger and behaving and believing like a winner may feel strange at first, but you’ll soon grow into it.

Wear the bigger jacket.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 7th September 2016

What conversation do you need to have today in order to bring about change? Your voice has the power to usher in something new.

History is littered with great speeches that have literally changed the landscape of our world.

What we leave unchallenged, we are actually giving permission for.

Challenging our children, our colleagues, our spouses, our friends or even ourselves, is never an easy business, but it brings with it the rewards of change.

I well remember sitting as a young Pastor in a group of ‘stuck-in-mud’ people, far more senior than myself, and challenging the way they had run things in the children’s department for years. I was instantly met with opposition and basically told that they wouldn’t be buying into my new ideas. I informed them that they could each stand down if they didn’t like it, but I would be moving ahead whatever their decision.

My one challenging conversation that night resulted in quite a bit of upheaval, but the results were far beyond anyone’s wildest dreams, as a brand new era was born. Within months the transformation of a children’s department that had been running at around 30 for decades took place, and saw it replaced with a new model that bought in five times that amount.

One conversation was all that it took to get the ball rolling.

I urge you today to have that one conversation that you know you need to, but are scared to do  – don’t let fear hijack you any further.

Right now, identify that one conversation and plan to have it within the next week.

Trust me…it’ll be worth it.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 6th September 2016

When our lives are lived unchecked and unchallenged, we tend to fall back into the familiar.

We feel safe doing what we’ve always done, knowing that we won’t have to think differently, plan differently or be different.

Take a person that has only ever been to one or two familiar places on their family holiday. Each year, the desire to go somewhere different is quashed by the fear of the unknown.

My parents, both now in their mid-eighties, had never been to Scotland until they were taken by us when they were 70, simply because their parents had told them it was too far.

There are so many new things out there today for you to explore, if only you would stop being conditioned by the thoughts and feelings that keep holding you back.

When John the Baptist was about to be born, his father was given strict instructions by an Angel that his name was to be John.

Eight days after his birth (Luke 1 v 57-66) came the naming ceremony in which the relatives felt he should be named Zechariah, after his father.

When his mother and father both separately spoke out, and said that his name was to be John, there was a family uproar, in which they all said “there is no one among your relatives who has that name.@

Think about it for a moment; the family couldn’t even think beyond the familiar names that they’d been accustomed to and seemingly got pretty annoyed when a new name was introduced.

I wonder if today you are clinging onto that which you are familiar with when God has something new for your life today.

Stop listening to those that hold you back and want you to only play it safe and do the familiar.

Remember: if you want something to happen today that has never happened to you before, then you have to do something that you’ve never done before.

John became a household name as he literally made way for Jesus. It was an unfamiliar, unpopular and ‘never been done before’ pathway that he had to walk, and yet his footsteps paved the way for the saviour of the world.

I challenge you today, to stop walking in the same old paths that lead to nowhere and instead be willing to go where no man has been before.

Psalm 119:105 ‘Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path.’

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – 5th September 2016

Matthew 6:34 says ‘Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.’

It’s completely normal to worry but it is not something that God wants you to live with.

At the beginning of a new week, it is quite possible that you have already thought ahead to how the next few days are going to pan out. You may be wondering where you will go, what you will do and who you will encounter.

If you are anything like me, you plan your week and make a note of things that you need to get done. There will definitely be things on your list that you would rather avoid.

Don’t allow worry to spoil the day that God has for you. We can live in the peace that no matter what, God goes before us. We can’t go ahead in time to make sure that everything will be okay… but He can. Matthew 6:34 is a reminder that God’s grace is sufficient for every single
day of our lives. He has everything that we need ready for us, if only we will ask. So replace your worry with prayer.

Today, I encourage you to take your day and invite God in. It may be something that we only do in passing but God is in the detail and cares about even seemingly insignificant things. Worry does not add one second to our lives but when we hand our cares to God, He steps in to
do what we can’t.

Melissa Reynolds-Lawrence

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 3rd September 2016

Have you ever tried to cut something with a knife that wasn’t sharp? Have you ever tried to cut a tree down with a blunt axe?
Have you ever tried to write with a blunt pencil?
If you have, you’ll know that it’s hard work.

The knife doesn’t always need throwing away, it just needs sharpening.
(You can actually sharpen it on another knife that is already sharp – ask a chef).

In life, whatever you try to do, if you’re not at your best, you won’t do a great job. If you’ve not been training lately, you won’t play great football. If you’ve not been practising lately, you may not play that instrument as good as you’d like.

We all need to be sharp, we all need to keep on top of the game. We all need to do whatever we need to do to keep ahead.

If you’re a leader in any area of life, you have a great responsibility to stay sharp.

Your relationship with Christ needs to be sharp in order for you to be effective as a Christian.

Keep praying, keep reading God’s word, keep reading great books, keep listening to great messages, get involved and connected in a great Church. Whatever you need to do to keep sharp, you must do it.

In the same way as the knife needs another knife to sharpen it, you need to have great people around you to keep you sharp. Watch out for people who will cause you to be blunt, dull and useless.
The world doesn’t need blunt Christians, in the same way as your team does not need a blunt player, or your company a blunt salesman.

It’s your responsibility to sharpen yourself!

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 2nd September 2016

One of the most well-known stories in all of the Bible is the feeding of the 5000. It takes place after a large crowd has followed Jesus, and as the day draws to a close, He wants to give them something to eat before they head for home.

One of Jesus’ disciples, Andrew, approaches Him with a suggestion as to how they could possibly achieve such a task. He says, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” (‭‭John‬ ‭6:9‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

I want you to notice how Andrew’s approach changes mid-statement. He goes from confidently making this suggestion to retracting what he’s just said. It’s as if Andrew realised what a dumb thing he was presenting before Jesus.

What happens next is pretty astonishing… Following Andrew’s suggestion, Jesus puts the miracle into motion and begins distributing to the crowds that same, little boys’ lunch. For some time, this messed with me as I couldn’t understand why Jesus would use Andrew’s faith, or lack thereof to perform such a huge miracle.

Until I was reminded of what Jesus said in Matthew 17:20, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”‬‬

God loves big faith, but you need to be encouraged to know that He’s willing to work with small faith. He is able to take your small suggestion and put a miracle into motion. God is not intimidated by your mustard seed sized faith nor your doubt. But if you bring them to Him, watch what He is able to do. Just ask Andrew.

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – 1st September 2016

Many times people have asked me is there is anything they can do in the everyday life of our church.

The answer has always been, and always will be just one word…PLENTY.

There’s always plenty to do.

However, the question back to them is always the same and goes like this…”so what are you willing and able to do?”

Being used and being usable are two different things.

When I was just a young boy, I developed a desire to play the piano.

I started bashing out a few chords on an old honky tonk piano that was given to my parents for me to practice on.

As I listened day after day to the brilliance of our school music teacher that played for the hymns in the assembly, I couldn’t wait to get home to sit at the piano to try and copy the way she played.

I got totally consumed with every tune that we sang in the school hall, and set about learning each one from memory.

Day after day I would attempt to play each intricate part of the songs including key changes. I found the whole thing fascinating as at last I could achieve something in my young life.

I’m not sure how anyone got to know about my playing, but the day arrived when the music teacher was off sick and no one was sitting at the grand piano high up on the stage.

After a few exchanged words between the head teacher and another member of staff, my name got called out in front of all 400 pupils.

That day I was asked to play the grand piano, and instead of the highly talented Miss. Richards, it was Mark, aged 8.

I was able to be used on that and many other occasions, because I not only wanted to be used and useful, but it what it really came down to was this…was I useable.

Asking and wanting to be used would have been one thing, but also highly embarrassing if I wouldn’t have been useable.

I encourage you today to stop just praying…’Lord use me’, but change the prayer to…’Lord, make me useable’.

Start to prepare yourself for the passion that God has placed within your heart, so that when it comes to your turn to step up on the stage, you won’t have to face the embarrassment of not being ready.

Ecclesiastes 9:10 ‘Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might…’

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 31st August 2016

God doesn’t just speak to a favoured few, He speaks to all that have a relationship with Him through his son Jesus.

When you receive Jesus to be your saviour and allow Him to be the Lord and leader of your life, you have to get used to the idea that God is now your Heavenly Father and as such, He wants to talk to you, just as any human father would want to.

God speaking into our lives is for EVERY believer and not just an elite few, however, hearing from God is another matter.

My wife speaks to me every day but I have to admit, I don’t hear some of what she says, because like most men, I’m not listening.

Allowing God to speak to us means that we need to position ourselves close enough to Him in order to recognise His voice.

I was totally surprised and blown away when many years ago I clearly heard God speak to me in such a clear way that it changed the whole direction of my life. At the time, I wasn’t kneeling in prayer, or in a church, but walking in a field.

The only two things that would maybe give a clue as to how and why I heard from God was: 1) I was open to hear from God, and 2)…I was quiet.

Ask yourself today, how much quiet time are you giving to God whereby you draw close enough to Him to hear his voice.

Turn the TV off.

Turn your phone off.

Get off Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Find yourself a quiet place every day to read the Bible, pray and listen. It makes sense in any relationship, to spend time together.

When Jesus gathered His disciples together just before the crucifixion, He informed them that one of them would betray Him.

The only person that got the inside information on who it was, was the one that was sitting closest to Jesus; so close in fact that John was able to whisper to Jesus, enquiring as to who this was.

John 13:21-26 After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, ‘Very truly I tell you, one of you is going to betray me.’ His disciples stared at one another, at a loss to know which of them he meant. One of them, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was reclining next to him. Simon Peter motioned to this disciple and said, ‘Ask him which one he means.’ Leaning back against Jesus, he asked him, ‘Lord, who is it?’ Jesus answered, ‘It is the one to whom I will give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish.’ Then, dipping the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot.

Think about it…the one that had a direct line to Jesus was the one that was closest to Him. All the other disciples were in the same room, but didn’t hear his voice, in fact it was Peter that ended up asking John for the information from Jesus.

Don’t keep saying that God doesn’t speak to you…He does.

Don’t keep asking other people for a word from God for your life…get your own.

The question is: are you close enough and quiet enough to listen?

James 4 v 8 ‘Draw near to God and He will draw near to you’.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 30th August 2016

If you’ve been wearing sunglasses over the past few days, you will know exactly what I’m talking about today.

No matter what glasses you chose to wear, whether Gucci, Prada or Tesco special, they may not carry the same trendy name tag, but they all do one thing – they colour and tint what you see.

For some brands it’s yellow, whilst others are more pink. Some are pretty clear with just a faint blue tinge, and then there’s those that make you look cool (some say) as they completely black out your eyes.

In much the same way, we each wear differing glasses on our minds, which affects the way we see and ultimately what we see.

I was walking into to Marks and Spencer just a few days ago and Gillian was commenting on how low the Euro had fallen against the pound, as she glanced at the LED currency board in the entrance.

For me, it was a totally different experience, as the very same board I was staring at was completely blank. I then realised that my sunglasses were masking the red LED lights, giving me the impression that there was nothing there.

The invisible glasses that you are wearing on your mind have the power to stop you seeing what others are seeing, but listen carefully, the ‘faith’ glasses that you can put on will enable you to see what no one else can see.

Why is that two people people can look at an identical situation, and one see impossibility, whilst another sees opportunity?

In the Old Testament (2 Kings 6) there is a story of Elisha and his young servant that were facing defeat as a whole army had surrounded the place where they were staying.

The young servant cried out to Elisha asking what on earth they could do, but Elisha looked out on the same army but saw something different; he looked up and saw a vast army of God coming to their aid, in order to defeat the enemy. Elisha simply prayed for the young servant…’open his eyes that he may see.’

You’ve heard the phrase…’beauty is in the eyes of the beholder’, but today why not make a small change and say…’victory is in the eye of the beholder’.

You can look at your day today and depending on your lenses, you can will either see defeat or victory.

If you are only ever used to seeing through negative, and defeated lenses then why not trade them in for something that helps you to see things through the eyes of faith and possibility?

Make a decision today, no matter what your negative upbringing, to start to see every difficulty as an opportunity for God to do a miracle.

Matthew 19:26 Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 29th August 2016

The palm tree was created to live in very very hot conditions. Conditions that you and me might physically wilt in, yet the palm tree not only survives in that environment, it flourishes.

The large cedar trees can survive in temperatures that are so cold, they would kill me and you, yet the Cedar tree not only survives in such radical temperatures, it flourishes.

I don’t know what season you feel that you’re in today, but God wants you to know that He is giving you everything you need to not only survive this season, but to actually flourish in it.

You may feel that you’re in a great season right now, or a very difficult one. Don’t just see your life as surviving another day, but God wants you to actually enjoy every step of the journey, yes, even if the conditions are not what you want them to be right now.

The Bible says He will never leave us nor forsake us, He will be with us in every and any situation. It also tells us to give thanks in every circumstance.

Take a look at your situation today and ask yourself this “am I barely surviving? Or am I actually flourishing… ?”

What ever you’re experiencing today, know that God is with you. And that He will help you to flourish and grow in your season.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 27th August 2016

When you give the right thing to the right person, it’s amazing what you get .

If you gave me some tins of paint and expected something awesome, you’d be disappointed. Yet, give the same paints to an artist and you can expect something great.

If you give a pile of bricks to someone and say “build me a wall”, you may be disappointed, but give them to an experienced bricklayer and you’ll be pleased with the result.

How many of you remember the cookery show ‘Ready, Steady, Cook’ ? It’s where you presented a bag of ingredients to a chef and said “cook something with that.” Whenever you give food to a great chef, you can expect something wonderful.

When you give God your life it’s amazing what He will do with it. It can be broken or abused, tired or worn, yet God will turn it into something beautiful.

When you give God your finance, it’s amazing what He can do with it.
When He took the five loaves and two fish, He turned them into a miracle, because the little boy was willing to trust Jesus with it.

The problem is that we give the wrong things to the wrong people, like the food or the bricks or the paint.

But we also trust the wrong people with things that really matter. Like our money…or our lives.
Trust Jesus with what you have today. You’ll be amazed at what He can do.

Start with yourself. That’s a great place to begin.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 26th August 2016

I’m sure that we have all experienced innocently overhearing someone’s else’s conversation when sitting in a coffee shop or restaurant.

It is especially difficult to pull back, when what they are talking about is either really interesting or highly amusing.

Just last week, I was sitting next to a couple of ladies who were talking about their husband’s failings, and I have to be honest, I couldn’t help but tune in to find out what was making them so vocal.

The one lady was telling the other how much her husband irritated her every evening when it was time for him to go to bed.

She went on to say how every night for 26 years he would go to the four-way light switches at the bottom of the stairs and try them all before selecting the right one to put the landing light on.

The story not only made for great listening knowing that he hadn’t memorised the sequence of four switches in 26 years, but what came next made it worth being nosey for a few moments; her parting shot to the other went like this…”and to think he’s an electrician aswell!!”

Albert Einstein said that the definition of insanity was to keep doing the same things over and over again whilst believing for different results.

We may smile at the conversation, but in reality, how many of us are doing the same thing in our day to day lives?

We keep repeating the same things, but hope that the outcome will be different.

Knowledge tells us that the four light switches turn on four different sets of lights. Each switch will never turn on a different light no matter how much you expect it to. Wisdom however, tells you which switch turns on which light. Once you have learnt that simple process, all you have to do is apply the same wisdom and you get light.

Two questions for today…

Are you trying every switch in the hope of somehow stumbling on the right one?

Are you willing to learn and get wisdom so that you no longer have to guess how to get success?

So many people have so much knowledge but they have know idea how to apply it, simply because they refuse to learn.

Knowledge without wisdom is still as ineffective almost as no knowledge at all.

Make some new choices today to break out of the same old patterns of ignorance and make it your goal to get smart.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 25th August 2016

How we ‘react’ to things is important, but how we ‘respond’ is vital!

How we react tells us where we are, like a thermometer, it shows by our knee jerk, off-the-cuff, immediate reaction, whether we are hot or not.

This is helpful but God’s not so interested in reactions, purely because he knows exactly where we are and so knew what the reading would be.

Our response however is different. The pre-meditated, fully thought through, conscious decisions we make, God is very interested in.

A reaction comes from feelings but a response has the opportunity to override feelings and circumstances to make a decision based on other reasons such as faith.

If ‘reaction’ is the fruit of where we are, ‘response’ is the seed of where we want to be!

It’s very easy to fall into the trap of living our Christian lives reactionary without realising it.

How we give and serve in the church can be based purely on our current funds, busyness or how we’re feeling that morning. This isn’t a faith life but a feelings-based life.

Today, I encourage you to really stop and think about your life. Are most of your decisions based on where you are instead of where you want to be? If so, look at how you can respond to God, make a decision to serve, give and get involved – regardless of the latest feelings and circumstances.

Irrespective of where you are ‘where do you want to be?’ Keep sowing the seed of response!

Luke Cartwright

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 24th August 2016

I didn’t realise when we bought our first American fridge freezer (that’s just the name of the appliance – not where we bought it from) that you had to have it plumbed into the water mains; on top of that you have to fit a special water filter to the pipe work which no one ever gets to see.

The filter system provides perfectly filtered water from the water dispenser at any time day or night – no more continually filling a water filter jug several times a day.

Every six months, a warning light appears on the front of the fridge to let you know that it’s time to change the filter. The filters are not only expensive but changing them requires effort and time. I’m probably just the same as everyone else, but I have to confess that I wait for the warning light to annoy me sufficiently before I make the change, which is usually about a month after the light comes on.

Purity is something that you not only have to give attention to in your own life – it’s something that you have to actively fight for too.

I have discovered that one of the greatest ways of maintaining a pure life is to be accountable to others that you respect around you.

The people that I’m talking about will be usually further ahead and carry a greater level of maturity than you, although they will not always be older than you.

Accountability operates like a filtration system. If you’re unsure about something or if you find yourself in a difficult position that may compromise you, then by talking it over with a trusted friend, you are in effect passing your thoughts through their filtration system of wisdom and sound advice.

The benefit from accountability is that you get shielded from making unwise decisions and the decisions you do make are pure because of the process.

Accountability also means that you get warned when others watch you going head long into an unwise decision.

Don’t go it alone today, spending the rest of your life regretting the poor choices you’ve made, instead select some great people in your life to help filter out your impurities.

Life is better together.

Proverbs 15 v 22 – Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.
Proverbs 4:5-6 Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or turn away from them. Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 23rd August 2016

You have a choice of two scenarios.

Either, you own a business and you get an enormous tax bill. Or you own a business and you get a tiny tax bill.

You would I’m guessing go for the tiny tax bill.

Sorry, I forgot to mention the first company is a world wide incredibly successful business, creating so much money you can’t possibly spend it all hence the enormous tax bill. The second business is a local failing business and about to go insolvent and doesn’t even have the funds to pay the tiny tax bill.

I’m guessing you’ve changed your mind.

This is a great picture of life – where the tax bill represents trials, needs and doing things we generally don’t want to do. We don’t like it, so we naturally want to minimise it. The problem is: the smaller your needs, the smaller the possibilities. Less pain – less gain.

It’s easy to be jealous of the success in others and think it’s not fair that they seem to get all the luck but we don’t see the tax bills they have been prepared to pay!

It’s like being jealous of other people’s physique, but we’re never prepared to go to the gym ourselves.

The local church is the gym of God’s choice. It’s very costly but the results are amazing! We have been created, designed and chosen to do great things. If only we would trust God and allow Him to change our thinking when it comes to doing anything we don’t want to do in the natural.

So again, you have a choice of two scenarios.

Either, you own your life and get stuck in, go through tests and trials, but it’s fulfilling, rewarding and awesome, Or you own a life, avoid obstacles or doing anything you don’t want to do, but it’s small, empty and void of meaning.

You would, I’m guessing, go for the awesome life!

Luke Cartwright

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 22nd August 2016

Too many people quit right before success.

We’ve all heard the phrase: just before dawn is the darkest hour.

I was also told that when drilling through a piece of solid steel, the toughest part of the whole process is just before breaking through the other side.

Someone once said that you will know when you are about to get your breakthrough, as it’s uphill all the way.

If you’re faced with seemingly unending days of pressure and struggle, don’t give in or give up, because right on the other side is just what you have been waiting for, believing for and hoping for.

I well remember making an offer on our second house. We were living in a two bed terraced house for eight years and already had two small children. We had been praying for some time about moving to somewhere bigger and eventually made a very low offer on another property. We felt the house was for us and I even told the estate agent that God had told me it was mine. He quickly brushed me off and the offer was rejected. That house was sold not once, but twice over the months, but each time fell through.

It was after more than 12 months of prayer, frustration and continual pressure that on one Saturday morning, whilst feeling particularly frustrated about the whole thing, we received a call right out of the blue and informed that the house was ours.

We lived in that house for 15 years and now our daughter and son-in-law, along with our two grandchildren live there.

What if we’d have given up and decided to go for something smaller or in not such a nice location? We would have regretted it I’m sure.

Today, my friend, whatever you’re facing, have the tenacity to hang on in there and see God come through.

Your continual set backs in this season, can be your comebacks in your next season, if you’ll just sit tight, stand firm in prayer and see it through.

Luke 18:2-8 He said: ‘In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, “Grant me justice against my adversary.” ‘For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, “Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!”’ And the Lord said, ‘Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?’

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 20th August 2016

There’s a story found in the Bible where Jesus encounters a blind man sitting by the roadside. Hearing that Jesus is passing by, he calls out to Him, ‘Have mercy on me!’
Jesus then goes on to pose a rather interesting question to this man. He says, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’

Now it’s pretty obvious what this man needed, and I don’t think for one moment that Jesus was unsure of what miracle this man required. But this question asked wasn’t for the benefit of Jesus, it was for the benefit of the man in need – Jesus wanted to be sure that this man knew exactly what he wanted.

I don’t know about you, but I often go through life knowing what I want, but for some reason I’m fearful to ask God for it, as if I’m asking too much of Him. If only we could understand that God is able to do exceedingly and abundantly more than we could ask, think or imagine, I think it would change the way we talk to Him.

You see, God lets us choose what size life we live. But first, you need to know what you want and then ask God for it. Specific prayers lead to specific answers.

Today, know that no prayer is too big for God, no request is intimidating to Him, so be convinced of what you want and approach Him with boldness and confidence, believing that He is able & He is willing to do it.

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – 19th August 2016

Several years ago, I was invited to sail on a Schooner in Greece.

A Schooner is a sailing ship with two masts, and needs a lot of team work and skill to sail it accurately.

Please understand…I had never sailed before or had any knowledge of how to do so, so to find myself on the third night of the trip, steering the ship at 2am, in pitch black waters, was pretty scary.

The sleeping quarters for the 15 or so of us were below deck and consisted of wooden racks which were mounted half way up the side of the boat.

As the waters got pretty choppy from time to time, some of the team started to get sea sick, so the Captain taught us the way to trick the body in order to overcome it.

He would say…’look to the horizon and fix your eyes on something unmovable and keep looking that way.’

As soon as the instruction was put into practice, the sickness subsided and all was good again.

That simple yet very effective piece of advice has been part of a sailor’s life for centuries: when in turbulent waters, fix your eyes on something that’s fixed.

In just the same way, the turbulent water of our lives and the circumstances that come our way need to be addressed in just the same way; if you want to stay on your feet and get through the storm, then fix your gaze on what’s permanent.

For many, there is no known focal point and therefore life takes them down, but the centuries’ old truth in the Bible informs us that Jesus can be the unshakeable, unmovable and constant in our lives, if you’ll just look to Him.

We live in a world that tends to look down, never lifting our heads to crack even a smile nowadays, so I encourage you to be different and apply the remedy – look up to the one who can save and steady the most turbulent and windswept life reading this today.

Take courage my friend from the one that says ‘I’ll never leave you or forsake you.’

Take your focus of the waves right now and look to Him.

Mark 4:35-41 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, ‘Let us go over to the other side.’ Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?’ He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, ‘Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?’ They were terrified and asked each other, ‘Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!’

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 18th August 2016

Happily married or not so?

Single, looking and hopeful?

Engaged and getting ready for the big day?

Too young for all of this? You won’t be soon.

No matter who you are – advice that’s not appropriate now is always good to store up for a day when it is.

One of the secrets to a great marriage is to know the difference between a good fight and a bad fight.

The Bible doesn’t say don’t fight, no more than it says don’t get angry. It says fight the ‘good’ fight and ‘be angry and sin not’.

Bad fights lead to irreparable damage, unforgiveness, hurt and divorce and sound like this…”I’ll never forgive you”, “you always say that”, @you are never considerate.”

Good fights lead to us becoming stronger people, closer to our spouse, happier in our relationships and being well balanced in our marriage.

There is no such thing as a marriage without conflict.

If you’re going to fight, learn to fight good.

Ask what you can learn from your differences.

Start a competition today as to who can say ‘sorry’ first.

Instead of using words like ‘you always say that’ learn to replace them with words like ‘ when you said that you hurt me’, or ‘when you did that, you made me feel in that moment very unloved’.

Don’t generalise – be specific about things that get on your nerves.

Most importantly, don’t let one day turn into another whilst still carrying over anger about something.

Start each new day with a clean slate and refuse to go to sleep without dealing with it. Break the stoney silence with one simple word, no matter how difficult it is to say it – ‘sorry'; then follow through with the words ‘please forgive me’.

Fight good.

Ephesians 4:26-27 ‘In your anger do not sin’: do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 17th August 2016

As we enjoy a few unusually warm summer days here in the UK, we are being told to keep out of the sun or a least cover ourselves with sunscreen -sound advice.

Yet, on the other side of that very same coin are the wonderful known properties that the sun carries to our bodies when exposed to its rays; not least of all vitamin D, which gives us healthy and strong bones.

Apparently the part of the body that receives the most vitamin D when exposed to sunlight is the inside of our arms.

Think about it and try it out yourself…there is only one way to expose the insides of your arms and that is to turn your hands upwards whilst extending your arms outwards.

This simple posture helps us to appreciate the value of placing ourselves in a receiving mode.

Think about how we receive a birthday gift or even a small child that’s running towards us to be loved – it’s always with extended arms and open hands.

What a great lesson for us all today in receiving from God.

You don’t have to be inside a church to lift your hands in worship, you can do it now right where you are and at any time of the day. It simply sends a message to God that says ‘I’m open to receive and that I’m wanting to receive.’

It also says ‘I’m open to give and that I’m wanting to give’. No one has ever given anything with hands turned down or in their pockets.

Send a signal to God today that you are humble enough to receive all that He has for you, and that you are humble enough to release from your hands anything that He may instruct you to today.

Psalm 28:1-2 To you, Lord, I call; you are my Rock, do not turn a deaf ear to me. For if you remain silent, I shall be like those who go down to the pit. Hear my cry for mercy as I call to you for help, as I lift up my hands towards your Most Holy Place.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 16th August 2016

One of the highlights of any family holiday has surely got to be the full English breakfast, served every day for a whole week, as you casually wake up to the thought of a relaxing day ahead.

Whether it’s a posh hotel, a B&B, a cheap caravan in a field, or a tent, the smell of a cooked breakfast is enough to encourage most of us out of bed.

Having someone serve you breakfast is a great part of anyone’s day, but of course if we’re honest, it only happens for most of us on special occasions.

How would you feel today, if you were at your lowest point, and you were asked by Jesus if you would like to join Him for breakfast? It would be a pretty special moment for anyone at the best of times, let alone for those that don’t feel like life is worth living; how humbling would it be if when you turned up to eat that Jesus himself was the cook?

All that seems pretty make believe, but it isn’t…it actually happened.

Peter and Jesus have not yet spoken since Peter denied Jesus, just before the crucifixion. Thomas had doubted the resurrection, four of the disciples had tried to drown their sorrows by going fishing all night and caught nothing- then right out of the blue, the resurrected Jesus tells them how and where to fish and then stands on the beach and says…”come and have breakfast.”

John 21:8-14 The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred metres. When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread. Jesus said to them, ‘Bring some of the fish you have just caught.’ So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, ‘Come and have breakfast.’ None of the disciples dared ask him, ‘Who are you?’ They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.

In reality, at that moment in time, these followers of Jesus were each in their own right a bunch of losers, yet Jesus at their lowest point, cooked them food.

What’s your impression of Jesus when facing a low point in your faith?

Does your mind always take you down the road of condemnation?

Let me help you go down a different road today…at your lowest point, you get breakfast on the beach with Jesus.

Talk about loving the unlovely, talk about forgiving the guilty, talk about reinstating the messed up…wow.

Today, no matter what, come and have breakfast with Jesus.

He cooks.

He loves you.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 15th August 2016

Have you ever felt as though an area in your life has come to a standstill? It’s as if the thing that you’ve been working towards seems more of an impossibility than ever before.

I believe that it’s in those moments that God pushes pause on what you want to show you that He’s all you need.

It’s easy in life to lose your focus to people or to circumstances that surround you. But when you lose it, God wants to realign it back onto Him to show you that He’s more than enough, He’s above what you’re facing and He is able to work all things together for good in your life.

Sometimes, it takes a difficult place in your life for God to step in and regain your attention. When everything is going swimmingly, we can have a tendency to think that we don’t need God – that is, until the tables turn and we realise that we’re helpless without Him.

Whatever season of life you’re in right now, choose to put your focus on to God. The good news is that you don’t have to wait to reach rough terrain in order for God to retake centre stage in your life. Today you can choose to make Him the God of your valley and the God of your mountaintop.

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – 13th August 2016

This is what often happens when you call the Doctor’s surgery for an appointment…”we can get you in a week on Thursday.”

When you need to see a specialist at the hospital, you will often hear, “you are now on a waiting list and you can expect to wait 4-6 months for an appointment.”

I’m glad that when I need to talk to God, I don’t need an appointment and I don’t need to go on a waiting list.
So many of us place too much store in waiting for appointments with ‘professionals’, when we can go to God immediately.
Yes, we all need those professional appointments from time to time…but we all need an appointment with God every day. And guess what? You can have it immediately!

Maybe because it’s so easy, some people abuse it and take it for granted.
The most powerful thing we can do today is pray. And thank God that He is available 24/7… Day and night…Christmas and Bank holidays.

He never keeps us waiting, but how often have you kept Him waiting?

Talk to Him right now.
He’s the best professional and He has every answer you will ever need. He will give you wisdom, peace, healing and whatever need you have, He can meet.

Get to your appointment now, He’s waiting for you to show up.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 12th August 2016

If you pour a kettle of water over a tea bag and the colour of the water doesn’t change you instantly know what the issue is…you forgot to boil the kettle.

You can make tea with cold water, but the flavour will never diffuse out of the tea bag – heat is needed.
When water molecules are heated, they move about faster and so more effectively penetrate the tea bag, drawing out the flavour.

In our lives, we are all trying to make a good cup of tea (bear with me, if you don’t like tea).

You can spend your life making a weak insipid cold cup or you can make a lovely attractive hot brew!

It all depends on your heat. The thing is, no one really enjoys being in ‘hot water’, but it’s vital if we want to grow and be stretched.

There are many examples of how heat is used to refine valuable sought after items, such as gold in a furnace, and our lives are the same. If you really want to make the most of life and enjoy it (which I believe is important, why would God want us to be miserable?) I encourage you to embrace being in the hot water of the trials we face. Don’t just see them as a nuisance to be dealt with as soon as possible before you can even consider moving on and being happy.

See them as challenges to be won, be competitive in them, try and see that your capacity to deal with things and lead others in life is increasing as you go through that trial.

There will always be some kind of hot water. Imagine living a whole life where you are never stretched or come up against an obstacle? So the sooner we can change our mindset to see the positives of going through the trial, the better.

As you read this today, you may well be in hot water! Trust God and keep stewing, it is bringing (if you choose so) the flavour of God into your life, increasing your ability to carry loads and lead people in your life!

You can make tea with cold water, but who would enjoy it? Keep stewing!

Luke Cartwright

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – 11th August 2016

I had porridge for breakfast today.

In fact, I have porridge for breakfast almost everyday.

My wife thinks it’s boring and has to be forced to eat it just once a week, and even then leaves half of it in bowl, which then gets fed to the dogs.

Now just to clarify, the porridge I’m talking about is not Ready Brek! This is real mans stuff…jumbo oats, cooked in a saucepan with milk, with added seeds, nuts and berries, then topped with flax seed and honey to give it a kind of crust.

Now here’s the great thing…because it’s a slow burn food it will feed me all day long, in so much that I rarely have to eat lunch, which in turn keeps me slim.

Let me ask you a question on several different levels – how hungry are you?

Your hunger will hugely depend on what you have eaten at the start of the day.

I hear many people say that they don’t have time for breakfast or that they just never bother; in our house, that’s a foreign language…in fact, last thing at night Gillian wants to know what we are going to have for breakfast!

I’m talking spiritual now; a you hungry spiritually?

Never satisfied with life, never full with everything you have no matter what?

Are you craving the quick fix of a sudden ‘sugar rush’ in your life, hoping that it will cure all your cravings only to find that it lasts for an hour before you want more?

Can I point you to the most satisfying spiritual food available to the human race every single moment of every day?

The breakfast of champions that will satisfy you there and then, and continue to nourish you throughout the day has a name…The Bible.

It is God’s spoken word direct to your soul every day. It’s fresh. It’s alive. It’s active. It’s powerful. It’s cleansing. It’s life changing. It’s sustaining. It’s challenging. It’s lifting and it has an amazing quality in that you can read it for the rest of your life and you will see something different in it every time your eyes meet its pages.

How’s your spiritual diet?

Overweight because you read books about the Bible and watch Christian TV about God and listen to podcasts about other peoples experiences of Jesus? That’s good but that’s not all.

When are you going to start feeding yourself a healthy spiritual breakfast at the start of every day?

Start to train yourself in the daily reading of God’s word and you will find that your day will become totally different.

I’ve tried to formulate a kind of ‘spiritual’ 3 course meal for people, and it goes something like this…

Starter – read a portion of the Old Testament each day.

Main course – read a portion of the New Testament each day.

Dessert – read from either Psalms or Proverbs each day.

My advice is not to read it randomly but to read it systematically – in other words, read it just like you would a book, that way you cover everything.

Get yourself a copy of a modern translation so that you can read it more effectively…and remember, the Bible is the only book in the world that when you read it, it’s greater effect is that you are allowing it to read you.

If you don’t have such a copy of the Bible then please email us at info@championschurch.org.uk and we will gladly pop you a copy in the post.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 10th August 2016

Ever worn those new shoes and regretted it as you reach for the plasters?

I did, just a week ago.

It took me three days to walk properly again. I could not even wear my well-worn shoes, trainers or slippers, as everything rubbed on my blisters.

‘Why didn’t I wear them in a little at a time?’, I asked myself, as I limped around the place

Wearing the wrong shoes can affect the way you walk, just in the same way that wearing the ‘wrong shoes’ of your gifts and talents can effect the way you walk every day.

Trying to copy someone else’s gift and talent, just because you like their gifts more than yours can mean that you have the wrong fitting shoes in your life. You’ll walk strange and end up not being able to walk properly at all.

My feet are healed again now, but it’s a lesson that I don’t want to have to repeat.

Ask yourself how much you are trying to step into someone else’s shoes that were never made for you; or what about the shoes that do belong to you, but you just simply bought the wrong size because you liked them, even though they never did quite fit.

Your life is on loan to you from God, and He has given you the perfect size gifts, talents, personality, looks and shape that compliment who you were made to be.

Stop trying on the wrong fit for you and stop trying to be something and somebody that you’re not…you’ll only end up wrecking your daily walk, whereas if you’d really just settle into what you have been blessed with, you’d accomplish so much more in your life.

Are you walking in the wrong shoes?

Take them off right now…ditch them once and for all, and enjoy the snug feel of being what you really were created to be.

By the way…when that old pair is worn out and starts to leak, you’ll know it’s time to upgrade your life to the next level.
Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 9th August 2016

Have you ever felt like you are at the bottom of the pile in life?

Ever felt like you have messed up in some area, to the degree that God would no longer be interested in you?

Take heart…we have all been there at times, but the great news is that Jesus doesn’t cast you off just because you failed, in fact, He will go out of his way to include you in His plans today.

Take for instance two of His disciples that messed up.

The first one being Thomas; we know he had earned himself the name ‘doubting Thomas’ because he was adamant that he would not believe in the resurrection of Jesus unless he had proof that Jesus was alive. Instead of Jesus dismissing him as just another faithless guy, He appeared to the disciples in the upper room and specifically called out Thomas’ name, and asked him to put his finger in the nail prints of His hands, so that he could have his faith restored.

Then there’s Peter; He denied that he knew his very friend and saviour just before the crucifixion with unsavoury words and blasphemy, yet watch how Jesus looks out for him after the resurrection…

Mark 16:6-7 ‘Don’t be alarmed,’ he said. ‘You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, “He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.”’

He knew how Peter would be beating himself up because of his actions, so He chose to single out his name so that he knew that he was still included.

If you are in any doubt today that your failure has made you exempt from God’s plan, then think again.

Jesus collects failures and turns them into winners on his team.

If you’ve fallen, get back up, dust yourself down, and fall right into his arms today.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 8th August 2016

Whenever I travel from one country to another, I’m always faced with a predicament: What shall I wear? The reason being, the country that I’m leaving is currently cold, however, where I’m heading is going to be warm. So which climate do I dress for?

You know that same battle, as small as it may seem, is one that we’re all faced with daily. Do I dress for where I currently am or do I dress for where I want to be?

Jeremiah‬ ‭29:11‬ ‭says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

It’s evident here that God has a great future in store for you. You have to make the decision to allow Him to dress you for destiny.

You see, in life, you can arrive where you want to be, but not be the person you need to be.

I believe that the only way you can become who you were created to be is by having a relationship with the one who created you -God.

One of the key components in having a relationship with God is to give Him access all areas and allow Him to prepare you for what He has prepared for you.

Today, let me encourage you to submit your life to God, and say ‘make me the person I need to be in order for You to do what You want to do.’ And when you allow God to shape you and mould you, you will not only find yourself at the top of the mountain, but you’ll also realise that He’s given you the character to sustain you there.

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – 6th August 2016

I’m a dog lover. Please don’t switch off if you aren’t…

We have a very well behaved and well trained Labrador, Snoop. And we have a slightly unpredictable Shihtzu, Percy.

There are certain things that you can’t do with Percy, because if you do, he may react to you in a bad way.

Percy came from another home, where they said he had ‘behavioural problems’. Everyone deserves a second chance.
Wherever you’ve come from , and whatever your background, there is hope for you.

When you get planted into a good environment with people who are like you need to be, slowly but surely, you’ll start to change.

A strong and loving environment is what people need to help their change.
Yes, they’ll need discipline. Yes, they’ll need correction. But with the right amount of that and plenty of love and acceptance thrown in, sooner or later you’ll never know the difference.

Not everyone comes ‘ready made’. Most of us are in flat pack form.

We believe in making room for those from all backgrounds and circumstances, knowing that just as God loves me, He so loves them also.

Before you see gold, you’ll see a dirty chunk of metal and before you see a diamond, you’ll see a dirty piece of rock.

People may need your patience. They also need your love.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 5th August 2016

I dedicate Fresh Hope today to all those who are married, those thinking of getting married, planning to get married, wish they were married and those that wish they weren’t.

Get yourself a date night with your spouse!

Start planning now.

How many of you have outlived the honeymoon stage of your marriage and find yourself trapped in a mundane existence with someone that once excited you?

Have you ever thought about what life together will be like after the children have grown up and left home?

Will you have anything to say to each other, or will you have long since forgotten how to date each other again, with no hope of re-igniting the passions that once burned within you?

Take heart…get yourself a date night with your spouse.

Plan it weekly – just as you plan anything else.

Sit down together for a meal; a ready meal, a microwave meal, liver and onions…any meal.

Go out occasionally just the two of you. No kids, no friends, no in-laws or out-laws allowed.

Have a bath, do your hair and make yourself look like you’ve bothered, just like in days gone by when you were dating.

Watch a movie, read magazines, chat and snuggle up, but don’t answer the phone or the door bell.
With divorce rates so high, recent statistics show that only 4% of married couples have a date night once a week.

21% plan a night together once a month, with a further 21% prioritising their time with each other just once in every 2-3 months.

Every 4-6 months is enough for 18% of marrieds, but the biggest group of all it stands that 36% of marrieds have one date night less than twice a year.

You could well say ‘that’s plenty for me with the way my spouse is’, but maybe the reason it’s like that is because you no longer cherish what you did when you first fell in love.

The top 5 things that cause marriages to break down are:

Chores

Money

Sex

Work

Children

No one on earth can solve all those problems for you but I can help you to fall in love all over again, and to see what you now count as a curse that once you counted a blessing.

Stop treating each other just like some kind of inconvenient object that lives in the same house, and start to plan to fall back in love again by planning your next date night.

Someone once said ‘It’s easier to act your way into a feeling than to feel your way into an action.’

So, if you’ve lost those tingly feelings for each other, you’re normal…but now start to surprise each other by acting your way back into love again.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 4th August 2016

Each month I write a study for all of our small groups in Champions Church.

Along with the notes, I produce a 5-10 minute introductory video that gets played in the different locations across the area, before the Life group leaders take over the study for that night.

It provides for me a very simple yet effective way of interacting with all of the people on a much smaller scale.

This seemingly simple operation impacts on the time and effort of not just myself but on that of several other people too.

Generally speaking, it takes around two hours to set up and film a ten minute segment, which then has to be edited and burnt onto DVDs ready to be sent out to all our life group leaders.

For anyone that knows me, I’m pretty hopeless at remembering what I’m supposed to be saying in front of a camera, and it’s not unusual for me to do at least five takes whilst others would have done it in one.

As filming has increased and time pressures have got more, I decided that we should invest in an autocue for anyone to use in front of the camera.

It has now transformed the whole filming process, and what took so much stress for me and those trying to work with me, has now made the whole experience far easier and much more enjoyable.

I now simple read my script from the autocue and make it look like I have an amazing memory!

The whole process reminds me of the difference between reading from a script that God has prepared for your life, instead of trying to bluff your way through for yourself.

Now of course, you can do your own thing and please yourself, but to live an effective and amazing life you need to learn to read from God’s auto cue.

He has written the days of your life before one of them came into being and knows you intimately through and through. Your role in life is to find out what God has in store for your life and then get on and do it.

As you begin today, are you floundering in life, just trying to make it up as you go along, which inevitably leads to frustrating ‘retakes’, or are you taking your cues from God?

One of the greatest ways that God can steer your life is by reading from the Bible each day – a practice that I recommend to all and one that I have adopted now for over 35 years.

Start in the New Testament and just read a few verses each day, and you’ll begin to download God’ script for your life.

Don’t worry about the parts that you don’t understand, it’s the bits that you do understand that you need to take to heart.

If you don’t have a modern Bible then why not send us an email and request a free copy today?  Email info@championschurch.org.uk and we would be honoured to pop one in the post for you.

Psalm 139:13-17 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them!

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 3rd August 2016

When Jesus gave the disciples a telling off for their lack of faith, He then advised them that all they needed in any circumstance was faith the size of one grain of mustard seed.

Matthew 17:20 He replied, ‘Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, “Move from here to there,” and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.’

I love the fact that this very seed is amongst the tiniest seeds on the planet, and yet Jesus said that’s all you need to get started.

I’m sure that you and I would both be the same in thinking that if Jesus would have reversed what He said and informed us that in order to move a mustard seed you need a mountain of faith, we would have both walked away defeated.

Today, I want to encourage you to see that faith is for beginners. All you have to do is apply a tiny bit of faith for huge things to happen.

The thing about a mustard seed is obviously not in its size, but in its ability to produce and grow. It can quickly grow to a size so that birds can even nest in it.

Don’t go around thinking today about trying to obtain huge faith for tiny problems – no, set your sights on a huge God that comes to your rescue when you take even a tiny, and even a scary step of faith towards him; you don’t even need to see or know how it will all work out – that’s Gods business, yours is to simply believe.

Mark 4:30-32 Again he said, ‘What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.’

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 2nd August 2016

Romans 4:19-21 Without weakening in his faith, Abraham faced the fact that his body was as good as dead – since he was about a hundred years old – and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.

God has the power to pull off whatever He has promised you and a whole lot more. No sweat.

The question is: are you living a fully persuaded life or a fully defeated one?

Are you waking to the news flash, playing inside of your head, that this is never going to happen for me or are you waking up to live fully persuaded that God has the power to do it?

I love the story of this old couple Abraham and Sarah, who still believed the promise of God for their lives way into their nineties; the thing that impresses me about Abraham is that it says ‘he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead, YET, he did not waver through unbelief.’

Many peoples faith is actually not real faith, it’s just a denial that anything is wrong.

There is a difference.

God cannot fix what you cannot face.

Denial is a game of pretence. It pretends that you are well when you are actually dying, but faith says, ‘I’m actually dying, therefore I need God to make me well.’

God is not going to be surprised by your admittance that things aren’t good…He knew it long before you did.

Is it time for you to get honest with yourself and God today? When you do, it will put you on the road to the very breakthrough that you need.

Be honest about the way things are for you today.

Now…be fully persuaded that God can change them.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 1st August 2016

Is your life crying out for an upgrade ?
Is the existing one a little bashed, bruised and worn?

God is the God of the upgrade…
He is committed to not leaving us as He found us, but taking us to something better.

The thing about upgrades is this: you first have to let go of the old. When you trade in your old mobile phone and upgrade to a new one, you have to let go of the old in order to receive the new.
If you get upgraded on an aeroplane, you have to be willing to let go of that cheaper seat (Bring it on!!).

God can’t give you something new if you don’t let go of the old.
Maybe you are holding on to hurts, bitterness, wrong thoughts, sin, maybe even people.
Be willing to let go of the old and trust God for the new.

He wants to upgrade you from sickness to health…
Hurt to wholeness…
Fear to freedom…
Poverty to prosperity…
Death to LIFE

Ask for your upgrade today. He’s only a prayer away.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 30th July 2016

Recently, myself and my family visited a vineyard while on holiday. We got to meet the owner and hear all about his business as he gave us a tour of his property. When it came to seeing the finished product, he began to describe how he was not looking to create the perfect wine, but rather a unique one.

That made an instant impression upon me as I think that very same goal is one that we too should strive for; when we begin to focus on uniqueness as opposed to perfection, I believe we will find far greater fulfilment and satisfaction in this life.

I’ve been reading a book lately by Dr Dave Martin, and I love one of his quotes in particular. He says, ‘The thing that makes you different is the thing that will make you great.’

I want to make it my aim daily to become more like Jesus and less like anyone He’s ever created. And when you can arrive at that, then greatness will follow.

Today, embrace your uniqueness, utilise that gift that nobody else around you has. You were made to stand out! Make a decision to take off the pressure of trying to be perfect, and just be you – it’s one of the greatest gifts you can give to this world.

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 29th July 2016

Many people mistake leadership for titles, badges and positions…it’s not.

Leadership doesn’t look for neither a title or a badge. Instead, it looks for something that needs doing.

Leadership is spelt WORK.

Leadership is all about making a difference; it’s about influencing people or situations towards a better outcome.

Leadership is adding value.

It isn’t just about authority, it’s about being a carrier, a burden-bearer, a load-lightener.

Leadership is essentially nothing to do with age, gender or background.

Leadership is all about moving things forward, either on your own, or gathering people around you to help to make it happen.

Remember…if you think you are a leader, but no one is following you, then you are simply taking a walk.

If you feel called to be a leader, that’s a great thing, but first remember, leading anything or anyone is never a walk in the park.

1 Timothy 3 v 1
…anyone that sets their heart on being a leader, desires a good thing.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 28th July 2016

Naaman was commander of the army of the king of Aram (2 Kings).

He was a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded because the Lord had given him victory over his enemies.

He was a valiant soldier…BUT he had leprosy.

Position, power, money, success and adulation are nothing if you are losing the very battle for your own life.

It is at this point that we need to understand how easy it is to write off the answer to our problem.

This well respected and highly decorated man was in need of a miracle, but where could that miracle be found?

His miracle was found working in his kitchen, assisting in the everyday chores with his wife.

We don’t know her name, but we do know that she had ‘acquired’ her job because she had been taken captive from Israel.

She shouldn’t have ordinarily been there, but circumstances found her in the right place at the right time.

Her voice was rarely heard as she went about her daily duties, but on hearing the news of her master’s sickness, she spoke up and sent a message to say that he needed to go and find a certain man of God from her homeland, that she knew would heal him.

Long story short, he went and after humbling himself, was healed.

He could have said to the servant girl any number of things that would have shut out and shut down his miracle.

Maybe the words travelling through his head would have sounded something like this…

‘…I don’t listen to women.’

‘…who does she think she is?’

‘…what does she know?’

‘…you have no voice in my house.’

‘..do what you are employed to do, otherwise keep quiet.’

‘…I give out the orders around here.’

I’m sure that he would have had many voices playing inside his head but he chose to do the right thing, and more importantly, he chose to do the God thing.

I challenge you today to be careful not to write off the very voice that you need to listen to.

Don’t just try to muddle through by yourself today on a human level, but look for the God thing that you must do.

Open up your heart to even the most unlikely Christian that’s part of your world.

Find a great church that believes in the power of God.

Listen to the words of the servant of God.

Follow instructions from a trusted man or woman of God.

Humble yourself and receive prayer.

Above all, bring God into the equation…after all, what have you got to lose?

Your miracle may be right on your doorstep.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 27th July 2016

Proverbs 4:5-7 Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or turn away from them. Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you. The beginning of wisdom is this: get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding.

To have knowledge is one thing, but to know how to correctly use that knowledge is another…it’s called wisdom.

A man was called out to repair a lady’s washing machine, and after taking off the back and seemingly hitting something with his hammer, he had it up and running again within a few minutes.

He then gave her a bill for £100; she contested it by saying that he had only been there for a few minutes and had only hit it with his hammer.

He responded by saying that he had only charged her £1 for his time to hit it, but £99 for knowing where to hit.

Wisdom applies knowledge and says if you do this, this is what you’ll get.

Several years ago, we had an old leaking toilet, so I decided to go out and buy a new one.

As I was carrying my new purchase to the car, I dropped it and smashed it on the car park. As I explained my situation to the manager, he told me that unfortunately that they didn’t have another one with the correct fittings. No matter how may stores I went to, I couldn’t find the toilet that I needed.

As frustration built up, I was desperate to finish the day by connecting a toilet – any toilet, no matter what shape or size would do, I thought to myself.

Eventually I decided to ask a friend, who was a plumber, to come and help me. I told him my story and that I was so desperate to finish the job that it didn’t matter what toilet I got so long as I got one. He travelled with me to various bathroom places all to no avail, until I decided that I’d had enough…”Just buy a toilet and I’ll make it work”, I said to him.

He explained that I had to buy the right toilet, with the right fixings, with the right size holes to make a successful job of it. I told him that I didn’t care about all that stuff and proceeded to explain to him how I planned to stop up all the wrong holes in the wrong places and somehow seal it all so that I didn’t leak.

To cut a long story short, I did it my way!

With one flush, the whole thing just flooded the downstairs loo.

Wisdom tried to reason with me, but I was having none of it.

How many of us can relate to that type of thing happening in our every day lives? We kind of know what to do, but we don’t listen to someone with the voice of wisdom that knows how to do it.

My toilet trial lasted 3 days and frustrated the life out of me. If only I’d have sought advice before I’d started, then I’d have saved myself so much time, energy and money, not to mention the amount of toilets I bought and had to take back.

Get wisdom.

Stop going it alone thinking that you know best.

Ask someone older and wiser for help.

Humble yourself before God and tell Him that you don’t know what to do about your current situation – He’ll be more than happy to help.

James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion fora better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 26th July 2016

I’m sure that many are familiar with the Old Testament account of how God supplied daily food for His people, as they wandered in the wilderness.

The food from Heaven was called ‘Manna’, and was described as being wafer-like with a honey taste – I have to say that I would look forward to receiving a daily supply of that!

That supply arrived on the ground every day until the people reached the promised land and then…it stopped, and was never repeated again. It was a one-off season that God chose to orchestrate in order that His very own people wouldn’t starve to death.

When they reached the promised land, He no longer needed to supply their need in that way, instead, there was enough provision in the land that flowed with ‘milk and honey’ that they could now work for and enjoy freely.

I wonder how many people thought to themselves on the first day that the manna never arrived…’where is God…why has He forsaken us?’

The reality was He was there just as He always had been, but this was now a new season, and in that new season a new form of provision was going to put food on their table; It was called…’go out to work and provide for your families.’

Years ago, when Gillian and myself were stoney broke, we would pray for provision and God would send it to us; as if from Heaven, money, food, clothes, shoes, cars and holidays would supernaturally be given to us.

It’s been many years now since that kind of thing has happened. We could have started to think that God had left us, but instead, we realised that His provision in that way, was for our season of need.

God will no longer continue to provide the same kind of provision, in the same way, in a new season.

We may still not have much by this world’s standards, but we have enough to share with others and at times, have enough to help make other people’s dreams come true.

Remember this: ones man’s income can be another man’s miracle.

If you’re thinking that God has forsaken you simply because you are no longer getting cash pushed through your letter box, then think again; it’s a new season, and you need to open your eyes to the new provision that may be staring you in the face every day.

By the way…true story…I once found a £5 note in a packet of Walkers crisps, but no matter how many packets I’ve eaten since then, I’ve only ever found sliced potatoes.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 25th July 2016

Psalm 142 says ‘I cry aloud to the Lord; I lift up my voice to the Lord for mercy.
I pour out before him my complaint; before him I tell my trouble.’

We all, if we’re alive, have some kind of complaint, need or trouble, I encourage you today not to keep telling people around you of your need but cry out to the Lord! He is a safe place to pour out our trouble.

‘When my spirit grows faint within me, it is you who watch over my way. In the path where I walk people have hidden a snare for me.
Look and see, there is no one at my right hand; no one is concerned for me. I have no refuge; no one cares for my life.’

Oh dear! It sounds like the psalmist is on a real downer, but what he’s saying is that at some point people will always let us down, even parents can’t save their children. If we look to people to save us they will end up as a snare to us.
The statement ‘no one cares for my life’ isn’t saying ‘woe is me I’m all alone’ or a declaration of ‘independence’ but rather ‘dependence’ on God as provider, that there is a need in us all no person can meet. Not so we become an island but to stop us placing the responsibility for our success or failure on others, as only we are responsible.

But then he goes on to say:

‘Set me free from my prison, that I may praise your name.Then the righteous will gather about me because of your goodness to me.’

What a great ending! When we’re no longer depending on or blaming people for our life, but trusting in God, we end up surrounded by great people.

Make your plea today to the one who cares, take responsibility and realise that parents, spouses or friends can’t meet our true needs. When we’re no longer desperate to be accepted by people for the wrong reasons, we find people accepting us for the right reasons and we find ourselves forming relationships with other likeminded christ-minded people!

Life is wonderful, let’s make the most of it together!

Luke Cartwright

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 23rd July 2016

Whilst on our recent holiday, our son Caleb, decided that he’d throw Hudson, our youngest grandson, into the pool. But before he did so, he’d already got a ‘rescue mission’ plan in action.
He’d got someone ready in the pool to help Hudson, if he should struggle.
Hudson obviously didn’t realise this and so upon his throwing in, he cried that Caleb had been mean to him as he had no arm bands on. To which Caleb replied, “Hudson, I had someone there to get you , I would not have let anything happen to you.”

I’m sure you know where today’s Fresh Hope is going…

Often, we feel like we are thrown into the deep end. You may be experiencing that right now.
Don’t let fear or worry take control of your life. God sees the end from the beginning. He will never leave you or forsake you.

He has your rescue mission already planned.
What you are going through has the potential to make you stronger and braver. Just know that you’re not alone. He’s right there with you.
Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 22nd July 2016

As well as being a chemist, an engineer and an innovator, Alfred Nobel was the inventor of dynamite.

He was also well known for being a weapons manufacturer.

In 1888, Alfred’s brother died, but the newspaper carrying the story recorded by mistake that it was in fact Alfred, and not his brother Ludwig that had passed away.

The mistaken obituary column was headed up “the merchant of death is dead.”

As Alfred read of his own life that had ‘apparently’ now ended, he was stunned to read further… ‘Dr Alfred Nobel, who became rich by inventing ways to kill more people, faster than anyone had ever before, died yesterday.’

Alfred was devastated by what he would be remembered for and immediately set about changing his last Will and Testament.

He instructed that almost all of his estate, to the equivalent value of £150,000, be set aside to fund what would become known worldwide as the ‘Nobel Peace Prize’.

He had the rare opportunity to reassess his life and change it for the good.

Dr Alfred Nobel eventually died in 1896.

In much the same way today, God has afforded us the opportunity to re-evaluate our lives.

Ask yourself right now this one vital question: what would I be remembered for, if I died today?

Would I be remembered for contributing life or death into the people that I’m privileged to be alive with right now?

What difference am I making in this generation?

Would you consider making a decision to live differently from this moment forward?

Sobering thoughts?

Maybe that’s what you needed…just like Alfred.

As you pray today, ask God to show you why He wanted you alive for such a time as this.

Luke 12:16-21 ‘And he told them this parable: ‘The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, “What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.” ‘Then he said, “This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, ‘You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.’” ‘But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?” ‘This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich towards God.’

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 21st July 2016

At school, I wasn’t very good at PE. Take netball for example, (or any game for that matter); I was always keen to be on the team (I really didn’t like missing out) but never seemed to know where I was meant to be at any given moment because I wasn’t paying enough attention. So when a teammate would throw the ball to me, I’d often miss my opportunity and not catch it or if I did catch it, not know what to do next.

My intentions were good but I wouldn’t listen to my teacher when they told me what I was meant to be doing.

What are the dreams in your heart? It may be that you are dreaming big dreams and believing for big things. Life with God is big! That’s how we’re called to live. But are you ready? Are you positioned correctly? If everything you are believing for turned up in your life tomorrow, how prepared would you be?

Don’t be like I was in my PE lessons and miss opportunities because you aren’t paying attention and don’t follow instructions. Seek God to guide you into who He wants you to become, so that those dreams can come to pass. When you’re in the right place, following His voice, you’ll be amazed at what can happen and who you can become.

Melissa Reynolds-Lawrence

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 20th July 2016

I keep my sunglasses in the car.

I don’t know what colour the lenses are in your sunglasses, but mine have a yellow tint.

When I wear them, no matter where I look or where I go, everything is yellow.

Of course, in reality, nothing is yellow, that is apart from yellow things – but to me everything is yellow.

My glasses don’t just block out the sun, they colour my world.

Throughout our lives, we will subconsciously be handed various pairs of glasses to wear. Each pair will give us a different outlook on life.

If you spend too much time around negative people, you will start to wear negative glasses. No matter what you look at or where you go, you will find yourself having a negative opinion.

If you’ve been exposed to the thought that ‘life doesn’t get better’ but is just on a downward spiral from now on, then you will see everything through those glasses.

The lenses that you wear on your mind determine not only what you see, but how you see what you see.

I was often the last one to be picked on a team at junior school; I was the one that you were left with.

This coloured my mind and led me to a belief that I’d always be at the bottom of the pile.

I lived with those thoughts for many years, until I came to know Jesus and started to read the Bible for myself.

I began to read so many great, positive truths, that I slowly began to take off the glasses that had subtlety become part of the vision for my life.

Words from the Bible brought about a massive change in my thinking and by the Grace of God, I changed the way I saw things by changing the glasses on my mind.

Remember… you can’t change the output of your mind until you change the input of your mind.

Just take these two passages from the Bible and imagine them as sunglasses that you need to put on today.

Let them become part of your thinking and watch how they tint everything that you do today.

Proverbs 4:18 ‘The path of the righteous is like the morning sun, shining ever brighter till the full light of day.’

Deuteronomy 28:13-14 ‘The Lord will make you the head, not the tail. If you pay attention to the commands of the Lord your God that I give you this day and carefully follow them, you will always be at the top, never at the bottom. Do not turn aside from any of the commands I give you today, to the right or to the left, following other gods and serving them.’

Have a blessed day,

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – 19th July 2016

Every year at about this time, our garden just like everyone else’s, goes wild.

Trying to keep up with the growth spurts of everything coloured green, not least of all the weeds, demands our attention- that is unless you want to live in a jungle come September.

Personally, I like the trees and shrubs that just look nice all year round, but to be honest the most fruitful and colourful parts of any garden are those that need our care and attention.

Pruning in the right season, is not just so that a garden can be kept in good order, but so that more buds, more flowers, more fruit and more colour can be exhibited in the coming year.

Every year, I have to prune one particular hedgerow that we have in the back garden, otherwise it just steals the show from all the other trees, not to mention stealing the light because it grows so tall within weeks.

People are just like varieties of plants, trees, and shrubs in any average garden. Some take care of themselves and demand nothing from us, whereas others are forever needing us to take care of them, and if you don’t prune and cut them right back, they just take over.

Pruning seems pretty callous as you seemingly chop and cut the very life out of your trees and shrubs, whilst thinking that you may have just killed a very good and healthy thing.

In reality, that pruning was painful, but long term, that pruning will prove totally necessary.

Because you took the time and care to prune right back, it won’t be long before that tree will thank you by giving you much greater colour, beauty and fruitfulness than you could have ever imagined.

Do you need to do some pruning in your own life today?

Do you need to listen to some ‘pruning’ wisdom from someone?

Do you need to do some pruning on someone else’s life? That usually means that you need to have a difficult conversation that you’ve been avoiding for quite a while.

Whichever the case may be, it will be painful in the short term but fruitful in the long term.

What kind of a garden do you want in your life and in your world? An out of control, overgrown and dark jungle, or a flourishing, fruitful and sunny place that you look at and feel a great sense of wellbeing?

Don’t put off today some much needed pruning and come next year, yours and other people’s lives will produce a totally different landscape.

Hebrews 12:11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 18th July 2016

I was watching a programme on TV recently featuring Mike Tyson. The interviewer was talking to him about his kids and what they wanted to do when they grow up. As you can expect, the one question that arose was, ‘Does your son want to be a boxer?’ To which Tyson replied, ‘I took all the punches so that he didn’t have to…’

If you want to know what it is that God has done for you, then there’s your answer. God died a death that you and I should have died, having lived a life that we could not live. He came to earth to do for us what we could not do for ourselves, and because of His great love we get to live freely knowing that He took all the punches so that we didn’t have to!

We no longer have to live in sin, because He became sin for us. We no longer have to experience guilt, shame or condemnation because Jesus has removed it from the equation. We get to live everlasting life because He defeated death on our behalf and today we get to live in victory because Jesus won the fight for us.

Make a decision from this moment forward to live knowing that Jesus has already done it all and He’s won it all, so now you simply just have to rest in His finished work. You’ve got a Father in Heaven who’s already gone before you and has experienced the worst kind of death so that you can experience the best kind of life.

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 16th July 2016

Difficult circumstances don’t mean that God has left you. Hard times don’t mean He’s not around.

In fact, it’s through those times that often the best comes out.

A crisis is sometimes just what you need!

It’s not what happens to you that matters, but what you do with what happens to you.

Jesus fed the five thousand. We’ve all heard that story. Yet, what many of us don’t know, is that just a couple of verses before, his very good friend John (the Baptist) was beheaded.

His followers came to Jesus with the news and Jesus was expected to move on and minister to the crowds.

Yes, and that’s exactly what He did do.
The verses in Matthew 14 tell us that He took a moment to talk to His father and then He got up and did what He was called to do.

When something bad happens to us (and most of the time, it’s not going to be as bad as this) instead of getting up with a great heart and attitude and carry on, we retreat or hide or say “no way.”

Take Jesus’ example today and take a moment to talk to God about your difficulty, ask Him for His peace and strength, then move on to what you are supposed to be doing.

Let Him shine through you despite them and in doing so many lives, including your own, will be enriched.
Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 15th July 2016

I can still see it perfectly today… the place where I was standing when I heard God speak to me.

“Mark, ask me to use you,” He said.

After a stunned silence for what must have been all of 30 seconds, I said something like…”okay, well if it’s alright with You, I’d like You to use me in healing the sick.”

I honestly didn’t think that I’d hear anything more back about that, but I was mistaken. The God of the Bible is the God that speaks…I just didn’t realise it at the time.

God spoke to me again, and said that He would let me know when I was to go and pray for my first sick person.

I honestly thought that I would be sent to pray for a simple headache or ingrowing toenail, but that wasn’t God’s idea of easing me in…

A few weeks later, my heart sank when I sensed that I should go and pray for a dying young man, of 14, that I knew of.

For three days, I resisted what I knew for certain, I was being asked to do.

On the third night, I couldn’t stand the pressure anymore, and off I went, and found myself standing by his bedside, surrounded by his mates.

This young man was not just ill, he was pronounced incurable by the hospital and sent home.

He couldn’t get out of bed or even sit up; his physical frame was diminishing fast.

I prayed the most simple prayer for him that day, laying my hands on him, asking Jesus to heal him.

On that, I walked out and left for home.

I hardly slept that night, in full expectation that this guy was going to be miraculously healed by God.

It was 6.30am on the very next morning, that he jumped out of bed and cooked the whole family a big breakfast.

He hadn’t eaten for weeks himself, but on that morning he got stuck straight in, with no ill effects.

Today, he is still perfectly healthy and never did go back to the doctors.

Mark 16:17-18 “And these signs will accompany those who believe… they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”

Will you ask God to use you today?

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 14th July 2016

At a coastal aquarium in Florida, a large Barracuda tried to attack a Mackerel, but was stopped by the glass barrier that separated them. After bumping his nose several times, he finally decided to quit.

Later, when the barrier got removed, the Barracuda would swim to where the barrier had been, but no further.

To him, that barrier was still there.

A baby elephant that’s been tied to a small stake in the ground since birth, is still of the opinion, when fully grown, that the very same, insignificant piece of wood is holding him to the spot.

He walks around in tiny circles all day long, in the total belief that he can go no further.

In reality, he could move a double decker bus.

Are you like that?

Hindered, restricted and limited by the invisible and imaginary barriers in your mind that say, ‘no further.’

In the book of Jeremiah, God calls Jeremiah to go to a specific place with a specific message, but he tells the Lord that he is too young, unqualified and unable to do the job.

Immediately God said, “Don’t say that…I will enable you.”

There are certain things that you have got to stop saying if you’re ever going to break through these invisible, yet powerful, self-imposed barriers in your mind.

Some time after Walt Disney had died, Disney World opened its doors for the first time to special guests and dignitaries.

The mayor turned to Mrs Disney and said it was such a shame that Walt hadn’t seen it, to which she replied… “oh, but he did.”

He’d seen it played out thousands of times in his mind.

If you don’t see it before you see it, you’ll never see it.

Some of the greatest defeats and some of the greatest victories are won or lost between your ears.

So whether you believe you can, or whether you believe you can’t… you’re right!

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 13th July 2016

The story of Ruth is a great example of how being resolute in your decision to follow Jesus can simplify your life and bring you into greater purpose.

In the first chapter, we read…Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.”  When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her.

Ruth actually proclaims that she should be punished if even death should separate her from what she so resolutely has decided to do!

This challenges our comfortable western lives where we have so many options, so many eggs in so many baskets, distractions coming out of our ears. Imagine being so set in a decision that even death is no excuse!

If you read the story of Ruth, you hear a lot of sorrow from Naomi, her mother-in-law about her loss; in verse 20 she says “Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter.”

But we never hear Ruth complain? She must have struggled, after all she had lost her husband and made a decision to stick with her bitter mother-in-law and went to live as a complete stranger in a foreign land.

Ruth doesn’t have time for pity – if death isn’t even an excuse to slow her in her pursuit than she certainly isnt going to entertain the pointless emotional distraction called disappointment!

At the end of the story, we read how incredibly blessed she is marrying a wealthy businessman, her great grandson is King David and she becomes an ancestor of JESUS!

I truly believe that when we ‘make our mind up’ and fix resolutely to our faith without flinching –  despite what we face – God is faithful. This is easier said than done, as we can’t see Jesus but we can see our problems.

The minute that we start to compromise, we lose peace of mind which leads to being bitter and complaining. It’s not about being right, Naomi was right to be upset, but Ruth was awesome to be resolute.

Either Jesus is the answer, the way and the life or he isn’t; make a resolute determined choice today and simplify many of the battles you face. Even death is a battle already won!

Luke Cartwright

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 12th July 2016

In Philippians 4 v 8 (NIV), it says ‘Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.’

We live in a world where negativity is rife. I know people who avoid watching the news because it makes them upset.

The truth is, it is much easier to be negative than it is to be positive. Why? Being upbeat takes just that little bit more energy at times.

I want to set a challenge this week. Use the verse at the top as a guide and begin to count your blessings. Write them down, to read at a time when you need encouragement.

Think of something true that God has said about you in His word and declare it everyday. He has a plan for you. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. No weapon formed against you shall prosper. The list goes on.

Begin to thank God for even small things that you consider lovely.

Instead of the bad news that is constantly reported, dig a little deeper and find out something good that has happened.

If you’ve seen a breakthrough, no matter how minor, be thankful.

Reflect a little and think of a time when an opportunity arose that you couldn’t have made happen for yourself. That was God.

Who are the people in your life that lift your spirit? Thank God for them.

God has a promise for us, when we are deliberate about filling our minds with good things; verse 9 goes on to say ‘that the God of peace will be with you.’

Counting your blessings will change your perspective and I promise that you won’t be disappointed.

Melissa Reynolds-Lawrence

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 11th July 2016

As I write today, I’m looking through the front window of our home where I planted a Christmas tree several years ago.

Every June through to July, it starts to produce vibrant lime green buds at the end of every branch.

I find it hard to believe that this celebration tree, that will be crowned King in the depths of our winter is actually preparing itself right now for a new season of growth.

That simple tree knows that it’s too late to think about growing and expanding when all eyes are on it, when we decorate it with brightly coloured lights, and when the frost and snow are hanging from its branches – so it prepares itself during the season where no one is making it the centre of attention.

Therein lies great wisdom for our lives, as we consider how God brings us each into our preparation season.

Our preparation happens while we sit there quietly each day, with no one paying the slightest attention to us; No one’s watching us, no one’s decorating us, no one putting lights on us and no one gives us a second look; we seem almost out of place in the height of the summer.

Yet, how are we going to stand there through months of cold, when we become the topic of conversation and everyone wants to have us decorate their driveways and houses…the answer is, by getting ready when no one’s looking.

It takes real character to get ready ahead of your season, but the Christmas tree shows how important it is.

Feeling today like you’re of no use and that everything you’re going through is in vain? Don’t be discouraged, my friend. Your season is on its way, but first, it’s time to grow and get your roots down deeper, so that when it comes to your time to shine, you’ll do it with such humility and stature that people will ask ‘where did you suddenly spring up from?’

The answer will be, ‘I was here getting ready all along…you just didn’t notice me.’

Galatians 6:9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 9th July 2016

Last week, I went to pick up my two nephews, one from school and the other from nursery. If you’re a parent, you will be familiar with this process that I’m about to describe; as I approach their classroom door, they see me, run over to me and after a big hug, they begin to offload all of their bags into my arms.

I thought to myself in that moment, ‘what a beautiful picture that paints for us of how God wants us to approach Him’. 1 Peter 5:7 says, “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.”

It’s possible right now that you’re carrying a lot of baggage, whether it be hurt, regret, fear, pressure, whatever it may be, God wants to say to you today, stop carrying things you were never meant to carry!

The Bible makes it abundantly clear, give everything over to God, cast your cares onto Him, for He cares for you.

The good news is that because of Jesus, you can live free, you can live light, the weight of your sin and the burden of life’s circumstances no longer play a part, because they aren’t yours to carry. When Jesus died on the cross, He put to death everything that had a hold over your life.

Don’t pick it back up today, whatever it may be, but leave it at the feet of Jesus.

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – 8th July 2016

Sometimes our lives can be like the weather, never quite sure what’s going to happen next. One day,  we’re sun bathing on a beach in Cornwall, the next week it’s snowing! Welcome to England.

It can create unrest in our lives. Should we be putting away the winter clothes, or buying more jumpers?

Our spiritual lives can follow this pattern. One day you’re excited about God and trusting Him, the next day you’ve had some bad news and you never want to talk to God again!

In the book of Matthew, there is a story of a ‘Pearl of great price’ that I believe can help straighten, simplify and make sense of our lives.

It reads: “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.

This paints a great picture of a man who found something so great he stopped just trading in pearls for what he could gain but sold his shop and put all his eggs in the one basket!

Either Jesus died for our sins and defeated all power and authorities or he didn’t! Jesus is the way the truth and the life or he isn’t! God so loved the world that He gave his only son or he didn’t!

We often live like ever-changing weather between two camps saying, ‘yes he is all sufficient…but I still choose to be negative and live with anxiety about my needs!’

No matter how things may look today, I encourage you to make a decision not to worry, not to look elsewhere and not to be tempted to put a few eggs in another basket! He is sufficient for all your needs.

Jesus is the pearl of great price and will not let you down!

Luke Cartwright

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 7th July 2016

One of the most amazing things to me about the Bible is that although it was written over 2000 years ago, it still carries such relevance to our lives today. It can impact your life right now, and I believe you can draw something from it, no matter what season of life you’re in. Whether you find yourself on the mountain top or in the valley, the Bible is applicable to you!

One of my favourite verses is found in ‭‭Romans‬ ‭8:28‬ ‭and it says this,
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

I want to highlight two particular words in that verse to you, ‘all things’. This lets you and I know that no matter how many mistakes we’ve made, no matter how many times we’ve messed up and no matter how bad we consider those mistakes to be, GOD IS ABLE to use those very things and work them together for good in your life!

As the famous Kanye West song goes, ‘That that don’t kill me, can only make me stronger.’
You need to know today that God will use your experience in the valley and cause you to come out of it stronger than you went into it. He’s not a condemning God, He’s a forgiver of sins.

Lean into His love today and believe that your greatest days are out in front of you!

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 6th July 2016

There is no power on earth greater than the power of forgiveness.

I’m not talking about letting another human being off the hook, or even overlooking a fault or grievance, I’m talking about the kind of forgiveness that says ‘I not only forgive, I not only choose to forget, but now I choose to bring you close to me so that I can once again be your friend.

That kind of forgiveness is not difficult…it’s impossible, that is, unless you comprehend the magnitude of Jesus’ forgiveness first of all to you.

Once that is firmly settled in your heart then there is only thing that you can do, and that is, forgive from that very same river that flowed first into your heart.

Today, I pray that the words of this song from a few years back will penetrate even the hardest heart as they have so many time penetrated mine.

Oh Lord You have searched my heart
You have known my thoughts my ways
You guide each step till it leads to You
And I am found safe within Your love

Hold me now
Safe within Your arms
Safe within Your love
Touch me now Lord
With the power of forgiveness
Hide me now
In the brightness of Your love

Oh Lord where can I hide
From this love that can know no end
I am found in this state of grace
I am found safe within Your love

Hold me now
Safe within Your arms
Safe within Your love
Touch me now Lord
With the power of forgiveness
Hide me now
In the brightness of Your love

I am found safe within Your love
— Hillsong Worship

Romans 5:8 But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 5th July 2016

There’s a bible story found in Luke 6 where Jesus describes for us two types of people. The first being someone who hears God’s Word and then puts it into practice. Jesus likens this person to someone who builds their life upon a strong foundation.

The second type of person described in this story is someone who hears the Word of God but does nothing with it. He likens this type of person to someone who builds their life upon the sand. The moment the storm comes, it collapses and its destruction is complete.

I don’t know about you, but I find it’s so easy to read the Bible, close the cover and then forget everything you’ve just read… Or maybe you read Fresh Hope every morning out of daily routine, but you don’t allow it to change your day at all. We miss the most important part – taking what you hear and doing something with it!

The problem with living life like this, is that whenever a difficult circumstance arises, because it will, you have no strength to draw from because everything you’ve heard and everything you’ve learnt has gone in one ear and out the other.

It’s interesting how Jesus makes it clear that both people faced storms, however they experienced two totally different outcomes… Why? Because one of them had built his life upon a strong foundation and, recalling what he had heard, he utilised it to enable him to stand through the storm.

I want to encourage you today, be like the first man described in this bible story. The one who hears the Word and builds his life upon it. Will he still bend? Yes, but he won’t break.

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – 4th July 2016

“Anyone can count the number of seeds in an apple…
but only God can count the number of apples in a seed.”
-Robert Schuller

When you first look at an apple seed, all you see is a black speck. It seems inconspicuous, unassuming and insignificant.

Just as there is power hidden inside a tiny atom, there is power inside those tiny black seeds found at the core of every apple. When you hold an apple seed in the palm of your hand, you could be holding an apple tree, an apple orchard, even multiple apple orchards. There is that much potential in that little seed.

That seed is a reminder to us that seeds are not meant to be eaten or discarded, but to be planted.

When God created the earth He placed within it an eternal law, that law will always remain and will work for all people and all generations. That law is the law of sowing and reaping.

Seed is inside everything that He created not only to reproduce for us but also to demonstrate how we ourselves should sow the seeds that we have in our lives. Every you sow something, you may not do it to get anything back…wonderful, however you can’t stop it coming back to you no more than apple seed that’s planted can’t stop an apple tree growing.

Sowing and reaping involves absolutely everything about your life; love, forgiveness, money, friendships, time, kindness, energy and the list goes on.

Everything you ever sow will produce a harvest for you, you may not know when it will, but it will.

If there is any area of your life that you are lacking in, ask yourself a simple question: am I sowing any good seed in that area?

I have spent many days over the years feeling discouraged. Discouragement can lead you to feeling sorry for yourself, which then leads to loneliness, which then leads to isolation.

I’ve found out that the secret to conquering that feeling of discouragement, is also found in this eternal law too. I now go out of my way to encourage as many people as possible any time that I feel discouraged myself. Within minutes, I begin to feel a harvest of encouragement coming my way.

Just today, a lady came up to me at the close of the service at church and told me that three weeks ago had she needed a fairly large sum of money. She told me that she had decided to sow a seed of £50 to someone believing that God would multiply it back to her. She could hardly contain herself today as she told me the story of what had happened. Just a couple of weeks after she gave the money, someone that she knew deposited £5,000 into her bank account. That’s the law of sowing and reaping working – there was a whole apple tree waiting to come out of the apple that she sowed! Wow!

Just imagine the many apples that could be contained within the one little seed that you have now decided to sow today.

Galatians 6:7 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 2nd July 2016

One of the golden rules that I try to live my life by, is to always believe the best about someone.

There’s a great nugget of advice in the Bible that says this…

James 1:19 ‘…everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry…’

If we’re honest we apply that verse every day…but in reverse order.

We start with anger and judgment and then end up going quiet when the damage has already been done.

Be careful and slow to judge people based on the little you know and see, as if that’s all there is to know and see. Bear in mind that you usually don’t know the full story and therefore it’s not for you to comment as though you had some special inside information.

We live in an age of armchair judges, who pass judgment about things they know nothing about, fuelled by ‘trial by media’.

It’s only ever a few that really know the story behind a person’s life and that information grants them a level of insight and empathy that all others are exempt from, therefore keep yourself pure and away from things that you should be very slow to speak about, if at all.

Let’s make a fresh decision today to be slow to speak and quick to listen.

Matthew 7:1-2 ‘Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way as you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.’

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 1st July 2016

Someone once said “for everything you want to gain, you have to give up something.”

This is a very true saying.
For instance, if you want to gain a new body, you have to give up cake.

If you want to experience a new holiday destination, you may have to give up your annual trip to Rhyl.

To embrace something new, you have to let something go and if you don’t let go of what is holding you back, you’ll never move forward.

You may say “but I like the familiar, I like to feel comfortable”. That’s great, as long as you don’t want to progress.

Life changes, times change, fashion changes, people change and seasons change, so our best hope is to stay flexible.

We have to be willing to let go of something, in order to embrace something new.

I read some time ago about a lady who was holding a hot cup of tea. She said “my nephew came bounding towards me, I knew he wanted a hug, he was coming at me fast. I knew he would get scalded with the tea that I was holding in both hands. In that moment, I quickly gave up the tea and gave a hug. What I was hanging on to was not wrong, it was tea, but to experience what was coming I had to let it go.”

When you let go of what is in your hands, an exchange will take place. And only when you let go will you get the exchange.

God wants us to be open to new opportunities, enlarge our lives, expand our vision, increase our influence – but we won’t do any of that, if we’re too scared to let go.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 30th June 2016

Mirrors are being removed from changing rooms in some of Britain’s biggest shopping centres after new research revealed they make customers feel more ‘ body conscious’.

Almost three-quarters of British women are put off buying clothes after they have tried them on in front of a changing room mirror, a survey found.

More than 52% of women surveyed stated that they were left feeling down after seeing themselves in the mirror.

As important though this information is, especially for men trying to protect their wallets, there is a much higher truth lurking behind this one, and that is, the truth about how we hate looking in the mirror when needing to face up to the faults and traits in our own lives.

‘Take a look in the mirror’ is an expression that we use when we are wanting to help someone face up to the reality of how they come across to others. It’s hardly surprising therefore that there are few that do it, as who really wants to walk away feeling down about themselves.

In reality though, one of the best ways of improving your character is to actually take regular check ups in front of that imaginary mirror, in order to see yourself as you really are to others.

Think about it for a moment, just because you refuse to take this simple yet effective advice, doesn’t make the problem go away no more than refusing to face up those extra bulges that you’ve gained over the last year, when you try on that new item.

I’ve never met anyone that likes to hear themselves on a recording, even moreso watch themselves on video or see themselves in a photo, yet time after time, the most improved people are those that looked at themselves and said ‘I hate what I see’ and then went on to make the necessary changes…they are now way ahead of the game.

If you know that you need to face up to some character flaws today, and we all do, take a deep breath, face up to what you know is lurking beneath the veneer of your life and deal with it. This time tomorrow, next week or next year you’ll have already made massive steps to becoming a better you.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 29th June 2016

As we’re now into the summer season (unless you live in England), me and my Dad have been playing table tennis in the garden quite often. Every time we go outside to play, both our dogs come and join us, sitting right underneath the table.

For the past several days, one of our dogs has been consistently jumping up the tree beside where we play and it became pretty evident that he knew something was in there, however we couldn’t find a thing…

As days went by, he would keep going to that same tree, hoping that we would be able to help him out, when eventually, we found what he had been looking for; the insides of an old football right in the thick of all the branches.

We then went and found a long pole that would help us reach the ball, however the dog grabbed hold of it and wouldn’t let it go. For at least a couple of minutes, we fought in an attempt to win back the very thing that we were trying to use to help him.

I thought to myself, I think that’s how God must feel sometimes when He tries to help us achieve what we can’t accomplish for ourselves. I imagine God thinks that we’re pretty cute trying to help him out, but at the same just wishes that we would move out of the way and allow Him to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.

I want to encourage you with this simple thought today: Let Go and Let God.

By all means, play your part and do what you need to do, but ensure that you then step aside and let God do what only He can do.

You need to understand that God has an amazing plan for your life, and often the best thing that you can do is relinquish your control and allow God to take full control, and when you do that, you can watch His plan be fulfilled in your life.

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 28th June 2016

There will be times when you get ‘cold feet’ – in fact we all do.

Having ‘cold feet’ is usually a phrase relating to someone having second thoughts just before getting married, but to me, it can apply to anything that involves you stepping out into the realm of the unknown.

Feeling afraid is pretty normal when you have no idea as to how things will work out.

When God instructed the leaders of the Children of Israel about crossing the River Jordan, He first of all told them to stand still in the river, just at the edge.

In other words, the first people to get cold feet were those leading the way for everyone else.

Having cold feet doesn’t mean that you are a doubter or an unbeliever, it just means that you are the first to initiate things with no guarantee of success.

I’ve had many cold feet moments as I’ve led the church into new territory and broke new ground over the years. Cold feet will always cause you to ask questions like…’Have I done the right thing…?’ ‘Will anybody follow?’ ‘Will it work out okay?’ ‘Will God bless it?’

For the leaders standing ankle deep in the river that day, they would never know if the waters would part until they stepped deeper. In reality, the waters only parted when they ignored their cold feet and stepped out.

If you have cold feet about going forwards today, it is not a sign to go back, it’s a constant reminder that you are leading the way and breaking new ground.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 27th June 2016

I read this quote the other day and it grabbed me.

‘Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.’

I always want to be generous, but often wish I had more money to be generous with. I think this quote can help us understand not to worry about what we can’t give but look at what we can.

As Christians, we’re often keen to look for opportunities to reach people by talking about our faith. In reality, if we want to impact people around us, it’s not what we say but how we make people feel.

There’s no worse feeling than talking to someone who is clearly distracted – it’s a statement that there are more important things than you.

The reality is no matter what pressure you’re under in your life, there is nothing more important than people.

Sometimes we live with the pressure of wanting our lives to count, to be part of something great, to create or do something significant. We often overlook the opportunities everyday to invest in people’s lives around us and all it takes is for us to stop and listen.

Let someone waffle and talk rubbish. Don’t correct them, be generous. Is your correction going to save them or could your generosity change the course of that person’s day?

I challenge you today to look for an opportunity to really impact someone, not by chewing their ear off, but let them chew yours off. Look for an opportunity to be generous and make someone feel the wonderful emotion of having someone care enough to stop and listen. When we do, we’ll be surprised at the impact and the doors that can open into people’s lives!

Luke Cartwright

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 25th June 2016

‘For I know whom I have believed in and am persuaded that He is able, to keep that which I’ve committed, unto Him against that day’.

An old hymn with a very strong meaning; whatever you face, whether it be personally, as a family or even as a nation, just commit your way to Him and He will watch over you and make it all right.

I don’t know what the future holds, but I know who holds the future.

Don’t let anyone tell you that your future is bleak. My Bible tells me that if God is for me, who can be against me?

This week, I’ve seen the power of God at work. I’ve seen two situations when so-called experts said that there was ‘no way’ and I’ve seen God have HIS way.

I’ve seen a man who we know, survive and beat cancer when he was told he wouldn’t and I’ve seen a lady who was told she would never have a child, get pregnant naturally. Both situations after prayer and trusting God.

God can do whatever He wants, whenever He wants and with whomever He wants.

Lift your eyes off your circumstances today and put them onto God himself – the ONE who can really do something about it.

Now that should be a newspaper headline today.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – 24th June 2016

Recently we heard the sad news that the sporting icon Muhammad Ali had passed away. Known as ‘the greatest’, he lived the last 30 years of his life suffering with Parkinson’s disease.

You couldn’t fail to notice that this once invincible warrior now couldn’t keep his hands from shaking, as the disease took its toll on his health.

The bible states in Hebrews 12: “Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.”

The words ‘once more’ indicate the removing of what can be shaken—that is, created things—so that what cannot be shaken may remain.

Hebrews here tells us that what can be seen will always be shaken. That’s why the Bible also tells us in Colossians 3: Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.

No matter how great we think we are, or the things around us are, our hope cannot be in them. Things can seem pretty fixed at times, like houses and people, but the truth is, everything you can see with the eye will pass before you know it.

But this isn’t a sad message of time but a great message of hope in Jesus Christ, who cannot be shaken, who was and is and is to come!

I encourage you today; if things are being shaken in your life, put your hope in Him!
He will not let you down.

Luke Cartwright

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 23rd June 2016

Ecclesiastes 11:4 Whoever watches the wind will not plant; whoever looks at the clouds will not reap.

If you wait for perfect conditions to sow seed…you never will!

Just imagine if a farmer woke up one day and said it was too hot to sow seed.

The next day…too windy.

The next day…too cloudy.

The next day too wet and the next day too cold.

If he waits for the perfect day, he will never plant, and if he never plants he will never reap.

How much is that like us when we wait for the perfect day to sow our time, talent, money and energy into something?

We think thoughts like these…”When my account finally gets into the black, then I’ll do it.”

“When I get a raise, then I’ll start giving.”

“When I get more time, then I’ll start serving more.”

Solomon, when he wrote these words was considered to be the wisest person on the planet. He was saying, ‘if I were you, I wouldn’t live life always waiting for the perfect moment, no, instead sow your best seeds in season and out of season, in good times and in bad, when you feel like it and when you don’t, because once that seed is sown, God alone has the power to make it increase for you, no matter what the conditions are like.’

Our part is the letting go of the seed.

It’s a seed of trust and faith, and once sown, becomes God’s responsibility to make it grow.

You can sleep after you’ve sown seed or you can worry, but irrespective of what you do, that seed is now out of your control; however, if that seed remains in your hand, one thing is guaranteed…it will never produce a harvest.

Not so long ago, a 2000 year old pot was discovered containing several seeds.

It was decided that the seeds should be planted to see what would happen, and yes you guessed it…they started to grow.

They had literally been waiting to be sown for 2000 years.

If you want to live a blessed life, then don’t wait any longer to start sowing.

Honour God with your wealth, your life, your time and your energy.

He’s waiting to bless you with an amazing harvest.

Mark 4:26-29
Then Jesus said, “God’s kingdom is like seed thrown on a field by a man who then goes to bed and forgets about it. The seed sprouts and grows—he has no idea how it happens. The earth does it all without his help: first a green stem of grass, then a bud, then the ripened grain. When the grain is fully formed, he reaps—harvest time!

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 22nd June 2016

It was not until we moved house several years ago that I had to learn a new skill…that of lighting a real fire.

It looked simple to me, and I couldn’t wait for the winter nights to draw in, so that we could have our very own coal fire that brought back so many fond memories from when I was a young boy.

A few pieces of newspaper, a bit of tinder wood and then finally the logs and coal…what could be difficult about that?

Several failed attempts later, I sought the advice of an experienced coal seller that I knew.

I soon learnt that it was all about having thoroughly ‘seasoned’ wood to start the fire -otherwise you would actually be putting the fire out more so than getting it going.

I’d never heard of seasoned wood before, but soon gathered that it was wood that had stood outside in all weathers for at least 12 months and then kept really dry before use. Seasoning wood effectively ensures that the sap is dried out and the wood is crisp and dry.

Since I’d learnt that lesson, I’ve never had a bad fire. Well, that was until last week when it dropped particularly cold one night, and I threw some unseasoned wood on the fire to get it going in a rush and hey presto….it went out!

Ever wondered why your life seems to just smoulder and continually keep going out?

Take a look at the people that you’re surrounding yourself with and that will be your biggest clue.

They all look much the same, just like pieces of wood, but if they are not well-seasoned, they are simply going to dampen the most positive spirit around.

Ask yourself at the start of this day: how many people around me are unseasoned, damp spirited people that keep causing my passion to die?

Finding the right people can sometimes take time, as they often all look the same, but when you find the right ones you will see such a difference; that passion, that vision, that dream, that fire burning in you will be ignited and become red hot.

Ask God to send well seasoned people into your life today and then be willing to take them on board.

One of those people may be right under your nose everyday, but you’ve never noticed them in the wood pile.

Don’t just align yourself with the newest friends on the block – they haven’t yet been seasoned, and could well put your fire out. Instead, embrace those whose lives are lived with passion, and you’ll soon discover the effect they have on you.

Proverbs 13:20 Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 21st June 2016

I was watching the movie, ‘Spectre’ last week and in one particular scene, James Bond had been led to a hotel, believing there to be some kind of clue in that location to help him accomplish the mission that he was on.

While he was sitting in his room, thinking that he’s not going to find what he’s looking for, a mouse appears just a few feet in front of him, and looking at it, James says, ‘Who sent you?’ and ‘Who are you working for?’ At this, the mouse scurries through a hole in the wall, leading James to find a secret room next door, containing everything he needs to further the mission ahead.

That reminded me of how in life we can appear to have reached a dead end, feeling like there’s no way forward and that the dreams in our heart will never be fulfilled. However, it’s in those moments that God will send something or someone, seemingly out of nowhere to get you to the next level on your journey.

You’ve got to trust that God knows what you need, when you need it, and how to get it to you. If it’s a God vision that you’re pursuing, then you can rest assured that He will supply the provision to make it happen.

Keep moving forward, keep going after the dream that God has placed in your heart, and know today that God will be with you every step of the way, and that He is more than enough.

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 20th June 2016

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

This was a quote from Einstein – we can trust it to be true, as apparently he was clever.

As life goes on, we all surely hope to progress, grow and change – to be in a different place than we currently are. A bigger family, more finances, promotion at work, new house, better holidays etc…

But what Einstein is saying here is, if our actions are always the same, we will only ever get the same results.

We can apply this to our spiritual lives.

Do you seem to struggle with the same habits, sins, doubts, fears and disappointments,  repeatedly?

One thing I’ve learned, is to change, always! Life cannot be static – you’re either increasing or decreasing, moving forward or backwards.

Einstein also said ‘life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.’

This is a key to a life of progress. Aim to live a life of motion, moving forward, challenging your thinking and actions!

We have to examine our routines and what we do all the time. If you are dissatisfied with the results your life and actions have brought so far, then guess what? You’re going to have to change what you do.

A well-known saying is ‘a leopard can’t change its spots’, but with faith anything is possible. We sometimes may feel ‘but this is just me’ or ‘l’ve always done this, and struggled with that!’ Challenge that thinking today and say ‘no!’

You may have struggled with a certain sin all of your life and you’ve accepted that that’s it now, until you pass into the next life. You can change today!

There is always time to change what you’re doing to get different results. Stop today and ask yourself, ‘what areas do I want to be different, in my life? What and how am I going to have to change?’

Now go and do it.

Luke Cartwright

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 18th June 2016

I want to encourage you this weekend to sow a seed.

A farmer will never produce a crop without first sowing a seed.
You may say “but I have a need myself”… perfect.
The farmer has need of a crop and that’s why he sows.
Why is it, that the human heart says “I have a need, so I’ll keep my seed?” – that’s what the enemy wants you to think, to stop you getting blessed.

Change your thinking. Realise that when you have a need, you sow a seed.
And even if you don’t have a need, you should be a sower anyway.

The Bible is full of great reminders…

A generous man will prosper, when you refresh others, YOU will be refreshed. (Proverbs 11 v 25)

When you sow sparingly, you will reap sparingly. But when you sow generously, YOU will reap generously. (2 Corinthians 9 v 6)

For with the measure YOU use, it will be measured back to you. (Luke 6 v 38)

Even if you have no money whatsoever, you can sow time or friendship or a cup of tea and a listening ear.

I challenge you to be a sower this weekend.

It’s a win-win situation :)

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 17th June 2016

I was watching a TV programme a couple of nights ago and was fascinated by a couple that had spent every week since they got married, more than 40 years ago, traveling to a car park near the runway of Heathrow airport just to plane spot.
Now, I have to admit that that would be a great day out for me too, but not every week for 40 years!

As they sat in the car with a packed lunch and binoculars in hand, the lady described in great detail how she looked forward to sitting there all day, every week and if she felt low or was having a bad week she would insist that they travel to their favourite car park, as a pick-me-up.

She spoke of how the overhead planes made her dream of going to far away destinations, and that they gave her a tonic just thinking about them where they were heading.

The sad thing about the whole interview was in the fact that this couple had never travelled much further, or so it seemed, from the car park.

The car park that was meant for parking your car, in order to travel to your destination, had in fact become their Barbados.

Watching others travel had become a form of transportation in their own minds.

I couldn’t help but think with sadness, of how that happens on a daily basis in many people’s minds, as they only ever think about, and watch others do incredible things with their lives, yet without ever leaving the car park of their own disabling thoughts.

In a way, I became that person just this week as I was warning our eldest son Joshua about travelling to watch England play in France. The reports of violence were stirring me to warn him several times to not only be careful, but to even consider not going.

I watched, as I’m sure that you did, the very same match without ever moving from the safety and comfort of my arm chair. However, the difference was that he had experienced the real atmosphere of the winning game, whilst I just looked on in my pretend stadium called ‘the lounge’.

It becomes so easy to let life pass us by without going anywhere and achieving nothing, because we fear moving from our comfort zone that was never meant to be our destination.

Identify today, anything that you feel is keeping you from the limitless skies of your destiny. Stop merely dreaming of those plans that you wish for and instead get up and start to make them a reality.

Many years ago, I dreamed of going to Seattle. I didn’t even know where it was or how to get there at the time and when I asked God 10 years later why He had not taken me there, He simple spoke into my heart the words…’because you never made a plan’. Ouch!

From that moment, I not only made a plan for myself, but also for my wife and three children, and 12 months later we were there.

Proverbs 26:13-15
Loafers say, “It’s dangerous out there! Tigers are prowling the streets!” and then pull the covers back over their heads. Just as a door turns on its hinges, so a lazybones turns back over in bed. A shiftless sluggard puts his fork in the pie, but is too lazy to lift it to his mouth.

Ecclesiastes 11:4 and 6 Whoever watches the wind will not plant; whoever looks at the clouds will not reap. Sow your seed in the morning, and at evening let your hands not be idle, for you do not know which will succeed, whether this or that, or whether both will do equally well.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 16th June 2016

Just recently, I was preparing lunch at home and as per normal, both our dogs came and sat by my feet hoping that they would get in on the action.

As I’m at the counter cutting up some chicken, one of the dogs is intently looking up at the food, waiting to see if he’ll get some, while a piece accidentally drops onto the floor right by his feet. Amazingly, he never notices as he hasn’t broken his stare.

I thought to myself, ‘how true of a picture that is for many of us who are waiting for something in life.’ We’ve kept our eyes fixed on the prize, hoping that the thing we want will come our way, while all along it’s been right in front of us and we haven’t even stopped to notice.

I want to challenge you around a simple thought today… Stop waiting for the ‘chicken’ when the chicken may already be where you need it to be.

I know we’re told to look forward in life, but maybe some of you need to look around to see that the breakthrough you’ve been hoping for has already taken place, but you didn’t even know it!

Reassess your surroundings today, and you may be surprised to find that the thing you were looking for is already in your hand.

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – 15th June 2016

If you’re going to go forward in life, you must quit looking backwards.

Some people are always dwelling on their disappointments.

Some people have lived so long in self-pity that it has become part of their identity.

We’ve all had negative things happen to us; you may have gone through things that no one deserves to experience in life.

Maybe your dreams look more like a nightmare as they look so far away from ever working out.

I don’t mean to minimise what anyone has gone through, but if you want to live in victory, you can’t let your past poison your future.

Feeling sorry for yourself will only push people away from you long term, so it’s time to let go of your victim mentality as nobody, not even God, ever promised that life would be fair.

Make a fresh start today by forgiving those people that did you wrong, but equally so, forgive yourself for the mistakes that you have made.

If you’re not willing to let go of the old, don’t expect God to do the new. You’ll never be truly happy as long as you harbour bitterness in your heart.

If you’ve had some unfair things happen to you, make a decision that you’re going to stop replaying those things in your memory. To constantly focus on all the negatives and the mistakes that you have made, only perpetuates the problem.

Let the promise of God to you sink deep within your soul today – why not repeat it over and over again until it becomes part of you:

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

Today can become a new beginning.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 14th June 2016

If we’re honest, we all tend to gravitate to where we are most comfortable.

We continually wear those old slippers, even though we have brand new ones in the cupboard.

We play it safe in the kitchen, as we continually roll out those old trusty recipes, year after year.

We may have several options of chairs to sit on in the lounge, but it’s almost guaranteed that you will have claimed your right to sit in your favourite one, and woe betide anyone that dares to take it from you.

You can even move house and live in a new area, but still have our old thinking and take our old habits with us. The house may be new bit we still decorate it with what we are most comfortable with.

Our tendency to want to keep going back to the familiar is often a trait that will keep us from experiencing new things that God may want to bring to our lives too.
I’m convinced that you would surprise even yourself if you broke out of the mould of the same old, well worn patterns of living.

I tend to stick to the familiar when it comes to decorating, whereas Gillian is always looking for and willing to try a new look.

I decorated our bedroom some time back and she insisted that we should go for a particular wallpaper. I argued that it wouldn’t look right, solely based on the fact that it was something different for us.

Like any good husband, I went for her suggestion and ended up admitting that the finished job completely transformed our bedroom.

How many of us are missing out on a life transformation, simply because we can’t pull ourselves away from the comfortable and the familiar?

If you want something different you have to do something different.

If you want to be someone different then you have to open yourself up to new possibilities in order to experience life transformation.

If I told you that Jesus held the key to becoming the new you, you may of course reject that as nonsense or simply as something that you don’t believe would suit you; but how do you know if you’ve never tried it?

Open up your heart today and get ready to change.

Yesterday, I was told of a lady that started to attend our church a couple of years ago. She had decided that it was time to change and reinvent her life. She wrote down 12 things that she wanted to accomplish in the not-too-distant future, one of which was to attend church, maybe once a month. She describes the first day that she came, and describes being overwhelmed by the love and the atmosphere.

She came the following week and felt so inspired that she has missed only three times in two years!

It appears that the other 11 things that she wanted to accomplish became unimportant as she took this brave and bold new step towards God.

Why not take a pattern out of her book today, and promise yourself to put at the top of your list… a quest after God.

2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here!

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 13th June 2016

There is power in prayer.
We receive not, because we ask not.
If we prayed as much as we worried about the need, then our need wouldn’t be a need anymore, it would probably be answered.

The Bible teaches us to keep on asking, it tells us to seek, it tells us to knock, it tells us to be persistent.

When you really want something, you will be persistent until you get it. You may not be your husband until you receive those new shoes.
When you fall in love with someone, you will be persistent in chasing their affection.
Why is it that we say we really want something or need something, and yet we pray very little about it?

As you start your day – or maybe you’re reading this at the latter part of it- pause, take a moment and pray again.

When you’re driving somewhere, pray – it’s like having a conversation with someone in the car. You wouldn’t sit in silence with someone in the passenger seat would you? So why don’t we use that time to talk to our Heavenly Father?

Every time a worry or concern enters your head, stop and pray about it, the Bible says to give your burdens to Jesus.

If you go to bed at night burdened by something, I challenge you to get out of bed for a few minutes, kneel down and give it to Jesus. Why go to bed burdened when you can give it to the one who cares for you?
He loves to hear you pray and He will always answer.

Tonight as a church, we come together to bring needs and requests before God, to believe for breakthroughs, to see mountains moved.
If there’s something that’s not getting answered, bring it before God together – there’s power when two or more agree on something.

Take time out of your day today to pray. In the same way that you take time to eat or drink a coffee, realise that your day and your life will be far better when you take time to pray.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 11th June 2016

Do you ever look at the photograph of a loved one and wish that things could be different?

Do you long for that child to come home and get their life sorted out?

Do you want your marriage to get back on track?

Is there a prayer that you desperately would like to pray in the hope that things in your life could get turned around, but haven’t yet made time to seriously pray about it?

Is there a miracle that you are seeking for a sick relative, friend or even for yourself?

Would you just love a place where you could go, where no one is going to frown on you, judge you or think that you are stupid for praying to an invisible God?

Then look no further…

This coming Monday Night (13th June) at 9.30pm, Champions Church auditorium is opening its doors so that hundreds of people can come and bring all these special requests to God.

Bring a photograph of that loved one, write out that special prayer request, bring a handkerchief or item of clothing for that sick friend that can’t make it, and take just one hour to pray or to receive prayer, knowing that God is interested in your deepest needs for any or all of the above.

Here’s what to do…

Plan to be there

Tell a friend

Turn up

Sit down

Quietly pray

Expect a miracle

Go home.

I look forward to welcoming you to this very special evening.

All things are possible…only believe.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 10th June 2016

Some people find it difficult to be happy.
They may get happy for a brief time, but then they slip into unhappiness again.

In the Bible in Nehemiah 8 it says, ‘the joy of the Lord is your strength.’
The enemy of our souls will attack our joy, happiness and contentment. Because in doing so, we lose our strength.

Try to identify what is robbing you.
RECOGNISE it. Name it and shame it and don’t be intimidated by it. Pray about it and declare that God wants me to be joyful, not intimidated by something that is making me unhappy.

Then you should RESIST it.
Nehemiah was rebuilding for God when people tried to stop and intimidate him. He refused to be intimidated by them and he resisted them telling him to stop. He said, “no, I’m not coming down.”
Confront that which is making you unhappy and resist it.

REJOICE anyway.
Make a choice to rejoice today. When you start to thank God (even if you don’t feel like it), it’s amazing how that will have a big affect on you.
Your unhappiness will turn to happiness and your sadness will turn to joy.

When you are joyful, you are STRONG. Don’t let the enemy rob you today.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 9th June 2016

Even the simplest of problems get God’s attention.

Every detail of your life is a matter of concern to Him.

A couple of days ago, I felt that I should pop in to see my Mom and Dad. Although I’m very close to my parents, who are fast approaching their mid-eighties, I don’t really pop in unannounced very often.

A couple of days ago, I was passing by their house and strongly felt the desire to go in and have a few minutes with them.

As I walked down the side of the house, my Dad was fixing a new gate around the back.

I asked him if everything was okay, to which he replied that he was frustrated at trying to drill a hole through the new gate in order to fit the lock.

“I can’t understand it” he said, “I’ve used two drills now and the wood is so hard that I can’t get through it.”

I asked him if I could lend a hand, and started to hold the door in place for him. As the drill started to get up to speed, I immediately spotted the problem.

“Dad”, I shouted over the noise of the drill, “the drill is going backwards!”

Sure enough the drill was in reverse and the cutting edges of the blade were unable to do their job.

I took the drill from him, put it into forward gear and drilled a hole in seconds; before long the new lock was fitted and we were laughing together as we cleared up.

“I’d have been here for hours”, he said to me, to which I replied, “God cared enough about you struggling with the lock on your gate to send me to help you out.”

That story helps us to appreciate the level of detail that God goes to, in order to look after His children.

If you’re not convinced then take a look at these verses from the Bible…

Matthew 10:29-30 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.

Now that’s what you call attention to detail!

Are you caught in a world than only values size and significance? Today, learn to appreciate that God not only sees your seemingly insignificant need, but He is able to send someone to meet it too, no matter how small it may seem to you.

Worried and troubled about so many little issues?

God’s got it all in hand.
Philippians 4:5-7…The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 8th June 2016

I’d put it off for long enough and the day came last week when I could delay no longer.

The upstairs windows needed cleaning on the outside, and because of the sunshine of the last few days, I was embarrassed at how dirty they actually were.

Out came the ladders and as I got on the top rung, the feelings that I knew only too well started to kick in.

I clung on for dear life as I started to speak out loud to myself the words…”Mark, you can do this.”

Growing up, I had battled majorly with a fear of heights – that was until God really touched me and ever since, I’ve been able to climb a ladder. Simple for some, but not for me.

The old fears still creep back in once staying on the top rung and a few days ago was no exception.

One of the things I’d found helped me combat my fears was only to focus forward and to never look down or look back.

The more I kept my eyes fixed forwards, the more at ease I became until my fear vanished once again, and the windows were sparkling  clean.

We can often gain wisdom through the simple everyday things of life and at the same time learn to appreciate the power of what the Bible has to say at the same time.

When Peter asked Jesus if he could step out of the boat and walk on the water to him, he received a positive YES – however, the moment he started to look down and look around him, he started to sink with fear.

How often do we mistake fear as a sign that God is saying ‘no’, when in reality God has already said ‘yes’, but fear is holding you back?

Today, fix your eyes upwards and forwards and stop allowing fear to paralyse you by looking down and looking back.

I had to make up my mind that those windows had to be cleaned, so I had no choice but to feel the fear and do them anyway.

If you’re scared by what Jesus has said yes to, then do it scared, otherwise you’ll start to drown in your own doubt, fears and inadequacies.

What is holding you back today?

What’s stopping you fulfilling your purpose in life?

Take courage from these words and move on.

John 6:16-21 (MSG) In the evening his disciples went down to the sea, got in the boat, and headed back across the water to Capernaum. It had grown quite dark and Jesus had not yet returned. A huge wind blew up, churning the sea. They were maybe three or four miles out when they saw Jesus walking on the sea, quite near the boat. They were scared senseless, but he reassured them, “It’s me. It’s all right. Don’t be afraid.” So they took him on board. In no time they reached land—the exact spot they were headed to.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 7th June 2016

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. (Psalm 90:12).

I remember the day that I started primary school, aged 5.

For some reason, I remember standing outside my Nan’s cake shop on the day of my 11th birthday.

I remember at 21 leaving home to live in Bournemouth for two years.

I remember at 23 getting married and then at 27 becoming the pastor of Champions Church.

I remember the feeling of being 33, knowing that it was the age that Jesus was crucified.

The big 40 came and went, and before I knew it the even bigger 50 was right on my doorstep.

This may sound strange to some, but I’ve actually loved being in my 50’s.

Today is my 55th birthday and I just can’t seem to slow this age thing down; and that’s the point, no one can.

Life flies by when you start looking back, and before you know it, you’re approaching an age that you once looked on in your youth as being old.

No one can slow the process down, but everyone of us can ‘number our days’. In other words, we should each make each day count rather than just let it pass us by.

Wisdom is knowing what season you’re in and understanding what you should be doing during that season; making sure that you’re living in it, rather than watching it happen to you from the sidelines.

It all starts when we start thanking God for the life He has given you and not taking it for granted.

No matter how hard you may try to run and hide from your age, it’s going to catch up with you sooner or later.

Face up to your age today…enjoy it…use it…and above all, number each day so that you don’t lose track of time and squander this precious commodity called life.

Young, old or middle aged?

It’s just a number.

One life.

Live it.

John 10:10…I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 6th June 2016

One of the programmes that I enjoy watching on TV is ‘Dragon’s Den’. I was watching it a few weeks ago, when I saw something that I had never seen before.

Typically what will happen on this show is a person will pitch their product or business idea to several multi-millionaires, either to receive an investor or be turned away. But on this particular occasion, neither of those things happened…

The person presenting their idea had been rejected by 4 out of the 5 dragons and then the camera panned to the 5th. He looked across the room at the entrepreneur and stated how he wasn’t interested in his idea, but he really liked him as a person. The dragon turned down what was being presented to him, but then went on to offer him a job working for an existing company of his.

In that moment, I saw a picture of what I think it would look like if we were to pitch our dreams and goals to God. We would stand before Him and say, ‘This is what I want, and here’s how You can help.’ And I think God would look back at us, with great love and compassion and tell us that He isn’t interested so much in our ideas, but He’s crazy about us.

God would flip the script and say to you, ‘This is what I want, and here’s how You can help.’
God isn’t looking for you to involve Him in what you’re doing, He wants you to involve yourself in what He’s doing.

God admires your dreams, and I’m sure He enjoys seeing your ambitions, but He has a far greater plan for you than you have for yourself. If only we would submit and surrender ourselves to Him, then we would experience a life that is above all we could’ve ever hoped, dreamed or imagined.

Today, lean into what God is doing, it’s the only thing that can bring true satisfaction in this life.

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 4th June 2016

I have a lovely patch of garden that I enjoy tending to (the rest is up to my husband).
It’s amazing how one day it can look so pretty, and the next, it’s overcome with weeds.
If the conditions are right, weeds will spring up virtually overnight.

I decided that I would take five or ten minutes (yes, just that long!) to tend to it and get rid of the weeds. In no time at all, it was looking beautiful again.

Our lives need constant checking. What has sprung up overnight that you don’t recognise from yesterday?
A little depression?
A bad attitude?
A spirit of despair?
Confusion?
Fear?
Doubt?
Bitterness?
Sadness?
The list is endless.
But whatever it is, it has no place in your life.

The longer you leave it unattended, the worse it will get and the harder it will be to get rid of.

Take five/ten minutes today and deal with it.

Prayer, God’s word and a little worship will go a long way to getting it like it needs to be.

Do some personal weeding today and get your life back to beautiful.

Happy Saturday.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 3rd June 2016

Someone asked me recently what my favourite genre of film was. I responded, ‘good films.’ A few weeks back, I watched what I considered to be a very good film, and that was the newly released, Jungle Book.

Amongst the familiar characters and the classic songs, one particular part has remained with me since watching it and that is a phrase that was quoted many times throughout the film:  ‘The strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack.’

Simply put, the strength of your life is found within the people in your life.

As God was creating the world, He identified that all He had made was good. However, there was one thing that was lacking. In Genesis 2:18, God said, “It’s not good for the Man to be alone; I’ll make him a helper, a companion.”

It’s interesting to note that Adam wasn’t actually alone because God was with him. However, what God was saying is ‘I am not enough.’ You need to be surrounded with people.

I want you to consider today who you are surrounding yourself with, for ultimately, the heights you reach will be determined by the people you’re walking with.

The strength of your friendships is found in each individual, the strength of each individual is found in their friendships.

Understand that life is better together, and your existence on earth will go from strength to strength when you live from that knowledge.

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

 

Fresh Hope – 2nd June 2016

Always trust what God says to you…His voice is 100% accurate.

Have you heard from Him lately?

Did you obey what He told you to do last time around? If not, why would He give you more instructions to disobey?

I’ll never forget the day some years back when I was preparing to go and speak at Church down south.

I clearly heard God speak to me and tell me to give away 100% of whatever gift the Church gave me for speaking that night.

I had already been told by the Pastor to only expect 35 people to be present, and upon arrival at the service, his estimation was spot on.

Giving away a few pounds that I’d envisaged coming as a result of that night would not be a problem to me, or so I thought; that was until the ‘extra special’ offering taken for me was way beyond any figure that I’d ever received.

I had without questioning, agreed to obey the voice of God and now I was faced with obeying Him, which meant I had to let go of the much needed £350, given to me in a brown envelope.

There was no going back, even though I was desperate to get my hands on that kind of money for my own personal needs at that time; I had made a decision that meant that that money did not belong to me.

As I was leaving the Church to return home that night, a man walked up to me a placed an envelope in my hand with the strict instructions that it was not to be given away.

All the way back home, many thoughts passed through my mind as to why God would test me like this especially when He knew I was in need. I started to reason the sense of it all and even had thoughts about the probable few pounds in the other envelope given to me.

It was after midnight when I walked into the house that night, and having battled my conviction to give away £350, I made sure that I tucked it away in a safe place in order to give it away the next day.

I boiled the kettle and decided to sit down for a cup of tea, whilst tentatively opening the other envelope, knowing that the few quid in there was mine to keep.

I coughed and spluttered with a mouthful of tea, as I read, and then re-read the cheque with my name on it….Two Thousand Pounds!

In a tiny little church with 35 people, God had provided me with a much needed miracle and in turn I had supplied another family with a much needed weeks salary.

I’ve often thought about what if I’d have disobeyed God and not given my gift away before I’d received it. Would I have ever been given the £2000?

I will never know for sure, but I think I know the answer.

Whenever God asks you to sow your best seed, He’s preparing you for a harvest.

Trust the voice of God…He’s always 100% accurate.

2 Corinthians 9:6-8 Remember this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 1st June 2016

WD-40 is a household name.

For as long as I can remember, it’s been the blue can with the little red pipe for every rusty occasion. A creaking door hinge, a seized-up lock or a bicycle wheel that needs to run more freely…WD-40 is the answer to a thousand and one problems.

Just last week, I was getting frustrated as I was sure that I had a can of the stuff somewhere, but it just could not be found. It’s just one of those items that every home needs to have in stock at all times.

I don’t think I would be too far out by saying that a man doesn’t feel a real man without his trusty can; but have you ever considered the story behind that little can of WD-40?

WD-40 literally stands for ‘Water Displacement 40th attempt’.

That’s the name straight out of the lab book used by the chemist who created it in 1953.

The chemist, Norman Larsen, was attempting to concoct a formula to prevent corrosion, a goal that is achieved by displacing water. Eventually, his persistence paid off when he finally perfected the formula on the 40th try.

Do you have that same level of determination? Do you have what it takes?

If at first you don’t succeed, you’re normal, and you definitely qualify for membership among the ranks of the world’s most accomplished people as they learn most and best through their successive failures.

Your next attempt at your dream could be the greatest day of your life.

Today, resolve to be persistent, keep getting back up, be determined, have faith and be patient.

If you fall in the process, don’t fall backwards, but instead fall forwards and gain new insights and new ground.

Determination is the pathway to victory.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – 31st May 2016

Imagine you’re back at school in the playground.

‘Heavy Eddie’ the school bully, has singled you out and is after your dinner money!

Seemingly with no hope, you spot Mr Jenkins the PE teacher on duty.

Do you…

1. Run to him and tell tales on Eddie? (The problem is of course that Eddie may get you after school).

2. Or do you just ask if you can stay near to him? You’re safe near to the teacher!

This picture helps us understand what King David was saying in Psalm 27 Though an army besiege me,my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even then I will be confident.One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek:

King David shows us his playground situation. An army besieges him and war is breaking out against him. Remember, he isn’t being metaphoric, he was a king of a nation regularly at war. So what will he ask? Surely he will tell tales on his enemies and ask that they may be struck down? No, he asks this: ‘that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life. For in the day of trouble, he will keep me safe in his dwelling.’

He’s approaching the teacher and instead of telling tales of woe he simply asks ‘can I remain in your presence?’ because then in the day of trouble when ‘Heavy Eddie’ is after him, he will be kept safe.

There is a way to live that means we’re not always dictated to by our circumstances. If circumstances being resolved are necessary for our happiness, we will always be up and down!

When we learn to realise God is sufficient and cares for us, we too like King David can reel off a list of problems and say ‘even then I will be confident!’

If you’re feeling crushed by needs and situations today, make a choice. Approach God and ask ‘one thing’ this only do I seek… not that my needs are met, but that I may have the peace that comes from knowing I’m in the presence of God and He will protect and lift me above the circumstances of life.

You will have troubles in this world but take heart, He has overcome the world!

Luke Cartwright

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 30th May 2016

I’m sure that you’ve heard the story of the feeding of the five thousand.

If I asked you how many loaves and fishes that Jesus multiplied to feed such a crowd of men, plus women and children, I’m sure that you’d have a pretty good idea.

Whether your answer is correct or not, the truth is that there just wasn’t enough to go around…it needed Jesus to step in and take care of things.

On this Bank holiday Monday, I wonder what shortage that you may be facing?

For the disciples, it was a lack of food to feed a vast crowd, and the question to Jesus when presenting him with a little boy’s lunch was…’what is this amongst so many?’.

Thankfully, God can do a lot with a lot less than you think.

There are so many things that could have happened on that day, mainly in the area of disappointment, but what did happen was astounding.

I still believe that astounding things can happen for you today, if you’ll just take the same simple steps that the disciples took with Jesus.

Step 1. Hand Him whatever you have, no matter how small and insignificant.

Step 2. Do as He says, no matter how unusual it may seem.

Step 3. Start to move out in faith, just as if you have the miracle in your hand, no matter how ridiculous it may appear.

There is also just one thing that Jesus did on that day, as He turned the meagre into the miraculous…He looked up and gave thanks.

No matter what you are facing today, don’t look down and complain, but start to look up and give thanks.

God has more than enough right now to take you from lack to supply.

Hand your situation over to Him and trust Him. He has the perfect solution to your imperfect situation.

Happy day.

Luke 9:16-17 ‘…Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke them. Then he gave them to the disciples to distribute to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.’

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 28th May 2016

The other day I was sitting quietly feeling a little bit sad and a little bit sorry for myself.
I was questioning why I felt the way I did and frankly, I didn’t really have much reason.

I then had this sudden thought. “Smile, Gillian, just smile”. So I did, and in that moment, my smile made me realise how good God is and how blessed I really was.

The power of a smile can not only change your day but someone else’s.

There are too many miserable people out there. Be different.
Every time you see someone in the street, smile at them.
They may be lonely and think no one cares.
When you walk into a store, smile at the assistant. They may feel like giving up.
When you see someone looking like they have no hope, go ahead and smile. You may save their life.

In the same way that your smile can lift you, imagine what it can do to someone else.

The Bible talks about how important it is to have a cheery heart. ‘A cheerful heart is good medicine.’ (Proverbs 17).

Sometimes you don’t need words, you just need a smile.

It costs nothing and EVERYONE can do it.

Try it on yourself and try it on others. You’ll be good medicine today.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 27th May 2016

There is a story in the Bible known as Daniel and the Lion’s Den. The King at this time, Darius, promotes Daniel to be ruler over his kingdom, much to the dismay of those around him. In an attempt to finish Daniel, his rivals trick the King into making a law which states that no one must pray to any God or man except the King, or they will be thrown into the lion’s den.

Daniel, being a Christian, ignores this law and continues to pray, knowing fully the consequences of his actions. The King is then forced to stick by his word and sentence Daniel to death. However, I’m sure you’ve heard the end of the story…Daniel makes it out alive, without a scratch on his body.

What amazes me about this story is the trust that Daniel had in God. I was thinking recently how Daniel could’ve still prayed in his heart, and would’ve therefore never been caught. It’s a win – win. However, Daniel didn’t want to keep his faith private, but he wanted to take it public.

In the natural, it seemed as though Daniel’s trust in God was going to kill him, but instead, it elevated him. The story ends by saying that Daniel was treated well by the present King, and the by the King that followed.

Today, you may feel as though your faith is going to be the end of you.

‘If I keep giving, I’m going to have nothing left.’

‘If I keep trusting God for my kids to return home, they’re just going to go further away.’

Whatever you may be believing God for today, know that your trust in Him will not lead to death in any area of your life. God is getting ready to promote you to new heights, because faith elevates.

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 26th May 2016

I went to a one-day leadership conference a couple of days ago with a few guys and on the way back, we were feeling really hungry.

It was almost 10pm and the best option seemed to be to stop at the first service station that had a KFC sign.

I would not normally eat late at night, but was pretty excited to satisfy my hunger pangs with some fried chicken.

As we approached the counter, there were just two people in front that were already being served. As I stood there for what seemed like forever, I started to get impatient. A member of staff then informed me that they were now closed and therefore unable to process any further orders.

I asked why she had not told us that when we arrived and I tried to explain that it was not after closing time when I stood in the queue, but because of the wait in line we were now refused a meal.

Into the bargain, I could literally see piece after piece of cooked chicken in the hot counter right in front of me; I could almost reach out and grab it.

No matter how much I tried to reason with the staff member, it become apparent that the lovely fresh chicken was going to go in the bin, leaving us with only one other option…McDonald’s.

How often have you found in life that some things always seem to be just beyond your reach and even when you can see something right in front of you, you are told that the ‘shop’ is now closed?

Thankfully, Jesus has come to the rescue and included everyone in His plan. There is no queue, there is no closing time and there is no shortage.

Right now Jesus’ offer of life is available to you.

You may feel that you’re too bad to accept His offer, or that for some reason you would be flatly turned away and told, “I’m sorry, we are now closed.”

Life and people often disappoint, but Jesus never will.

You may have been turned down for a job that was dangling right in front of you.

Perhaps you were refused credit on that new car your wanted, and it’s possible that the person of your dreams that you desperately wanted to spend the rest of your life with has just pushed you away.

Hungry and thirsty for something more in life, yet don’t know where to go and who to get it from?

Look no further…

Isaiah 55:1 ‘Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money,come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost.’

John 7:37-38 …Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.’

John 4:14 ‘…but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.’

Come to God’s counter today…He’s open and ready to welcome you.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 25th May 2016

‘…You could fall flat on your face as easily as anyone else…’ (1 Corinthians 10 v 12).

There are 3 important questions that you need to answer today:

Is your personal walk with God up to date?

If you’re not spending time with Him each day, then your relationship is going to suffer just like any other. Whatever you’re spending your time with has become more important to you, and before you know it, you will be unable to resist temptation and the pull of other relationships that can lead you down the road to disaster. Your relationship with Jesus will keep you from sin, but sin will keep your relationship away from Jesus.
Kind David, in the Bible, said these words…’your word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against you.’

How is your heart towards God today?

Are you keeping your priorities in order? They have a sneaky way of getting out of line if you don’t keep an eye on them.

If ‘success at any cost’ is the most important thing to you, then it could cost you your relationship with God, your marriage and your children – you are therefore paying too high a price.

Are you accountable to anyone?

If your life suddenly fell apart, or you had some big decisions to make and needed some wisdom, who would you or who could you go to? If the answer is no-one, then you need to start to find and build that relationship now, before you self-destruct.

No matter how gifted you are, you need to have the advice and wisdom of others around you.

When a piece of coal or wood remains in the fire with other pieces, it remains red hot, but the moment it falls out of the fire and stands alone, it’s only a matter of time before it goes cool and eventually smoulders out.

Even your car has an inbuilt sensor to let you know when it needs someone to give it attention, so that it can run safely and efficiently; take time to give yourself a spiritual check-up today.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 24th May 2016

Nobody likes confrontation, but we all have to confront from time to time.

If confrontation is handled properly, it can actually strengthen a relationship – if not, it can end it.

Because everyone of us at some point has to confront and because most of us are not very good at it, I thought that today would be a good day to give some guidelines as to how to handle yourself correctly when walking into a confrontational situation.

Firstly, bear in mind the advice of the Bible…

‘…take note of this: everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry…’ (James 1 v 19)

Once you’ve settled that advice in your heart, then follow the seven guidelines below:

Get the facts. Don’t rely on hearsay or general impressions or you will invite emotion-laden counter attacks.

Be precise about the offence. Don’t skirt around the real issues.

Never reprimand while you are angry. Delay any meeting until you’ve cooled off.

Get the other person’s side of the story. Give them a chance to explain and don’t interrupt. There may be circumstances you know nothing about and you may even be part of them.

If necessary, bring in other people involved or a mature person to listen to both sides of the story. This will help to bring a resolution and healing to the situation.

If it helps to know what was said, and to whom it was said, then keep notes, so that the whole thing will be more even-tempered and productive.

Don’t harbour a grudge. Once you have dealt with it then let it go. Offer to help and support them, reassure them of your love and then move forwards.

All confrontation should have two goals:

A) to solve a problem
B) to salvage the person

And remember…

-very rarely will a bad situation get better all by itself.

-If you’re scared to do it…do it scared.

-If both parties have a good heart about the situation, then both parties will be glad about the confrontation.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 23rd May 2016

There are three powerful words in life. They are yesterday, today and tomorrow.

Most of us can be very consumed with our yesterday. Things that didn’t go right, things we wish we hadn’t done, things we wished would’ve been different. Our thoughts about yesterday can rob the peace and joy of today.
Many of us are consumed with tomorrow. What might happen, what may happen, what if it doesn’t happen? We can be so worried about tomorrow that we don’t experience today to the full.

God can deal with all your yesterdays, He can certainly deal with your tomorrows, but what He really wants to be involved in, is your today.

What you do with your today, will determine your tomorrow. The choices you make today will affect and shape your future.
The success of tomorrow will result in what you do today.

Be present in your ‘today’, thank God for it, live it to the full, see what God wants to do.

The past is gone, leave it with Jesus. Your tomorrows are in His hand, trust them to Jesus.
But give Him your today and see how much better it can be.

He came to give us life abundantly.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 21st May 2016

There’s an old but very true saying and it goes like this: let go and let God.
Life changes, times change, people change, fashions change, seasons change  -so our biggest challenge is to stay flexible.

We have to be willing to let go of something to embrace what is new.

I read an illustration about a ladyl who had a hot drink in her hand. She writes…”I’d made a very hot cup of tea and I was holding it in both hands, when through the door comes running my five year old nephew, heading right for me. I knew at that moment he wanted a big hug from his auntie. What I did in that split second was wise. I quickly gave up the tea in exchange for a hug. What I was hanging onto was not wrong, it was tea, but to experience what was coming I had to let it go.”

When you let go of what is in your hands, an exchange will take place…only when you let go will you get that exchange.

I can take UK currency to the USA but it won’t work. It’s only when I exchange my UK currency for USA currency that I can move on in my journey.
Some people hang on to relationships because they are too scared to let go. Don’t be with the wrong person when God has the right one for you. It’s only when you are willing to let go that you can experience God’s best for your life.

God has new opportunities to enlarge our lives, expand our vision and increase our influence.
We will never experience them if we are too scared to let go of the old.

Keep open to God today, listen to His voice and be ready to make that exchange.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 20th May 2016

Earlier today I was on the phone when the person on the other end went deathly silent.

I began to think that they may have been offended, or didn’t want to answer my request so they hung up on me.

The reality was that the phone call had been lost due to a bad signal; the reality was that for most of the call… I was talking to myself.

How many of us today are experiencing a ‘dropped call’ in prayer?

You felt that you were getting somewhere with God, and then realised that in fact you were talking to yourself.

Have you ever honestly faced up to the reality as to why it appears that you’re talking to yourself in prayer?

Why not take to heart today’s challenge, and settle the issue once and for all…

Do I have a relationship with God, so that I can rightfully and openly talk to Him in prayer?

Don’t presume yourself a Christian, because you live good and do good – the reality is that you need to give over your life to Jesus; accept his offer of life, love and forgiveness. Invite Him right now into your heart and open the direct prayer line to Him.

Sin produces a barrier between us and God and although He has the ability to answer all our prayers, we need the blockage to our relationship to be removed first.

Isaiah 59:2 But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.
I’m sure we all know today what it feels like to not be on good speaking terms with someone. It may be your spouse, your child or a once good friend; you may be living in the same house as them, and yet this invisible but powerful barrier fills the atmosphere, which gives weight to the expression…’you could have cut the atmosphere with a knife’. That invisible barrier is only broken down when the guilty party plucks up the courage to say ‘please forgive me, I’m sorry’.
Isn’t it amazing how those very small words can have such a massive impact and change everything in an instant?

Jesus has done His part in dying for your sins on the cross; He is now awaiting your response, so that you can be in the relationship with Him that He longs for.

Here is a prayer that you may like to pray right now…

‘Dear Jesus,

I come to you just as I am.

I ask you to forgive me of all my sins and failings.

I turn from own ways and ask you to come into my life.

Be my leader and Lord from this moment forwards.

I step out of the driving seat and ask you to take control of my life.

I truly want to follow you for the rest of my life.

Thank You that this is the very first prayer that I know you will answer.

Please fill me with you Holy Spirit that I may live my life daily for you.

In Jesus name.

Amen.’

Please write to us at info@championschurch.org.uk, if you have prayed this prayer today.

In return, I will gladly send you a free copy of the Bible, so that you can continue to grow in your new found faith.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 19th May 2016

Mark 4:35-39 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, ‘Let us go over to the other side.’ Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?’ He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

As I read this passage, I was intrigued as to why Mark, the writer, would include the four words ‘just as He was’.

As you read it again for yourself, you will notice that it was in reference to the disciples taking Jesus along with them for the ride.

How could you take someone along with you as anything but just as they are or were?

As I thought about the significance of such words, I began to understand why Mark would include some seemingly throw away comments about Jesus.

It’s one thing for us to come to an understanding that we can get into Jesus’ boat just as WE are, but the equally great truth is that we have to allow Jesus to climb into our boat just as HE is.

How many times do we find ourselves wanting to change a little bit of Jesus? That part of Him that says ‘give everything up to follow me’, or that bit that says ‘don’t worry about anything’, when we know we’d rather fret about things.

How small is Jesus in your life, simply because you’ve shaved so much off Him that there’s hardly anything left?

You can’t make Jesus fit around your lifestyle and expect Him to simply downsize who He is to accommodate you.

He’s God…you’re not!

I encourage you today to take Jesus on board ‘just as He is’ and not make Him a ‘pocket sized’ version that you can pick up and throw in your bag like some lucky charm.

Jesus is either Lord of all or not at all.

Do you want Him with you on you journey today? Take Him just as He is…He’ll calm your troubled water, speak to your storm and make sure that you get to the other side.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 18th May 2016

If Jesus seems far away…guess who moved?

Luke 2:41-52 Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom. After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. Thinking he was in their company, they travelled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, ‘Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.’ ‘Why were you searching for me?’ he asked. ‘Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?’ But they did not understand what he was saying to them. Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man.

If you’ve ever walked with Jesus, you will know exactly what it feels like to lose sight of Him in your life.

The sense of loss is greater than any other.

It’s possible that you have cried out to God asking where He has gone, but in reality, it’s you that’s moved away.

The reason they lost Him, was because they presumed upon Him whilst busy in the hustle and bustle of the crowd. It’s so easy to get caught up in the crowd that you fail to look for Him.

They only noticed He was missing after a day, but took three days to find Him. How often do we make a wrong turn in our lives and lose a sense of His presence so easily, then find it takes longer to humble ourselves and get back to where we left Him?

Remember you moved away, and not the other way round, so let go of your pride and retrace your steps to where you walked on without Him.

At no time was Jesus lost. He didn’t go anywhere…you just didn’t take Him with you.

If you’re not sure where to find Jesus, then what was true then, is still true today. You will find Him doing His Father’s business. Look for where God is at work and you’ll find Him there.

If today is another day without Jesus, then stop, turn around and go back. You’ll find Him at the point where you decided to go it alone.

Whatever you do, don’t keep moving on without Him, the journey will only get longer and harder. Go back and all will be well again.

Jesus is waiting for you.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 17th May 2016

I love the story found in the Bible in Mark 4, verse 35. It says,
“That day when evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!””

Here we find Jesus and His disciples faced with a pretty big storm while travelling in a pretty small boat. It’s no surprise to me that the disciples were afraid, yet Jesus wanted to know why they were so fearful…

Now, I don’t think that He was referring to the storm when asking the disciples this question, but rather the statement He had made before they set sail. The first thing Jesus said before they got in the boat together was, “Let us go over to the other side.” Jesus had already declared where they would end up before they got going…

If the disciples would’ve recognised this, then I don’t think fear would’ve ever entered the equation because Jesus had already told them that it wasn’t going to end this way.

Today, you need to know that the same thing Jesus told His 12 friends is the same thing He wants to tell you…’You’re gonna make it.’
Whatever storm you may be faced with right now, whatever waves may be crashing up against your boat, you will reach the other side.

Though things may seem dull and death may be fast approaching, no longer do you have to walk in fear, but instead, you can live with confidence today knowing that Jesus has already declared the end from the beginning, and you will make it to the other side.

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – 16th May 2016

There are 7 billion people that occupy this world today, and yet you are totally unique.

You have a unique purpose and destiny that is distinct from anyone else that has ever lived.

You can have a dream, a plan, a role and a vision that will make a contribution to humanity.

Have the courage to be uniquely you…to be different.

Don’t just settle for an easy life, that requires no effort on your part; I know it’s much easier and far less stressful to be mediocre and to blend in.

Everything within you at times says ‘don’t make waves, just swim with the tide and go with the flow.’

No courage is required just to be normal, but all that does is neutralise what God has planned for your life.

Being courageous doesn’t mean you will never be afraid or doubt, quite the opposite; the one who has courage pushes through the fear and keeps moving forward toward the goal that you were created for.

Destiny is not only a destination, but a process taking place within you.

You need to see yourself doing what you were born for, before you actually do it.

Long before you get married you need to see yourself at the altar.

You need to get educated, if you are dreaming of that degree.

You need to see yourself as the supervisor before you get the title; but if you don’t behave like a supervisor you will never become one, even if you do get the badge.

If you believe you are called to be a communicator then start to prepare a little message that you can try out on the dog or even a tree before being let loose with a bunch of human beings.

If you are to become the musician that you believe you are called to be, then don’t wait for the stage, but become skilful with your headphones on, shut away in your bedroom, while all of your friends are out partying or watching TV.

A surgeon is only able to pick up and use the instruments that are already clean and at hand in the operating theatre. In the same way today, God is looking to use those that are prepared and ready to be used.

In 1982, I waved goodbye to my career in order to go to Bible college for two years. I did so in the belief that God was calling me to pastor the church, and therefore needed to train for the future. I didn’t want to get the point whereby God was ready for me to step into that role, but I was not ready myself.

Do I recommend that everyone does the same? Of course not, but I do recommend that you do everything you possibly can to become the best in the field that you are called to be in.
Did you know that if you read and study a particular subject for just one hour a day for 7 years you will become an international expert in that field?

Instead of just praying the prayer…”Lord, use me today”, why not change it to…”Lord, make me usable today.”

My prayer for you is that you will have the courage and determination to make a difference by being prepared for who God intended you to be.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – 14th May 2016

I can safely say that almost everyone wants to surround themselves with the right kind of people. People who will influence your life in a positive way. The question is: how do you do so? How do you surround yourself with the right kind of people? The answer is simple…You must become the right kind of person.

I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, ‘opposites attract’. However, I want to present to you the idea today that similarities attract. The foundational principles that you carry in life will attract others around you who also carry those very same principles.

For instance, generosity. Generous people attract generous people! Now, all of us I’m sure want to have generous friends. But we tend to just stop there, hoping that one day we’ll have friends like that. We have a list, whether physically or internally of the kind of friends that we’d like to attract. It may look a little something like this…

-Generous
-Loyal
-Trustworthy
-Honest
-Loving
-Joyful

I want to give you what I believe to be the key to having friends like this…Change the header above your list from ‘The Friends I Want To Attract’ to ‘The Person I Must Become’.

The moment you realise that you attract what you are is the moment that you move from focusing on what you want to see onto what you need to be.

Today, don’t wait for these kinds of people to enter your life, but instead, go and be this person to somebody else and watch your friendships go from strength to strength.

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – 13th May 2016

Are you teachable?

If the honest answer is ‘no’, then we can only draw one conclusion, and that is…you must be a know it all.

You will never reach your full potential if you don’t welcome the words of those that could actually teach you something new.

I’ve been able to wallpaper now for over 30 years. I was taught by my dad, who always did his own decorating. I listened, I watched, I learnt and then I had a go myself just before we moved into our first house.

Just a few weeks ago, I needed some particularly difficult wallpapering done in our lounge. There were two really difficult angles that I’d attempted before and got it horribly wrong, resulting in me having to live with my mistakes every time I sat in there.

This time round I vowed that I would find a professional. I decided that I would plan to be around when he did the difficult parts and would listen, watch and learn from a man that was doing it every day.

I was amazed after 30 years of decorating at how much I didn’t know and equally, how much I could still learn. As a result, I’m a much better decorator now – simply because I was prepared to be taught for about an hour.

There are two ways of learning and also two speeds at which you learn….

Firstly, we learn from our mentors, or from our mistakes. Being willing to learn from a mentor is far better than learning from your mistakes as a know it all.

Secondly, we learn quicker from our mentors than we do by our mistakes…

It took me a whole day of frustration to decorate those difficult angles all by myself, yet only took me one hour to learn how to successfully do them from a mentor.

Open yourself up today to learn something new.

Stop putting the barriers up when someone tries to advise you.

Don’t get so defensive when someone offers you constructive criticism.

If you find yourself closing your mind to new thoughts or a potential better way of doing things, then tell yourself that you are becoming a know-it-all.

Make a decision today to become a learn-it-all.

If you’re not convinced, then think of it this way: no-one likes a know-it-all, but a learn-it-all is always attractive.

Get wisdom at any cost…

Proverbs 4:1 Listen, my sons, to a father’s instruction; pay attention and gain understanding.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 12 May 2016

Only go to work today if you feel like it.

Don’t go if you have a headache, it’s raining, or you haven’t had to tell the kids off.

Stay at home if you don’t like everyone at work and the stars didn’t line up the night before.

If the boss doesn’t appreciate you, and the sun isn’t shining, and it’s inconvenient, just go back to bed.

Now…phone the boss and give him any of the above as your excuse as to why you’re not coming to work today, knowing that he will completely understand – not.

The Bible records these words for us…

Malachi 1:8, 13-14 When you offer blind animals for sacrifice, is that not wrong? When you sacrifice lame or diseased animals, is that not wrong? Try offering them to your governor! Would he be pleased with you? Would he accept you?’ says the Lord Almighty. ‘When you bring injured, lame or diseased animals and offer them as sacrifices, should I accept them from your hands?’ says the Lord. ‘Cursed is the cheat who has an acceptable male in his flock and vows to give it, but then sacrifices a blemished animal to the Lord. For I am a great king,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and my name is to be feared among the nations.

Everyday we get up to go to work, knowing that our earthly boss is expecting us to be there, and yet when it comes to God we make such lame excuses as to why we can’t give Him our best, that he says back to us, ‘try telling that to your boss’ – exactly!

Why do we think that God deserves anything less than the very best and yet we give him our daily leftovers and that which costs us nothing?

The next time you promise God that you’ll go anywhere for Him and don’t turn up, the next time that you pledge something and then retract it, the next time you say that you commit to something and then never see it through, ask yourself ‘why do I do that to God and would never do that even to my earthly boss?’

Give God your very best and your all today.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 11th May 2016

I have a cookery book stand in the kitchen that has a Nigella Lawson cookbook lying open on it.

Gillian subtly placed it on there some time ago and intentionally left it open on page 170.

Whenever she sees a recipe or picture of something she likes the look of, she craftily introduces it to the stand in the hope that I’ll cook it for her.

To be honest, I’ve been secretly looking at this picture on page 170 now for a couple of weeks and I’ve even studied the recipe, thinking, ‘I must do that one day.’

Every time I go into the kitchen, this amazing looking lemon meringue cake is shouting out, “cook me!”

On Sunday, after church, I finally gave in as the family were coming for lunch.

I found the 13 ingredients in the cupboard and quickly followed the recipe. I was pretty optimistic that it would turn out okay but had no idea what a great recipe it was and was amazed by everyone’s reaction to it.

It was an instant hit and even the one person that hates lemon cake had two slices and has now conquered once and for all his fear of lemons.

How often do we have the world’s best selling book, the Bible, open before us, knowing that it’s calling us to follow it, yet just like my cookery book, we continually excuse our selves from trying it out because we don’t have time and the patience to get on and just do it?

I must admit right now, now that I’ve tried it, I can’t wait for the next time to bake that cake again – in fact I could eat a piece right now!

The Bible says in Psalm 34:8 ‘Taste and see that the Lord is good.’

The recipes for the greatest life ever are waiting on the pages of the Bible, but you will never know what that life feels like until you try them out.

Everyone right now has two lives – the life we are living and the un-lived life within us.
Maybe you’ve read what a blessing it is to be generous, and yet you remain stingy. Why would you not want to try out the generous life?

Make a decision at the start of another new day, not to just hear God’s word but to be a doer also.

There’s a whole new life for you waiting on the pages of the Bible if you’ll simply put them into action.

Get cooking!

[By the way, you’ll find the recipe under ‘Lemon Meringue cake by Nigella Lawson’]

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 10th May 2016

Persistence, Perseverance and Patience are words that most people don’t like.

We do like the words Instant, Immediately, Now, Yesterday.

If you’ve been around for any length of time, you’ll know that you need to start liking that first set of words a little more in order to go anywhere in life.

Be persistent in prayer and you will receive. Jesus taught us that in the story of the man who went to get bread from his friend at midnight. “He won’t give you the bread because you’re his friend, but he will give it you because you persist.”

The dictionary says that perseverance is “persistence in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.”
Keep going, however difficult it seems. Sometimes results are slow. But you will get results.

Patience is a wonderful thing (which I’ve never had much of); to wait until the right time. To wait for God’s time. That’s the best time.
Waiting can be frustrating. Be patient.
Galatians 6 v 9 says “you will reap a harvest if you don’t give up.”

If you want something instantly, now or immediately (like coffee or a microwave dinner) you will be settling for second best or a poor copy of the real thing.

Go after what is GREAT, not average.
Go after what will LAST, not what is temporary.
Go after that which will SATISFY, not which will give a temporary fix.

Start to see those words as your friend, not as your enemy.

Be persistent, patient and persevere.
Good things come to those who wait.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 9th May 2016

A well known verse is Proverbs 1:7 ‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.’

We often have the wrong image of knowledge or wisdom, like it’s just being clever and not the most valued trait we should seek. This is completely wrong as it’s not just about information but how to apply it to be successful, and a good steward of what we have been given.

Wisdom is vital if we want to grow, be successful and enjoy this life. We need knowledge, not so we can be a know it all but a know ‘what to do’ it all!’ The difference is having knowledge to help your actions rather than just intellect.

Think about the emotion you go through when in a situation where there’s a lack of knowledge. Buying a house, going through an airport, having a baby, you want to know as much detail as possible to help you get through those circumstances successfully and with as little stress as possible.

It’s the same in our lives but for some reason we often don’t value wisdom in the day to day. We don’t always feel it’s the same as going through an airport where we want to know, what terminal, what gate, what time! Why would we be so casual with what God has entrusted us?

In Luke 12.4-5 Jesus says “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.”

This helps us understand the beginning of wisdom as ‘the fear of the Lord’. Don’t live in fear of life and the temporary situations but live with the knowledge that God is the one we should fear.

But then it goes on in Luke 12.6-7 ‘Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.’

Living with this greater knowledge/wisdom of God and his love toward us gives perspective on our lives and makes sense of many things that used to confuse us. No longer tossed about on the waves of circumstance, we can instead keep our hope in him which becomes like a consistent steadying anchor in our lives.

I encourage you to pray for wisdom everyday, to help you know what to do, what to fear and what not to, and you will be surprised how you can even start to enjoy some of the things that used to terrify you!

Luke Cartwright

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

 

 

 

Fresh Hope – 7th May 2016

You will never do anything great in life without a dream.
A dream is something that is far bigger than yourself.
All the ‘greats’ had a dream.
A dream to achieve, a dream to make life better, a dream to make a difference.

Nothing however, will ever happen if you only dream, there has to be a plan.
Start to plan how that dream is actually going to come to fruition.

Plan will lead to action. You can’t just sit back and wait for it to happen. If you want something to be different, you have to do something about it.
Too many people have dreams in their heads, but aren’t willing to do anything else.
Let your plan lead to action.

All through the process you have to believe.
Believe that your dream will become a reality.
Believe that God can use you and wants to use you.
Believe that God wants to help you and that He will make a way.

Cover all of the process with prayer.
Proverbs 16 v 3 says ‘When you commit your ways to the Lord, they will succeed.’

To accomplish great things you must not only DREAM, but ACT.
Not only PLAN, but BELIEVE .

Never underestimate someone with a PRAYER and a plan.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 6th May 2016

Yesterday, I turned up to our church offices, knowing that a lovely married couple that we know, had rented one of the offices along the corridor from us.

It was nice to think that the office block would have more people that we knew coming and going.

I decided that I would pop my head around their door, just to say hello and welcome. As I walked inside to ask how they were finding everything, I commented on the fact that they were working at their separate desks whilst having no lights switched on.

They looked at me with a sad look on their faces and embarrassingly stated that they needed to save on the electric bills; I explained that the electricity was all included in the rental cost, to which they both jumped up and turned the light switch on!

As I was about to turn around and leave, I asked the husband why he was wearing his thick winter coat…you’ve guessed it, he wanted to save on the gas too, and yes, it was also included in the rental cost.

The truth was, that come day or night, all the offices are warm and well lit at no extra charge.

I started to think about how often we live our lives like paupers, not realising that Jesus has made us co-heirs of all that is His.

How many times have you decided not to do something because we felt it would be too much of a leap of faith, when in reality God has already decided to bless us far more than we could ever ask or think?

I heard about the man that gave his whole life savings to go on the cruise of a lifetime.

Each night, he would walk by the sumptuous restaurants on board, and would only imagine what it would be like to sit at the captain’s table and have fine dining each night, but then retire to his cabin to eat yet again the rationed cheese and biscuits that he had brought in his suitcase.

As he ended the cruise, the captain shook his hand and enquired as to why he had never seen him in the dining room.

The man embarrassingly admitted that he could not afford the extra cost of the fine dining. “Oh”, said the captain, “didn’t you realise that it was all included in the price?”

How that man must have felt to realise when it was too late, that he could have eaten at the captain’s table each night?

Today, Jesus spreads before you a banquet and expects you to come and partake in it.

Stop living life like Heaven is in recession. Jesus came to give you life to the full.

1 Timothy 6:17 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 5th May 2016

I’m by no means an expert when it comes to castles, but I remember the basics that I was taught during my time at school.

A castle is surrounded by a moat, a form of protection to stop the opposition from reaching those inside of the castle. The only safe way in or out was by using a drawbridge. The drawbridge is controlled by the gatekeeper who has access to the key, and only by his or her permission can you enter the castle.

I want you to imagine that your life is like a castle and you are the gatekeeper. The key is in your possession and only with your permission can people enter your life.

The problem many people face today is that they have either let go of their key or they are using it too sporadically to allow anyone and everyone into their lives. The end result? Calamity and chaos all around you.

You see, we are called to love all people and befriend all people, but we aren’t called to allow everyone in close proximity of our lives. You have to be intentional about holding onto that key and only allowing people in who are going to take you closer to your destiny, rather than further from it.

Today, choose wisely who you allow across your drawbridge, for your friendships will ultimately determine your future.

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 4th May 2016

I have to admit that I occasionally put the dustbins out early on a Thursday, in my pyjamas.

My wife goes mad at me if she finds out, but my usual answer is that no one is looking my way at that time of the day.

Getting properly dressed to leave the house is something that most of us do everyday, without so much as a second thought.

Some of you would be amongst those that get your outfit ready the night before, so that you know exactly what to wear the moment you get out of bed, whilst others of you are the last minute type that open the wardrobe just before leaving the house and hope for the best. It’s pretty obvious to everyone when you turn up for work which camp you belong to!

It’s a sad fact of life that many of us disregard the advice of the Bible, when it comes to spiritually dressing yourself correctly right at the beginning of each day.

We walk around naked most of the time without realising it, yet trying to fathom why we feel so cold on the inside.

The Bible advises in the passage below that for a spirit of heaviness or despair we should ‘put on’ a garment of praise…

Isaiah 61:3 …’and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair…’

If you feel that a dark cloud of depression or oppression are loitering around you all day, then you need to get dressed properly by putting on praise, just like you would your jumper or coat.

Remember: your were not born with a garment of praise…you have to be responsible to put it on yourself.

What does a garment of praise look like?

Thankfulness…Praise…Worship…Joy…being grateful to God in all circumstances.

These are all styles of the very best coat you can put on to keep yourself warm on the gloomiest day you may find closing in on you.

Have you left the house properly dressed today? If not, then pause to praise right now and just watch that heaviness lift off you as God’s peace and joy flood your soul.

Put your dancing shoes on.

Happy day.

Now.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 3rd May 2016

Aesop the Ancient Greek story teller observed “After all is said and done, more is said than done.”

How true this is.

Another saying is ‘The road to hell is paved with good intentions.’

This sounds harsh, as though there’s something wrong with good intentions, but it’s saying that there’s nothing wrong with them but there’s nothing right with them either…if they don’t materialise into action.

At my place of work, we are always trying to move away from a ‘meeting culture’ where lots of people are involved in lots of discussion but there’s not always a lot of action resulting. A big danger to a business with a ‘meeting culture’ is a false sense of security that’s created as people feel something has been achieved but in reality nothing has changed. It’s the resulting actions being put into practice that makes progress.

The same can happen in our everyday life, we can feel better about ourselves and situations when we meet and talk with people about what we’re planning to do to move forward as if somehow by talking about it makes it feel like progress has been made. It hasn’t. We need to start moving, even if just little baby steps in the direction of what we want to achieve or do.

If you’ve been threatening to start a business venture for a long time I encourage you today to make preliminary calls, get quotes, scope out projects, create business plans, leaflet areas, make inroads, apply to banks, get the ball rolling and stop talking about it – just do it!

I’m not saying it will work, but you won’t know unless you try! Failure isn’t a problem, never trying is the problem. Failure leads to learning, lack of activity can’t lead to anything. If fear of failure is holding you back, let go, it’s better to have tried and failed than to have never tried.

Maybe you’ve been talking or thinking about putting some things right in your life, making a call to a family member you fell out with five years ago! Stop reading now and put a time in your diary to make that first move.

Maybe you know you need to start the day better creating time to read and pray but haven’t yet made a plan, stop reading right now and set your alarm.

Don’t procrastinate, plan, apply, apologise, move!

Jesus has done everything necessary for us to live an exciting life of authority, stepping out taking risks and making things happen! Let’s move today and see what great stories we can create for us to talk about, instead of talking about what stories we would like to create.

Just do it!

Luke Cartwright

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 2nd May 2016

When Jesus rose from the dead, He not only broke out of the grave, but He conquered death and hell.

He defeated Satan, won our salvation and defeated everything that would ever come against us.

His resurrection took our bondage and smashed it.

What’s holding you down today? What’s holding you back today? What’s holding you captive today?
Jesus has paid the price for that.

The resurrected King has power to resurrect me.

Are your finances dwindling?
He can resurrect them.
Has your passion for life gone? He can resurrect it.
Does your situation seem hopeless and helpless?
He can resurrect hope.
Is your health dying?
He can resurrect it.
Is your marriage struggling?
He can resurrect it.
Are your relationships strained? Or your job and career on the way out?
He can resurrect them.

Nothing is over, ’til He says it’s over!

Claim His resurrection power over your situation today and see it restored, brought to life and rise up from the ashes.

Declare today: The resurrected King is resurrecting me.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 30th April 2016

Having a power cut is very inconvenient. Today I was cooking soup and I was halfway through blending it when we had a power cut. So I was left with half blended and half lumpy.

We don’t realise how much we rely on power until it’s gone. Ladies, how much do we rely on our hairstyling appliances like straighteners and dryers? Imagine going out of the house with unstyled hair! For some of you, that would be a crisis!

Praying gives us power.
Every time you leave the house not fully charged, you’re leaving short of power. There’s an old saying that says “seven days without prayer makes one weak.” Think about it for a moment…prayer charges you up.

I wouldn’t leave the house without ‘doing’ my hair… So why do I think it’s ok to leave without praying?

Prayer is a luxury. God gives us a fantastic opportunity to connect to the greatest power source ever. And unlike other luxuries, this one, we can ALL afford.

Being without the electricity affected my day and I didn’t like it.
Don’t take His power for granted.
Get plugged in today.
You’ll be glad you did.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 29th April 2016

In 1838 Charles Dickens wrote the novel Oliver Twist, which later became a famous film.

The story is of a young boy, Oliver Twist aged 9, who was orphaned and ends up doing forced labour in the workhouse to exist. He is fed three bowls of gruel a day.

Oliver Twist is most remembered for being bold enough to ask for more food, but ends up being refused and punished for his insolence.

For many people their perception of God is more Charles Dickens than it is Bible, in that we are afraid to ask for more and feel that if we should dare to do so we would be punished by God.

Having that kind of belief doesn’t make you more Holy, it simply makes you more ineffective, as you look at what you have and believe that that is all you are entitled to.

Instead of taking what you have and believing for even greater things, you simply settle into a life of mediocrity and rarely ever break out of your comfort zone let alone break out into a sweat.

A bowl of ‘just enough’ is what most of us settle for in life.

Just having enough for you, can sound so spiritual but is actually so selfish, as you become content in looking after only you.

When King David sinned by having an affair with Bathsheba and subsequently killing her husband, he was challenged and rebuked by Nathan the prophet…

2 Samuel 12:7-8 Then Nathan said to David…This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: “I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. I gave your master’s house to you, and your master’s wives into your arms. I gave you all Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more.”

In other words, God is saying to David that I gave you everything you wanted and if that wasn’t enough you could have asked for more, but instead you decided to take what wasn’t rightfully yours.

The Bible is full of illustrations that tell us that we should not be afraid to ask for more of what is rightfully ours.

James 4:2-3 You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

Asking for more can of course be a selfish act, if it’s simply to line your own pockets, but asking for more can be a selfless act if you want to do more, help more, reach more, build more and influence more.

Don’t be content today to just accept what you have for you; ask for more so that you can multiply God’s blessings to everyone that you meet.

Ephesians 3:20-21 …Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

James 4:1-3 What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 28th April 2016

One of the questions that I get asked most as a Pastor, is how to know the direction that your life should take.

One of the answers that I frequently give is to look for signposts along the way. These are pointers that may not mean much at the time, but are valuable indicators as your life unfolds.

I remember not long after passing my driving test, that I drove down an unfamiliar busy road, only to find that I was driving the wrong way down a one way street; I had missed the signs whilst trying to focus on my driving.

Signs are pretty obvious when you look for them, but often we are so preoccupied with looking for the right road to take, that we fail to spot the signs to help us along the way.

Our youngest son Caleb recently passed his driving test, but the one he failed before that, saw him travelling too slowly in a 60mph stretch of road, simply because he was so focused on the road and not on the signs.

The God that is revealed to us in the Bible, is a God that speaks, directs,communicates and wants to connect with ordinary people like you and I.

I never did very well at school, but sitting in one of my final exams, I was strangely aware of ‘outside’ help when writing the essay for my English literature paper. I had never ever been a writer and yet on this day of all days, it was if my pen was being directed by the hand of God as words flowed like never before.

The results confirmed a few weeks later that I truly had been helped, as it was the only exam that I received the very highest mark achievable.

All these years later, I now look back and realise that that experience was a powerful signpost as to how God might want me to be used in the future, in that I would need to know that a fairly uneducated teenager, could and would actually spend much of his time writing as part of his destiny.

I would have never have believed that when called upon by God to write my first book years later, that I would need to trust that God would hold my pen as I sat down to write hour after hour.

Today, over 2000 people will be reading Fresh Hope which requires several hours of my time (and others) writing inspirationally each week.

The seemingly insignificant signpost in my exam many years ago, was there to give me a glimpse of my future.

Don’t get so preoccupied with the road, or the journey – simply ask the Holy Spirit to show you the signs along the way.

Psalm 37:23-24 The Lord makes firm [orders]the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall,for the Lord upholds him with his hand.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 27th April 2016

I’ve been taught many times that the first rule of leadership is self-leadership. You see, you cannot lead others if you can’t firstly lead yourself.

I wonder if you’ve ever heard people complain about certain areas in their lives. For instance, their level of fitness. They tell their trainer that they aren’t losing weight, their muscles aren’t getting any bigger and that there has been no great improvement in their level of fitness.

Chances are, that person is looking for the trainer to take responsibility for their results as opposed to themselves. They become reliant on that hour long session to get them to where they need to be, yet fail to realise that the majority of their time is spent away from those that they have become reliant upon.

In order to be successful in any area, you must understand that there is only one person responsible for the outcome of your life, and that person is you!

Over the last few years, I’ve had the pleasure of being able to teach people how to play the drums. One of the things that I remind each person of often is that I am only partly responsible for their growth and improvement. “What you do outside of this lesson is what counts most…you must take responsibility for you.”

Today, make a decision to take ownership of your life. In your health, your achievements, your productivity, your finance, your feelings, in everything, understanding that one day, you will be made accountable for you, so choose to take full responsibility for your life from this moment forth.

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – 26th April 2016

Afford yourself the luxury of having time to think.

Busy-ness is what seems to give us our identity.

When asked how you are, the standard answer always seems to be ‘busy thanks, how are you?’ … ‘I’m busy too, really busy.’

It’s as if the 21st century has inbred a sense of failure or weakness into us, if we are not constantly busy.

Being busy seems to be a way of hiding the real me. It’s a way of saying ‘I’m really needed’, ‘I’m important’, ‘I haven’t got a minute’, ‘I have a full diary.’ ‘I’m successful.’

Is it possible that you are a busy fool? Or maybe you are pretending to be so busy so that you don’t come across as unsuccessful, without any purpose.

One of the tensions in our house is trying to get my wife to sit down for a few minutes. Her standard reply is one of two things: “there’s too much to do” or @I feel guilty if I stop and sit down.”

My standard reply always goes like this: “if you feel guilty about stopping, then you have a problem.”

Every one of us needs to be guilt free when it comes down to making time to think.

Without thinking time, you lose your way in life.

Without thinking time, things get out of proportion.

Without thinking time, you lose perspective.

Without thinking time, you lose sight of God.

Without thinking time, you are prone to make wrong choices.

Dedicate a chair in your home as a thinking chair and stop seeing that ceasing from work is wrong and start to see that thinking is a necessary form of work that helps keep our lives on track.

Thinking punctuates our lives and gives them greater meaning and effectiveness. Sit down today and allow yourself a little luxury thinking time.

Proverbs 23v7 ‘As a man thinks… so is he.’

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 25th April 2016

We recently had the privilege of having Pastor Charles Nieman come and speak at our church. His message will live on in people’s minds for many years to come.

Away from the platform, he told me the powerful story of the city where his church is based, namely El Paso, Texas.

El Paso has been nominated as the safest city in America for several years running. As wonderful as that is, the most amazing thing is that El Paso is situated right on the border of Ciudad Juarez in Chihuahua, Mexico and is known as one of the most dangerous and violent cities in the world.

How incredible that the safest place stands literally metres away from the most dangerous place, and yet all that divides the two is a border control fence.

What makes the difference? The fence? Of course not, it can only be one thing and that is the people.

A fence, a barrier, a country, a city, nor a name has the power to make a city bad or good, but the people and the spiritual atmosphere holds the key to this mind-blowing statistic.

Charles Nieman’s church has around 30,000 members and has stood the test of time in that great multicultural city and has for over 30 years led people to know and worship Jesus – what a difference to the atmosphere it has made.

Just over the border, drug trafficking and violent crime are the order of the day…what a difference to the atmosphere they too have made.

You and I alike, can have unseen borders in our lives that make an incredible difference in the atmosphere wherever we go.

If you have resistance to God in your life, you will find unrest and lack of peace, and yet a person living in the same town, the same street and even the same house can have incredible peace because they have chosen to cross the border from death to life by faith in Jesus.

Are you confused today, as to why your work colleague that sits at the next desk across from you, has got such a contented and happy life while you are struggling to find anything close to that by living for yourself?

Could it be that they are living on the right side of the fence…the fence of freedom, forgiveness and peace with God?

Today, you can be so close and yet so far. Take a few steps today across the border…your passport is issued when you open your heart to Jesus.

Don’t draw any more lines of division between you and God, instead, step into the circle of His love.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 23rd April 2016

Gordon Ramsay – love him or hate him – is a great chef and a good leader.

I remember one of his TV shows that we used to love to watch called ‘Kitchen Nightmares’.

People in the restaurant business who weren’t happy with their failing businesses would call him in to help them turn their business around.
I used to love to see his courage and honesty at going into the restaurant, that in many cases had been in their family for years and completely slate them and tell the truth. Sometimes, his honesty and bluntness would make you cringe.
He’d confront the owner, the menu, the décor, the staff, the rubbish cooking, even the personal cleanliness of the head waiter.

He’d get many different responses. Some would embrace the change and ‘lap it up’. Others would resist change but would eventually take on the advice and then there would be those who clearly said his advice wasn’t welcome and proved to be very difficult.

I found that final response very confusing. Why ask a professional personal with loads of experience to help you, and then hate him for his advice?!

The great thing about the show, was those who took the advice, saw their businesses turn around and flourish. A happy ending.

A wise person said “if you want to see something you’ve never seen before, you’ve got to do something you’ve never done before.”

Confronting issues in your own life is never easy.
Yet today, I encourage myself and yourself to have the courage to confront stuff that isn’t right and to set about making those changes that will get you to where you need to be.
Ask someone who you respect for help, to be honest with you and to encourage you.

Surely, there is nothing worse than getting to the end of your life and wondering how it could have been different.

Have the courage to confront today! Tackle that issue head on.

The Bible says “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.”

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 22nd April 2016

Most mornings, I ask my children if they had any cool dreams in the night; and this morning my daughter said with a frown, ‘I had a scary dream’ then she smiled and said ‘but I still enjoyed it!’

It made me laugh, but also made me think of other things in life that we can be scared of, but enjoy…rollercoasters! They scare you, but in the main we can enjoy them because we know ultimately we will be okay.

Often, our enjoyment of life is cut short by fear and commonly the worst type of fear – anxiety!

I believe anxiety is the worst type of fear, as it’s subtle and often goes undetected, secretly working in our lives robbing us of happiness and taking away hope. We end up unaware that we’re living in fear!

Anxiety is an enemy of what God wants in our life; always whispering financial family and health problems. It can ruin weekends, holidays and life generally.

Jesus said some amazing words in relation to fear.

Matthew 10:28-31 (NIV)
Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
Think about these words. Jesus goes straight for the jugular of fear!

Don’t fear someone who can kill you! Surely if you do have grounds for fear, it’s when something can potentially take your life! Cancer, accidents, terrorism, violence?

But Jesus says we should only fear God who at the end of the day, dearly loves us and wants the best for us. He looks after the needs of the sparrow; how much more will he look after us?

This morning, do you have anxiety about the day ahead? Do you feel fear might be robbing you of enjoying life? Do you want to be braver, like my daughter who had a scary dream but could still enjoy it?

1 Peter 5:7 (NIV) Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

There is nothing wrong with feeling anxiety or fear, it’s how we deal with it that matters and I encourage you this morning to give it over to the one who cares for you and enjoy your day.

Luke Cartwright

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 21st April 2016

Have you ever tried to build something, without following the instructions fully? What did you end up with? We can have a tendency to do our own thing sometimes – it’s normal to be impatient but that doesn’t mean that it’s a good habit.

There is a reason that good things take time. There are many things in life that we have to wait for, even if it makes us uncomfortable; great food, couture clothing, cultivating pearls, constructing a building.

Of course, there are quick ways to do almost everything but quick doesn’t always equate to quality.

In Jeremiah 29:11, which is a very famous verse it says… “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

There’s a temptation at times to follow shortcuts, especially when we want something right now. God is definitely in the business of sudden breakthroughs but  greatness takes time.

This isn’t to say that without God, you won’t have a great life but there is ‘good’ and then there’s God’s best. We limit ourselves, when we grow impatient. God is working on your life all of the time. He never sleeps. There are opportunities and breakthroughs coming your way, if only you’ll hold on. Not only that, but when God opens a door for you, nobody can close it.

Building a great life is a process and I know that in my limitations, there’s only so much that I could do. Whose plans are you reading from today?

What a shame it would be to have built myself a little pop-up tent life, when God had been holding the blueprint for a palace, the whole time. Choose a life that is built to last.

Melissa Reynolds-Lawrence

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 20th April 2016

I’ve been reading a book recently called ‘Leadership Axioms’ by a man named Bill Hybels. There is a chapter in there which I love entitled ‘Values Need Heat’. The premise behind this teaching is that whatever values you heat up in your organisation will eventually define your culture.

Whether it be in your school, or at home or in your workplace, you are constantly playing a part in creating a certain kind of culture. The question is: what kind of culture do you want to create?

Do you want your organisation to be known for its generosity? Then you must make much of generosity. Do you want your home to be a place of peace? Then celebrate those who play a part in cultivating that culture. Whatever you give power to, you’re ultimately giving permission for…

Often when people come to our church, they point out how friendly our staff and volunteers are. People are overwhelmed by the genuine, kind-hearted nature of our teams. There’s no coincidence that this is the case. Why? Because our Pastors make much of friendliness. This is a value that they hold highly. And as a matter of fact, they’re the most friendly people you could wish to meet.

Your home or your organisation will never get a value so right unless the leader diligently heats it up.

Today, decide what values you want your life and the lives of those around you to be founded upon, and then make much of those values, heat them up, and watch how they define the culture that you’re creating.

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 19th April 2016

It’s not always easy to trust, when you can’t see the outcome.

A lot of the time, walking with God is a case of
moving one step at a time, trusting that what you’re doing is right.

When I was younger, I used to love watching a programme called Art Attack. There was a segment on the show called ‘Big Art Attack’, where the presenter would create a masterpiece in a very large area, such as a warehouse or a field. He would collect seemingly random items and place them together. From the ground, the masterpiece wouldn’t make much sense. However, when the camera zoomed out, he would have made something like a peacock or a juggling clown.

It used to be frustrating, trying to guess what
these small items, carefully positioned, were eventually going to become.

Life can be much like this. Sometimes, where we
found ourselves or what God asks us to do just doesn’t make sense to us. Our life is made up of many small elements; different relationships, conversations, challenges and victories. It can all feel a little bit random.

Remember today that God sees beginning to end. Not only that but He has a purpose for every experience. You may find yourself asking ‘why?’. When we’re ‘zoomed in’ to our lives and living the day-to-day, we can’t always understand what is going on around us.

Be encouraged that when you ‘zoom out’ and look at your life from Heaven’s perspective, God has been creating a beautiful masterpiece, all along.

Melissa Reynolds-Lawrence

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 18th April 2016

In 2009, I was at a crossroads in my life after just giving birth to my firstborn, Noah. I knew that in a few months time, I would need to go back to work, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do, and my previous job had come to an end whilst I was pregnant. I had always dreamt of one day owning my very own traditional sweet shop, but I had no plans or means to do it until much later in my life. With a lot of prayer, and advice, I took a giant leap of faith and launched ‘Polly’s’, in April 2010.

It was everything I ever imagined it would be, and I was proud of what I had created. It was a great place to work, didn’t feel like a job, and it was a dream I was so happy to be fulfilling. Business was blessed, and I was loving being my own boss. A few months after opening our second location, things became increasingly difficult and we faced huge challenges on a daily basis.

For months I prayed, sought advice, and believed that circumstances would get better and things would change. They didn’t.

We closed the doors with 18 months of a lease left to pay, and I was heartbroken.

I felt like a failure, and I felt that God had failed me. Why hadn’t he turned up and saved my business that I had worked so hard for and dreamed about for so long? I had prayed and He hadn’t answered.

I felt sad for a long time, but I vowed that people would not see my smile disappear.

I felt my faith waiver, but it didn’t crumble. Instead, I firmly planted my feet on His word, and built the next few months of my life on Proverbs 3v5-6.

‘Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.’

I didn’t know what else to do, so that’s what I did. I put all MY understanding aside, and I trusted like never before.

I didn’t know how I could have been more planted in God’s house, but I pushed my roots down further. I was going to flourish again.

I didn’t know what was next for me, but I firmly believed that He did.

C. S. Lewis once said:

‘Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars. You have to let go at some point in order to move forward.’

I chose to let go of the negative emotions that I knew could have easily taken a hold of me, and I moved forward, holding onto His promises, while all the time He held my hand.

Life doesn’t always go the way that we imagine, or hope, or dream. Sometimes life sucks.

But it’s what we do in those moments of disappointment that determine what happens to us next. Just because we have salvation in Christ, doesn’t make us sailors of smooth seas. But it does give us hope that is eternal.

In the years that have followed, I have found some amazing opportunities in front of me – opportunities I know that can only have been God. I learnt that just because things didn’t work out how I imagined, didn’t mean that He had forgotten me. His plans are always higher.

And every single time something new falls on the horizon, I hear his whisper: ‘Esther, I told you I’d got this.’

I’m still believing for miracles on a daily basis, life will never be perfect; but be encouraged today in knowing that He has your back. Give Him your hurt, your disappointment, your failures, because He promises that there are far far greater things lying ahead, than any we leave behind.

Esther Nash

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 16th April 2016

I’m writing this sitting in the Dentist’s waiting room.

I’m not one of those people who totally freaks out at the thought of going, but I certainly don’t enjoy it.

The last time I attended the dentist (the expert) he recommended that I did something that would help me.

The truth is, I’ve been very lazy in fulfilling that request and I honestly haven’t seen it through.
So guess what? The results this time are probably a little worse, because I didn’t take the advice.

Like life really isn’t it!?
We like to ask for advice, but don’t always like what we’re told or we think the advice is okay at the time, but really don’t do anything about it.

Sometimes, we can even pray about stuff and ask God for wisdom and then ignore totally what He says and then wonder why things don’t work out.

Today, I had to apologise to the dentist. I will put it right.

What do you need to sort today?
Do you want things to be better and different or are you happy to mess up or at the very least, stay the same?

Listen to the expert. He knows best.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 15th April 2016

I’m sure you’ve all heard the phrase, ‘practice makes perfect’. I understand the logic behind this, as in theory, if you work at something for long enough, you should get better at it. However, I would like to suggest something different; practice doesn’t make perfect, practice makes permanent.

For many years, I’ve been playing the drums. Now if I work on my technique daily, however, and I’m not doing so correctly, it won’t result in me having perfect technique. It will simply cause me to have a longer uphill struggle to correct my wrongdoings.

I wonder what kind of habits or patterns of lifestyle that you’ve been practicing that aren’t producing the right results in your life…

Maybe you’ve set yourself targets and goals, but in the process of trying to achieve them, you’re actually moving further from them as opposed to closer to them.

Today, can I encourage you to readdress things in your life, that you’ve been under the false impression are producing perfection, but instead are just creating permanence?

You can consider yourself faithful in your persistence, but are you fruitful in your results? Faithfulness without fruitfulness is meaningless. But combined, they’re powerful. Choose both today.

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – 14th April 2016

A couple of weeks ago, my credit card was broken and needed replacing after years of being constantly sat on, tucked away in my wallet and kept in my back pocket.

Waiting for a new one to come meant that the old one would now be cancelled and therefore could not be used.

A few days later, I couldn’t believe it, when I went out one evening and lost my wallet, complete with debit card and driving licence, amongst other things.

That night, after a thorough search, my wallet seemed lost forever, so I was forced to cancel my debit card and realised that I had literally nothing to go out with the next day – no credit card, no debit card and no cash.

‘No problem’, I thought, early the next morning, until I realised that I was going to be somewhat embarrassed later that day when I turned up to a lunch time meeting with no means to buy anything.

I started to pray at my usual time and began to explain to God, as I had done many times in years gone by, that I needed a miracle of money to see me through the day.

Now of course, being married to a wife with a purse or two, I could have raided her bag and found enough to get by, without a problem I’m sure; however I felt no, this is my problem and I need God to come to my rescue like I know that He could and like I’d witnessed countless times before – especially in the early days of being completely broke.

As I finished praying specifically that God would meet my need before I left the house, I went to get the post and found that there was an envelope with my name on it and inside was £40 in cash.

I thanked God for His faithfulness to me that morning and pondered how he had already sorted it long before I even prayed. He saw my impending need and met it even as I slept.

God knew on that morning that I would be completely out of supply, so He spoke to someone else to come to my home without me knowing and drop money in my post box.

When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them how to pray He simply said to address God as ‘Our Father’.

When you know God as your Father you can know him as the God that takes care of your needs too, just like any good father would – and remember, He has limitless supply.

Have you ever brought your needs to God?

Have you ever trusted Him and believed that He would supply?

Do it today…He’s waiting to hear from you. In fact, He’s more willing to give than you are to ask.

Matthew 7:11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in Heaven give good gifts to those who ask Him.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 13th April 2016

Determination is rarely found nowadays amongst people – yet it is perhaps one of the most important traits that separate those that just get by, from those that are truly remarkable.

People that place great value on determination refuse to retreat in the face of setbacks, opposition and disappointments.

Determination is the willingness to give it all you’ve got when you feel at times like throwing in the towel.

A person with determination will do whatever it takes to overcome the obstacles in their path and to rise above life’s challenges.

Life is often a struggle, but in every battle your mental outlook will be the key to your success or the key to your failure. The person with mental toughness, resolve and willpower will be the person that will eventually triumph.

I have found in my own life that when I’m facing the most severe oppostion and disappointment, that I actually thrive in the face of it and push through with greater determination.

Michael Jordan, the legendary basketball player said, “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times I’ve been trusted to take the winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over again in my life, but that is why I’ve succeeded.”

What he was saying was that he’d bounced back every time he’d failed, and through sheer determination kept going forward until he succeeded.

I remember many years ago, just after becoming the Pastor of the church, that an older and wiser man spoke to me about leadership. This is what he said, “the first thing you need to remember is that you’re going to have to be mentally strong.”

I didn’t think his words were at all spiritual at the time and dismissed them as of no use. Now, all these years later, I realise that he was right.

Feel like quitting today? Be mentally strong and determined to carry on…your future depends on it.

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last for ever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 12th April 2016

We have two dogs, Snoop Dogg and Percy.

Snoop is a chocolate Labrador that we have had and trained from a puppy. I can almost get that dog to do anything that I want with a one word command, apart from, that is, just one thing…

Labradors are known for their appetite, in that they will literally eat anything as if it were their last ever meal. We often joke that food to him is never tasted or chewed, it’s just swallowed as if there were no tomorrow.

Occasionally, he is given the leftovers from a Sunday lunch. The food is scraped into his bowl and on the command he is allowed to eat it. However, because he is so consumed with a passion for food and knowing that there is also another little dog around, he picks the dish up in his mouth and runs with it so that he makes sure that he gets it all to himself. What he doesn’t realise that as he’s running with it, the dish is tipping up and emptying all along the route, so that when he gets to his private eating spot, there’s very little left in the bowl.

His selfishness means that he actually gets less, not more, for himself; Percy then runs along behind him and does an amazing clear up job.

Holding on to your stuff may seem like that there’s going to be more for you, but actually you get less.

God has set generosity into the laws of the universe, so that you reap in proportion to what you sow – you never reap if you don’t sow.

Ask any farmer how much he reaps each year, and he will tell you that he reaps in proportion to what he has sowed; but he will also tell you that the quality of the seed that he sows brings a greater harvest.

How many times have we given away stuff that’s really our junk? We have a clear out and give away what we should have thrown away; we then think that we have done a good deed for someone less fortunate, In fact, we do exactly what Snoop does – we want to keep the best stuff for ourselves.

If you’re wondering why your dish seems almost empty when it should be full, take a look behind you and you’ll see what selfishness has caused you to lose along the way.

Proverbs 11:24 One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 11th April 2016

Occasionally, I have to baby sit our two grandchildren, Noah and Hudson. We always end up having lots of fun, usually centred around play fighting and slam dunking them onto the sofa.

This week we ended up playing my old favourite game of battling tops. Hudson, being the youngest, couldn’t quite get the hang of spinning the top fast enough so I ended up being on his side, that was until Noah shot into the lead. With a likely win from Noah, and with only one point in it, Hudson announced that he was going to switch sides and join forces with the winning side. He and Noah left me to suffer defeat all on my own.

Even as adults, we are prone to take a look at the winning field and decide to join whatever is trending at the time. Being on the winning side is great, but sometimes you just need to battle through with what you have been called to do even though you may not be flavour of the month.

At times, someone else’s life, career and calling may seem so attractive that you feel that you need to be part of what they’re doing and where they’re going, but remember, the worst possible nightmare is trying to live your life through someone else’s dream.

You may not be seeing all that you want in your own life right now, but remember you will come into a harvest if you don’t give up.

Stick with it and God will come through for you too.

Hebrews 10:36-39 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For, ‘In just a little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay.’ And, ‘But my righteous one will live by faith. And I take no pleasurein the one who shrinks back.’ But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 9th April 2016

When you get to know someone well, you often know what they’re thinking before they say it.
You can ‘pick things up’ or ‘sense’ things.

The more that you get to know God, the more you will discern His will and know His heart.

The Holy Spirit reveals things to us that we couldn’t possibly know. How amazing is that!

Ephesians 1 v 9 says “He makes known to us the secrets of His will, His plan and His purpose.”
“He lets us in on the plans that He has delight in making.” (Message Bible).

Often you can know things before you ‘know’ things. It’s God speaking to us through His Spirit.

To live a successful Christian life, you need to know God’s will and guidance in any and every situation.

There are times that you’ll know things in your spirit that you can’t figure out in your head. You may feel a breakthrough in your spirit, before you see it in the natural (when you’ve prayed much about something).

So today, I encourage you to seek God more in prayer. Ask Him for wisdom about a situation where you need it.
He will reveal to you the secrets of His will (Ephesians 1 v 9) and you will be able to step out in faith, knowing that God has spoken and that He is with you.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 8th April 2016

Leadership is something that we often think is reserved for the elite few. However, we’re all leaders. Whether it be in your place of work, at home, or within your friendship circles, you are a leader because you carry influence.

Often, leadership is seen as a platform to encourage others to become like the person they’re following. And to an extent, that is true,  as a leader should be someone whose life can be followed and emulated, a person who is leading the way.

However, as leaders, when it comes to our circle of influence, if we can understand ‘I don’t have to teach you to be me, I have to teach you to be you’, then that is where I believe we will be most effective in our leadership.

We ought to better ourselves by learning from those around us, but let’s not become someone or something that we weren’t created to be…

How much of a difference could we make in our world if we each fulfilled our God-given potential and were empowered to be the very thing we were created to be?!

Today, choose to be the best version of yourself, and encourage those around you to do the same.

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – 7th April 2016

Prayer shouldn’t be a burden but a privilege – a privilege God has freely given to us because He wants to spend time with us.

Jesus died to destroy the barrier of sin that separates us from God, and when we give our lives to Him, we have a personal relationship with Him. In fact, we only have access to God because of what Jesus did for us in his death and resurrection.

He opened the way for us once and for all to come freely to Him.

Central to any relationship is communication. A father that never talks to his children, or a married couple that never speak to each other is a recipe for defeat in any relationship.

In a far greater way, our relationship with God involves communication – not just a brief ‘hello’, but a much deeper level of sharing our cares, concerns and requests with Him.

Prayer is simply talking with God- it’s a two way street, just like any other relationship.

God could of course simply do everything on His own. He could make every problem go away, sort all your burdens out, and then just shower you with everything you need exactly at the time you need it…so why doesn’t He? Because that wouldn’t be a relationship; it would be a completely one-sided acquaintance.

God has given us the privilege of prayer, so that we will have a moment-by-moment friendship and relationship with Him.

There are some things that my children have asked me for over the years that I haven’t been able to supply, but then there are times when I’ve sorted things straight away.

Often my phone will ring and the voice on the other end is saying, “Dad…can you…?”The truth is that any Dad loves to be asked for things or to do things by his children. It’s the stuff of relationships.

At other times, the call comes from me to my children. Maybe I need to talk to them about something or give them some information; and so it is with God, He wants you to not only communicate with Him, but He also wants to communicate with you.

Jesus demonstrated the importance of prayer by His own example when we are told that He got up very early in the morning, while it was still dark, to pray. (Mark 1 v 35).

Today, I encourage you to engage with God in the privilege of prayer.

1 John 5:14-15 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of him.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 6th April 2016

Centuries ago, wine was stored in leather wine skins rather than bottles. When the wine skins were new, they were soft and pliable, but as they aged they became hardened and couldn’t expand. If new wine was poured in an old wine skin, the container would burst and the wine would be lost.

When Jesus wanted to encourage His followers to enlarge their visions, He reminded them, ” You can’t put new wine into old wine skins.” (Matthew 9:17). He was saying that you cannot have a larger life if you have an restricted attitude.

Just because you are young it doesn’t mean that your thinking hasn’t already got old and hardened.

It may be right now that you’ve already developed a mindset that says that you’ll never do anything successful or enjoy the good things in life that you used to dream of.

Today, I encourage you to stretch your faith and vision and get rid of that old restrictive thinking that’s holding you back from all that God has got for your life.

Start making room in your thinking for what God has in store for you. You must conceive in your mind and heart before you can receive it.

Ask yourself a simple question: If God poured a dream into your life today would it just quickly disappear through the cracks of your old attitude?

The key today is to allow your heart to become pliable and supple again to all of the great things that God has in store for you. He’s never short on ideas for your life, but you may be short on space to contain them.

Expect God’s favour to help you break out of the rut that you’re in and expect to excel in whatever you do.

Expect great things from God…attempt great things for God.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 5th April 2016

Yesterday, we spoke about allowing Jesus to be the Lord and leader of our lives.

One of the ways of thinking about that, in simple everyday terms, would be to think about Jesus as the steering wheel, rather than just a spare tyre of your life.

Today we look at another analogy that we can all relate to – the place where we live.

How many of us today are quite happy to have Jesus sit in the lounge of our lives, where it’s pretty clean, neat and tidy; but what about the attic where things are out of sight, or the garage where everything is just thrown in and the door kept firmly shut?

It’s those very ‘private’ areas that no one gets to see, He wants to have access so that he can bring order to your chaos and declutter all of your private thoughts – including the secrets that no one knows about.

If you would hate for anyone to know about what you view on the internet, then that’s a sign that you need to allow the Holy Spirit into those areas, so that you can be set free to live a pure and holy life.

Holiness is often seen to be a word associated with boredom and being a killjoy, but actually it’s about living a wholesome life, that has fulfilment without filth and laughs without being lewd.

Jesus had the most attractive life on the planet,  as people of all ages flocked to be near Him, yet He was 100% pure.

Stop living an unattractive life that is sitting on the fence and of no use to God nor the Devil.

Make your choice and be sold out for Jesus.

Put the welcome mat out today.
Don’t keep Jesus on the doorstep any longer or treat him just like a visitor; let him run the household. He knows best.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 4th April 2016

Self-drive hire is a great way to transport your goods from one place to another.

Maybe you’ve done exactly that when you moved a piece of furniture or moved to a new house.

For a relatively small charge, you get to hire a van for a day. You get to drive something new that has really cost you a fraction of the price of the vehicle and then hand it back when you’re done.

It makes me think of the way we often treat Jesus. We want Him for a day when we need Him, but not so much when it’s costly over the long term.

Taking Jesus as Saviour means that you receive Him into your life because He has paid the price for you…but what about making Him Lord?

Lord means master or leader. Comfortable now? Maybe not. We kind of want a self-drive hire arrangement, in that we don’t want to bear any substantial cost, but we still want to be in the driving seat; a kind of arrangement that says I want to be saved, but I still want my own way.

Maybe you’ve never been challenged about giving up your own ways, desires, habits thus allowing Jesus to take full control?

Let this verse from the New Testament become something that you allow to speak into your life today and everyday.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 ‘Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your bodies.’

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 2nd April 2016

It’s very easy to become envious of people that you perceive to have already ‘arrived’ in life, seemingly without the effort and frustration that you are having to go through right now.

They seem to have become an overnight success and are gifted way beyond you, but remember, they too had to endure a process to get to where they are today.

Every success has a process that often you cannot see, or maybe you weren’t around for at the time.

I have come to realise, and to be at peace with the fact, that I am not accountable for the gifts that God has given someone else.

God does not expect me to produce beyond the level of the gifts given to me; instead, my only obligation is to use my gifts to the best of my ability.

Why look at someone else’s life and then belittle what God has done in your own life? The gifts that God has given to you are not the same as the gifts given to someone else.

If you compare yourself with others, you’ll never be at peace. Someone else’s life will always look better than yours; they’ll have more degrees, more money, a bigger house, a better physique, a better singing voice -the list goes on and on.

Today, I encourage you to celebrate the gifts that God has blessed you with and then use them to the very best of your ability.

Remember: every time that you focus on what others have, you start to lose sight of what you have been uniquely blessed with.

Don’t bury your gifts and talents fearing that you are useless compared to others, instead, use what you have been given and remember that there is always someone out there that would love to be in your shoes.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 1st April 2016

I went to the cinema a few days ago with my two nephews to watch Kung Fu Panda 3. I thought it was a great film, and throughout the duration of it, I found myself taking several notes from statements that were made by various different characters.

In a heated battle between two talking animals, one said to the other, ‘The more you take, the less you’ll have.’ I thought to myself how God can use anything to speak to you!

The world that we live in wants to tell us that the state of how blessed we are is determined by how much we possess. However, the Bible makes it clear that you aren’t blessed based on how much you have but based on how much you give.

Acts 20:35 (NIV) ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’

Can I encourage you at the outset of this day to change your perspective from focusing on what you can possess, to thinking about what you can release? Don’t be so consumed with what comes to you, but be more concerned about what comes through you.

Understand the way that God works. The more you give, the more you have. That’s the kind of life that I want to live and I hope you share that same desire today.

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 31st March 2016

Hebrews 12 vs 1-3 says
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders us and the sin that so easily entangles us, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you would not grow weary and lose heart.”

4 things to help you from these verses today…

1. Surround yourself with great people, who are further down the road than you, who will encourage you and inspire you. Make an effort to be with these people. They may not just ‘fall into your lap’ – go after them.

2. Get rid of what is stopping you moving forward and get on with it. Run.

3. Keep looking to Jesus. Because He knew the outcome, He went through the hardship of dying. So don’t give up, He went through much more for me and you because He looked forward to the promise.

4. Don’t grow weary and lose heart. People opposed Jesus and then killed him. Don’t give up, God is for you.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 30th March 2016

Much-loved Pastor and leader, Tommy Barnett, arrived from the States to speak at our church just three weeks ago.

As he disembarked the plane at Birmingham airport, he went to collect his luggage and had a nasty fall, injuring his head, elbow and both knees.

At 78 years of age and now with blood streaming down his face, it looked certain that he was going to spend his first few hours at our local A and E department.

After meeting him at the hotel a little later, we decided that it would be far better and much quicker to pop and see one of the doctors that attends our church.

That afternoon, I drove him into Birmingham for an appointment with our friendly doctor.

After a thorough check-up, he was declared fit, and assured that although badly cut and bruised, no bones were broken.

As I walked back to the car with him, he asked me how much he owed us.

“Nothing at all”,  I said as we got into the car.

“I must pay you back, as this will have obviously cost you a lot to get me in privately to see such a doctor”, he replied.

I then explained that although we have very high fuel prices, unlike the USA, we do have the NHS to thank for his free medical treatment!

He could hardly believe that I was telling the truth and that all he had received had come completely free.

The greatest truth on earth this Easter time is that Jesus has paid for your sins to be forgiven, once and for all, and that the free gift of His love to you right now is all part of the deal.

You will never be able to pay for that yourself, and that’s exactly why Jesus went to the cross for you, knowing that the only way back to God was through His son, Jesus, giving His life for you.

I know it sounds too good to be true, but it is true.

Jesus paid in full – so to you, it’s a free gift.
Romans 5:6-8 You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 29th March 2016

One of my favourite things that I used to do as a young boy, was the ‘spot the difference’ quiz in my weekly comic –  in which two seemingly identical pictures, side by side, had subtle differences that you had to spot.

As we continue to journey through this Easter season, I want you to join me in one of the most powerful life-changing ‘spot the differences’ in the Bible.

One day, Jesus stood to read from the Book of Isaiah at the front of the Temple.

Now, we are reading this from Luke 4:18-21…

‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’ Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, ‘Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.’

…Jesus was actually reading it from the original text in Isaiah 61:1-2 ‘The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,because the Lord has anointed meto proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour and the day of vengeance of our God…’

Take a look at both readings again, and see if you can spot the difference.

Did you get it?

When Jesus read from Isaiah, He missed a bit out.

He omitted the last line …’the day of vengeance of our God’ and chose to end it with…’the year of the Lord’s favour.’

Did he make a mistake?

I don’t believe so, as He was announcing clearly that he was about to take God’s vengeance for us, and replace it with ‘the year of the Lord’s favour.’

We may ask when is that year? Has it gone? Is it to come? Have I missed it?

The answer is found in Jesus’ comment…’Today, this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.’

The year of Favour is not a literal year, but is any day called TODAY.

Every day to those that walk with Jesus, can be called a day of Favour.

In fact, I declare this day, right now, a day of favour over your life.

Don’t keep walking around in fear of punishment from God because of the wrongs that you have done, instead, walk in the forgiveness that Jesus has bought for you, and enjoy the very favour of God.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 28th March 2016

Our youngest son Caleb passed his driving test a few days ago.

It was not his first test, suffice to say that we’ve been out driving a fair bit over the last few months.

As he drove to the test centre a few days ago, we chatted through the basics once more to ensure that he remembered everything that he’d been taught.

On his last test that he failed, he was taken one route that was very unfamiliar to him and he missed one of the important speed restriction signs that marked the way – he didn’t break the speed limit…he actually went too slow!

As I left him at the driving test centre this time round, the last thing we talked about was that it didn’t matter how unfamiliar the territory was to him, as long as he applied the same principles and rules along the way. It was also irrelevant as to where the route took him as long as he observed the warning signs.

Strangely enough, the instructor took him where he’d never been before, and he had no clue at all where he’d been when I asked him later – all he knew was that he’d passed.

There will be times for all of us when our lives take us down some very unfamiliar roads. We will have never experienced some of the twists and turns, and will have no clues as to what to expect.

The advice is just the same that I gave to Caleb: it doesn’t matter where you go just apply the same principles from God’s word and you’ll be fine.

Watch out for the warning signs, obey them and you can’t go wrong.

Sometimes we can see things clearly in the light of day but when we’re in a dark time, we start to panic and get afraid – just remember this…whatever you learn in the light practice in the dark.

A pilot is taught that when flying through the clouds and you have no visible bearings around you, just simply fly by your instruments. Trust them and you won’t go wrong.

God has placed in our hands a manual for living…it’s His word, the Bible.

If you believe it, obey it and live by it, it will be a constant guide, no matter where you find yourself.

Psalm 119:105-112 ‘Your word is a lamp for my feet,a light on my path. I have taken an oath and confirmed it, that I will follow your righteous laws. I have suffered much; preserve my life, Lord, according to your word. Accept, Lord, the willing praise of my mouth, and teach me your laws. Though I constantly take my life in my hands, I will not forget your law. The wicked have set a snare for me, but I have not strayed from your precepts. Your statutes are my heritage for ever; they are the joy of my heart. My heart is set on keeping your decrees to the very end.’

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 26th March 2016

God’s plan for your life will take total trust.

A few days ago, we talked about Moses and the great plan that God had for his life.

Have you ever stopped to think about his mother? She didn’t realise at that moment, that he was destined to be one of the greatest leaders, yet, she was willing to give him up.
She had to let go of her child, put him in a basket and sent him down the river, not knowing that she would ever see him again.

God always has a plan! The princess found him, kept him and asked his own mother to help raise him.

God’s plans will always require total trust. Don’t doubt God. You probably can’t even begin to work out how it’s all going to come together – you don’t need to. You just have to trust.

Mary said ‘yes’ to God, when the angel visited her, even though it would have massive implications on her life.

Esther said ‘yes’ to God and agreed to visit the King, even though she may have lost her life in doing it.

Obedience will ALWAYS bring blessing.
Don’t try and work God’s plans out, you won’t.

Just trust in the One who has it already sorted.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 25th March 2016

A friend of mine was invited to be treated to an experience of a lifetime, along with his wife and three children.

A multi-millionaire that he knew, had decided to treat them all to a 3 day break on his luxury yacht…all expenses paid.

Following this, he then told them he had booked them into a top floor suite for a further three days at one of the most luxurious hotels in the world.

This was to be an extra special treat for my friend, as it was also his daughter’s birthday; all the food and drinks were included and an exclusive party room booked for the occasion.

As they disembarked the multi-million pound yacht, they were taken, as promised, to enjoy the final part of the trip at the hotel. However, due to business commitments, the wealthy host was unable to join them.

For three days, the family lived in the lap of luxury and really didn’t want to check out on the day of departure.

As the cases were taken to the lobby and the room keys returned to reception, a nasty shock was awaiting…the host had left without covering the cost.

The colour drained out of my friend’s face, as he told me that the three days had cost him a staggering £5000!

‘Not to worry’ he thought, as it was a simple mistake on the host’s part – who had obviously forgotten to leave his payment details; too embarrassed to mention the bill to the host, the subject of the money was never ever brought up, and the cost had to be met by my friend.

Thankfully, on this Good Friday, Jesus paid the bill and bore the cost in full – nothing to pay for you and I.

He never walked away from the cross, as He knew that we could have never settled the cost of our sins ourselves.

Jesus paid the price for your sins. You’ll never be good enough or live long enough to do that yourself.

Just accept freely his offer of life to you today.

Nothing owed.

Religion is spelt DO.

Christianity is spelt DONE.

Thank Him today.

Titus 3:3-6… But when the kindness and love of God our Saviour appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Saviour…

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 24th March 2016

As we approach this special season of Easter, we are drawn to remember that when God sent his son to die for our sins, He gave His best, and He gave His all.

Giving your all is a theme right throughout the Bible.

Now, it’s one thing for God to give me His all, but I’m not sure as to why I should give mine, after all, I should surely keep something back just for me…right?

I was 19 years of age and I felt an inner prompting from God to leave my chosen career behind and go to Bible college; I was scared, but I knew it was something that I must do.

After being rejected following my first interview, I accepted their advice to go back to work and then reapply in 12 months time.

My acceptance for the 2 year course, a year later, meant that I would need to find £3500, a pretty big sum now, and even more so in 1982.

It was a sum that I didn’t have, but I did have my life savings which amounted to £1500. They were everything I had and without even thinking, I drew every last penny out.

It was my best and my all, but it was more than paying my way to get to college, it was paving my way for my future.

Now all these years later, I can honestly say that I have no regrets in doing what I did and would do it again, in fact I have done it again, several times over.

I’ve done it with money, with cars, with possessions and most importantly, I do it daily with my life. I give my life daily over to God and ask Him to use me unreservedly. “Take my best and my all” is my prayer.

The amazing thing is this: when you give your best and your all on this earth, something takes place in Heaven that changes your life forever.

When you give all that you have unreservedly to God, instead of going without, you come into amazing and inexplicable blessing and favour.

People that hold back and refuse to give of themselves, never know of this blessing and only can look on at those that do and think, ‘how on earth did that happen for them?’

I encourage this Easter time, to give your life over to God without reservation. Give your best and give your all.

You’ll be totally blown away with what does happen in return for a person that is sold out to God.

“If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him.”
― C.T. Studd

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 23rd March 2016

I was watching a programme on TV recently featuring Prince Charles, and during the show he said something that caught my attention. He said, “You have to be a good listener before you can become a good communicator.”

At that moment, I realised what a profound statement it actually was. It hit me that I can spend so much of my life, as can we all, focusing on what we have to say, rather than on what other people have to say. The problem with that kind of living is that you don’t receive wisdom from around you, and so sooner rather than later, you yourself have nothing of great value to share…

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that God gave us one mouth, but He gave us TWO ears…

I heard a quote once that said, ‘If you’re the smartest person in the room, then you’re in the wrong room.’ I don’t know about you, but I want to surround myself with people whose words will build me and shape me in a positive way. I don’t just want to mix in circles where I feel like I’m the only one who has anything to say, but rather I’m the one who has everything to learn.

One of the greatest transitions you can make in life is to go from being a know-it-all to a learn it all. I believe that God has given each of us a voice, but we must understand that in order to speak out, you first have to take in.

Can I encourage you today to make a choice to take up the position of ‘listener’, in order that you may become the most effective communicator that you were created to be?

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 22nd March 2016

We live in a rational world where our expectations are based on our position, abilities and standing in life.

Say, for example, that you’re 1 of 12 children. You would expect, growing, up to fight and jostle for position, against 11 siblings. Generally on average, you would expect to get 1/12th of your dad’s spare available time divided out amongst you all.

Unfortunately, many of us can feel like this with God.

There are 7 billion people on the planet! And I’m just one, and not the best one at that!

So I can expect 1/7 billionth of God’s attention? It could be worse and we settle for this based on feeling not worthy of anything more.

This couldn’t be further from the truth because of an amazing attribute of God called ‘infinity!’

There are hundreds of verses about God’s infinite qualities.

Isaiah 40:28 – “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth, He will not grow tired or weary and his understanding no one can fathom.”
Proverbs 15:3 – “The eyes of the Lord are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good.”
Psalm 147:5 – “Great is our Lord and abundant in strength; His understanding is infinite.”
Do you know what infinite means? No beginning or end, no boundary or limit to its resource! Impossible to calculate!

Let’s do some maths.

What is half of 100? Answer is 50.
What is half of 10,000? Answer is 5,000.
What is half of infinity? Answer is infinity!
Hang on then! What’s infinity divided by 7 billion? Answer is still infinity!

That’s right, you don’t have 1/7billionth of God, you have all of Him all of the time! Right now and always he is watching you, thinking of you!

Psalms 139:1-4 ‘You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely.’

You may feel at times as one in a crowd of 7 billion, but as you read this today, by faith, know you are not jostling with anybody for His attention. You are His audience of one!

Luke Cartwright

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 21st March 2016

We all have a plan over our lives. We were all born with a great purpose. You may not feel like that today, but it is still true.

Circumstances may come against you, but if you are willing and available, nothing will stop God’s plan in your life.

Think about Moses.
Moses had been chosen before the foundation of the Earth for his God-assignment.

Pharaoh decided that when Moses was born, he would kill every baby boy in order to stop God’s plan. It didn’t stop Moses.
God’s hand of protection was on him, from day one.

So when the enemy wants to mess with you, your family or your life, he doesn’t realise that he’s messing with Almighty God IN you.

If King Pharaoh, with all the power and influence, couldn’t stop Moses, then nothing will stop God’s plan for your life.

You could say that Moses had been born at the wrong time, as all the baby boys were being killed. We make all sorts of excuses, like ‘I was born at the wrong time, to the wrong parents.’ You may think you weren’t wanted or were even a mistake.

Not to God. His plan for your life will be fulfilled, as long as you are
WILLING and AVAILABLE.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 19th March 2016

I don’t know whether you’ve ever bought flat-pack furniture before. If so, you’ll know that it’s easy to look at furniture before it’s built and just see a whole lot of hard work in front of you, as opposed to seeing what the finished product could look like.

Not only is this mindset applicable to the way we look at objects, but also to the way we look at people. You see, God has an amazing plan for every person. He designed each individual with a specific purpose. However, we don’t always see people that way. Why? Because they come flat-packed.

When we look at people, we see a whole lot of hard work in front of us, as opposed to seeing the potential locked inside of them. But if we were to just pull out the instructions and take a look at the Maker’s intentions for that person and see all that they had been created to be, we would understand that the process to build them up is worth it.

How do we build people up? By our words.

Proverbs 18:21 (MSG) “Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose.” Your words are water to people’s growth. You can either build them up or tear them down through what comes out of your mouth. It’s your choice today. Choose to look past people’s ‘here & now’ and begin to see God’s plan for their life and understand that your words play a bigger part in them fulfilling that plan than you ever knew.

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 18th March 2016

When you were younger, do you remember looking up to someone, and wishing you could be just like them? Imagine if you had carried
that on into adulthood? There’s nothing wrong with admiring someone but always be you. God put you on this earth to do what only you can do.

There may be times in your life, when you’ve said “I want to be like them.” Someone has likely said that about you too.

You’ll influence more people by being your authentic self. It may seem scary at first. ‘What if I’m misunderstood?’ ‘What if people
don’t like the real me?’ The freedom that comes in Christ is that there is a new you
waiting to be discovered. Invite God to reveal it to you today. We have the privilege of relationship with a limitless and amazing God. We can never ask him for too much.

That thing that sets your heart ablaze? It’s likely connected to your purpose. Run with it and see where God takes you. He is waiting.
Our dreams, our gifts and our talents were given to us by Him and He has an awesome purpose for each and every one of them but we’ll never live that out fully, if we’re made up of bits and bobs of other people.

Melissa Reynolds-Lawrence

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 17th March 2016

I would suggest that the word ‘Honour’ is an ‘old-fashioned’ word, perhaps not so common in today’s society. However, it is a powerful word and carries huge implications.

By definition, it means: high respect; great esteem or regard with great respect.
To show honour to others is not really in-keeping with today’s society – which is more than ever all about your own self.

The Bible uses the word honour a number of times and is usually connected to a powerful truth. Just one example is found in
Romans 12:10 – ‘Be devoted to one another in love. Honour one another above yourselves.’

Ask yourself what would happen if today all your family, friends and work colleagues, honoured each other – put others before themselves, encouraged each other, preferred each other. What could that look like?
Maybe it would look like, a family re-united, parents back together, siblings living under the same roof once again. Perhaps it would look like your business turning around and being successful, your work place being a place of achievement and team spirit?

The Bible holds a great truth that there is power in honour – honouring each other and especially honouring God.

Why not take time to honour your friends and family today? Why not bring back the word honour and make it the in-thing to do?

Adam Nash

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 16th March 2016

The English language states that the word ‘living’ can be used as an adjective or a noun – a describing word or a thing.

Both definitions or uses have different implications and today I want to ask you the question…which life are you living?

By definition, ‘Living’ as a noun means ‘the state of being alive’ where as the definition of the same word as an adjective is, ‘Having life’ or ‘Exhibiting life.’

I believe that we can find ourselves moving between these two definitions, however we should be firmly fixed in one.

What kind of day are you having? How are you feeling? Is it a ‘state of being alive’ kind-of-day? or maybe today you are ‘Exhibiting life’…?

Jesus said ‘I have come to give you life and life to the full.’

If today you are barely ‘living’ and for you, perhaps, being alive is all you can hope for, let me encourage you to find hope and strength in the love and grace that Jesus so willingly gives us.

I pray that you may have life to the full and that you would not just ‘exist’ but begin to exhibit life…show it off…put on a great display and experience life as Jesus intended us to.

Adam Nash

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 15th March 2016

When we become followers of Jesus, one of the greatest discoveries that we can make is that God loves to hear and answer our prayers – if you don’t believe that, then ponder these words during today:

James 4:2 …You do not have because you do not ask God.

However, we all have to admit there are times when we can feel that God is deaf to our prayers.

Maybe we’ve been disappointed in prayer and so we feel that prayer doesn’t work or more importantly God doesn’t work for you.

Today, I want you to see something about prayer that many never do…God always answers prayer, but He may not answer in a way or at a time that you want.

I remember one of the most important prayers that I ever prayed concerning my life, took more than five years to be answered. I could have given up and thought it a waste of time, but I kept going year after year until the answer came.

Don’t think that delay is the same as denial.

Take Daniel in the Bible for instance…

Daniel 9:22-23
‘Daniel…You had no sooner started your prayer when the answer was given. And now I’m here to deliver the answer to you. You are much loved! So listen carefully to the answer, the plain meaning of what is revealed.’

His prayer was heard immediately, but the Bible records that it was not answered for 21 days.

Just because you haven’t received the answer, it doesn’t mean that your prayer hasn’t been heard and the answer is on its way.

The first thing that I do every day is read the Bible and pray. Each day, I’m praying in particular for five young men that I personally know but are far from God, or so it seems.

I’ve been praying for them now for months and even a couple of years with no sign of an answer. Does that mean that God is not listening? Of course not.

As I write today, two of those young men have started to come to church and they don’t even know that I am praying for them!

When it comes to prayer, don’t give up too easily, be prepared to PUSH…

Pray

Until

Something

Happens

Feeling discouraged about seeing God move in your situation? Remember, no sooner had you prayed that He started to answer your prayer – it just may take time for the answer to appear.

Matthew 21:22 If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.’

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 14th March 2016

Money is one of the biggest stress points in anyone’s life.

If you are married, then you will particularly know only too well how true that is.

If you have children then you will be feeling the pinch even more.

The truth is, there just doesn’t seem enough to go around. Surprisingly, a pay rise brings short term relief, as you quickly spend that surplus cash and do what everyone else does, and that is, live according to or beyond your means.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if your money never ran out?

We have all dreamed of what we could do if money was no object. Unselfishly, we could help so many people and do so many great things, let only buy that one thing that you’ve always wanted.

In reality, most of us may never come into a place of having so much money that we don’t know what to do with it. However, I want to share with you the secret of having a never-ending supply.

Please understand that this is not the same as accumulating wealth or doing the lottery in the hope of becoming an overnight millionaire; what I’m about to share not only applies to all, no matter how rich or poor, but it actually works for all too.

This secret is found in the Bible and comes from the lips of Jesus…

Luke 12:33-34 – ‘Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.’

How would you like a purse or wallet that never wears out and one that cannot be fully emptied or stolen from? This is a purse of abundant supply.

As you read more of this chapter below, you will see three principles of provision.

1) Don’t worry about your life.

2) Be generous with the money that you do have.

3) Put God first, in everything you do.

As I write, a retired lady that I know told me of how she feared that she would never have enough money to go around ,as she was now just on a pension.

Her story is unique, yet it’s the same story as everyone else’s that makes a choice to apply the above 3 principles. She tells me that on paper she cannot afford to give part of her income to God and that she is supposed to be struggling and worrying about how to make ends meet. Yet, her story is of abundant supply, in that not only does she have enough, she has more than enough, in fact more surplus than she’s ever known before, even when employed.

She knows the secret.

She lives by the secret.

Do you?

Luke 12:22-34 Then Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: they do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? ‘Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you – you of little faith! And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. ‘Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 12th March 2016

This weekend, Champions  Church welcomes Pastor Charles Nieman, senior pastor of the Abundant Living Faith Center in El Paso.

Charles Nieman was born and brought up in El Paso, Texas and while studying at the University of Texas in his early 20’s, he felt called to become a preacher.

Shortly after marrying his first love, Rochelle, they began pastoring in 1977 to a congregation of just 20 people in a small railroad union hall in El Paso. Since then, their church has grown to almost 30,000 members and is listed as one of America’s largest and fasting growing churches.

Charles is a regular speaker at Christian conferences all over the world and has written several books, including ‘Living Smart’ and ‘Becoming a Master Asker.’

Tragically, Pastor Charles lost his wife after a short battle with cancer, just three years ago.

Today, he is rebuilding his life again and is able to help others in tragic circumstances to do the same.

Hear Pastor Charles this weekend at Champions.

Sunday at 9am and 11.30am.

Month of Mondays conference – night 2 – 7.30pm. Full details of the conference can be found here.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 11th March 2016

Luther Vandross sang a song that went like this…’if you’re not with the one you love, love the one you’re with.’

I believe this to be great advice for living a contented life.

It’s not about settling for second best, but thoroughly making the most of your current situation and blessings.

An example would go like this: I am not a tall man, so I could spend my life dreaming and thinking how great it would be if I was tall. This advice from Mr Vandross says ‘if you’re not the height you want, want the height you are!’

The truth is, at the end of the day, I will not grow so much as a millimetre by wanting to, so if I can’t beat them join them, so I make a decision to love the height I am.

I’m less likely to get back problems, I get extra leg room on planes and I rarely bang my head on low doorways!

It may sound a silly example, but I hope you get the idea; apply it to all areas of life and you will start celebrating with gratitude what you do have, instead of living with the frustration of feeling hard done by.

God has made us all different and unique and you could waste so much emotion on looking and comparing yourself with others, but stop it and celebrate exactly the unique characters and qualities God put into you!

You are the best you!

There is nothing so precious as people and if you’re reading this then you are one and priceless to God!

Luke Cartwright

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 10th March 2016

What is your dream and what is your passion?

Maybe it’s to be a very successful businessman or woman. Find someone who is more successful than you and get alongside them. Listen to them, learn from them, ask questions and you’ll get inspired.

When you’re a musician and you have the privilege of playing with more gifted ones than yourself, you’ll get inspired and you’ll want to get better.

I love flowers, I love to arrange flowers for gifts. When I see great flower arrangements and displays, I get ideas and I get inspired. I notice flowers wherever I go and the good ones inspire me.

As a pastor and a leader, I love to be with people who inspire me. Those who have been there and done that and have done it or are doing it well.
Time invested with such people is invaluable time spent.

Too often we like our own company, or we spend too much time with people who aren’t going to inspire us to be better.

Today, make a decision to learn something new, get with someone who is further down the road than you and get inspired.
Whatever your dream or passion today, ask God to give you opportunities to grow in that area.

I love the story of the table tennis player who only ever played people who were far better than himself. When asked how we felt about getting beaten every game, he gave this great answer “I may be getting beaten, but I’m getting better.”

Who/what is making you better today?

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 9th March 2016

If I asked you to name the shortest verse in the Bible, I wonder if you’d know what it was?

The answer is found right here in John 11:35…

‘Jesus wept.’

It’s one of those incredible moments where Jesus shows his humanity and His deep empathy for the family of His close friend Lazarus, who had just died.

As Jesus stood at the burial tomb, He was overcome with emotion and simply wept.

After three days had passed, Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead.  Amazing though that is, I want to draw your attention to something just as powerful in this account…

John 11:38-44 Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. ‘Take away the stone,’ he said.‘But, Lord,’ said Martha, the sister of the dead man, ‘by this time there is a bad odour, for he has been there four days.’ Then Jesus said, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?’ So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, ‘Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.’ When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth round his face.Jesus said to them, ‘Take off the grave clothes and let him go.’

It’s those last 9 words that I want to grab your attention today.

Lazarus had miraculously been given his life back but there was still yet something that needed to happen – he needed to be set free from those old stinking cloths that bound him so tightly.

It is possible and certainly probable that many reading this today could be facing the very same problem that Lazarus faced …a new life, but still bound.

Jesus says to you today…take off the very things that still bind you right now, and be set free.

A new life can never be walked out if you still have past hurts, bondages, failures, sins that keep holding you back. Give them all to Jesus today and let Him set you free.

Whenever we continue to hold on to bitterness and unforgiveness towards someone, then we have to realise that’s it not hurting them half as much as it’s hurting us.

A canary may sing all day, but it’s still in a cage.

Maybe something was said to you in the formative years of your life and you are still carrying it around with you, just as if it was spoken yesterday?

Jesus not only wants to give you the free gift of a brand new life, but He also wants to unravel you and free you from your past.

Take off your grave clothes that belong only to your past and be set free to walk into your future.

John 8:36…So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 8th March 2016

We have a box full of light bulbs. What can I say about them?  They are all different shapes and sizes. They take up a lot of room.
They are fragile, easily broken and you have to handle them correctly.
We have a box full of batteries. They are not pretty or exciting and they look quite boring.

Both the light bulb and the battery are useless, unless they are connected to something. And when they are, they make that thing come alive. And we can’t do without them.

Each one of us is born with a plan and a purpose. We may not feel very pretty or exciting and you may have to be handled with care at times, but when you are connected to the right thing. You will come alive.

You are a ‘powerful invention’ – there is no one else like you.
You are unique and powerful and when connected to the right source, you will make that thing come alive too.

The right people, the right church, the right vision…
Whatever it is, get connected…you have a great part to play.
Get connected. You’re no use in a box.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – 7th March 2016

I’d love to be free from pain…

I’m not physically ill.

I don’t have a broken bone or have arthritis.

I’m not taking medication for anything.

The pain I feel is therefore nothing to do with my physical body, but is something that is part and parcel of living a life for God.

The pain I’m describing is not exclusively mine, as it belongs to us all.

None of us ever sign up to follow Jesus because we are attracted to pain, but often because we want to live a life free from pain. However, the pain I speak of is the unavoidable and inevitable pain of the daily trials that we all face.

I came to the conclusion many years ago that ‘there will always be a problem’.

It’s not a faithless statement, but it is a realistic statement that helps us gain a proper perspective on what it’s like to live a daily life for God.

1 Peter 4:12-13 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful and fiery trial that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice in as much as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.

How many of us are so surprised when we find a painful trial sprung upon us?

Yet the Bible is advising us that we shouldn’t be – in fact, it’s actually teaching us that trials are our friends and not our enemies.

By virtue of the fact that this verse says that we shouldn’t think that ‘something strange is happening to us’ when we go through trials, indicates that we should embrace difficulties as character makers, rather than character breakers.

My friends today, if you are in the middle of pain because of a trial that you are facing, then don’t dismay, but understand that every Christian is in just the same boat.

Our trials will be different and will come at different times and seasons in our lives, but be assured of this: they are not a sign that God has left you, but is right there holding your hand to bring you out the other side, a better and stronger person for it.

James 1:12 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.

Don’t miss night one of  Month of Mondays, at 7.30 tonight.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 5th March 2016

Champions Church welcomes pastor Tommy Barnett.

This weekend we welcome much-loved leader, Pastor, author and friend, Tommy Barnett to Champions Church.

Tommy Barnett has been the senior pastor of Dream City Church in Phoenix for almost 40 years, before recently handing over its leadership to his oldest son Luke.

Tommy Barnett began his ministry at age 16 and as a young man he was called to lead Westside Church in Iowa. In just a few years, the church grew from 76 people to more than 4,000 members.

In 1979, he moved to become the pastor in Phoenix where the church has seen phenomenal growth under his leadership over the past three decades.

As of 2011, Dream City Church was named as one the largest churches in America with an average Sunday attendance of 10,000.

Tommy Barnett, alongside his son Matthew, also co-pastor the Dream Center in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, California.

His annual conference has gathered more than 200,000 leaders over 30 years to train and equip the next generation of pastors and leaders.

His life has influenced many leaders, including high-profile and world renowned speakers such as Joyce Meyer, T. D. Jakes and Charles Nieman.

He has authored several books, including Multiplication, Hidden Power, Enlarge Your Circle of Love, Reaching Your Dreams, and Your Great Adventure.
Pastor Tommy is now aged 78, is married to his first love Marja and lives in Phoenix, Arizona. He has three children: Matthew, Luke, and Kristie, all of whom have also taken prominent leadership roles in the Church.

Don’t miss Pastor Tommy speaking this weekend at Champions Church.

Sunday – Mother’s Day services at 9am and 11.30am.

Month of Mondays conference – night 1 at 7.30pm. Full details of the conference can be found here.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 4th March 2016

No matter how good we are, no matter how hard we try and now matter how right we do things, be sure of this one thing, you will get offended.

It’s never a case of if, but when.

Before long, if it’s not already happened, you will get offended and not only that, you will also unintentionally cause an offence.

I can’t think of one time in my life when I have woken up one morning and thought, ‘today is the day when I’m going to offend someone.’

I’ve never gone out of my way to offend, but I do know that I have offended quite a lot of people along the way.

How do you offend people when you don’t set out to do so, is a really good question. My answer is this…you can’t be alive and not offend anyone. It’s inevitable. It happens as part of life.

If you’ve been offended recently then take courage from the Bible…

Luke 17:1 ‘Jesus said to his disciples: it is impossible that things that cause people to be offended won’t come, but woe to anyone through whom they come.’

Now that we know that we can’t protect ourselves from being offended, we have to prepare ourselves for when we are offended.

Here are my thoughts…

Choose not to carry the offence.

Let go of the offence by quickly forgiving.

Don’t go around telling other people that you are offended, otherwise they will become part of the offence too.

The golden rule is this: always be big enough to overlook an offence, but if you can’t deal with it successfully internally, then deal with it externally by addressing the offence with the person directly in a gracious and loving manner in order to resolve it.

Most of the time offences come through simple misunderstandings, or by being misquoted or intentions being misconstrued.

Non of these things are intentional, just inevitable. However, take special note of anyone that sets out to intentionally cause offence, be sure to stay well away from such a person.

Don’t be an offence maker – just improve yourself in being an offence taker.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 3rd March 2016

I want you to consider for a moment the potential influence that you can have on people today.

Whether it be in your home, or at work, or in your school, we each have a sphere of influence, no matter how big or small.

Whether you realised it or not, your life is influential. Therefore, we must now ask the question: what kind of influence am I having?

You see, the only time that you lose influence is when you don’t realise that you have influence… And so the influence that you have on the people around you could be unintentional, because you failed to recognise that everything about you says something about you.

In order to be a positive influence, you must be what you want to see. If you want your home to be filled with generosity, you must first be generous yourself. If you want your offices to be a place where kind words are spoken, you should ensure that everything you say is kind…

Today, I want to encourage you to see the influence that you have and to use that influence wisely to make a positive impact in your world. And know that people are more interested in the life that you live as opposed to the words that you speak. A demonstration is far better than a description. Choose today to make a difference, not just in your speech, but in your actions too.

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 2nd March 2016

The Bible is there to help us and to encourage us. God will always speak to us through His word, we just need to read it.

In Hebrews  12 verse one onwards it says this “therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders us and run the race marked out for us.”
Whatever you are going through today, someone has already experienced that.
Whatever upward hill you may face, someone has already climbed it. Whatever seems impossible to you, be encouraged: someone else has been there and done that.

You see, God not only places people in our lives to spur us on but we can also read and be encouraged by people in the Bible who had amazing stories to tell.

This is what the writer of Hebrews meant, when he said “since you are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses.”
It’s there as an encouragement to us, for the days when we think it’s only me that’s gone through this.

When you know that someone else has done what you are facing, it encourages you.

This verse also tells us to get rid of everything that hinders us, because stuff does and it won’t help you. It’s stopping your progress .

I’m always encouraged by other people who are further down the road than me.
If you’re keeping fit, it’s better when you do it together.
If you’re trying to lose weight, it’s great if someone is there to encourage you.
If you want to start a business, talk to someone who’s already successfully done that.

There is power in numbers. Get along side like-minded people, they will encourage you to run the race that God has mapped out for you and remember someone else has been there, done that and got the t-shirt.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 1st March 2016

There is power in giving.

There is also unquestionable blessing, when giving to the house of God for a special project or building.

Over the last few years, I’ve been privileged to know a wonderful man and his family, who works as the contracts manager for one of the largest building contractors in South Africa.

The company is widely recognised as one of the best in the nation and is therefore blessed with some of the biggest and best contracts to date.

All the board of directors are either non-Christians or just nominal church goers.

The company has done very well, but just like every other contractor, it has seen a massive down turn during the recession.

My friend, the contracts manager, is a fine Christian leader in his local church and from time to time has been able to assist the church in some of their building projects during the quieter times that the company has recently faced.

Such is his positive influence within the company, that they have even given interest free loans to the church to help them to build and do some renovations.

During this process, the directors have all noticed something quite amazing happening that can’t be explained away…

Every time that the work load gets slack, they offer to do work for the church just to keep their men employed and occupied for a few days;  incredibly as they do so, they notice that orders just flood in again. It happens every time to such a degree that the board of directors say to the contracts manager, ‘can you get us some work to do down at the church, because every time we send our workers there, we suddenly get flooded with orders.’

Admittedly this is quite amazing, but is actually not that surprising.

God has already set out a very specific promise in the Bible for everyone of us to take a hold of in Matthew 6:31-34 ‘…So do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?” For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.’

Whenever you put God first and look after His interests, He adds and then multiplies everything to you as well.

As Gillian and myself were just starting out as the young Pastors of our church, God gave us a specific promise, bearing in mind that I had just given up my salary, career, pension and prospects, in order to lead the church.

His promise was this: if you will build my house, I will build yours.

As the years have unfolded, His promise has come true. We have totally focused our lives on building God’s house, both spiritually with people, and physically with buildings, and into the bargain God has blessed us back over and over again.

Putting God first works.

Giving to God and His house works.

Living for God works.

Right now, we are asking the people of our church once again to dig deep in order to give to our new building project. I never feel bad about asking, for one reason alone…I know that God will bless everyone that gives many times over. No one loses out because they give to God’s work – instead, they come into supernatural blessing for doing so.

Luke 6:38 ‘Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.’

You can now view the ‘walk through’ video of the new church building, by going to our website.

Click here and scroll down, to watch the video.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 29th February 2016

Our son Joshua came round for Sunday lunch yesterday.

‘Dad’, he said half way through the meal (which normally means I’m about to ask you to do something for me)…’I think I need a new kitchen knife, as mine has gone blunt’.

I asked him how old it was and if he’d ever sharpened it, to which he replied that it was only 12 months old and that it had never been sharpened.

I explained to him that a knife was made to be regularly sharpened and would last for years if kept that way.

I wonder how many blunt knives you have in your kitchen?

I can almost guarantee that you will keep cutting through everything in the kitchen whilst complaining that you need to get a new knife, yet the truth is that 9 times out of 10, you only need to sharpen it.

The moral of this story is to invest into a good knife sharpener or ‘steel’ and hey presto,  your whole set of kitchen knives will come back to life in an instant.
My first experience of sharpening knives came as a result of working for four years in a butcher’s shop.

Knife sharpening since then has always been a habit that I do probably every couple of weeks.

Expecting a kitchen knife to stay sharp all by itself is totally unrealistic, but then so is expecting yourself to stay sharp without any outside help.

Listen to the wise words of Solomon…

Ecclesiastes 10:10 If the axe is dull and its edge unsharpened, more strength is needed, but skill will bring success.

If you need more strength to do what you used to find easy then it’s a sign that your life has gone blunt – you need sharpening.

Working at the butcher’s shop taught me that there were three ingredients necessary for a good sharp knife.

WATER – water helps cut down the friction on the knife as you are sharpening it, giving it a nice crisp edge.
Water in the Bible speaks of the word of God – the Bible. Read it daily and stay sharp.

OIL – oil keeps the blade well maintained and in good condition.
Oil in the Bible speaks of the Spirit of God-allow the Holy Spirit to fill you every day.

IRON – One of the great insights from the Bible on this comes from Proverbs 27:17:

‘…As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.’

Iron in the Bible speaks of the man of God.

Iron speaks of allowing other men and women to challenge and mentor and sharpen you.

Without one of these things, you will quickly notice how difficult it is to maintain your cutting edge.

Don’t give up on yourself today just because you’re feeling useless – sharpen yourself instead.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 27th February 2016

Why should I feel discouraged? Why should the shadows come? Why should my heart feel lonely and long for heaven and home?
Jesus is my portion,
a constant friend is he,
his eye is on the sparrow and he watches over me.

They may be the words of a beautiful song, but they are true. There are times in life when we feel discouraged, when we can’t seem to lift ourselves up.

That’s the time to look higher than yourself.
You may feel lonely today – you have a friend in Jesus.
You may feel discouraged today– God is for you.
You may feel like nobody cares – Jesus couldn’t care more.

If he watches every sparrow and takes care of them, how much more does he watch over you?

Today, take your eyes off your circumstances, and turn them to Jesus. You’ll be glad you did.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 26th February 2016

If I asked you ‘how you are today?’, I wonder what your reply would be?

The standard answer nowadays always seems to be…’busy thanks, how are you?

The reply comes back pretty much the same …’I’m busy too…really busy’.

The 21st century seems to have instilled into everyone a sense of failure or weakness if we are not constantly busy.

Being busy seems to be a way of hiding the real me. It’s a way of saying ‘I’m really needed’, ‘I’m important’, ‘I haven’t got a minute’, ‘I have a full diary’. ‘I’m successful’, ‘I’m indispensable.’

Is it possible that you are a busy fool? Or maybe you are pretending to be so busy in order that you don’t come across as unsuccessful or without a purpose in life?

One of the tensions in our house is trying to get my wife to sit down for a few minutes. Her standard reply is one of two things… “there’s too much to do” or “I feel guilty if I stop and sit down.”

My standard reply is always goes like this, ‘if you feel guilty about stopping, then you have a problem’.

Everyone of us needs to be guilt free, when it comes to making time to think.

Without thinking time, you lose your way in life.

Without thinking time, things get out of proportion.

Without thinking time, you lose perspective.

Without thinking time, you lose sight of God.

Without thinking time, you are prone to make wrong choices.

Dedicate a chair in your home as a ‘thinking chair’ and stop seeing that ceasing from work is wrong and start to see that thinking is a necessary form of work that helps keep our lives on track.

Thinking punctuates our lives and gives them greater meaning and effectiveness. Sit down today and allow yourself a little luxury thinking time.

Proverbs 23 v 7 ‘As a man thinks…so is he.’

…if you don’t, you won’t know where you are going.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 25th February 2016

One of my favourite verses in all the Bible is Romans 8:1 and it says, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” In other words, when you accept Jesus into your life, condemnation is eliminated from the equation.

I was contemplating this verse recently and I realised how even though I believe in Jesus and have accepted Him, condemnation is still a very real thing to me…Now, does that mean that Romans 8:1 is incorrect? No. It simply means that my feelings still want to run the show.

‘Go with your feelings’ or ‘Follow your heart’ has to be some of the dumbest advice we’ve ever received. Why? Because there is an understanding that is deeper than our feelings and there is a reality that’s greater than our heart, and His name is Jesus.

And in those moments of feeling unworthy, and when experiencing guilt, shame or condemnation, you have to choose to speak to your feelings as opposed to letting them speak to you, and remind them that Jesus has already removed such things from my life.

Today, lean into the Word of God and believe what it says about you instead of tuning your ear to what incorrect feelings would want to say about you. Understand that you are no longer seen for who you are, but for who Jesus is – perfect and pleasing in the sight of God.

I pray you’ll be encouraged by that today.

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 24th February 2016

This week we have been looking at worship. (Read Monday & Tuesday, if you need to catch up).

Worship is being thankful and it’s about saying, “I trust you.”

Worship sometimes can also be about saying “HELP!”

Because worshipping is not about me. It’s about understanding that the one I worship is greater than me.
He is ultimately the only one who can help me.
I give Him respect and I call on His name.

In the book of Jonah, we read that through his own disobedience, Jonah ended up in the belly of a fish.

In Chapter 2 verses 7-9, we read that Jonah was about to die, yet he chose to worship.

What would you do with your last breath? That’s a very important question.

His worship was ‘thank you’, it was “I trust you”, “I’m sorry”…but it was also “help me”.

If you know the story, you’ll know that God did. He gave Him a second chance to start again.

God wants to help you, He’s your Father.
But maybe He’s waiting to see how you use your words and how your heart is tuned.

Be a worshipper. It’s powerful.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 23rd February 2016

We looked yesterday at how we should be worshipping because we are thankful.
Today, I want to draw your attention to worship saying “I trust you”.

In the book of Genesis, we read the story of Noah and the annihilation of mankind.
(The ark is not just a Bible story alone, but also a scientific fact).
Imagine how Noah must have felt to witness such devastation? Some of us don’t like thinking about the Titanic; imagine this!
Yet, I love Genesis 8 v 20, because it tells us that Noah worshipped.

Worship is often this: “I don’t know what’s going on God and I can’t quite understand it.. but I trust YOU.”

Shortly after this, in verses 21-22, God makes a promise never to do that again and sent the rainbow as a reminder, even to this day, of the promises of God.

Your worship, even in extreme circumstances will bring a response from God.

Do you need to stop worrying today and trust Him over an issue?
Start to worship…it attracts His response.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 22nd February 2016

I’d like to challenge you today to have a worshipping heart.
I hope you wouldn’t say “why?”

But if you do, here are a few reasons this week for you to look at.

We should worship because we are…THANKFUL.

Thankful for all that God has done for us, thankful for dying for MY sins, thankful for giving me new hope and purpose.
Thankful for His peace and joy and love in my life. The list is endless.

If we only worshipped when we felt like it, we may not do it every day.
Yet, worship should be a daily good habit like showering, or cleaning my teeth. I may not want to do it, but I should, because it’s good for me.

When someone prepares a really good dinner for me, I’m thankful because I appreciate the time and effort and thought and money that went into making it special.
How much more should I be thankful to God for all the good things He has prepared for me?

When someone does something special and unexpected for me, I remember it for a long time for those very reasons.
How much more should I keep remembering what Jesus has done for me?

I may have a lot today, or I may have little. There is always someone not as blessed as you. Be thankful.

My destination, if I am a child of God, is Heaven. Let’s be eternally thankful for that.

There are plenty of people in the local cemetery who would like the chance to be thankful today.
The difference is, you do have the opportunity.

Make it count.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 20th February 2016

Maybe you’ve heard the term ‘spring clean’.
For some of you that’s exciting, because you love to get rid of the clutter, all the dirt and dust that has accumulated in places, or just redesign everything after a winter season.

For others a ‘Spring clean’ fills you with dread, because you like to hang on to all of the above and maybe can’t even see why it’s necessary.

Have you ever felt that it’s time to ‘Spring clean’ your life?
In all of us, there are things that need to go, things that need tidying and things to be organised and certainly stuff that needs to be thrown out.

At the start of a new season that is approaching us, why don’t you let some things go? Maybe it’s people that are holding you back, maybe it’s habits that are holding you down, maybe even sin that is keeping you out of the will of God for your life.

Spring is a season of new life, it may not be physically here yet, but it is around the corner.
So get ready for it, prepare for it, and get excited about all that God wants to do in your life.

Make sure that you make room for it, by getting rid of some of the winter clutter.

It will do you good!

Isaiah 43 v 19 – Behold I am doing a new thing, see I have already begun, do you not recognise it?

Here’s to all things new.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 19th February 2016

A beauty product company once asked people in a large city to send pictures, along with brief letters, describing the most beautiful women they knew. Within weeks thousands of letters came in.

One letter caught the attention of the employees and was soon passed on to the Managing Director.
It was written by a boy from a broken home, Who lived in a rundown neighbourhood. With lots of spelling mistakes, an excerpt from his letter read “a beautiful woman lives down the street from me, I visit her every day, she makes me feel like the most important kid in the world. We play draughts and she listens to my problems. She understands me. When I leave she always yells out the door that she is proud of me.”

The boy ended his letter saying “this picture shows you that she is the most beautiful woman in the world and one day I hope to have a wife as pretty as her.”

Intrigued by the letter, the Managing Director asked to see the woman’s picture. His secretary handed him the photograph of a smiling, toothless woman, well advanced in years, sitting in a wheelchair. Sparse grey hair was pulled back in a bun. The wrinkles that formed deep furrows on her face were somehow diminished by the twinkle in her eyes.

“We can’t use this woman” exclaimed the MD, smiling , “she would show the world that our products are not necessary to make someone beautiful.”

1 Peter 3:3-4 ‘Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, instead it should be that of your inner self.’

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 18th February 2016

I was travelling overseas recently, and the entire journey to get us from A to B was going to take us just under 24 hours. First, we had to travel in a car from our home to the airport, go through all the procedures before getting onto the flight, fly from this country to our destination, get off the plane and go through more security checks, then finally get into the car and travel from the airport to the place where we were staying…

At each stage of the journey, I was already thinking about where we were heading next. Whether we were in the car, or on a plane, my attention was directed towards our next destination.

The truth is, many of us live our lives with that very same mindset…’Where next?’ Now, I’m all for not settling for where you are and for dreaming bigger, but the problem begins when we focus so much on the next big thing that we fail to see the big thing that sits right in front of us.

It’s evident to us that the ‘big thing’ to God is people. And therefore, when God entrusts you with people – whether it be at home, at school, or in your place of work, He’s giving you big time opportunity…

Can I encourage you to be faithful with what God has placed around you, and more importantly, with who God has placed around you, and when you do that, God has a way of increasing your influence and enlarging your world like you could’ve never imagined.

Today, live with a perspective that understands the big time is where I’m at, and open your eyes to see that in fact, God has you right where He wants you!

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 17th January 2016

God travels!

He’s a fast mover.

He travels everywhere, all at the same time.

THERE ARE 3 WORDS TO DESCRIBE HIM:

He is all- powerful. (Omnipotent)

He is all-knowing. (Omniscient)

He is everywhere. (Omnipresent)

These three statements, when placed together, bring us to an amazing Biblical truth…all of God is everywhere at the same time.

Don’t get paranoid about your future. God has been there and done that already.

Psalm 139:4-12
Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely.  You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?  If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea,  even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,”  even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.

THESE FEW VERSES ARE REALLY BAD NEWS FOR SOMEONE ON THE RUN FROM GOD, BUT REALLY GREAT NEWS FOR SOMEONE WONDERING IF HE’S WITH THEM!

Today, you may feel that you don’t want to bother God about your problems, as He obviously has a lot to do all across the world.

If you think like that then you have not correctly caught the truth about God.

God’s power is not shared out in small pieces to everyone wanting His attention all across the Globe, no, God is such that you get all of Him, all of the time.

The problem with the devil is that he is restricted in that he can only be in one place at a time, not so with God; millions of people can be calling on Him this very morning and yet He hears and attends to everyone at the same time.

His power is limitless and so is His presence; time and distance are both irrelevant to God.

Think about this too…God doesn’t need someone in close proximity to you to pray for you either.

He can call on anyone, anywhere, to get down on their knees for you.

A couple of years ago, a friend of mine was undergoing a major surgery. Because of distance I didn’t know the full facts or even know what to pray for, but on the day of his operation, I was prompted by God at 1.20pm to call him back from the dead.

What I didn’t know was that he had died on the operating table.

At the same time, yet 6,000 miles away, he was being raised back to life by God in answer to my prayers.

Today, he is healed and whole.

I don’t know why God called on me that day to plead for my friend’s life, but the truth is it didn’t matter that Ivwas on the other side of the world, so long as I obeyed and had faith to believe.

When you think of God today, don’t put Him in a small box that fits your understanding. Instead, let him break free and see Him as all-powerful, all-knowing and everywhere – ALL at the same time.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 16th February 2016

Take a look on the side of your breakfast cereal packet this morning and you will find these words: please note that contents will settle during transportation.

How true that is for our lives too?

We have a tendency to settle as the years roll by.

Even Abraham on his way to the promised land stopped and settled half way.
Genesis 11:31 ‘Terah took his son Abram, his grandson Lot son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, the wife of his son Abram, and together they set out from Ur of the Chaldeans to go to Canaan. But when they came to Harran, they settled there.’

Interestingly,  Harran means dry and parched.

Today is a challenge to everyone whose life has become predictable, boring, dry, parched, too safe and too settled.

If your life is ticking along just nicely then watch out – you could be in for a wake up call.

Often our lives get so comfortable that we lose all sense of why we exist, AND BEFORE LONG LIFE HAS PASSED US BY.

As someone once said, ‘the only difference between a rut and the grave is the depth.’

A volcano can lie dormant for years, even centuries, but when it erupts it changes the landscape.

From the word ‘eruption’,  we get the word ‘interruption’.

The Bible is littered with divine interruptions whereby God erupts in people’s lives. He does it on purpose and for a purpose.

Take Mary and Joseph’s life…everything was going so nicely and so normal, yet God steps in and seemingly wrecks the whole scene by announcing the supernatural arrival of Jesus.

That interruption was in order to bring His purpose for mankind.

I want you to get ready…

Jesus wants to set you free from the mundane, by interrupting us, surprising us, and even scaring us with His plan.

You never know when it will be. There is no warning sign…you just have to be ready. If you are tired of same old same old, then be aware that God is an interrupting God.
Some of us need a good interruption in order to give birth to God’s plan for our lives.

Often it will be the ridiculous that gives birth to the miraculous.

God interrupted my planned out life and career and replaced it with a call.
What is the aim of your life? Comfort or destiny?

How many of you want to pray ‘Lord, interrupt my life?’

When Mary faced the biggest and most daunting interruption of her life she simply said …’For no word from God will ever fail.’ ‘I am the Lord’s servant,’ ‘May your word to me be fulfilled.’ Then the angel left her’. (Luke 1 v 37-38)

Why not open your life up to God today and ask Him to interrupt you?

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 15th February 2016

I don’t know how Valentine’s Day was for you? For some of you it may have passed by unnoticed. Either because your loved one forgot you or you forgot yourself!

Maybe you were disappointed yesterday, because you didn’t receive the love or was shown the affection you hoped for, or maybe you felt that you wish you had someone to love you.

In the book of Jeremiah chapter 31, Jesus tells us that we are loved with an everlasting love.

Don’t ever think that you’re not loved by anyone, He loves you more than you’ll ever know.

And the wonderful news is this: He has a great plan for your life. So even if there is no one right now who you would call your valentine, God knows your heart’s desires and He has a perfect plan mapped out for you.

Your job is to trust Him. When you seek HIM first, He will work everything else out.

So don’t start today disappointed. Declare over your life today…

“I am loved. I am special and God has exciting plans for my life.”

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 13th February 2016

Faith says, “I believe that I have the money that I need,” even when it seems as though you can’t pay the bills.
Faith says, “I believe that my body is healed,” even when the doctor has a very negative report.
Faith says, “My children are obedient and faithful,” even when they’re acting up!
Faith says, “My marriage is getting stronger,” even when it looks as though you’re drifting farther apart.

When you’re standing in faith, you’re agreeing with what God’s Word says and with the words you prayed about a situation, even when it seems there is no change!

Stop advertising (making known and announcing) what is and start declaring what isn’t.

Stop advertising what is…

I’m sick.
I’m depressed.
I’m broke.
I’m lonely.
I’m sad.
I’m no good.
My life is full of bad things.
I’m a loser.
And start declaring what isn’t:

I’m healed
I’m feeling good.
I’m rich.
I’m surrounded by great friends.
I’m happy.
I’m gonna make it.
My life is surrounded by good things.
I’m a champion.
Speak out in faith today!
God loves faith.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 12th February 2016

The poet wrote, ‘Beware of those that stand aloof, and greet each venture with reproof, the world would stop if things were run, by those that say it can’t be done.
Refuse to let the word impossible stop you.’

Jesus said…”with God all things are possible”.

If those who’ve changed the world had left every impossibility undone, we’d still be living in the dark ages.

More of us are persuaded into believing for too little than believing for too much. Vision is essential for survival.

A God-given vision is conceived by faith, sustained by prayer and fuelled by God’s word.

It’s not about what you can do, but what God can do through you when your life is fully surrendered to Him.

Faith encompasses things outside the realm of the impossible, the predictable, the safe and the normal.

When God gives you a vision, pursue it and believe for great things.

Remember: without faith it’s impossible to please God.  (Hebrews 11:6).

Hebrews 11:1-3 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for. By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 11th February 2016

I wonder how many of you have ever purchased a ‘knock-off’ item. When I think about such things, my focus instantly turns to my iPhone charger. Now, I’ve had my current iPhone for around 18 months and am still using the original charger to this day, it works perfectly and does the job that it was designed to do.

However, at the offices where I work, we’ve had to purchase iPhone chargers for our staff off the internet, and it’s amazing to me how many times we’ve had to replace these and purchase new ones. The last instance was when we found some with a lifetime guarantee, and after a month, they broke. Why? Because they’re not the real thing.

It’s easy in life to be a replica, and to some extent, a pretty convincing one too. However, sooner rather than later, you will no longer be able to function to your full capacity because you’re trying to be something that you’re ultimately not.

The temptation to buy a ‘knock-off’ is great because it’s far cheaper than the real thing… However, don’t sell yourself short – God did not pay the ultimate price, which was His Son, Jesus so that you could die a copy, but so that you could live as an original. You’re a masterpiece… and the greatest advice that I could give you today, as well as to myself, is be you.

Embrace who you are, be the person that God has called you to be, and that is where you will find your true value and will begin to reach your full capacity and potential in this life.

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – 10th February 2016

The most watched sports game in the world is the American Super Bowl. A thirty second advert during the game costs a staggering £3.5 million.

Last Sunday’s Super Bowl was watched by an estimated 112 million people.

Now, here’s a piece of seemingly useless information: they predicted that more than 104.2 million pounds of avocado will have been consumed for the big game, which is enough to fill a football field from end to end, 40.2 feet high.

One of the great mysteries of the universe concerns this much loved, and hated fruit. Yes, it’s a fruit, or more technically a single seeded berry; and by the way, the avocado contains more potassium than a banana and are one of very few fruits that contain totally digestible protein – 4 grams per avocado.

Need to ripen your avacado? Sit it in your fruit bowl with apples and bananas – hey presto.

Now for the mystery…how to keep it from turning black once it’s been cut.

There are so many theories out there, some of which work but my only point today is to mention that the ‘stone’ or seed inside is what actually keeps it fresh.

At the very heart of this amazing fruit is a large throwaway, dull looking, seed that once removed will ensure that your avocado goes black within minutes.

This led me to think about what is going on inside of you today.

Jesus said that your heart is the determining factor for whether you live a good or bad life.

Luke 6:43-45 ‘No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognised by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thorn-bushes, or grapes from briers. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.’

Keeping your heart pure and clean is one of the greatest ways of living a blessed and productive life.

If you store up bitterness and unforgiveness in your heart then it will eventually destroy your life.

If your daily focus is only on bad things then your life will suffer.

If you are consumed with watching pornography you will end up a very unhappy person with no ability to form proper healthy relationships, let alone be satisfied within marriage.

Your heart needs to be taken care of both physically and spiritually for you to remain in good health.

If you find yourself in outbursts of anger and fits of rage then it will be a sign that you need to deal with the issues deep inside your heart.

Today, don’t fool yourself in the same way that you try to fool others into thinking that you’re good when actually you know that you’re bad on the inside.

Confess your faults and turn from your sins.

Ask the Holy Spirit to help you to keep your heart pure and fresh, lest you become like the humble avocado that’s turning black because its heart has been removed.

Proverbs 4:23 Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 9th February 2016

Do you feel like you are in a hopeless situation today?

Is there no sign of change in the natural?

Remember, we serve a supernatural God.

What looks impossible with man is possible with God.

In the Bible, God told Abraham he would be the father of many nations, but in the natural this looked impossible. Both he and his wife were beyond child-bearing years. They had no reason to hope or believe that it would happen. They had nothing to go on in the natural, but one translation of this account says “hoping in spite of hopeless circumstances, he believed”.

…And the rest is history as we say. Abraham finally had a son, Isaac, and his son, Jacob, had 12 sons who became the original 12 tribes of Israel, whose descendants outnumbered the grains of sand on the sea shore.

Today, I encourage you to do what Abraham did and believe against all the odds. keep believing. Keep praying. keep moving forward. Don’t focus on the impossible circumstances but focus on the God who makes the impossible possible.

Keep looking through the eyes of faith because HE has blessing and victory in store for you.

Romans 4:18-21 Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’ Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead – since he was about a hundred years old – and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 8th February 2016

As I’ve gotten older, the more I’ve realised that to have a title is really nothing.

To have a position is something, but the way you live your life is everything.

For me personally, I have made a vow that my preaching must never be better than my living.

Title and position only ever carries weight if it matches your life.

You can say things to people ’til you’re blue in the face, but no one will ever buy into what you say if you’re a hypocrite.

You can wear the biggest badge or have a huge sign on your office door that informs people of your title or role but that will never hold sway with people that don’t believe your life…

1 Timothy 4:12 Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.

Basically…we practice daily what we preach – all the rest is religious froth.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 6th February 2016

Did you know that God can do whatever He wants, whenever He wants?
He can take you from nowhere to somewhere, in an instant.
When we look at the life of David, we can see how this happened.

One minute, David was looking after sheep, probably smelling of sheep dung and covered in sheep wool and the next moment he was killing a giant.

You see, God can take you from a nowhere to a somewhere in an instant.

David was faithfully fulfilling his role as a shepherd boy, when he was asked to run an errand and take sandwiches. He was willing to serve.
He had a great heart and a great attitude. When he arrived at the place where his brothers were, he heard Goliath coming against the army of God and a passion rose within him to do something about it.

When your good heart and good attitude is accompanied by a passion to belong to a cause that is greater than you, then just watch what God will do.

That day changed everything for David. Doors opened for him, his influence changed, his employment changed, his income changed and his destiny changed.

God can take you from nowhere to somewhere. Belong to something that is greater than you. Commit your life to God’s cause and watch!

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 5th February 2016

We have all heard the saying ‘so near and yet so far’ – how true it is.

This past week, I’ve been at a conference connected to the Dream Center in Los Angeles.

The Dream Center now houses 900 people that want to get their lives turned around – many of whom have lived a life of drug addiction, crime and prostitution.

Individuals and even whole families that had previously had no choice but to live on the streets, are housed and rehabilitated with amazing success.

I couldn’t help but notice that just around the corner from the Dream Center, literally a short walk, many people were living in cardboard boxes, tents or makeshift shelters underneath a bridge.

In reality, all they had to do was to make a decision to walk around the corner and they could potentially walk into the start of a brand new life. They could find a proper bed, warm clothing, daily meals and medical help, all free of charge and even become part of programmes to put them back on their feet…they are so near and yet so far.

For many, the effort of changing what they have always known is just too much for them, opting for a life of misery rather than asking for help.

Listening to this story, you could well say to yourself ‘how sad that people would live like this’, and yet how many of us in our very different and potentially cosy lives do a very similar thing?

Underneath our seemingly ‘I’ve got it all together’ lives, we refuse the very hand of hope that Jesus reaches out to us with.

We know that He exists and that He is able to help but we choose to live in the lifestyle that we have grown accustomed to.

Let me ask a couple of questions if I may today. Questions that you may not want to answer, in fact you may be offended by them, but nevertheless they need to be asked.

Are you happy and willing to live and die doing exactly what you are doing today?

Are you happy to carry on with the only life you know, or are you willing to get up and take a walk into a life that Jesus promises that’s ‘just around the corner’ right now?

We are all in the same boat, in that we need to know God’s hand of hope in forgiveness, acceptance and a brand new life of purpose.

The choice is yours.

God has already provided all of that for you and we simply have to accept His offer today.

Why not take the walk around the corner today and step into an incredible life that Jesus is offering to all that are willing to accept it.

John 10:10 (Message Bible)
Jesus said…’I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.’

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 4th February 2016

I was in a church service this week and as the Pastor was speaking, he gave an illustration using some Beats headphones.

This illustration got the crowd pumped and one guy in the audience stood for quite some time, encouraging the Pastor.

At the end of the illustration, the speaker threw the headphones into the crowd and asked them to be given to the guy who had been standing for the past few minutes…he had grabbed his attention.

At the outset of this day, I want to encourage you to get God’s attention. You get to make the decision today to either sit back and be a part of the crowd, or stand up and make yourself known.

I genuinely believe that God is looking for people who are willing to say, ‘Here I am, I’m available…choose me’. And when God sees that kind of desire within you, He will throw opportunity your way, He will throw blessings your way, and He will open doors for you that you couldn’t open for yourself.

When God looks for people who He can use, will He find you amongst the many? I hope that you’ll be the one to grab His attention.

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – 3rd February 2016

I was recently reminded of the Bible verse – Philippians 4:13 ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.’ It had been graffitied onto a post at the top of a hill…a hill with steep paths, rocky ground and winding roads.

If you’ve ever climbed or perhaps you’ve watched a film about a mountain climb, you’ll know there are many moments where your mind or your body tells you to stop and turn around. It will even try and convince you that you are close enough to the top and you don’t need to go any further.

Allow me to encourage your heart today; don’t give up, don’t quit and do not turn around and go back.

As your pursue your dreams and ambitions, and as you follow in faith the call of God, keep your eyes focused on the goal, the prize – the summit!

And remind yourself: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!

Adam Nash

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – 2nd February 2016

I recently spoke at our church over two Monday nights about the gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Many people turned up and have since spoken of the impact of those two nights.

One of the things that was highlighted was that many people seek the more ‘spectacular’ gifts of the Holy Spirit (of which there are nine mentioned in the Bible); included in the nine are the gift of miracles, the gift of healing and the gift of faith. However, the Bible doesn’t just stop there as it says there are different ‘kinds’ of gifts.

It surprises many when they hear that amongst those other kinds of gifts are administration, encouragement, mercy, serving and giving.

I’m sure that you’ll agree that these other gifts hardly seem like supernatural, spiritual or spectacular, as on face value they seem to be pretty standard things that anyone would do.

The point is this: how many of us today are feeling that we don’t possess a spiritual gift because we don’t do spectacular things and yet we daily do mundane yet meaningful and significant things?

Did you realise that encouragement was a spiritual gift?

What about serving others? A person who serves at our weekly soup kitchen is using their spiritual gift.

Showing mercy to other seems a pretty basic thing to do for any Christian, yet here we find that a person that does so is actually moving in a spiritual gift.

Being in a position to be over and above generous, is given to some as a spiritual gift. They may think of themselves as just doing what they love to do, and yet here we find that it’s a gift that God has blessed them with.

I would encourage you today not just to look for the spectacular, but look to serve God and others in whatever area you find your gift in.

Take time this year to pray about, discover and discern what gift God has blessed you with…then use it!

Remember, an unopened gift is worthless.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 1st February 2016

Have you ever driven close to a major airport and been amazed at how large planes taking off in the distance appear to be just hanging in the air and almost, at a standstill?

I was driving to Heathrow airport a few days ago and found myself asking the very same question that we’ve all asked: how does such a thing happen?

The truth is, the plane that has just taken to the skies is actually climbing steeply and is traveling at around 300 mph – otherwise it wouldn’t be airborne.

The illusion created is because of the distance between you and the plane. Anyone on the plane is sensing the speed and the climb whilst all of us looking on seem to be witnessing an image frozen in time.

I wonder how many of us have experienced that same slow motion feeling when looking on at our own lives…I know that I have.

It feels at times that nothing is moving; it feels like we are just standing still and that we are certainly not going upwards towards our destiny.

In all probability, God is moving you at speed in order to get you into position during your flight time or shall we say life time, yet for you and I, we are not experiencing the same sense of momentum.

Don’t be discouraged today at how slowly things seem to be going for you…God is simply preparing you for great things, all of which means it takes time.

Take a tasty stew that been placed in the slow cooker in the morning. If you went home at lunch time and tasted it, you’d find yourself thinking that it will never be cooked, yet come tea time, it will melt in your mouth – it’s all to do with timing.

I well remember the foundations of our church being laid. Every day as I watched from a distance, the sense of frustration was so discouraging as there was seemingly nothing to see for all the hard work, not to mention the money.

We all know that the higher and stronger the building is to be, the lower the foundations have to be.

The time spent laying the foundations of your life is all because God doesn’t want you to fail – He’s preparing you with success in mind.

At times, I’ve prayed for years for certain things to come to pass and at the time it all seemed to be to no avail. Yet looking back, I now realise that God was simply preparing me in the process.

Today, remind yourself that before every success there has to be a process.

Anything that will last into eternity, always takes time.
Galatians 6:9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – January 30th 2016

Living the Christian life is not difficult …it’s impossible! That is, unless you know Jesus.

For many people, their understanding about Jesus is really a mis-understanding.

The idea of living in a Christian country or being a good and kind person means that you may consider yourself to already be a Christian and yet there is nothing to show for it.

Trying your best to live out that kind of a ‘good’ life is frustrating to say the least and lacks the power to do so at the best of times; not only that, but where is the peace and joy that you so desire but never experience by just tinkering with religion?

There are 3 ‘types’ of Christian…with only one of them being the real thing.

Nominal Christian – Meaning by name only, or ‘supposed’ to be a Christian. When anyone asks what religion you are, you maybe broadly say you are Christian because you or your parents went or go to church.

 
Religious Christian – When you go to hospital and they ask you to fill out a form, one of the questions will be ‘what religion are you?’ What answer do you give? For many people the answer will be ‘Christian’…even though you may not even believe in God!
This is also a person that believes that being good is all that it’s takes – not so.

 
Real Christian – this is someone that has understood that the Gospel is not about good works or trying your best or being born in a Christian country but about placing your faith in all that Jesus has already done when He died on the cross for your sins. Christianity is not spelt DO but is spelt DONE. It’s not about TRYING, it’s about TRUSTING.

If you’ve ever wondered why there’s still a missing piece in your life even though you have everything in place to satisfy you, then it’s because you need to become a ‘real Christian’ by inviting Jesus into you life as leader and Lord.

If this sounds pretty foreign to what you’ve always believed, then take time to read these amazing verses and experience the real deal.

Titus 3:4-5 “But when the kindness and love of God our Saviour appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy….”

Ephesians 2:8-9 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.

Why not pray a very simple and sincere prayer right now and ask Jesus to reveal himself to you in a real and personal way?

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 29th January 2016

If there was a cream out there, or a power drink, or a medicine that promised to bring you prosperity and prolong your life many years, we’d all be taking it, drinking it, and rubbing it over by the potful!

In Proverbs 3 verse 1-2 it says ‘my son do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you prosperity.’

God’s teaching and commands are there for a reason – why are they there?
To bring you prosperity and to prolong your life.

In our modern society, people think they have every right to please themselves with no thought for God or His word.
What people forget is this: God made you, God designed you, God has a perfect plan for your life.

If you operate within that, then your life will be long and your blessings will be many – choose to do the opposite and you do so at your own peril.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 28th January 2016

When it comes to technology, I’m an Apple guy. I love my iPhone, however as of late it’s been playing up. It reaches around a third of battery life before it suddenly shuts off with no pre-warning. Now, of course in order for the phone to once again reach its full purpose, it must be plugged in, or in other words, reconnected to the source.

In the book of Matthew, chapter 22, we find Jesus being asked what is the greatest commandment in all the law. Meaning, if you had to summarise the meaning of life in a sentence or two, Jesus, what would you say? And Jesus’ response was that we are to love God & love people -that’s  what life is truly all about.

Now can I suggest to you that we simply cannot accomplish such a thing without first being connected to the source, who is Jesus? You see, love comes from God. God is love defined. And unless we first receive His love, we cannot fulfil our purpose on this earth, which is to love God & love people.

Just like my phone has to be connected to a power socket, which allows power to flow through the charger and into the phone, so must we connect ourselves to God in order that His love may flow to us and also through us.

If you want to reach your full capacity, if you want to fulfil your purpose, then let me encourage you today to lean into and receive God’s love, a love that will transform your life from the inside out.

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – 27th January 2016

We are almost one whole month into 2016 and if you are anything like a majority of the population, you will have made New Year’s resolutions or at least set some goals.

Statistically, 30% of us will have abandoned those resolutions by now. I want to encourage you today with words from Lamentations 3:22 & 23: ‘Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness.’

There is still time to decide to form new habits this year and see God change and shape our lives, in amazing ways that only He can. No matter what you’ve set out to do this year, whether it’s to get fitter, deepen your relationship with God, progress in your career, or something else entirely, here are some things that will help us today…

1) Commit your plans to God
Proverbs 16:3 says ‘Commit to the Lord whatever you do and He will establish your plans.’

2) Be accountable
Find someone who will encourage you on tough days and celebrate with you on great days.

3) Be thankful
A spirit of gratitude is essential, when you are pushing towards something new. Reaching a goal can be painful at times but it is near impossible to be grateful and discontent at the same time. Choose an attitude of gratitude.

4) Bless others
We are not blessed merely for the sake of it. Be generous with your time, your kind words, your love; the more you grow, the more God can use you to enrich the lives of others. A year spent entirely focused on ourselves would be wasted. Sow good seeds; God already has plans to take care of what you need.

There will be times when we let ourselves down but God wants to equip us afresh every single day.

Melissa Reynolds-Lawrence

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 26th January 2016

Over the last couple of days, we’ve looked at growing up.

Here are some good points that will help us in our growth.

‘Do I have to grow up?’
Unless you want to stick out like a sore thumb – the answer is ‘yes’.
Unless you want people to look at you and think that behaviour is strange – then yes.
If you want to advance in life and take hold of what God has for you – then yes.
If you want a good level of responsibility – then yes.
If you want God to trust you with great and exciting things – then yes.
If you want to do awesome things for God and make a significant difference – then yes.

Here’s some testers to see if you are growing…

From time to time, life throws difficult circumstances at us.
When I am faced with ‘stuff’ – how do I react?
Do I handle it differently to how I used to?
Does it affect me negatively?
How is my attitude when it is happening?
When you see people who you are mentoring grow in different situations, it’s very rewarding.
When your child learns to ride a bike, or write their name, it’s a great feeling.
How much more does God smile on us, when He sees that we are growing in certain areas?

You are never too old to learn or grow.
You are never too young to learn and mature.
Take responsibility for yourself and keep the growing going.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 25th January 2016

“I wish I knew at 18 what I know now” is a phrase you will hear often. It speaks of the fact that since that time, people have not only gotten older, but wiser. They have learnt more things, gained more wisdom and ‘grown up’.

Like I said on Saturday, age is not always about ‘growing up’.

If you are healthy, you will grow. A healthy child grows and so does an adult.

A child walking to school sucking a dummy, may make you take notice and think that shouldn’t be.
An 8 year old drinking milk from a baby’s bottle, will identify that something is not right.
A 10 year old with Huggies ‘pull ups’ on will indicate that there is a problem.
Because when we grow, these things will change.

Yet, some adults are fully grown physically, yet not fully mature.
Certain areas of our lives are not fully developed, because we haven’t taken responsibility for ourselves.
Some people consistently make the same mistakes, fall into the same traps and seem to go round in circles, all because they don’t learn.

Paul in The New Testament addresses the Christians and tells them that ‘as a baby craves milk, we should crave God’s word.’ (1 Peter 2 vs2)

Things that will help you to grow up:

Prayer – a daily relationship with Jesus will change you and help you to become more like Him.

Reading the Bible – you will learn God’s ways and God’s truth and get guidance.

Being in a great church – will be a great environment for growth (like a greenhouse) where you will be taught and encouraged.

Being with God-centered people – They will help and encourage you on your journey and spur you on to greater things.

Happy growing!

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 23rd January 2016

I wonder how old you are? I wonder how mature you are? For maturity has nothing to do with age. We can be 70 and immature and 17 and very mature.

Once we get old enough to not have to rely on an adult to feed us, clothe us and look after us, we have to learn to take responsibility for ourselves.
Unfortunately, some of us don’t.

We can be weak in areas in our lives, yet never take responsibility for ourselves.
A great time of prayer and fasting can reveal areas in our lives that need working on.

In 1 Timothy chapter 4, Paul is instructing the young Timothy to take responsibility and not to let anyone look down on him because he is young.

People who are mature and well-respected even at a young age, are so, because they are taking responsibility for themselves and have decided to get onto a road that leads to their growth.

Here are some things that Paul told Timothy – use them as a checklist to see how you are doing…

YOU have to set the example
YOU have to devote yourself
YOU have to develop your gift
YOU have to be diligent
YOU have to give yourself wholly
YOU need to watch YOUR life closely
YOU need to persevere in your calling

Let today be the day that you start to grow up!

Happy Saturday :)

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 22nd January 2016

You would expect that the very first public miracle that Jesus performed in the Bible would be quite the spectacle. And in many ways it was…He turned water into wine. But I want to turn your attention to what He used to facilitate that miracle… six stone water jars.

These water jars contained up to 30 gallons of water, the very same water that Jesus turned into wine at His friend’s wedding. Now, at the beginning of the day, nobody thought that these water jars would play any significant role at the wedding. They most definitely weren’t expecting these jars to facilitate a supernatural miracle. In fact, to most people, they were considered pretty worthless and useless. However, they were the very thing that Jesus decided He was going to use.

Can I suggest that at the beginning of this day, you too, feel pretty worthless and even useless? You consider yourself to be the least likely thing that God would want to use…HOWEVER, you’re just what God is looking for.

You see, when others see no hope in you, God sees potential. When you feel insignificant, God calls you a world changer and difference maker. Of little value though you may feel, you are God’s most prized possession. When God looks at you, He doesn’t just see you for who you are, but He sees you for who you could become.

And like the water jars, you may think that you have nothing to offer, but choose today to make yourself available and watch what God can do in and through your life.

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 365

I was driving overseas last year and I noticed that there was a warning etched on the rear view wing mirrors of the car. It said ‘Objects in mirror are closer than they appear.’

It was a warning based on a perception that things behind appear to be bigger than they actually are.

It got me thinking about how true that is.

When I’ve tried to look back over my own life on a bad day, I always tend to see a picture of the ‘good old days’, to which my wife quickly reminds me that they weren’t as good as you remember them.

My perception of what was behind is far too grand for what actually happened back then.

I forget that we were stony broke.

I forget that we had a lot of bad days made worse by bad people that wanted to take us down.

When I think about it now, I realise that what I saw behind me was completely the wrong picture.

I wonder if it’s the same for you?

For just as many people that look back with regret, there are those that look back with a desire to go back to the good times. It’s completely the wrong picture, in fact, no one that looks back has ever made a success of their lives.

Jesus had a fair bit to say on the subject too…

Luke 9:57-62 As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’ Jesus replied, ‘Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.’ He said to another man, ‘Follow me.’ But he replied, ‘Lord, first let me go and bury my father.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.’ Still another said, ‘I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.’ Jesus replied, ‘No one who puts a hand to the plough and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.’

Make a decision today, to only look forward but with great faith and anticipation of all that God has in store for you.

If you feel like stopping and glancing behind, then be reminded that a runner only does so near the finish line to ensure that he has won the race.

If you’re in any doubt about the past appearing to be far greater than it actually was, then take the warning from Jesus and keep moving forwards in faith.

Hebrews 10:39 But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 364

There are three things that the Bible brings together under one roof, and invites you to participate in each one of them.

You are not commanded or forced to take part, you are simply invited.

To be invited, means that you are privileged -more privileged than someone that does so because they feel obligated.

Participating in any one of the things will reap its rewards, but I do believe that if you will participate in all three on a persistent basis, then your life will never be the same again.

What are those three things you may well ask?

All three are found in Matthew chapter 6, and they go like this:
Giving
Fasting
Prayer

At the end of the invitation to participate in each one of these, there is the same promise attached…”and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

Giving, fasting and prayer brings with it a reward from God – it’s a promise on all three.

Just imagine what could happen if you consistently participated in not just one of these, but all three;

Don’t just decide to take up the invitation on special occasions, or when you feel like it, but let each one become ingrained into your lifestyle.

If you’ve chosen to fast and pray with us over these last 10 days, then I want to thank you for helping make a difference, but more than that, watch out, God is about to reward you – His words…not mine!

Take a few moments today to read Matthew chapter 6.

Have a blessed day.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 363

I don’t know who you are, but I know that I’m here today to say to you…be strong and courageous.

You only have to delve into a few chapters of the Bible before you start seeing some much needed words.

In the 5th book of the Bible, God himself is giving a pep talk to Moses…
.
‘Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.’ Deuteronomy 31:6
V 7-8 Then Moses summoned Joshua…And said to him in the presence of all Israel, ‘Be strong and courageous, for you must go with this people into the land that the Lord swore to their ancestors to give them, and you must divide it among them as their inheritance. The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.’

A short time later, God himself spoke to Joshua, the very same sentiments…

‘Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.’ Joshua 1:9

Why did they have to be told the same thing time and again?
Was it not because they, and we all need to be strong and courageous?

We all have to fight fear and discouragement.

No matter who you are, you’ll be battling through something today.

You may be fighting back the tears…fighting for your life. Wanting to give up. Your strength has gone.

Marriage is under pressure.

Kids have gone off the rails.

Battling sickness.

House is being repossessed.

Cheated on.

Talked about.

Criticised.

Life needs a non-stop flow of courage every day.

Old fashioned bravery is what we need, to live in this world.

You’re like the disciples in the boat in the fiercest of storms, and they say to Jesus who is asleep in the boat…’don’t you care that we are drowning?’ He gets up and says, ‘don’t be afraid…have faith…Peace be still.’

Don’t give up…your life matters more than you know.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 362

I love how God can speak to you through His word. You can read the Bible many times and each time you can receive something different from it.

Sometimes, the simplest of verses can bring us great truths.

In Genesis chapter 1 and verse 16, God is creating the Heavens and the Earth, it says that He made a great light for the day (the Sun) and a lesser light for the night (the moon).

I began to think about this: darkness and night time is natural, it’s all part of life, yet even in the dark times, God provides a great light.

That’s just like life; we all experience dark times. But just remember this: in the same way that He has provided the moon, He also provides light for your situations. God is always there, He will never leave you, and He will never forsake you.

The moon may not be as bright as the Sun, but it’s definitely there, and in the dark night sky it shines even brighter.

We sleep and rest during dark times naturally, so rest in your own darker experiences knowing that He has it covered.

Don’t ever think that God has left you. He hasn’t. In your dark times, He has provided everything you need to see your way through.

And remember this: the darkest time always comes before the dawn.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 361

Unfortunately, many people rely on happenings for their happiness. If things are going great, and if there is something to look forward to, they will be happy.

I was speaking to someone yesterday, who said that they were sad that Christmas had come and gone so quickly (aren’t we all) but now they have booked a summer holiday in August, everything is alright again because they have something to look forward to.

Although I understand what they were saying, I also feel sad that this is how people live… from  one happening to another.

God has something special for each one of us, and it’s called joy. Joy does not depend on happenings, it’s something far deeper, that even in difficult circumstances and hard times we can’t still be joyful.

JOY
JESUS – when you put Him first in your life and when you serve Him, He will bring great joy into your life.
OTHERS – when you put other people first and do your best to help encourage and lift them up, this brings great joy into your life.
YOURSELF – when you put yourself a little bit further down the line and when you put Jesus and others before you, you will receive great joy.

The Bible in 1 Thessalonians 5 16-18 tells us to be joyful in all circumstances, because this is God’s will for us in Christ Jesus.
When you know Him, this becomes your reality and joy will flow out of every situation – you won’t need to wait for happenings.

Be full of joy today!

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 360

I remember hearing the story of a man who kept a private list of 15 men that he prayed for every day of his life.

Each day, he would pray for all 15 by name.

Some of them alcoholics, some of them criminals and some of them just plain old atheists.

His prayer was simple…”JESUS, I want each of these men to be transformed by you and for them to acknowledge you as their Lord and Saviour in my lifetime.”

The years rolled by, and one by one, he was able to tick the names of the men off his list as they surrendered their lives to Jesus.

As he lay dying, he was perturbed that his prayer for just one remaining hardened man had still been unanswered.

Would it be that this man would escape his prayers? Sadly, he never lived to find out.

However, the day of his of funeral came and at that very service, the man that he had prayed for almost all his life, surrendered his life to Jesus.

Fifteen out of fifteen.

Sometimes you can pray for something, but you don’t see the answer right away or maybe not even in your lifetime.

It maybe that the thing that you’re praying for is not ready, or is not God’s perfect timing yet.

Your prayers will not be ignored or discarded.

Prayers don’t have an expiration date, so keep praying for that loved one that seems a million miles away from God; keep praying for that impossible situation, keep believing for God to move.

He is doing much more behind your back than He is in front of your face.

Keep praying.

All things are possible…only believe.

Hebrews 10:35-36 So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 359

One of the longest times that I had ever prayed for something, happened in 1985.

I had started to make prayer lists of things that I was believing God for.

My list would have very specific content based on this verse of the Bible…

Philippians 4:6 ‘Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.’

Each time that I made a specific list, I would place a date at the top of the page, so that I would know how long it took for the prayer to be answered.

I would only remove something or someone from the list when I saw the answer to prayer.

On this occasion, it was four years from praying to the time of receiving the answer.

Since then, I’ve prayed for much longer times before seeing God move in a situation.

‘P.U.S.H…is a great acrostic that will help you to grow some serious prayer muscle during this time of prayer and fasting and beyond.

Pray Until Something Happens.

Jesus told a great story to show us how important this is…

Luke 18:1-5 Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: ‘In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, “Grant me justice against my adversary.” ‘For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, “Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!”’

Feeling bad that you keep asking God for the same thing time and time again?

Often, God wants to test you to see if what you’re asking for is really important to to you.

Remember: pray consistently, persistently, and pray specifically.

God loves you to communicate with Him about everything.

Don’t hold back…PUSH.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 358

I love the story in the Bible found in the book of Mark, chapter 11. It says, “The next day as they were leaving Bethany (speaking of the disciples), Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it.”

In this story, Jesus demonstrates a principle that we must each apply to our own lives…’It either has to grow or it’s got to go.’ Upon approaching the fig tree, Jesus identified that what should have been bearing fruit was showing no signs of doing so and therefore was taking up valuable space. He then cursed the tree so that it would never bear fruit again.

I wonder today what’s taking up valuable space in your life. Maybe it’s people, maybe it’s old ways of living – whatever it may be, you must make the decision at the start of a new year to no longer carry dead things around with you.

Address that thing in your life and let it know, if you aren’t growing, you’re going! You only have one life to live, and you can’t afford to spend it surrounded by things that aren’t bringing increase into your world. Understand that God did not design you to live a small existence, but He intended that you live BIG.

I pray that you will experience that kind of life today.

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – Day 357

As we continue to fast and pray today, remember:  some prayers are like space rockets and some are like tortoises.

A ‘space rocket’ prayer is answered almost immediately after being prayed; You light the touch paper and within seconds, it’s reached its target.

If you’ve ever had one of those quick answers, you could be forgiven for thinking that that’s the norm and therefore you will always expect immediate answers to prayer.

It’s not the norm!

In much the same way, if you’re a parent, you will not always give your child everything they want as soon as they ask.

So it is with God; He will often allow us to wait, in order to help us grow in the process.

The waiting prayer is what I like to call the ‘tortoise’ prayer.

It’s painfully slow, but eventually gets across the finishing line.

With this kind of prayer, you will often be tempted to give up, but think of it like this, when you stop praying the tortoise stops moving.

How many of us have failed to see our prayers come across the finishing line because we gave up thinking it would never happen.

As you continue to pray specifically today, remember the tortoise of your answered prayer is closer to the finish line than you think.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 356

I was watching the show Dragon’s Den last week on TV. A young man came into the Den to put forward his business, hoping for an investment from one of the multimillionaires sat in front of him.

Mid way through the conversations that were going back and forth, one of the Dragons said something that was quite profound. They looked at the young man pitching his product and told him, “I can open a door for you in a second that you could spend your entire life trying to open.”

For me, this instantly painted a picture of how our relationship with God can look. We spend weeks, months and even years trying to pursue certain things, trying to take different avenues, hoping that they will lead us into places where we want to be…

While all this time, God is waiting for you to put your trust in Him and to watch Him do in a moment for you what you could spend your lifetime trying to accomplish.

At the beginning of a new year, can I encourage you to give your life, your dreams and your desires into God’s hands? Don’t try to do everything by yourself, but instead, allow Him to do for you what you cannot do for yourself.

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – Day 355

We all have a subtle tendency to think of ourselves better than others in some way.

 
Maybe you walk into a room and look down on everyone else?

 
Do you regard those that don’t possess the kind of material things that you are blessed with as just unfortunate human beings?

 
Is it possible that because you’re better educated, live in better house and drive a nicer car, that you walk around with a feeling of superiority?

 
Perhaps the job that you do is in management, leading a team or owning your own company, and without even thinking, you have already formed an opinion that you are above others in lesser jobs or those that are unable to find work?

 
Could your salary level dictate how you treat others; rather than seeing yourself in a position of blessing, do you simply view others as losers in life?

 
If the answer to any of these applies to you and I, then we need to get back to a better way of living and thinking; to put it simply…get off your high horse.

 
Whoever and whatever we may have become in life, we are privileged to be there. Could it be that the reason you are higher up the ladder than others, is because God wanted you to help those ‘beneath’ you?

 
One of the greatest honours in life is that of being a blessing to people of all walks of life.

 
It’s not ours to judge, condemn, frown upon, criticise, make small or put people in their place.  Yes, you may have been privileged to be where you are today because of your hard work, or because you are gifted in some area more than others, but ultimately you have been blessed to be a blessing.

 
I watched a TV show about Prince Charles a couple of days ago. It was made to coincide with the 40th anniversary of the ‘Prince’s Trust’. One of the things that stood out from the ‘behind the scenes’ documentary featuring Ant and Dec, was the way that Prince Charles, from the age of 27, used his privilege, prominence, position and power to help people in all walks of life. He amazingly has lifted thousands of people to a better place in life.

 
Today, I encourage us all to treat others better than ourselves as we humbly thank God for everything we have and own, no matter how great or small.

 
Look for an opportunity today to do something for someone that could never repay you.

 
Philippians 2:3-4 ‘Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.’

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 354

There are certain things in our lives that we all go after, that we crave, that we seek, that we strive for…those things may be good, but what will they bring us?

My Bible tells me in Matthew chapter 5 that if I hunger and thirst to be right with God (righteousness)…then I will be filled.

If I desire to be a peacemaker, I will be called a son or daughter of God.

If I am pure in heart, I will see God.

If I am meek, I will inherit the earth.

If I am merciful, I will be shown mercy.

What wonderful promises to live by.
Strive after the right things and reach for God’s ways.

His rewards and blessings are endless.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 353

We have a little dog called Percy. He has some funny little ways…however, one of his most endearing would be that first thing in a morning, when he sees you for the first time, he can’t come straight to you unless he ‘brings’ something. Anything will do, whatever is on the floor at that particular time – a slipper, a piece of clothing, he just has to bring you something.

What a lovely gesture, he knows that he is going to receive a big love and a lot of fuss and so he wants to bring a ‘gift’, as his way of showing appreciation.

In the Christmas story, the wise men brought gifts to Jesus. They knew that they couldn’t enter into the presence of the KING of KINGS without showing their appreciation.

It’s polite and good etiquette, that when you go to someone’s home for a meal, or supper or even a coffee, to take a gift – whether it be flowers or chocolates or some other small token, it’s your way of saying ‘thank you for having me, I appreciate it.’

Every moment of every day, we have an opportunity to enter into the presence of the King. Every week when we go to Church, we are together having an audience with God himself.

Be a bringer, don’t come empty handed.
Bring your best worship, your best attitude, your best offering, your very life itself…

Deuteronomy 16 v 17 says ‘we are not to come to the Lord empty handed.’

Be a bringer today. A bringer of good things.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 352

The start of the new year always brings with it a flurry of activity, usually in the department of major lifestyle changes. No doubt, on day six, you already have a sneaky feeling that you won’t be sticking to the new plan.

One of the most important things that will be, and of course should be high on our agendas, is the question of: what I should do with my life?

Do I look for a new job?

Do we try for another baby?

Do we move house, change the car or buy a new kitchen?

Can I make something more of my life by serving in the community?

Can I survive with watching less TV and restricting the use of my electronic devices?

The 2016 checklist is pretty substantial when we pool all of our thoughts, dreams and desires together, but in reality, after all is said and done, more will be said than is done.

The whole thing really all boils down to one thing…what is God’s will for my life?

Of course, there is no one person that could ever answer that for everyone, as what God wants for the direction of your life is different  from what He wants for mine.

But what I love about the Bible is its simplicity in informing every follower of Christ that the will of God for the discipline of your life, is the same for everyone and goes like this…

Be joyful always.

Pray continually.

Give thanks in all circumstances;

This is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

When you think about it, it’s just three pretty straightforward instructions…be happy, prayerful and thankful.

I look forward to being a better person living in a better world because we all took these three simple things to heart.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 351

What you do today matters.

What you say today matters.

Someone’s life may be dependant on what you do and say today.

Be a difference maker.

I have to admit that one of my low points in 2015 happened in November.

Gillian had been asking me for some time to go to Dudley Market to get the batteries replaced in a couple of our watches that had been lying around useless for months.

The guy we had used for years was always pleasant and was known for his ‘while you wait’ service, let alone being cheaper than anywhere else.

On the afternoon that I managed to get to him, I noticed that he was not his normal self. He seemed to have lost his spark and his usual smile had disappeared. As he tended to my watches, I asked him what was wrong. He simply looked up, smiled and carried on. I felt compelled to persist with him, and so I repeated the words twice more. As he handed over the watches in a small bag I asked him what had happened for him to look so sad.

Reluctantly, he leaned across his work table and told me that it was family problems. He went on to explain that illness that had not only taken his mother-in-law, but was now about to take his mother.

I offered him my condolences and asked him if I could add his name and that of his mom to my daily prayer list. He agreed, and in doing so his face seemed to brighten and a smile broke out.

Four days later, he took his own life.

I asked myself many questions as to why I didn’t say and do more on that day, but whatever answers I came up with could not change the tragedy that I had been so close to maybe doing something about a few days earlier.

My story I’m sure can be repeated in different ways by thousands today all over the world. The truth is we all have missed opportunities to save precious people’s lives.

Today is a not only a new day, but for many the first working week of a brand new year. It is my hope today that my story can inspire you to join me in understanding that what we say and what we do today matters.

Let’s go all out in 2016 to be difference makers and not just people with good intentions, which, if we’re honest, is an excuse for doing nothing.

Ephesians 5:15-16 Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 350

A couple of days after Christmas, I visited a local shopping centre.

Two days after all the turkey, all of the presents, all of the wrapping paper and gifts given, and in the midst of all the parties, the games and the dancing, people were taking a shopping break.

But for a few men, no one had been forced to go shopping, but strangely enough no one seemed happy to be there in the slightest.

I heard parents shouting, couples arguing, and people looking generally down in the dumps.

People were scrambling after items marked CLEARANCE – things they neither needed nor wanted, things that quite frankly no one should have normally considered as they had been trodden on, damaged, or heavily discounted for a reason and people were still queuing in crazy long lines to buy them.

I was saddened, but once again reminded, that people are constantly looking for something to fill the hole in their lives. There’s a constant need for ‘stuff’ to help find contentment.

What many sadly fail to realise is that the emptiness they feel can’t be filled with material things. The fun of the party is temporary, Santa Claus comes and goes, the food gets eaten, and the gifts given are quickly forgotten.

John 10v10 tells us that Jesus came…’so that they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.’

I’m thankful that I personally know that He is the only one who will ever truly satisfy, but let’s be people that don’t keep this good news to ourselves as Jesus is the only one who never fades, never goes out of fashion, and He doesn’t cost – He’s a free gift to all.

Esther Nash

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 349

At the start of this brand new year, I would like to challenge you to look at your priorities and make sure you have things in the right order.

One of my favourite Bible accounts has to be found in 1 Kings chapter 17 – where the man of God met a widow who was about to die because she had no food, he gives her some clear instructions and then in verse 13, he tells her “go home and do what’s been said, BUT FIRST make a cake of bread for me.” That didn’t seem like the ‘sensible’ thing to do. She was about to die…yet she was being asked to give her last meal away?!

In every area of your life, what you do first is important.

Sunday: the first day of the week – but first go to church

Have a meal – but first, give thanks.

Get up in the morning – but first commit yourself to God.

Don’t worry about something – but first pray.

Don’t fear about anything – but first trust.

Don’t withold what you shouldn’t – but first give.

Don’t be a person who ignores what God says. He believes in first things.

This story in 1 Kings 17 ends with the woman doing what the man of God asks and then receiving her miracle – I love it!

Put God FIRST.
You won’t be disappointed.

Happy new year xo

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 348

A few weeks ago, I was doing some online banking. I went onto the Internet, typed in the website address and attempted to login. After several attempts, I couldn’t get into my account, even though I had checked that my details were correct.

A few minutes had passed until I suddenly realised that I was on the wrong banking site…I had recently changed banks, and forgetting this fact, I repeatedly tried to login with a bank that I no longer had an account with.

At the start of this brand new year, it is possible that you may have set yourself new goals and new targets, maybe you’ve drawn yourself up a list of New Years resolutions. But despite all of that, there is a high temptation to return to old behaviours, old ways of living, and doing things that no longer reflect who you really are.

In the book of Isaiah, chapter 43 it says, “Forget about what’s happened; don’t keep going over old history. Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new.”

Can I encourage you on the first day of a brand new year to keep your eyes fixed forward on the new thing that God wants to do in your life… Understand that the old has gone and the new has come! Embrace 2016 with a fresh perspective, knowing that what you once did is not a reflection of who you now are…God’s doing a new thing – lean into that today.

Happy New Year!

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 347

I’m sure we’ve all taken part in a Christmas quiz or two, over the last few days…so while you’re in the mood…here’s a question.

What was the very first words that God spoke in the Bible?

Answer: Let there be light.

It’s one of the biggest clues to the fact that God doesn’t want you to be in the dark, in fact, there’s a little more to it than meets the eye too; the word translated light from the original text is the word ‘order’, and the word for dark came from the word meaning ‘chaos’.

Think about it for a moment…the first thing that God wanted for this world was to light it up, so that the chaos could be bought to order, in fact 740 years before Jesus came to Earth, we read these words…

Isaiah 9:2 ‘The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.’

Now skip to the New Testament and we find the fulfilment of that promise…

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’ John 8 v 12

Have you ever wondered why, when everything seems to be working in your life just fine, there’s still a longing for something more?

Have you ever wondered why in a very lit world, why you feel as if you’re lost?

Maybe you would describe your existence like this…everything is working, but there’s just one thing missing.

That one thing is what Jesus called the ‘light of life’. He said that if you find it you will never walk in darkness again. WOW!

That, my friend,is the greatest New Years gift that anyone could ever possibly give you- to step out of the dark and walk in the light from this moment forward.

I’m sure that we’ve all been in a power cut from time to time.

What’s the first thing that you reach for? A candle? A torch? The light from your phone? The truth is that everything comes to a standstill until the power comes back on. Whilst it’s off, your life is disorientated and even quite fearful, yet just one light can dispel the darkness.

Having the ‘light of life’ means that your life comes alive and you begin to see clearly where you’re going for the first time – your life comes alive.

My question to you on this New Year’s Eve is simply this…Have you got it? Have you found it? Or is life just one big puzzle?

When a popular town plans a date to have its Christmas lights switched on, it usually invites a celebrity to do so.

The greatest thing that you could do today is to invite the greatest person that ever walked the Earth to switch your light on, so that you will never walk in darkness again.

Invite Jesus to switch on the light in your life so that 2016 will become the greatest year ever.

Everything changes when the light goes on.

Everything makes sense.

Invite Jesus into your life right now. He’s just waiting for you to ask.

Happy new YOU.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 346

One of my childhood memories of the Christmas holidays was centred around the big cupboard in my sister’s bedroom.

The cupboard, known as the ‘big cupboard’, was built into the whole width of the far side of the room. It came up from the floor to about 3 feet in height and had two hinged lids that could be folded right back against the wall.

As the new toys for Christmas started to get put away, it was the job of the big cupboard to house them. We would spend hours pulling out old stuff from that cupboard, in order to make space for the incoming toys, cars, games and puzzles.

We rarely threw anything away as the old stuff seemed to have more of a magical attraction than the new, after it had spent a year or two hidden away from sight.

Many a Saturday throughout the year would be spent propping open the lid and digging deep to see what we could find that had long since been forgotten. Toys and games from many a Christmas past were often brought back to life and played with,just as if we’d never seen them before. If ever there was a childhood treasure chest then that simple cupboard would be one of them.

The big cupboard reminds be so much of the hidden treasures contained in the Bible; no matter how old they are, they are able to bring something fresh and alive to us, know matter how many times that we may have read them before.

I have personally read through the Bible many times over the last 30 years, but no matter when I read it, there is always something new to inspire, teach and transform me on any given day.

Sometimes it feels like that I have never read it before as its pages take a hold of me, just as if they were freshly written that day.

Digging deep into the Bible means that you have to set aside some time each day to uncover the hidden treasures that God has placed within its pages just for your own benefit and blessing.

I have acquired so many books over the years and I’ll often have about three on the go all at the same time and yet, when they are read they are read – I rarely read a book a second time.

The Bible is unique in that you can go back to it time and time again and discover pearls of wisdom and truth, and more importantly discover the living Jesus on every page.

Make a decision today to lift the lid on the Bible and find fresh hope, inspiration and wisdom on its pages – it’s God’s treasure chest to you every day.

Colossians 2:2-3 ‘My goal is…that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.’

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 345

What are you in the middle of?

Maybe a DIY project, perhaps halfway through a semester or college course, what about a journey to see family and friends, or even a pregnancy?

Be encouraged today that God wants to use you to do great things, even while you’re in the middle of the ordinary.

Luke 2 gives the account of the birth of Jesus and in verse 6 it begins,
‘While they were there…’

Joseph and Mary had made the journey to Bethlehem as they were required by law to register in their home town for the Census of the Roman Empire.

It was a legal requirement, something that everyone had to do – even though Mary was heavily pregnant.

I love how the Bible says ‘while they were there’, much like the words I hear when I pop to the shops and my wife says – “while you are there, can you get me something?”, or when I’m on my way to work…”on your way, can you pick something up for me?”

It’s almost a throw away comment in Vs6, ‘while they were there…’ but don’t forget the enormity of what was been required of them…give birth to a baby, but not just any baby – the one that will save people from their sins! Woow!

Today, whatever you maybe in the middle of, be open to God asking you, ‘while you are there…’

Never underestimate the power of your obedience to God’s call and know that God wants to use you each day, whatever you are doing.

Adam Nash

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 344

If your household or family is anything like mine, Christmas is a time of asking, ‘what would you like?’

Maybe like us, it’s when you sit down to write a letter to Santa with your children or when you are out shopping and you ask your wife, “is there anything you’d like for Christmas?”

Depending on the answers given, they’ll usually have an affect on the end result.

Parents, don’t you just love it when your children ask for something little and easy, but then quickly followed by biggest the request of the year…either way over budget or nowhere to be found? The highs and lows of #parentlife.

We love to give gifts that make people happy and there’s nothing more fulfilling for me than to see my family smiling because I got them what they wanted.

So, let’s be reminded today that our Heavenly Father, even more-so, longs to give us our heart’s desires and I love the assurance and power in this Bible verse:

“And we are confident that he hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases him. And since we know he hears us when we make our requests, we also know that he will give us what we ask for.”
‭‭1 John‬ ‭5:14-15‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Today, remember these three things:

God hears our prayers – so talk to him regularly.
God answers our prayers – so have faith in him to give you what you need.
God loves us more than we could ever imagine – so He wants to answer our prayers, all we need to do is just keep talking with Him.

Adam Nash

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 343

It’s Boxing Day…and I trust you are enjoying your Christmas.

Here’s a quick little thought for you to go into your day with…

You’ll probably take time today to eat (even if it’s leftovers)…
You’ll maybe take time today to look at your gifts and decide where you may put them or whether you will actually wear that, or decide if you’re going to return one or two…
You’ll probably take time today to be with family or friends…
You’re most likely to watch a little TV, or play a game, or sleep on the sofa…
You may even text a few people to thank them for your gift and you’ll probably wish you hadn’t have eaten so much yesterday.

Make sure that today, whatever your circumstances and whatever you’re doing, that you take time to thank the one who made Christmas possible.

JESUS – take a little time for Him today.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 342

TODAY in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2 v 11)

Happy Christmas!

Take a moment to think and to thank today.

Think about the fact that no human birth could have born a saviour to us. That would be no different to you or I standing up today at the Christmas lunch table, stating that God had made us the saviour of the world. It is simply something we cannot do, as we too are in need of a saviour – a drowning man cannot save another drowning man.

God had a special plan. He would choose an ordinary woman and do something extraordinary through her.

The Virgin birth is central to the Christmas message, not because it makes a nice scene in a nativity play, but because it was the only way God could send His son into the world.

Jesus had to arrive a different way, a way in which He would not just be another human being unable to save anyone, but someone that bypassed the sinful bloodline that each one of us carries since the fall of mankind.

Jesus, born of a virgin, was not the product of an earthly father, but of God, His Heavenly Father.

…Luke 1:34-35 ‘How will this be,’ Mary asked the angel, ‘since I am a virgin?’ The angel answered, ‘The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.

Jesus was no ordinary man, prophet, god or a deluded person believing himself to be a saviour; He was born in such a way that excluded him from being born in sin, whilst at the same time including him in the human race in order to come down to our level.

You may well ask: how on earth could that ever happen?

That’s exactly the question that Mary asked…

‘How will this be,’ Mary asked the angel, ‘since I am a virgin?’ (Luke 1 v 34)

The answer came back…’for nothing is impossible with God’. (Luke 1 v 37)

As we think and thank on this Christmas Day, let’s never lose sight of the awe and wonder of the Virgin birth – it’s the only way our Saviour could have arrived.

…and remember, whatever impossibilities you may be facing today, with God, all things are possible

Have a wonderful ‘Saviours’ day.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 341

It’s Christmas Eve… Happy Christmas.
Today is the day we get ready for Christmas… the eve of something special.

It’s so easy to get caught up with everything else, that we can leave little room for Him.
Don’t be like the innkeeper; “no room”.
Make sure that you are getting ready for all that God wants to do in your life this season and make sure you leave space for Him.

Even at Christmas we can still have needs.
It’s possible that you are trusting God today with all of your heart for an answer to prayer.
It’s possible that you are believing Him for a miracle.

Well let me tell you this… your trust is in the right place.

Jesus is the King of Kings, the maker of the Universe and the Christ of Christmas, He can certainly answer your prayer!

So today, I would urge you to have a great expectancy, a great excitement about what God wants to do.

Keep trusting, keep believing and make sure CHRIST is the centre of all you do this Christmas.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 340

My grandson, Noah, came home a few weeks ago and told his Mom and Dad that he had been chosen to be the donkey in the Christmas nativity play!

After they privately smiled and wondered if this was a subliminal message from the teacher, Noah insisted that he had the main part in the play.

No matter how much they tried to gently reason with him that the donkey was not the main character in the nativity, he stood his ground and insisted it was the truth.

The day of the nativity finally arrived and as I sat on the front row as proud as punch, it quickly unfolded that yes, Noah was the donkey and he took the leading role.

He’d been telling the truth all along – it was just the adults that didn’t believe that a donkey could play such a part in anything!

It reminded me of the day that Jesus asked His disciples to go to a specific house, in a specific street in a specific village.

“You will find a donkey tied up outside the house”, He told them, “tell anyone that asks that the Lord has need of it”.

And just as had been said, sure enough, the donkey was there and they brought it to Jesus.

It was that very donkey that carried Jesus into Jerusalem where he was received by great crowds and noisy celebrations.

What a difference 24 hours made, in the life of that donkey.

You may feel today like the most unlikely person to ever be used by Jesus, the ‘bottom of the pile’ kind of person – stupid, with no great purpose.

It amazes me that Jesus uses everyone and everything that is willing to be untied and set free for His purpose.

Don’t be despondent today, just because you’ve been never been used by God yet, He’s merely waiting for the right moment, and when it comes you’ll be blown away at the plan that He has for your life.

Be still and wait.

Be willing to be set free.

Go where you are led.

Let Jesus use you.

Have a wonderful Christmas week.
Matthew 21:1-9 As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, ‘Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.’ This took place to fulfil what was spoken through the prophet: ‘Say to Daughter Zion, “See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey,and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”’ The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’‘Hosanna in the highest heaven!’

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 339

Never lose your wonder!

I’ll never forget the first time my daughter saw Santa Claus.

He was coming out of a small village church and she was in awe!

She was two years old as she ran to him shouting “Santa” with arms flung open she grabbed hold of his legs.

She’s now five and at Christmastime, she sees Santas everywhere and she doesn’t even bat an eyelid!

‘Familiarity breeds contempt’ can be a very true saying, but sometimes it should not be.

I have never liked the saying ‘you can tell a new Christian because of their passion.’

It’s as if there was a time when we were naïve enough to believe in the promises of God, but in the day-to-day of life, we have learned to tone it down.

Well this Christmas, let’s choose to tone it up!

Often we think ‘to wonder’ at something isn’t a choice but just a bi-product of a big event or encounter, almost just an involuntary action.

We have a choice right now to stop in all our festive preparations and consider what an amazing God we serve.

You can easily wonder on each of these thoughts from the Bible for hours!

– God had thoughts of you and chose you before he created the universe!
Ephesians 1:4

– God is familiar with all your ways, always thinking thoughts of you. He planned great things for you before you were born!
Psalm 139

– I’m sure you can imagine quite a lot, but, His power at work in you can do far more than you dare ask or imagine!
Ephesians 3:20

– God thinks the world of you, even counting the hairs on your head!
Luke 12.7

And my favourite!
– what God has prepared for you is so ‘other worldly’ so amazing that it says of all the billions of people who have ever lived or are alive today, no one has ever had a single thought in the right direction, even by accident, of just how great it is!
1 Corinthians 2:9

The bigger our picture and wonder of God the smaller our problems and less distracting they appear.

This Christmas, choose to wonder and increase in joy for all that Jesus has done in your life!

Luke Cartwright

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 338

I was reading recently what is recognised as one of the most well-known chapters in all the Bible and it’s found in Psalm 23. Here’s what it says in verses 1-4…

“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

Now I’ve heard this collection of verses many times, but on this occasion, one particular part stood out to me that I’d previously overlooked. In verse 2 of Psalm 23 it says, ‘He (speaking of God) guides me along the right paths’… A very encouraging verse to say the least. However, in the following verse it says, ‘Even though I walk through the darkest valley…’ The not-so encouraging part of Psalm 23…

I was somewhat surprised to find these two verses side by side, because you would think that if God was guiding you along the right paths, then you would never encounter dark valleys, but only ever beautiful, green-grass, blue-sky type surroundings…

But what is being said here in Psalm 23 is that God always ensures that you are where you need to be, however that may not always lead you to be where you want to be. You see, the journey that you’re on will cause you to experience many different kinds of scenery, but whether you’re on a mountaintop today, or whether you’re walking through the darkest valley, you can be confident in knowing that God is guiding your steps and that His hand is upon your life.

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – Day 337

The other day (Monday) I talked about how we should be ready to welcome new seasons into our lives.

When God brings us into something new, we need to make sure that our heart and attitudes are right, so that we don’t miss it.

Here are 3 things to help you to be ready for that new season…

1. Have a faithful heart

When you are faithful in small things, God will entrust bigger things to you.
David in the Bible was doing ordinary small things, but he was doing them well, when God called him to be something greater.
He was just a shepherd boy, but a good one and God saw a King in Him.

Be faithful with what you are doing right now.

 
2. Have a willing heart.

When God called Esther to speak to the King and risk her life in doing so, she said she would, even if it meant her losing her life, because the outcome could mean that many would be saved because of her bravery.
And they were. She was ‘called for such a time as this’.

Be willing to do what God asks of you.

3. Have a worshipping heart.

The Bible tells us that David ‘was a man after God’s own heart’ . He was a worshipper. He delighted himself in God.

Be a worshipper, no matter what you’re going through.

Be  ready, be willing, be able.

Prayer – Dear Lord, whatever this new season holds, help me to be ready, help my heart and attitude to be right. Lord I am willing, please use me.

Now get ready for what God is going to do!

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 336

For years now we have paid a small insurance premium on our washing machine, mainly due to us being stung on numerous occasions when it broke down.

Paying to have it fixed became a financial burden at what always seemed to be the most inconvenient times in the year.

Four weeks ago, our washing machine, after serving us well for 10 years finally gave up the ghost, and an engineer came out to sign its death certificate.

“The insurance company will now pay out for you to have a new one”, he said.

“Great”, I said, not realising that that was to be the case.

After several long phone calls and days of humbly asking others to help with our washing, we eventually were told that we would now be getting the promised replacement and issued me with the model number.

Not wanting to sound ungrateful, whilst at the same time adding up how much we paid out in insurance for ten years, I flatly refused the offer, stating that I could buy the suggested washer from my local Argos, which meant it was just a bog standard machine.

“I’m not willing to accept it” I told them, which now meant I would have to wait another few days to re-negotiate and get them to agree.

Yesterday, after another 20 minute phone call, I was asked…”well want do you want?” I was bold enough to tell them that I wanted the best, one that will last and one that will do everything that I need it to do, after all, “we’ve paid enough insurance over the years to buy it twice over”, I said.

In two days time I, or should I say my wife, gets the washing machine that she wanted.

I didn’t demand something that I was not entitled to, I just refused something that I believed to be second or even third best, and politely, yet firmly, asked for what I believed was rightfully mine.

As I’m sure you know, this is not about washing machines, but a challenge to all of us who are willing to accept far less than God’s best for our lives.

How often do we bow to the first thing that comes our way, feeling that we should humbly accept it?

How many of us are living in the land of second best, simply because we couldn’t be bothered to push through to gain what was rightfully ours?

Anyone can settle for second rate living, but it takes a certain amount of boldness to push through to live in your promised land.

When Jesus spoke of prayer, He Illustrated it by saying that we should be bold enough to ask what we want and never give up.

I know that it sounds humble to accept anything and everything that comes your way, and to only ask for the minimum, but Jesus didn’t say that.

There are times in all of lives when we need to realign our thinking, our actions and our prayers with what Jesus said to do.

Be humbly bold enough today to ask for what’s rightfully yours.

Luke 18:1-8 Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’ “For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’” And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 335

If I asked you to sing a carol right now, I wonder which you’d choose?

It would probably be something pretty easy and well known like ‘Silent Night’ or ‘O Come All Ye Faithful.’

When you think about it, we have all grown up on carols, to the degree that they are instantly recognisable when we hear the first line.

Even though so old, they also have an emotional impact on us, and even inspire us to do our Christmas shopping, dare I say, as we trudge around the shopping mall.

There’s something almost magical and tingly about all those well-known ones but have you ever stopped to think about what some of the words mean?

What about carols like this one… ‘Good King Wenceslas looked out, on the feast of Stephen’…what on earth does that mean?

Or what about this line from ‘Hark the Herald’…

Late in time behold him come,
Offspring of the virgins womb
Veil’d in flesh, the Godhead see;
Hail, th’incarnate Deity:

I can guarantee that we’ve all sung that verse so many times without even releasing it – correct?

When was the last time you sang a carol and knew exactly what it meant?

Thankfully, there’s a new one just released and it captures beautifully the real message of hope that Jesus brings to all at this Christmas time and throughout every day of the year…

For the unclean, the unholy
For the broken, the unworthy
You came, Jesus you came

For the wounded, for the hurting
For the lost, and for the lonely
You came, Jesus you came

For the outcast, the defeated
For the weary, for the weakest
You came, Jesus you came

O come let us adore him
For He alone is worthy
Our King has come
O give Him all the glory
For He alone is worthy
Our King has come

I know this Christmas that it will certainly become a Number 1 hit at churches all over the world.

If you don’t have a church to attend, then may I take this opportunity to invite and welcome you to Champions:

Sunday 20th December – The Great Christmas Giveaway at both 9am and 11.30 am.

Christmas Eve at 7pm.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – Day 334

When the Angel delivered the message to Mary and Joseph, he told them that the name of their baby was to be Jesus.

There were no other names suitable for this special baby…he had to be named Jesus – why?

The name Jesus means ‘God saves’, and when the Angel announced the name, he also wanted everyone to be quite clear as to why…’for He will save His people from their sins'; but the message didn’t just stop there, as just a few verses later into the Christmas story, the Angel further announces that He will be called or known as Emmanuel.

Everyone of us is named one thing and called another from time to time, and Jesus was no exception; what He would be called and known for was more than just the name Jesus, as Emmanuel means ‘God with us’.

Can you imagine the breathtaking news that this day brought? Not only is the world getting a saviour, but this saviour was to be God in the flesh.

God so wanted to come down to our level that He came Himself in the form of Jesus. WOW!

Today, the same is still as true as it was then, in that every Christmas that comes and goes is yet again another reminder that God is with us.

Maybe you only ever think of God as out there somewhere, someone that exists, but cannot be personally known.

Jesus’s arrival changed all that in that He made it possible to be known, yes, personally known.

He actually invites you to come to Him and allow Him into your life.

The Inn keeper is one of the best known characters in the nativity play, as he was the fella that said ‘no room’.

Don’t be like him today as you get caught up in the busy-ness of Christmas, but be like the shepherds that put their own lives on hold just to come and see.

Take a look at Jesus this Christmas – after all, it’s His birthday that we are celebrating.

Maybe the last words of the old carol, ‘In The Bleak Mid Winter’ will help you in making that decision today…

What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give Him my heart.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 333

Today, we will form opinions of people.

Today, people will form opinions about us.

If we’re honest, we often don’t like the opinions people form about us, but in reality, those opinions are not without a reason.

Opinions aren’t random…if you don’t believe me, ask why you have formed an opinion of someone else?

Is it not based on what you have seen, perceived or heard about that very person?

Now admittedly, we can form wrong opinions of others because we judged them wrongly or decided to base an opinion on hearsay, a lie or mere gossip.

I wonder…can you change what people’s opinions of you are?

The answer is ‘yes.’

Take for instance, the opinion that you are stingy rather than generous.

How did people form that opinion?

The answer is simple…you are stingy!

In one sense, people’s thoughts about us don’t matter and yet they do, as their opinions are really a gauge to let you know how you come across to others.

Over the 30 plus years of our marriage, both Gillian and myself have at times said things to each other that we have later regretted.

One such conversation would go something like this…”When you said that you hurt me” to which the reply came back…”but I didn’t say it like you heard it”…to which the reply comes back…”I can’t help how I heard it, but you can help how you said it!”

As painful as those conversations are, there is a great truth contained in them – you can’t help how you hear things, but you can help how you say things.

If people have formed a wrong opinion of you, don’t be too harsh with them, as they have based it on what they saw, heard and perceived about you.

Take a moment today to listen to yourself in an unguarded moment – you may be surprised to find that you don’t like how you come across either.

Always be humble enough to admit that you got it wrong and be willing to change; you may be the last person to see the change, but others will soon spot it and be happy to review their opinions of you.

This Christmas time, ask yourself, what would you like to be known for and then give yourself a personality makeover…and if you think you’re perfect, ask a close friend to tell you the truth.

Proverbs 27:6 Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 332

I once had a dream that  I slept through the entire Christmas period!
I missed everything…the gifts, the family, the food, the fun, the rest, the laughter, the love, the Christmas PJs.
That was a BAD dream…to miss an entire season that you love.

Some of you may absolutely love the summer. Imagine going to sleep when the daffodils are up and waking up when the leaves are falling off the trees, you’ve missed an entire season.

How sad this would be, as each season brings with it, its beauty and enjoyment, as well as its hard times.

Sometimes, we can miss the very season that God has for us, because our heart is not in tune with His.
He may have something wonderful prepared for us, but because our hearts are hard, or we may have let bitterness creep in, or we don’t see anything good, it’s possible that we can miss an entire season.

I often come across people who are so ‘tied’ to old seasons, the way it’s always been done and the way we always used to do it, that they miss the adventure of an exciting new season.

God is not boring, He doesn’t do repeats. What He does do, is fresh and exciting and current.

Make sure that your heart is right, make sure that your attitude is right, make sure that your spirit is ready for all that God has for you in this new season.
Don’t be tied to the past, the past has gone.

Embrace it, welcome it, look forward to it and don’t sleep through it.

Remember this, that in your new season, “His mercies are new every day” (Lamentations 3:22-23) and He will walk through it with you.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 331

Last week, we looked at giants in our lives and how if we’re not careful they can try to defeat us…yet God has given us everything we need to defeat them.

Think of David and Goliath.
Small boy, big problem – yet with God, all things are possible.

Here are 4 ways to identify a ‘giant’ in your life.

1. It will be big
In 1 Samuel 17, it tells us that Goliath was huge and his armour weighed 9 stone alone.
Giants will always be ‘big’ things in your life (that’s why they are called giants).

2. It will taunt you
It will plague you. It will whisper in your ear and make you feel useless, like giving up, tell you that you can’t cope, that it’s not worth it.

3. It will bring you fear
Your giant may not be the physical size of Goliath, but it will scare you. Giants can overwhelm us with fear. Fear that you’re not going to get any better, that it’s never going to be any different.
STOP – God is not the author of fear.

4. It will be consistent
We read that Goliath was there everyday.
Giants are there when you wake, and they’re there when your head hits the pillow.

Don’t be scared by those four things. David wasn’t.

He faced it.
Whatever is in your life right now that is holding you back and stopping you from moving forward, deal with it. Call on God.
He is only a prayer away.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 330

We all have a story. The fact that you are sitting and reading this means that you have experiences completely unique to you.

It is human nature to want to present the best sides of ourselves. It can be tempting to hide our struggles because we want to be perceived in a particular way.

A challenge for all of us today is to be our authentic selves, flaws and all. The Bible says that where we are weak, God is our strength. Your struggles could encourage someone else today.

That redundancy that you overcame? It may push someone experiencing unemployment to their breakthrough.

Those children that you prayed so hard for? They may just show other couples God’s faithfulness.

Your past mistakes and how God changed your life may show someone the way out of their sin.

You never know whose faith can be lifted by your story. The greats that we read about in the Bible faced major struggles and made huge mistakes – God still uses their stories to encourage us today, on our own journey.

‭‭‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭12:9‬ ‭NIV‬‬ ‘But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”’

‬‬Never be ashamed of your testimony. God can use it in the most amazing ways. Nothing is wasted.

Melissa Reynolds-Lawrence

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 329

The postage stamp seems to be almost a thing of the past, but there’s still nothing quite like receiving a Christmas card that has a specially designed Christmas stamp stuck to its top right hand corner.

Since 1966, over 17 billion Christmas stamps have been sold.

The value of a stamp seems quite insignificant in monetary value and even more so in its size, weight and consistency, yet without it your parcels, letters and cards wouldn’t get very far.

Its value, therefore is in its ability to stick to things for the duration of its journey; once your item has arrived then the humble stamp has done its job.

To many people, God has no relevance and yet, He is the most reliable being in the universe; He is not only willing to love you unconditionally, but He is willing to stick with you and never let you go.

No matter what journey you’re on today and no matter how long and difficult it may be, you can rest assured that God will stick to you, so that you will make it right to the end.

His promise throughout the Bible is that He will ‘never leave you or forsake you’, but it doesn’t get much better than the promise below…

Jude 1:24-25 To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.

What an amazing promise to see you through this life and into His presence in the next…

– He will keep you from falling…
– He will present you without fault before God,
– He will present you to God with great joy.

All this is an amazing promise, if you hand your life over to Jesus and allow Him to deliver you safely through life and all its circumstances.

Feel like you’re travelling through life alone?

Jesus will stick closer than any friend…trust Him today.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 328

My metabolism doesn’t like me!

I have been on a diet since I was a teenager.

This has led me to adopting a lifestyle of running twice a week and using hand weights; all this combined with watching what I eat works for me.

I know this will sound obvious, but the reason I put time aside to run 3 miles twice a week is because in my natural everyday life (working behind a desk), I never spontaneously stop what I’m doing and run 3 miles.

My job doesn’t call for me to do that.

In the same way, there is nothing in my normal life activities that causes me to lift 8kg weights.

I purposefully make space in the week to do unnatural activities (as opposed to naturally occurring) that aren’t crucial for my survival, but beneficial for my existence.

As in the natural, so in the spiritual…

There is nothing in our normal day-to-day life that enriches and feeds us spiritually!

If there was, then we would all be Arnold Schwarzenegger’s in the faith, merely by our default lives.

I am far from perfect, but I know that I am better for, and enjoy more successes by, being disciplined by making space to feed my spiritual life.

From a ‘quiet time’ in the morning, to being part of a Life group, to being part of a healthy and growing Church, there are many ways that we can create opportunities to feed a side of our lives that won’t get built up by the natural course of events.

Today, you have made a great choice to put time aside to read ‘Fresh Hope’.

If you’re like me and struggle in life, it means you’re normal; if you’re normal it means you can grow stronger by learning to make space in your busy schedules to help build a wonderful relationship with Jesus.

Hebrew 10:24-25 ‘And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.’

Luke Cartwright

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 327

Famous failures…

Albert Einstein wasn’t able to speak until he was almost 4 years old and his teachers said he would “never amount to much”.

Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team, after which he went home, locked himself in his room and cried.

Walt Disney was fired from working on a newspaper for ‘lacking imagination’ and ‘having no original ideas’.

Oprah Winfrey was demoted from her job as a news anchor because she wasn’t fit for TV.

The Beatles were rejected by Decca Recording Studios, who said “we don’t like their sound – they have no future in show business”.

Steve Jobs, at age 30 was left devastated and depressed after being unceremoniously removed from the company he started.

How many times do we convince ourselves that we are failures based on what others have said about us? Don’t treat other people’s words as a prophecy over your life.

What God says about you and your future is the most important voice that you’ll ever hear.

When God called Gideon in the Bible, He referred to him as a ‘mighty warrior’.

Gideon was shocked by the title that God had given him, explaining that He must have the wrong fella, as his family was the least in their clan and that he himself was the least in his family. Nevertheless, God saw something in him that others could never see.

Always remember that when God calls you, He doesn’t do so in reference to your past but in recognition of your future.

No matter what has been said over your life up until now, make a decision to listen to God’s verdict today…you’re a winner.

Judges 6:12-16 When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.” “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.” The Lord turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?” “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.” The Lord answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive.”

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 326

As we approach Christmas, the yearly conversation has begun with my wife of how much we agree to spend on each other.

Under no circumstances do we go over this fixed ‘set in stone’ figure as it would render it a pointless spending-cap exercise; I then ignore the agreement, spend too much and so prove it to have been a pointless exercise.

We will go through the same ritual next year!

Often, we live our lives in this conditional, tit for tat, ‘you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours’ mentality.

It makes sense…it’s fair and we want to be done to as we do to others.

When we first become a Christian, we are overwhelmed at not getting our just desserts!

Unfortunately, in our day-to-day lives, it’s very easy to lose sight of this and go back, as my wife and I do every year, trying to make it a fair exchange.

What do I need to do now the honeymoon period is over to earn God’s goodness in my life?

Let’s take a minute today to stop and remind ourselves of this amazing verse:

Romans 3.23-24 ‘All of us have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. But God treats us much better than we deserve, and because of Christ Jesus, he freely accepts us and sets us free from our sins.’

You may have been a Christian for many years and feel you should be better than you are; you will never be good enough to deserve what He freely gives us, so stop with the feelings.

Romans 8.1 ‘Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus!’

He has already dealt with tomorrow’s failings, before we have even done them.

Now that’s not fair, it’s not tit for tat and we do not deserve it!

There is a famous analogy a well-known Theologian uses of Christians trying to earn God’s approval, he says it’s as if we are trying to get into a room which we are already in!

It’s too good to be true, and yet it is true!

We need to begin every day just being grateful for what He has done for us and live in the freedom He has given us to spread the good news to others.

This Christmas, let’s not waste emotion on the guilt of not being good enough, you are good enough because of what Jesus has done!

Remember, you are in the room. Enjoy it!

Luke Cartwright

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 325

If you raid the fridge at midnight once or twice, it’s probably quite acceptable. But when that becomes a habit and something you have to do, then you’ve probably got a problem.

Most ‘giants’ in our lives don’t start off as giants, they grow into them.

A small white lie here, a small one there and before long, you never really tell the truth at all.

Goliath in the Bible, wasn’t born a giant (thankfully, for all Moms out there), he grew into one.

Whatever your giant, if you don’t face it, you’ll never conquer it and if you don’t face it when it’s small, it will become a giant that’s harder to deal with.
A giant can come in many forms
– an eating problem
– depression
– a wrong relationship
– debt (you weren’t always in debt)
– sin
– bad habits
– addictions
– worry
– fear
– people

The list is endless…

In 1 Samuel, we read how little David conquered giant Goliath. If he can do it, so can you and I.

Don’t let little problems become massive giants in your life. Identify them now and ‘nip them in the bud.’
And if your giant, is already massive, like Goliath…do a ‘David’ on it and call on God’s help.
Because with God, all things are possible.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 324

Under coach John Wooden, the UCLA basketball team won the US national championship for seven straight years.

At the start of each season, he would sit his team down in their locker room and, for a long time – a very long time – they would learn how to put on their socks:

…”Check the heel area. We don’t want any signs of a wrinkle about it…the wrinkle will be sure you get blisters, and those blisters are going to make you lose playing time…”

The lesson wasn’t really about blisters or playing time, it was about doing the basics right, taking care of the details, looking after yourself correctly and being humble enough to sort the small stuff.

‘Winning takes talent,’ John Wooden would say. ‘To repeat it takes character.’

So often, we overlook the small details that really matter.

As I write, we are just embarking on the mammoth task of running our Christmas village that attracts around 2000 people each Christmas.

Hours of planning and hard work have already gone into this two day event that is on again tonight.

To the average person coming through the gates, the village will appear to have just magically landed on the one acre site of our church car park, but I know different.

The smallest of details have all had to be worked on, so that the magic and sparkle of the village will be evident to all…especially the children.

Seemingly inconsequential stuff, if overlooked, will be a ‘wrinkle’ that will end up giving us ‘blisters, when the crowds roll in.

To me, the smallest details, even in how the bow is tied on the base of the huge Christmas tree is important.

Life itself is made of many small details that many of us overlook, failing to realise the importance of doing little things really well.

If you only ever look to make a huge impact ,with your life, then I encourage you to work on the small details first; from there on in, you will build a reputation that will take you far beyond your wildest dreams.

Luke 16:10-12 “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?

…and by the way, if you haven’t experienced ‘Champions Christmas Village’, it’s not too late…gates open again tonight (Friday 4th Dec) 6-9.30pm. I would love to meet you there!

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 323

There are two types of people when it comes to opening a box containing a new gadget, device, appliance or piece of flat pack furniture.

There’s firstly the type that just rips off all the packaging and totally ignores the instruction to ‘read this carefully before doing anything’.

There’s no time to waste reading through a manual, when all you want is to see the product up and running. It’s so much quicker getting on with the job rather than wasting precious time deciphering all that information for dummies.

The second type of person is the one that carefully opens the box, lays everything neatly out and then makes a cup of tea. Whilst drinking the tea, they then sit back and read from cover to cover the instructions in order to fully understand what to do, what goes where and which way round it all goes.

We all know of course that the latter takes so much more time…but does it?

I have to admit that I’m in the first group, and I only look at the instructions after I’ve got five pieces still left from completing an IKea wardrobe.

I suppose I apply a simple principle that says: if I get it wrong, I’ll then read the instructions.

Over the years, I’ve come to understand that the words of the old proverb are really true…’More haste, less speed.’

In fact, the reality is that the slow starters in group two are going to not only finish quicker in the long run, but what they have established is going to last longer too.

Often, we just want to assemble our lives according to the law of ME. We want to see things quickly happen, so there’s no time to get wisdom or advice; but in the long run, what seems to be a head start, actually ends up as a false start.

Whether it’s a new phone, washing machine, car or wardrobe, the principle is still the same…’for best results follow the maker’s instructions’.

How much more should we apply that basic principle to life itself?

The maker’s instructions come in the form of the Bible, and then of course by listening to the still small voice of the Holy Spirit Himself.

Don’t rush ahead today, giving no thought, time or importance to God’s instructions for your best life, instead put the kettle on each morning, sit back and take in what He wants to say to you.

Read the Bible and pray every day.

You’ll find that instead of getting behind everyone else, you’ll actually get ahead and into the bargain will build something that will last.

Matthew 7:24-27 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

BIBLE – Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 322

So, we know that over the last few days, the story of Ruth teaches us that difficulties do not necessarily mean that God has left you, and that if you remain faithful to Him, He will reveal His perfect plan for your life.

Naomi, her mother-in-law, urged Ruth to stay in her own land, but Ruth followed God’s plan for her own life by going into a new future with Naomi.

Sometimes God wants us to go into the unknown, and trusting Him is always the best option.

Sometimes your very own family may try to keep you out of God’s will, sometimes by good intentions and sometimes by bad.

You often have to shut out the noise of the crowd, even though it may be loud and go with what you believe God is telling you to do.

Make that decision to just ‘go for it.’
You have to believe that your destiny is out there and just be determined to give yourself to getting it.

The Bible says we should ‘set our faces like flint’…which means that we have to be single-minded in going for what God has for us.

You have a purpose – set about making it happen today.

Don’t delay.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 321

Yesterday we talked about Ruth from the Bible and how that when everything seems to go wrong, God can still have an awesome plan for your life.

Naomi was her mother-in-law and Ruth remained faithful to her and went with her, even when it would’ve been easier to stay in her own land.

She may even have said, “I wish I hadn’t have got mixed up with you lot in the first place, I wouldn’t be where I am now, I wouldn’t be suffering or even a widow.”

What do you say when the heat is on?
What do you think when things get tough?
What is your attitude like, when the rubber hits the road?

Ruth remained faithful…
And what unfolded was one of the most beautiful stories ever heard.

More tomorrow.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 320

I don’t know how you feel today?
You may feel that you don’t have a destiny or a purpose for your life.
You may say, “There’s no way God has a perfect plan for MY life.”
You may think that with all the hardship and suffering you’ve gone through or are going through, that’s there’s no way God could possibly be able to use you.

You can’t see clearly for tomorrow, let alone a great future.

Well, take heart.
When you read the book of Ruth you will understand that even with all the hardships, sufferings and even devastation that God can make something awesome from your life.

She went through famine, losing her father-in-law and then her brother-in-law, then her husband died.

You may say “it never rains, but it pours” – that was Ruth’s life.

Difficulties don’t necessarily mean God has left you.

It’s not what happens to you, it’s your attitude to what happens that matters.

You like Ruth, may just be on the verge of something awesome…hang on in there.

God will always fulfil His destiny in you…as long as you remain faithful.

Ruth pledged her allegiance to her mother-in-law, even though it didn’t seem to be right and what God did next was…WOW.

Read the story. You’ll be so inspired.

God has your future in His hands.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – Day 319

This last week we sent out 5500 Christmas gifts to our community, inviting them to our Champion Christmas events.

We are getting ready…

We took on two major billboards in our town and local shopping mall that will reach thousands.

We are getting ready…

This week coming, we are expecting to see a few thousand people come to our Christmas village.

We are getting ready…

Today, we put up all our Christmas decorations at home, including 5 trees.

We are getting ready…

I have already purchased 99.9% of all my Christmas gifts this year.

I am nearly ready…
The Christmas season is about getting ready and being ready.
It’s usually a time of rushing around and making sure everything is just so.

For some, it’s stressful and full of pressure. Please don’t let it be like that for you.

The most important thing, is that YOU are ready and your heart is ready for all that this season can bring to you.
God wants to draw you closer to Him and use you to be an inviter of others.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. (Michael Bublé reminded me of that this morning).

Warning: don’t miss the Christ from Christmas this year, because you are too busy doing other stuff.

I love Christmas. I love family and friends, I love giving and receiving.But most of all, I love Jesus…And celebrating HIM is what it’s really all about.

Get yourself ready for what God can do in your life and those you love this Christmas.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 318

Recently, I was watching the David Beckham Match for Children on TV. It was quite the occasion, with some of the world’s greatest football players all on the same pitch playing together.

One of my favourite moments of the game was when Brooklyn Beckham came on in replacement for his Dad. The crowd were upstanding, cheering and admiring this historic moment.

Brooklyn walked onto the pitch looking confident, as he entered a game filled with some of the most talented individuals that football has ever seen.

Now, he was not the most experienced player on the pitch. His ability in comparison to those around him wouldn’t have been the reason for his confidence. What provided the skip in his step, so to speak, was knowing who his dad was…that was where his confidence was found.

In life, you too can experience this same kind of confidence, when you understand that through simple belief in Jesus, you can become a child of God.

It means that you aren’t dependant on your past experience, nor are you preoccupied with your ability in comparison to others, your confidence is rooted in who your Dad is.

When you live life with Jesus, He will take you places that you don’t deserve to be and will do for you that which you cannot do for yourself. That’s the message of His grace…

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 317

There are 7 billion people that occupy this world today, and yet you are totally unique.

You have a unique purpose and destiny that is distinct from anyone else that has ever lived.

You can have a dream, a plan, a role and a vision that will make a contribution to humanity.

Have the courage to be uniquely you…to be different.

Don’t just settle for an easy life, that requires no effort on your part; I know it’s much easier and far less stressful to be mediocre and to blend in.

Everything within you at times says ‘don’t make waves, just swim with the tide and go with the flow.’

No courage is required just to be normal, but all that does is neutralise what God has planned for your life.

Being courageous doesn’t mean you will never be afraid or doubt, quite the opposite; the one who has courage pushes through the fear and keeps moving forward toward the goal that you were created for.

Destiny is not only a destination, but a process taking place within you.

You need to see yourself doing what you were born for, before you actually do it.

Long before you get married, you need to see yourself at the altar.

You need to get educated, if you are dreaming of that degree.

You need to see yourself as the supervisor before you get the title; but if you don’t behave like a supervisor, you will never become one -even if you do get the badge.

If you believe you are called to be a communicator then start to prepare a little message that you can preach to a tree or the dog.

If you are to become the musician that you believe you are called to be, then don’t wait for the stage, but become skilful with your headphones on, shut away in your bedroom, while all of your friends are out partying or watching TV.

A surgeon is only able to pick up and use the instruments that are already clean and at hand in the operating theatre. In the same way today, God is looking to use those that are prepared and ready to be used.

Instead of praying the prayer ‘Lord use me today’, why not change it to ‘Lord make me usable today’.

My prayer for you is that you will have the courage and determination to make a difference by being who you need to be.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 316

My work started today with trudging through all the countless emails that I had accumulated over the weekend.

I can assure you that the vast majority were nothing to do with necessity, urgency, problems, encouragement or popularity, but to do with just one word – JUNK.  

Every day we all have to sift through all the junk mail that comes to us in a modern world, knowing that we can’t afford to miss that one email that we were waiting or hoping for. 

I had a friend that was so fed up with the amount of emails that he received on a daily basis, that he would ignore them for as long as possible, and then delete the whole lot…important ones as well. 

I soon learnt that the only way to communicate with him by email, was to send at least 3 identical messages, all with the title ‘URGENT‘ in bold capitals.

Occasionally it would grab his attention and I’d get a reply!

Being continually bombarded by junk mail is no different in many ways to the amount of ‘junk thoughts’ that enter our minds every day. 

I wonder how many thoughts you have had to sift through just to start the day off today?

How many of us have found some pretty horrendous things coming into out minds, even before we got out of bed?

The key is, just like with your emails, to quickly deal with the junk and delete it without reading it. Don’t even open it – as you know it will only want you to give it your attention. 

Be ruthless with your thoughts. 

Don’t attach any importance whatsoever to the junk thoughts. 

Remember, you’re not the only one getting them as they are being sent out to millions of people all at the same time hoping that they will gain someone’s attention. Decide it’s not going to be you. 

Press delete now.  

Don’t flag them for later.

Don’t believe what the subject says.

Bin them before they bin you. 

Amongst all of the chit-chat that going on inside of your head right now, ask the Holy Spirit to speak to you clearly above the noise of everything else. 

Don’t mistakenly delete His ‘mail’ to you…that’s the one that you need to read today.

Romans 12:1-2 (Message version) ‘…So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.’

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 315

I’m quite handy when it comes to DIY and have, over the years, been willing to try my hand at most things.

I was taught how to do plumbing by a friend of mine, and tried to teach myself how to do electrics, that was until I gave myself one too many shocks and nearly blew someone else out of their shoes in the process.

Owning our first house meant that there was always some pretty major stuff to do, and the order of the day was to do it as quickly and cheaply as possible, even though the end result was never perfect and rarely lasted more than a couple of years. 

As I look back over my DIY days, I realise that a change has taken place, as I now approach things with a view to make sure that the finished job is 100% and that it will stand the test of time. 

The big difference in this change is all in the amount of time taken in preparation. The more thorough the preparation, the better and more lasting the finished product will be. 

Someone once said that the longest journey between two points is a short cut. 

No matter what we do in life, the same principle applies. 

Oven chips and microwave pies will always taste average, so if you want an exquisite meal then you have to put in the hours of preparation, or pay someone else to do so at a good restaurant. 

All these practical life lessons can stand us in good stead for the character preparation that’s needed, if we too are going to stand the test of time. Life is not about how fast you can sprint for a few short paces, but it’s about being able to cross the finishing line at the end of the marathon. 

Stop trying to get everywhere too quickly in order to become an overnight success – believe me, it won’t last. 

Take pride in the preparation of your life, understanding that God’s preparation is both thorough and often lengthy, but He does it knowing that He wants you to succeed for the long haul of your destiny. 

I have often seen people that are highly gifted spring up over night, with much adulation, only to find them quickly disappearing because their character couldn’t sustain them where the gift had taken them. 

Don’t just live to get to your destination…enjoy the journey. 

Romans 5:3-5′…we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.’

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 314

A beauty product company once asked people in a large city to send pictures, along with brief letters, describing the most beautiful women they know.

Within weeks, thousands of letters came in.

One letter caught the attention of the MD.
It was written by a boy from a broken home who lived in a rundown neighbourhood. With lots of spelling mistakes, an excerpt from his letter said this “a beautiful woman lives down the street from me, I visit her every day. She makes me feel like the most important kid in the world. We play draughts and she listens to my problems.
She understands me.
When I leave she always yells out of the door that she is proud of me and one day I hope to have a wife as pretty as her.”

Intrigued by the letter, the MD asked to see the woman’s picture. His secretary handed him the photograph of a smiling, toothless woman, well advanced in years, sitting in a wheelchair. Her sparse grey hair was pulled back into a bun. The wrinkles that formed deep furrows on her face were somehow diminished by the twinkle in her eyes.

The managing director exclaimed “we cannot use this woman, she would show the world that our products are not necessary to make someone beautiful.”

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 313

I love going to fitness classes. It’s not always easy to motivate myself to go, but I do go. 

When I’m there, I may moan about the difficult tasks or I may think “should I be doing this at my age!?”

But of course, the answer is yes. Exercise is good. And the benefits far out way the excuses.

A gold standard athlete has to go through RIGOROUS training to get where he/she needs to be. 

  • Getting up and out at 5 am for training in all weathers, not just when it’s warm and sunny. 
  • Running up hills and mountains for stamina training, when you sometimes can’t even breathe.
  • Going away for weeks on end for intense training.
  • Not eating and drinking what everyone else does, but sticking to a strict diet instead 
  • Not staying out late and going to all the places your friends do, because you need good sleep and you have to get up early for training. 

 

These are just a few of the ‘hardships’ that an athlete would go through. 

Surely, there are times when they would want to give up? I’m sure so. 

But ask them when they are standing on that podium with the gold medal, if it was worth it and I’m sure the answer is YES.

Good things don’t come easy. 

Success doesn’t happen overnight.

Hard work and faithfulness produce excellent results. 

Are you contemplating giving up today?

Are you making excuses?

Keep going!  

You are stronger than you think. 

Galatians 6:9 Don’t grow weary in doing good. For at the proper time, you WILL reap a harvest, if you don’t give up. 

Happy Saturday.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 312

I’m teaching my youngest son, Caleb, to drive at the moment. 

I’ve been taking him out once week for a few months now, and as much as possible, he gets to drive to the office on most mornings (with me in the car that is).

On the rare times that his Mom travels with him, he will ask if he can drive, to which she normally replies that it stresses her too much. 

On the evenings when I’ve been teaching him how to do three-point turns or parallel parking, he always has a tendency to want to be a rally driver on his way home, as the the hour lesson has been so slow and tedious. 

We all have different driving habits, and often they mirror the way we live our lives. Some are fast and furious whilst others are slow and cautious. 

I’d like to think that I’m somewhere in between, both in driving and in life. 

Gillian will often say to me, either, ‘you’re driving too slow’ or ‘slow down, this is a 30mph limit.’ 

I reckon that you can pretty much tell a person’s age by the speed that they drive, and almost can guarantee that that’s the speed in which they do life. 

I wonder today if you are driving your life on the inside lane?  Conserving energy, being cautious, not wanting to get too close to the speed limit?

Without even noticing, our lives can become one long boring motorway journey that is never going to go anywhere in a hurry. You are so concerned with burning yourself out in life that you settle for an inside lane…minimal stress, minimal effort, minimal concentration, minimal speed, minimal blessing and maximum boredom kind of life. 

Why not today overtake the undertaker that resides in you? 

Venture out a little into the fast lane of life and take some more ground that you have feared up until now. 

Stop being so cautious about everything. 

Stop being so reserved in your personality. 

Stop being so intimidated by those that keep overtaking you. 

Stop conserving your energy for another day…that day is TO-DAY.

Sometimes we can be so careful, only because we are so full of care.

Break out of your inside lane mentality, and take to the freedom of the open road. 

Matthew 14:22-31 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it. Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?” 

`Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 311

We all have a signature that is unique to us. 

I remember as a young teenager, trying to come up with something that would stay with me throughout my life.

After endless sheets of paper, I finally came up with a signature that was impossible to copy and unfortunately impossible to read. 

 Nowadays, I have to sign my name on lots of documents…passport countersignatures for people, letters, cheques, authorisations, and then there’s the marriage certificate; this one is the most interesting, as the registrar has to print my name by the side just to verify that that scribble is connected to me.

When signing my name, I am actually saying that this is my identity. 

My authority is in that name. If I want to give someone else my authority, I have to sign my name to do so. 

My credibility is in that name. 

My reputation is in that name. 

My name can get me into schools, hospitals and prisons, but it won’t get me into places like Buckingham Palace, as my name has its obvious limitations. 

Have you ever thought as to why we pray and then say ‘in Jesus name?’

It’s because our words don’t carry authority in and of themselves, but by using the name JESUS, we are actually stating that this prayer is in His authority and backed by His credibility and reputation. 

When I pray in His name, my prayer is just as if Jesus is saying it himself. 

There is power in the name of Jesus. 

Don’t ever be tempted to think that your style of prayer, or the language of your prayer, or the length of your prayer is what matters, no, it’s Jesus’ name that gives the simplest of prayers, prayed with the smallest amount of faith its power. 

Never forget that the very signature of God is written in the blood of Jesus, His Son, and our Saviour. 

The name of Jesus carries with it the very weight of God himself. 

Acts 4:12 “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

Pastor Mark

 A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 310

I have to admit that I was trembling with fear. 

I was waiting on the end of the phone for the results from tests that I’d undertaken at the Doctor’s 10 days earlier. 

I’d felt unwell for some time and had concluded that there must be something wrong; my appetite had gone and I was feeling sick every afternoon. 

I’m not very good with the anatomy of the body, but I was experiencing discomfort around my kidney area and was pretty convinced that I was going to receive results that would confirm my worst fears. 

As I waited, even the receptionist seemed to act strangely, as if she wanted to hide something from me, pulling up the results on the screen. 

“I will have to get the Doctor to call you”, she said with a tone that suggested that she was not qualified to break to bad news. 

Moments later the Doctor phoned. “Mr Burchell…your test results have come back…all clear.”

I asked him if he’d read them correctly and if he was sure, and once again he confirmed all was well. 

It doesn’t have to be a sickness – it may be just a situation that is plaguing you, but nevertheless the feelings are much the same…you fear the worst. 

As a man of faith, it pains me to tell this story as it feels like I was so lacking in faith on this particular day, when instead of believing for the best, I was waiting for the worst. 

Every day, ordinary people of faith, like you and I are facing the subtle yet powerful mind games that come to take us down. 

How many of us today are fearing the worst possible news, when in reality, it’s just a ploy of the Devil to take us out of action?

Stop believing for the worst and believe for the best. 

Even if the news is bad or worse than you thought, God is still God and He is still good- nothing can change that. 

Maybe your test results didn’t come back all clear and you’re trembling with fear right now…be at peace. 

Worry is worthless – it changes nothing.

Don’t look down, look up -Jesus has it all under control. 

If you are sick- trust Him today for your miracle. 

Mark 5:35-43 ‘While Jesus was still speaking, some people came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher anymore?” Overhearing what they said, Jesus told him,“Don’t be afraid; just believe.” He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James and John the brother of James. When they came to the home of the synagogue leader, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. He went in and said to them, “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.” But they laughed at him. After he put them all out, he took the child’s father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” which means “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”. Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around she was twelve years old. At this they were completely astonished. He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat.’

Pastor Mark

 A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 309

I don’t know if you’ve ever waited for a bus? 

As you anxiously see it coming in the distance, you start to get ready to hop on.

As it approaches, it becomes clear that it’s not going to slow down and let you on.

The driver doesn’t want to even catch your eye as the illuminated sign on the front plainly says it all…’not in service’. 

For many people, the idea of God coming their way to stop and help is pretty much the same as the bus experience – He’s been long out of service. 

Not even a glance from Him is coming your way.

As you consider all the wrong things that you’ve done in life, and the times that you’ve rejected God, you begin to think that there’s no way that He’s going to give you a second look, let alone any kind of lift. 

But the great news is that God is very much in service today, and He’s got everything you need to get you where you need to go. 

He’s sovereign.

He reigns. 

He says to anything that you’re facing at the start of this brand new day…

‘If it’s a mountain, I can move it. 

‘If it’s a thing, I’ve got it.’

‘If it’s a bondage, I can break it.’

‘If it’s a problem, I can sort it.’

If it’s a disease, I can heal it.’

‘If it’s a burden, I can lift it.’

‘If it’s forgiveness, I died for you to purchase it.’

When you have God, you have everything.

He can turn your world upside down.

As you stand by the bus stop of life today, begin to see afresh that God is not going to pass you by, as He’s every bit in service, just as He always was. 

Luke 18:35-43 ‘As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard the crowd going by, he asked what was happening. They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” He called out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?”“Lord, I want to see,” he replied. Jesus said to him, “Receive your sight; your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God.’

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 308

Joseph had a great destiny. How do we know that? Because God told him in a dream that one day he would be great and that people would bow down to him. 

It seemed to all go horribly wrong, because a short time later, he found himself fighting for his life in a pit, at the hands of his very own family. 

Life can suddenly turn, but what happens to us in that hole is very important. 

Had God changed His mind? No.

Did He still love Joseph? Yes.

Would He still fulfil His purpose for Him? Yes.

Just because life doesn’t always run like we would want it to, doesn’t mean that God has left us. 

Don’t die in the hole. 

Keep trusting and believing God. 

He is the master builder. And to build something master class takes time. 

Your responsibility is to keep a great heart and a great attitude in the meantime.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 307

Just over 12 months ago, I was with my family visiting some friends of ours in Seattle, USA.

During our stay there, a couple of my friends took me to see the Seattle Seahawks play at their 80,000 seater stadium. I’d only ever watched American Football once up until this point, so I was no expert in the sport…

We arrived at the game and headed to the turnstiles to collect an envelope that had our tickets in. Now, my friends knew some of the coaching staff at the club, and so had managed to secure some tickets that enabled us to watch the game from the VIP Lounge.

On that afternoon, I sat thinking about how I’d found myself in this position… I didn’t really know what was going on, I was unfamiliar with the rules of the game – in reality, I had no right to be there.

I’ve heard it said many times that life is not about what you know, but it’s about who you know. And what got me to that place on that day was not based on the information I’d obtained, but rather the relationships that I had.

I want to ask you a question today: do you know Jesus? That’s what life is truly all about…relationship with Him. Because when you know Jesus, He’ll take you places in life that you don’t deserve to be…And He’ll do for you what you cannot do for yourself.

Life with Jesus is the best kind of life. You can experience this today by simply inviting Him into your heart, and watch your life go to heights that you could’ve never dreamt.

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 306

Whilst driving to Birmingham train station this morning, I noticed a site where people were busy demolishing a building.  No doubt they were removing something in order to replace it with something better, or so I hoped.  I noticed how easy the process was and wondered how long it took to build that building, how long the architect took to plan it and now it was no longer necessary.

It’s always easier to break than it is to build.  It’s also easier to hinder than it is to help or hurt than it is to heal.

Every day we are faced with options and choices like, ‘can I help or shall I hinder? And ‘can I heal or shall I hurt?’

Our societies, communities and families are filled with hurting people.  Remember hurt people hurt people.  As we go through today and every other day, let’s do it with our eyes and ears open as week consciously look and listen for those who have been hurt or broken through various circumstance and let’s ask ourselves if there is anything we can do to help or to heal.

You see, life is filled with stories within stories.  You and I are on our way somewhere when our path collides with someone else’s path, someone who needs a little help.  The Gospels are full of such events.  Jesus was often on His way somewhere when His path crossed that of a needy person. He was always ready and willing to stop and help or heal.  Let’s bear that in mind as we go through today.

Take care!

Pastor Donovan Coetzee

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 305

More pearls of wisdom…

  • Don’t read your child’s school report as though it were a prophecy.
  • Coping with difficult people is always a problem, especially if that difficult person happens to be you.
  • Upgrade to the size of your future.
  • ‘Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.’ Sir Winston Churchill
  • ‘The most significant achievement of our age is not that man stood on the moon, but that God, in Christ stood upon the earth.’ James Irwin, Astronaut.
  • We stand tallest when we are on our knees.
  • Stop everyday and look at the size of God.
  • The future belongs to those that see possibilities before it becomes obvious.
  • Giving is the highest level of living.
  • Our confidence is not in answered prayer, but in the fact that God hears us.
  • When your output is more than your input then your upkeep becomes your downfall.
  • When Jesus said ‘ I am with you always’, He didn’t make a promise, He stated a fact.
  • And finally…if at first you don’t succeed, you’re normal.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 304

By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures. (Proverbs 24:3-4)

We are all building a house today and every day. 

Not a physical house that we live in, but a spiritual house that lives in us. 

The house that we build is often built with common sense or maybe even built with bricks of fear, doubt and confusion. 

Solomon, the guy that wrote the book of Proverbs, advised that we should build the home within us on blocks of wisdom and understanding; that wisdom comes from asking God about things. 

God’s wisdom can also often be found in what great men and women have to say, as they have sought God for answers on how to build their own lives.

From these words we get the phrase ‘pearls of wisdom’, meaning that we can receive so much understanding through one small spoken nugget of truth.

Here are some pearls of wisdom that I trust will help you to build your own life today… 

  • ‘The greatest danger for most of us is not that we aim too high and miss it, but that we aim too low and reach it.’ Michelangelo 
  • ‘A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity. A optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.’ Sir Winston Churchill. 
  • ‘A different world cannot be built by indifferent people.’ Peter Marshall 
  • ‘Why wait for the iron to be hot before you strike…why not strike until it gets hot?’  Reinhard Bonkke. 
  • ‘People have a way of becoming what you encourage them to be. Jentezen Franklin.’
  • ‘Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.’ Proverbs 29:2
  • ‘Troubles are often tools by which God fashions us for better things.’
  • ‘Faith makes all things possible – love makes all things easy.’ DL Moody
  • ‘An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.’
  • ‘Every Christian needs half an hour of prayer each day, except when he is busy…then he needs an hour.’
  • ‘Faith is daring the soul to go beyond what the eyes can see.’
  • ‘No problem is too hard for God’s intervention and no problem too small for His attention.’

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 303

Lest we forget. 

To forget those who paid for our freedom is to be ungrateful, but to forget those for whose freedom we live, is to be unmindful. 

To remember by looking back is good, but to remember by reaching forward is better. 

To celebrate our heritage with one day is enough, so long as every day, we celebrate our freedom by doing for others what they cannot do for themselves.

The past is meaningless, the death of a loved one purposeless, and life is pointless unless we too give ourselves wholeheartedly.

The greatest act of love is to give yourself on behalf of others…even to the point of death. 

Jesus himself paid the ultimate sacrifice by giving His life willingly, so that we can be forgiven. 

Remembering that event purely as a page in history is not enough; we have to make it personal, in that we understand that He gave is life for ME.

Being grateful of that for the first time is a wonderful day in your life, but don’t just be grateful…actually invite Jesus into your life today. 

You’ll find that life makes sense when you know and not just know about the one that loved you and gave His life for you. 

1 John 3:16-18 ‘This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.’

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 302

Emotions are the killer of many dreams.  

Feelings have to be brought into line through mental discipline. 

Discipline says, “I may not like what I have to do today, or even feel like doing it, but I know what must be done and why I have to do it”.

Discipline gets you to the gym when your feelings tell you to stay at home because it’s cold and rainy.

Discipline says that the new car that you can’t afford right now should wait until you can. 

The upgrade on your phone that will cost you more, but will make you ‘so much happier’ than the perfectly good one that you have, is refused by mental discipline. 

Discipline says to skip the second helping because you don’t need it. 

I’m sure, like me, that you have looked back on some of the decisions that you have made and have asked yourself, ‘what was I thinking?’

Disciplined thinking leads to right decisions.  

We had not long been married when we decided to have a dog – a real dog.  

I wanted a dog that looked manly on a lead, so we went to look at a Great Dane -fully grown. 

Its name was Jason, and was the size of a small horse!  

We decided to have it…well almost. We talked about the pros and cons, and then realised that we needed to be mentally strong. This dog would eat us out of house and home and into the bargain wreck the place.  

We called the owners and told them that we would not be having Jason.  

Looking back…what were we thinking?

Now we all make mistakes, but the likelihood of mistakes is far greater if your life is governed by feelings. 

Don’t rush into major decisions, but instead ask God to give you wisdom and strength to make the right ones whatever the cost. 

James 1:5-8 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do. 

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 301

Have you ever had a wound?  

You will know that for it to heal quickly you were always told not to pick at it, but to leave it alone. 

Yet, you were always tempted to pick at the scab because it was quite irritating. 

When I was around 15 years of age, I had chicken pox quite badly and I remember picking at the scabs. To this day, I have a scar on the back of my leg where I picked away. 

Sorry if this all sounds gross…but there is a great truth here, if you stay with me. 

In life, we get wounded and the more you keep going back to that wound, talking about it, going over it in your mind, picking at it, then the longer it will take to heal. 

You might pick at it for so long, that you will eventually have a scar, where it once was. 

Lesson; when you get wounded, apply the correct treatment, like forgiveness and prayer, then LEAVE it.  

It will heal quickly and after a short time, it will be gone forever. 

Some wounds, I know, are deeper than others. 

Some I know may actually scar. 

But the quicker you learn to leave them with God, the quicker you will heal and the better you will be.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 300

Did you know that there is one question that God will never ask you?

He will never ask you the question…‘can you?’

But there is one question that God will always ask you, and that is…‘will you?’

There’s a world of difference between the two, as one is connected to your ability whilst the other is connected to your availability

The reason He will never ask ‘can you?’, is because he knows what you can and cannot do, so the only thing left to ask is…’will you?’

Think about it for a moment…why would God ask you to do what He knows you cannot do? 

If he commands me to do it, then it must be within my power to do so.  

Here’s a great story that Jesus told to highlight this very issue…

Matthew 21:28-31 (NIV) “What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, `Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’ ” `I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. “Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, `I will, sir,’ but he did not go. “Which of the two did what his father wanted?” “The first,” they answered.

How often do we make excuses as to why we cannot do what God is asking of us?

There is only one issue here, and it’s not ‘can you or can’t you?’, but ‘will you or won’t you?’

It’s a simple question of obedience. 

Maybe you’ve said ‘NO’ in the past, just like the one son that we’ve read about. If so, change your mind, and say ‘YES!’

There are people’s lives right now that can only be reached by your YES.  

They are depending on you.  

If you will…you can.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 299

If you don’t exercise your muscles, they weaken and atrophy occurs.

In the same way, if you don’t utilise the abilities and gifts that God has given you, you will grow weak in them, and even lose them altogether.

In the Bible, Jesus taught the well known parable about three men that were each given different talents. 

Referring to the servant that refused to use his one talent, Jesus said that his talent should be taken from him and given to the one that had ten talents. 

Fail to use what you’ve been given and you’ll lose it; use what gifts you have been given and God will increase it. 

Whatever gifts you have been given can be enlarged and developed through practice. For instance, no one gets the gift of teaching, fully developed but with study, feedback and practice, a good teacher can become a better teacher and then a great teacher and then a master teacher. 

Don’t settle for a half-developed gift. Stretch yourself and learn all you can. 

2 Timothy 2:15 ‘Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.’ 

Like an athlete, preparing for that moment when they will be called upon to serve their country, so you and I should daily prepare for that opportunity that God will send our way so that we can use our gifts for Him. 

God deserves my very best. 

Use it or lose it.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 298

A few days ago, I was challenged by someone that told me that they felt that I had stopped using the gifts that God had given me. 

At first, I was pretty annoyed that someone who was not even in my life had spoken to me like this, but after a time I started to mull over the sentiment of his words.

His approach had been made with kindness and humility, and therefore I felt that his assessment should at least be given some consideration.

Of course, not everyone that speaks into your life should be given the time of day, otherwise we’d be all be taken off track by some very weird and unwise characters that are around; but something about this guy’s message to me rang true, and as I pondered it for a few days, I began to see that it was actually something sent to help me rather than harm me. 

Messengers come in all shapes and sizes and can at first glance look nothing like an ideal person ‘sent by God’ to give you a much needed jolt. However, even a quick flick through the Bible will reveal that this was often the case and interestingly the one guy that you would think ‘looked the part’ and had the credibility to speak into Jesus’ life,  was dismissed with the words ‘get behind me Satan’. Those words were spoken by Jesus to one of his closest disciples, namely Peter.

We can, without knowing it, let the gifts that God has given us lie dormant and unused. 

How are those gifts brought back to life, we may well ask?  

Is it not sometimes by someone willing to be honest with us, leading us to stir ourselves once again in that department?

The Bible puts it like this…

2 Timothy 1:6-7 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline. 

At this time of the year, we start to get the coal and logs ready for our open fire in the lounge. It’s such a great centrepiece for any home, but the truth is if you walk out of the room and forget about it, it can start to die down and finally die out. 

For every winter evening that we get to sit in front of our fire, I have to work at keeping it alive, by fanning it back into flame and keeping it well-stocked.

Maybe like me, you need a gentle reminder today to ‘fan into flame’ the gift that is within you. 

I’ve realised afresh this week that when I don’t keep my gift alive, I am actually depriving many people from receiving what God has for them through me. 

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 297

It’s very easy to become envious of people that you perceive to have already ‘arrived’ in life, seemingly without the effort and frustration that you are having to go through right now. 

They seem to have become an overnight success and are gifted way beyond you, but remember, they too had to endure a process to get to where they are today. 

Every success has a process that often you cannot see, or maybe you weren’t around for at the time.

I have come to realise, and to be at peace with the fact, that I am not accountable for the gifts that God has given to someone else. 

God does not expect me to produce beyond the level of the gifts given to me. Instead, my only obligation is to use my gifts to the best of my ability. 

Why look at someone else’s life and then belittle what God has done in your own life? The gifts that God has given to you are not the same as the gifts given to someone else.

If you compare yourself with others, you’ll never be at peace. Somebody’s life will always look better than yours; they’ll have more degrees, more money, a bigger house, a better physique, a better singing voice -the list goes on and on. 

Today, I encourage you to celebrate the gifts that God has blessed you with and then use them to the very best of your ability. 

Remember…every time that you focus on what others have, you start to lose sight of what you have been uniquely blessed with.

Don’t bury your gifts and talents fearing that you are useless compared to others, instead, use what you have been given and remember that there is always someone out there that would love to be in your shoes.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 296

I want to encourage you today that God can change a situation round in an instant.

I have been thinking about Saul in the Bible; he was a complete God-hater, Christian hater and very evil man.

One day he had an encounter with Almighty God, that changed his life forever.

Do you have a situation in your life right now that seems to be going completely the opposite way to what you would want?

Do you have a seemingly impossible mountain ahead?

Do you have an incurable sickness?

Do you have someone in your family who is so far away from God that it breaks your heart?

Be encouraged today, because God is the God of the impossible.

If God can turn Saul around in a five minute encounter, then your problem is not too difficult either.

Keep praying. Keep believing. Keep looking forward to that moment when God does a ‘suddenly’ in your life.

No one is too far from God for Him to reach.

No sickness is beyond His healing.

No impossibility is impossible for Him.

Be encouraged today. Put your faith and trust firmly back into the One who can do ALL things.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 295

I’m sure that every one of us today would love to attract the right kind of people into our lives; people that will have a positive influence on us, people that will pull us up and not drag us down, people that we would be truly glad to call friends.

One of the things that I personally pray each day is that God would bring the right people into my life…nd I also pray for the kind of qualities that I want in a friend. Which I don’t think is a bad thing, however, one quote that really changed my perspective is this: ‘You attract what you are.’

Suddenly, my thought process shifted. No longer did I focus fully on the kind of friend that I wanted to attract, but I began focusing more on the kind of friend that I was to others.

Can I encourage you today? If you’re looking for a generous person, be a generous person. If you’re looking for a positive friend, be a positive friend to others. If you’re looking for kindness, show some kindness. Be what you want to see!

When you begin to have this kind of mindset, you will be amazed at the kind of people that you will attract into your world.

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – Day 294

Yesterday, I wrote about how I was, at one time, bound by fear. 

Maybe, since then you have told fear where to go, but today it has come knocking at your door once again. 

I personally didn’t get set free in an instant, but God gently restored me back to life over a period of weeks.  

I know what that ‘knock’ sounds like, as it wants to invade your life and seize you in its grip once again. 

Let the words of this song help you today, as they have done for many thousands all over the world…

In my moments of fear, 

Through every pain, every tear, 

There’s a God who’s been faithful to me. 

When my strength was all gone, 

When my heart had no song, 

Still in love he’s proved faithful to me. 

Every word He’s promised is true, 

What I thought was impossible, I see my God do.

He is being faithful, faithful to me, 

Looking back, his love and mercy I see.

Though in my heart I have questioned ,

Even failed to believe, 

Yet He’s been faithful, faithful to me.

When my heart looked away,

The many times I could not pray,

Still my god, he was faithful to me. 

The days I spent so selfishly, 

Reaching out for what pleased me,

Even then God was faithful to me,

Every time I come back to him,

He is waiting with open arms, 

And I see you once again.

He’s been faithful, faithful to me…

Carole Cymbala – Director of Brooklyn Tabernacle choir.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 293

Fear had taken hold of me one Saturday morning, as I attended the emergency clinic at the Doctor’s surgery. 

One night, some weeks earlier I had experienced what I thought was the onset of a heart attack, which had resulted in Gillian calling for the emergency Doctor. 

I lay on our couch that night, shaking and perspiring as the Doctor did a thorough examination and gave me his verdict. 

He told me that I was having a panic attack, brought on by stress. This was all new to me, and after he had gone, it was life back to normal again…or so I thought.

We were in our first few years of married life and I was  just 30 years old. 

A few days later, I was driving and experienced the same symptoms all over again; it then escalated with me being scared to be in crowded room, as I was afraid that the same thing would happen in public. 

Heart palpitations started to occur every night as I put my head on the pillow. 

I honestly felt that I would never break free, and so decided after yet again feeling unwell, that I would attend the surgery on that Saturday morning, driven by one of my leaders.

There were just three of us waiting for a consultation and I nervously waited my turn, when all of a sudden I heard the voice of the Holy Spirit say these words… “What are you doing here, man of God?”

I was shocked and almost wondered if anyone else heard it, but obviously not, so I simply stood to my feet and walked out, without saying a word to anyone. 

As I walked back to the car, nothing had changed, but everything had changed.  God had spoken.  

His voice was so clear that I knew that He was telling me to get out of there.  I knew there and then that I was looking in the wrong place for my healing and that my problems weren’t physical at all, but in fact were brought about by anxiety and fear. 

I told the Devil that day in no uncertain terms that if I were to die, I would be going straight to Heaven anyway, so he could no longer bind me with fear, as either way he would lose…I was on the winning side. 

I never did go back, and lying in bed one night some weeks later, I realised that the palpitations had ceased and I was healed. 

As I recall my story today, I know that someone else will be experiencing what I had gone through all those years ago. 

Fear is such a powerful force that it is literally able to form your future, if you’ll let it. 

Remember that fear stands for False Evidence Appearing Real.

Today, be strong and walk out on your fear – tell it that you are no longer in a relationship with it. 

Be set free. 

1 John 4:18 ‘There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear…’

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 292

No matter how much you think you know, you should always be willing to take another step of growth towards your destiny. 

Failing to put yourself into new possibilities can keep you from experiencing some of life’s richest adventures. 

Over 15 years ago now, I had the growing desire within me that I should go to Seattle. I had no idea where it was or how to get there, but I just knew that it was to be part of my destiny.

After 10 years had passed, I asked the Lord why I had not yet been to such a place. His answer simply stated that it was because I hadn’t made the plan to go. 

I’d been waiting for God to open the door and He’d been waiting for me to walk through it. 

Within 12 months, and with our three small children in tow, we boarded the 10 hour flight and arrived in North-West America, not knowing where we were staying or who with. 

All these years later, I can safely say that that one trip forged something in our hearts and has helped shape us, and our church, into something beyond what would have been possible if we had not gone with the leading that I had felt deep within me.

Today, we still have great friends in that part of the world; they have enriched and stretched our lives and we still remain in contact to this day. 

If we resist moving into new horizons, then we become like a plant that’s outgrown its container.

Have you ever noticed something when you remove such a plant from its pot? The roots only ever grow to the size of the environment that it’s in – they will only grow further when moved to a new environment. 

That happens with us too; if you feel that you need to be stretched, then make a plan to put yourself in a new environment with bigger people. 

As someone once said…”If you want to fly with the Eagles then you must stop messing around with the turkeys.”

Add someone to your life who is smarter, more knowledgable and wiser than you are.

Go somewhere that will stretch you in your field of work. 

Make friends with someone that you look up to and ask them if you could occasionally learn from their lives over a coffee.

With the right mentor, you will expand and grow faster than if you’d tried to go it alone. 

If you could ask a person just one question to help you grow, what would it be?

Write it down…and God will help you to ‘collide’ with such a person. 

Keep the growing going.  

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 291

Smith Wigglesworth was born on 8 June 1859 to an impoverished family in Yorkshire.

As a small child, he worked in the fields pulling turnips, alongside his mother.

He was illiterate until, at the age of 23, he married Polly, who taught him to read. He often said that the Bible was the only book he ever read.

He was a successful plumber by trade, but had to abandon it after he became too busy with an amazing worldwide ministry of preaching and healing.

There are accounts of at least a dozen people being raised from the dead after he prayed for them, one such person was his wife, who complained to him that Heaven was far too wonderful to come back.

He said on one occasion that he would rather see one person come to know Jesus through his preaching than 10,000 healed.

Life was not always easy for Smith Wigglesworth. He went through some very hard times. He wrote, ‘Great faith is a product of great fights. Great testimonies are the outcome of great tests. Great triumphs can only come out of great trials.’

The Bible is very realistic when it comes to describing how we all have to go through hard times, stating that it is these very trials that make us rather than break us.

Smith Wigglesworth’s life inspires us to understand that out of some of the most difficult beginnings, an amazing plan can unfold if you will simply hand your life over to God.

Stop thinking that something is wrong when you go through difficulties; stress and strain are all part of life’s rich tapestry of forging something deep inside of us that can never be bought.

What does an obstetrician say when a pregnant mother
complains about morning sickness and her clothes getting too tight? He simply says that it’s all part of the process of giving birth to something very special.

Today, don’t try to escape the pain, the conflict and problems of your life, instead embrace them as your best teacher and your best life coach.

James 1:2-4 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 290

‘I am H.A.P.P.Y

I am H.A.P.P.Y

I know I am, I’m sure I am,

I’m H.A.P.P.Y’

Remember that song?

It’s wonderful to know that you’re happy and to be sure that you are. But happiness is based on happenings…

‘The sun is shining, I feel happy…’

‘The kids are behaving, I feel happy…’

‘We had my favourite dinner, I feel happy…’

‘I won that contract from work, I feel happy…’

‘I had a great weekend… I feel happy.’

The problem with that is, when you don’t have a great weekend, or when things don’t go your way, or the sun isn’t shining (which is often in England) then you may not.

Happenings aren’t always great. So what should be our story instead?

When you have a relationship with God, the way you feel shouldn’t depend on happenings, but something far greater. It’s called JOY.

Joy comes from within, not without. 

That wonderful knowledge that all is well, even though it seems like it isn’t. 

Joy comes from knowing God and that He has a great purpose for my life. 

Don’t let your life or your state of mind or your face depend on happenings. Instead, know that wonderful joy in your heart that only God can give. 

Joy each day will come through your relationship with God and your prayer life. Talking with Him and allowing Him to speak to you. Sharing your thoughts and concerns, and letting Him replace them with His peace. 

I learnt this simple illustration many years ago

J = Jesus

O = others

Y = yourself.

It’s still accurate today.

Here’s a great verse from 1 Thessalonians 5. 

‘Always be joyful, never stop praying and be thankful in all circumstances, because THIS is God’s will for your life.’

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 289

Have you ever received a gift that you’ve never used? For whatever reason, it’s still in your wardrobe, or it’s in a drawer beneath your bed and you haven’t seen it since it was given to you…

I am of course referring to a physical, tangible gift. But I wonder how many of you have done the exact same thing with the gift that God has given to you…

You see, God has placed something on the inside of each one of us, and that something is a gift. Now, you have two choices when it comes to what you do with that gift – you can either hide it away or you can put it to work.

God has put something in your hand that has the power and the potential to make a difference in this world, but for many of you, your gift still has the tags on (speaking figuratively).

Can I encourage you today to take a hold of the gift that God has given to you and put that thing to work? Whether it’s a gift to play sport, or to be a doctor/nurse, maybe right now you are a barista at Starbucks…whatever your gift may be, God wants to use you! Be the best you can be, give it everything you’ve got, and watch how God will elevate and promote you to higher levels in the process.

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 288

We all want to live a stress-free life without having to work at it, but it can’t be done. 

Here are a few simple things that we can remind ourselves of from time to time, so that we can live a longer, more balanced and blessed life. 

  1. Make time each day to spend time in prayer and reading God’s word.
  2. Eat right – a balanced diet isn’t having a biscuit in each hand.
  3. Exercise 3-5 times a week for 30 mins – it’s the great stress reliever.
  4. Develop better time management habits for home and work.
  5. Make room in your life for fun.
  6. Get enough sleep – 6 hours is a recommended minimum.
  7. Start counting your blessings.
  8. Maintain your sense of humour.
  9. When you talk to yourself, say nice things.
  10. If you look like your passport photo, you probably need a holiday.
  11. Forgive. Grudges are too heavy to carry.
  12. Don’t just be blessed…be a blessing wherever you go.   
Pastor Mark
A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 287

There is not one single person reading this today that will be exempt from temptation. In fact, everyone at some time this week will be tempted.

Someone right now reading this will be battling with the most severe temptation of their lives and you are doing everything you can just to stay afloat.

Temptations are like presents – they come gift wrapped, in all shapes and sizes, right to your door. The urge will be to open them as soon as possible.

Temptation also brings with it many misconceptions, so that it gets you down on yourself, even if it can’t get you to open the whole parcel.

Here are some misconceptions about temptation:

  • Temptation is sin – No it isn’t! Jesus was tempted but never sinned. Temptation’s job is to lead us to sin, but it is not sin itself.

Hebrews 4:15 ‘Jesus…has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet he did not sin.’

  • I’m the only one struggling with temptation right now – No, you’re not! Temptation is common to all people.

1 Corinthians 10:13 ‘No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.’

  • There’s no way that I can overcome this temptation – Yes you can!

1 Corinthians 10:13 ‘…But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.’

  • I’m a very strong person, so I’ll never get pulled down by temptation – be careful!

1 Corinthians 10:12 ‘So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!’

  • I’ll be glad when this phase of my life is over – This phase will pass, but beware that temptation will be part of your life until the day that you die!

Luke 4:13 ‘When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him [Jesus] until an opportune time.’

Whatever you’re going through right now, be sure to know that you are not alone. Jesus has gone through it all for you, so that you can overcome. Ask Him to strengthen you right now.

Remember – there’s always free cheese on a mouse trap…so walk on by.

Ephesians 6:10-12 ‘Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.’

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 286

A happy person is not a person with a certain set of circumstances, but a certain set of attitudes.

I was recently bought Sir Alex Ferguson’s book titled ‘Leading’.

It’s an exceptional book.

It’s well worth the read, especially for anyone leading anything – even if you have no interest in football. 

In the early pages of his book he says these words…” If I was starting out again as a manager, the thing I would focus on the most is a players attitude during training sessions.”

Today, it would appear that too much emphasis is placed on an individual’s ability or gift. People get drawn in by charisma not realising that they are very short on character.  When this happens, the person’s life becomes ‘top heavy’, and it’s only a matter of time before he or she is going to topple. 

Ability and gift, when you think about it, don’t originate with the person, as they have little to do with it – it was given to them to use and is on loan; yet over-emphasis in that department leads to a person feeling superior, just as if they had done something to deserve it.  

Focusing on character and attitude brings with it a humility that can sustain natural ability and gifting, so much so that when person with a great attitude gets to the top of his game, they are able to remain level-headed and in most cases understand that the gift that they possess is just that – a gift. 

A great attitude brings with it a certain appeal that in itself brings promotion. 

Attitude determines three very distinct things, much like in an aircraft taking off; the speed of the plane is important, but the plane can only take off when what is called ‘altitude’ is correctly achieved. Altitude is when a plane’s nose is pointed up at the correct angle. Once speed is achieved, then attitude determines whether or not the plane will climb. 

Everything on a flight can be set correctly, but if a plane’s altitude is set wrong it will eventually crash. 

  1. Attitude determines altitude – how high you climb in life is determined by your attitude. 
  2. Attitude determines how quickly you will get there – getting to your destination in life, on time, is determined by your attitude. 
  3.  Attitude determines your success when you get there – just because you may feel that you have ‘arrived’, that’s no guarantee that you will make it when you are there – that is left in the hands of your attitude. 

Time and time again, I have watched gifted people come crashing down because their attitude was wrong, but equally so I have watched far lesser gifted people rise because their attitude was right. 

The message is simple: ignore the importance of attitude at your peril. 

Numbers 14 v 24 ‘But my servant Caleb has a different attitude than the others have. He has remained loyal to me, so I will bring him into the land he explored. His descendants will possess their full share of that land.’ (NLT)

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 285

A lady had been married for many years to a very controlling husband.

Each day, she would have to work through the list of jobs that he would leave for her to accomplish while he was out at work. 

Checklists were written out on pieces of cardboard for each day of the week, so that he could keep an eye on the endless jobs. 

Her whole life had become a painful drudgery of going through the motions of a loveless marriage. 

Some years after her husband died, she married the man of her dreams. 

He loved her, and placed none of the expectations on her that she had gotten so used to.   

One day, as she was cleaning out the kitchen cupboards, she stumbled upon one of the old lists of ‘things to do’, left over from her previous husband. To her amazement, she was doing every one of the things on the list, but this time without any feelings of drudgery. 

Instead, she felt quite the opposite, in that she was happy to do them for a husband that loved her. It became obvious to her that doing things out of love was so different from doing things because she had to. 

Have you ever got yourself into a position whereby you know exactly what it feels like to do things because you feel you have to rather than because you want to?

Often, our lives can become just a list of never ending chores…take the kids to school, clean the house, go to work, cook the tea, wash up…the list is endless and repeats itself on a daily basis. 

Sometimes we can lose sight of our own personal happiness in doing all these tasks because we start to see them as a drudgery, rather than being thankful that we have a home, we have children, we have food and we have a job. 

Today, I encourage you to take a look again at your life, and rather than seeing it as a list of negatives, see it as a positive in that you are blessed to be able to do them.  

See what happens this week when you start to do things out of a grateful heart.  I can guarantee that you and everyone else around you will notice a big difference in the atmosphere of your home. 

Colossians 3:23 “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters…”

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 284

For the past few years, my wife has come up with an ingenious plan to create more wardrobe and drawer space in our bedroom.  

At the end of the winter, we pack all of our winter clothes neatly away in plastic bags, label them and put them up in the loft. 

Now that we have just gone into the autumn and we know that there’s no turning back towards a very late summer, we have just done the reverse and have put all our summer stuff in bags, up the loft and in turn have filled up all the empty wardrobe space with our winter clothes.  

Gillian, you are a genius; everyone is now planning to do the same to gain that all year round wardrobe space. 

With the onset of each season, we have known instinctively when it’s time to reach for that extra layer and pull out that thicker jacket. 

Not so easy to distinguish are the seasons of our lives, whereby we have to gauge and discern when a new season is upon us. 

For instance, if you don’t know you’re in a new season, you won’t be dressed correctly for it, and equally so, if you don’t realise that one season has turned into another, you can miss its beauty.

Life for all is made up of differing seasons. Some of them are warm and summery whilst others are cooler and bring with them a sense of loss, just like leaves falling from a tree. Greater still is the cold long winter days that see everything lying dormant within the ground. 

The key is to understand the season and therefore understand the appropriate response towards it. 

Take for instance the springtime, where everything is bursting into new life. You may well have a friend that is in springtime right now and everything shouts life, health and growth. However, you may well be in the winter season of your life, where everything is seemingly dead or dying. If you don’t know your season, then the tendency will be to compare notes with your friend and walk away feeling that God has deserted you and favoured your friend. 

That’s not the truth at all, as it’s just a simple matter of seasons. 

Don’t try to live in a constant summertime, as it’s never going to happen, but understand that if you’re going to have an amazing and fruitful life you have to appreciate and go through each distinct season. 

Today, I encourage to ask God to show you which season you’re in, so that you know how to respond. 

Hebrews 10:35-39 ‘So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For, ‘In just a little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay.’ And, ‘But my righteous one will live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.’ But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.’

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 283

We talked a few days ago about learning through hard times.
I want to continue that thought today with this…

The hard way will often be your best friend.

Life is all about learning and I’m glad I went through a lot of ‘stuff’, many years ago.
I know I wouldn’t be the person I am today, if it wasn’t for those difficult times.
Hard times can often be our best times, because they shape us.

The times when we had no money were hard times, but they taught me so much. They taught me to trust God, because He will never let me down.

Whatever hard time you are going through today, it may become your best friend. It may help you to become the person you need to be.
I say ‘may’ because that’s up to you.

What is a best friend?
Someone who won’t let you down.
Someone who will tell you as it is.
Someone who wants to get the best out of you.
Someone who will make you see yourself as you really are.

And those are what hard times can actually do for you.

James 1:2-4 says that we should ‘count it pure joy when we face trials of many kinds, because it will produce something in us.’

Pure joy? Is he joking?

No, he knew the secret of the trial and that it is actually for your good.
Let something great be produced out of your trials today.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 282

Prayer shouldn’t be a burden but a privilege – a privilege God has freely given to us because He wants to spend time with us. 

Jesus died to destroy the barrier of sin that separates us from God, and when we give our lives to Him, we have a personal relationship with Him. In fact, we only have access to God because of what Jesus did for us in his death and resurrection. 

He opened the way for us once and for all to come freely to Him. 

Central to any relationship is communication. A father that never talks to his children, or a married couple that never speak to each other is a recipe for defeat in any relationship. 

In a far greater way, our relationship with God involves communication – not just a brief hello, but a much deeper level of sharing our cares, concerns and requests with Him. 

Prayer is simply talking with God – it’s a two way street just like any other relationship. 

God could of course simply do everything on His own. He could make every problem go away, sort all your burdens out, and then just shower you with everything you need exactly at the time you need it – so why doesn’t He? Because that wouldn’t be a relationship; it would be a completely one-sided acquaintance.

God has given us the privilege of prayer so that we will have a moment-by-moment friendship and relationship with Him. 

There are some things that my children have asked me for over the years that I haven’t been able to supply, but then there are times when I’ve sorted things straight away.  

Often my phone will ring and the voice on the other end is saying, “Dad…can you…?”  The truth is that any Dad loves to be asked for things or to do things by his children. It’s the stuff of relationships.  

At other times the call comes from me to my children. Maybe I need to address them about something or give them some information; and so it is with God, He wants you to not only communicate with Him, but He also wants to communicate with you. 

Jesus demonstrated the importance of prayer by His own example, where we are told that ‘He got up very early in the morning, while it was still dark, to pray.’ (Mark 1 v 35).

Today, I encourage you to engage with God in the privilege of prayer. 

1 John 5:14-15 ‘This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of him.’

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 281

I was taught a very simple bedtime prayer by my parents who prayed with me from the earliest recollection of my childhood. 

I don’t remember the transition from being prayed with, to me being left to pray by myself, but I do remember the feeling that I must never go to sleep without going through the little prayer ritual that I was taught. 

Even at a young age, I can recall thinking that I wish that I could now pray with a little more meaning, rather than just go through the motions, but I didn’t know how to escape the same old phrases that had been ingrained into my young mind. 

Although not a Christian at the time, in the truest sense of knowing Jesus in a personal way,  I was around 15 or 16 when I felt the urge to move forward into praying each day for other things that bothered me.

I kept a secret prayer folder that I would even take on holiday, and at certain times in the day I would find a quiet spot to go through my prayers. 

It was quite a burdensome thing really when I think about it; I was praying to God…but I didn’t know Him. 

Now, more than 40 years later from those early teenage prayers, I am still learning about prayer, and today I share with you my following experience…

At around 17, I had become a follower of Christ and many years later, having seen many answers through my daily prayers, I started to feel that the little ritual of praying as a child had now become a bigger ritual as an adult. 

Feelings of guilt would come over me if I would even so much miss a day without praying in a morning. Every prayer list that I kept over the years had to be prayed through systematically. I had countries of the world to cover, children’s names in Africa and beyond, problem people and people’s problems, not to mention personal things only known to myself. I would cover a whole array of things and to be honest, I was trapped into believing that if I didn’t pray daily for them,  the whole world might come to a standstill, well not quite, but at least the people that I prayed for might. 

It has only been in recent years that I realised that prayer is often a burden for people and circumstances, but prayer isn’t a burden in itself. It’s a wonderful daily two way conversation with God. 

Every morning, I’m still keeping my appointment in prayer, but instead of feeling that the weight of responsibility was all mine, it is now fairly and squarely on the one that gave His life for me – Jesus. 

Prayer is not just a ritualistic working through a set of requests, but is so much more; it’s an hourly, moment-by-moment relationship with God. 

Smith Wigglesworth, a plumber from Bradford that was used mightily by God in early 1900’s, said that he rarely prayed for more than ten minutes at a time, but there was rarely ten minutes that passed where he hadn’t prayed. 

Today, I still love to focus my prayers by having very definite names and circumstances to pray over every week and I’d encourage you to do the same. However, be mindful that you don’t get caught in the trap of going through the ritual of prayer without the relationship of prayer. 

John 15:7, 13-15 ‘If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.’

Philippians 4:6-7 ‘Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.’

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 280

There’s an old saying that we all know: ‘time passes quickly when you’re having a good time.’

It’s an accurate assessment and is very true. 

We can all remember that week away on a family holiday, where we saw everything just fall into place.  The accommodation was great, the food was great, the weather was great and the icing on the cake was that no one argued and fell out.  The down side was that the whole event came and went in what felt like an instant. 

No matter how you tried to slow the whole thing down, time would not stand still. 

However, there is another truth and it’s this: ‘time passes quickly when you’re having a bad time.’

Now I know that you’re going to argue that this is not true, as you’ve experienced the worst month of your life, and it’s felt like it would never end – I do agree. 

You want time on these occasions to hurry up don’t you, but it seems as though every hour is like a day. 

Think about this: whether in a good time or a bad time, time passes at exactly the same rate. It’s quick.

Another old saying becomes reality: ‘time stands still for no man.’

I was wanting to give a wake up call to a group of young leaders some weeks ago, and so I asked them how many remembered the Millennium celebrations.

Some were barely out of nappies (at the Millennium that is) but many recalled the events of that night.

That night was almost 16 years ago now. How incredible that time has raced on for every single one of us, no matter what. 

I went on to tell the group that if we take that same amount of time again from today, then I will be turning seventy years of age; I will be the age that my grandparents were when they were really old!

For everyone today that’s living a dead-end life, doing a dead-end job and feels no passion to get out of bed in the morning, then I remind you that ‘time passes quickly when you’re having a bad time.’

Why keep doing that which clearly isn’t working?

Why keep being miserable doing what you hate doing, every day?

Why keep merely surviving when there is a life to be had that will see you thriving?

Someone once said that ‘the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again whilst expecting to get different results.’

There comes a time in life when you need to give yourself a check-up and ask those searching questions like ‘why am I doing what I am doing?’

Don’t be afraid to change careers. Go with your passion. 

Maybe you need to change your set of friends that are holding you back?

Maybe you are resisting the spiritual element of your life and are refusing to surrender your life to God?

Is fear holding you back from a great future? Then take a step of faith today.

Always remember: fear looks, but faith leaps.

Luke 13:6-9 Then Jesus told this parable: ‘A man had a fig-tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, “For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig-tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?” ‘“Sir,” the man replied, “leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig round it and fertilise it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down”. 

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 279

Take a moment to read this passage from the New Testament…

1 Peter 4:15-16 ‘If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.’

We could well find ourselves asking the question…’what is a meddler?’

Is there such a thing in the 21st Century?

Why is it in the same category as murderers, thieves and criminals?

Whatever it is, it must be bad.

Here we go…

A meddler is a busy body- someone that interferes with, or concerns themselves with something that is none of their business.

It’s basically a word that sends out a loud and clear message: mind your own business

I have to admit, I don’t think that I’ve heard anyone ever talk about this in such a serious way, so why would the Bible make it out to be such an offensive thing and list it amongst criminal activity?

Is it not because you have your own life to live and take responsibility for, and therefore to use up your energy trying to poke your nose into everyone else’s business is like playing God with other people’s lives?

God is wanting to send us a clear message that what other people do with their lives should never take away your focus from what you’ve been called to do. 

A modern day classic illustration would be found in the realm of social media. 

Right now we are able to view people’s pictures, where they are, what they are doing and who they are doing it with. We can see what they’re having for breakfast, lunch and dinner and who they are eating it with. We become party to their party and to top it all, we’re even invited to comment.

Self-esteem nowadays is subject to how many ‘likes’ we get on our statuses, and if it’s less than 10, our whole world crumbles around us. 

People’s lives have never been made so accessible to so many.

We can spend hours everyday trawling social media to find out the latest gossip and info on anyone’s life that we so wish. We can’t go to sleep at night without mentally rearranging everyone’s lives first. 

Is it any wonder that meddling is such a modern day curse?

We are using up so much of our energy to internally fight over why they shouldn’t have said that to that person and why Paul shouldn’t be dating Lucy, and why that selfie is so unflattering.  

Just think of how free you could become to use your energy and focus doing good with your own life, if you’d simply mind your own business.

Murderers, thieves and criminals have one thing in common in that they are all facing a prison sentence. 

Sadly, being a meddler is just the same; you are chaining yourself as you meddle with so many people’s lives that you are no longer free to sort yourself out. 

When was the last time that you consciously stopped trying to live everyone else’s life for them and took care of your own?

The only time we should engage in other people’s lives in this way should be for the common good – to lift them, to care for them, to support them and to pray for them.  

Meddling is a meaningless and energy-sapping mental distraction. Stop playing God and be content to practise leadership on your own life.

Make a conscious effort today to pull away from meddling, and use all that freed up time to make your own life count for the good of others. 

Freedom!

Happy day.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 278

There is a longing in every human heart to belong.
Wikipedia says ‘there is a strong and inevitable feeling that exists in every human heart to belong.’

A couple of years ago, a boy called Dorion Only, who had been in foster care all of his 15 years, made a heartfelt plea at his church at the end of a service for someone to adopt him. Within a few short weeks, over 10,000 people enquired and two years later he was adopted into the family of his case worker that had known him since he was seven years old. A wonderful happy ending to the story and a new beginning for Dorion.

Wherever you are from and whoever you are, you have a desire to belong. You may not recognise that right now, but it’s true.

You may belong to a great natural family, or you may not, but God wants you to know there is a greater family – it’s called the Family of God, that you can belong to.
When you come into relationship
(not religion) with Jesus Christ you belong to HIS family.

God wants you to belong. Get into His family. You’re invited.

Join a great church, get planted and become a part.
Do it today.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 277

We all have to learn and keep on learning.

However, learning can often come the hard way.

Wouldn’t it be great if learning was all easy?

Learning takes time, energy and can even be painful.

Like teaching a child to ride a bike – for some it comes easily, for others not so easily.

Some learn well and ride almost instantly and others fall off time and time again before they get it. As a parent, your patience is tested. I wonder how God feels with us?

Do you keep making the same mistake…like burning the dinner?

Something is wrong.

Or more serious mistakes? Something needs to change.

In life, there are some important lessons to learn and often we fall down whilst learning.

Here are some trustworthy sayings…

‘It’s ok to fall, as long as you fall forward.’

That means, learn from it and be a little further down the road because of it.

‘It’s not how many times you fall, but getting up again that counts.’

Don’t give up learning to do whatever it is you need to learn. Get back up stronger and more determined that with God’s help, you will do it.

‘The quicker you get back up, the more chance you have of finishing the race.’

I love those races where someone trips and falls, but then they get up and go on to win the race! Way to go!

That’s how it should be with us.

Ask God to help you.

Seek forgiveness.

Ask for His wisdom.

Get back up stronger and go for it!

Have a great weekend.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 276

Have you ever hosted a social event at your home and had a guest that didn’t figure out it was time to leave?

You’ve started to put away the food. The music has been turned off and everyone else, apart from the people that live there, have gone home. 

You try to be polite because you don’t want to ask them to leave.  

You drop hints about being sleepy and needing to get up early the next day, but the person remains oblivious to your subtle comments. 

You dim the lights and consider leaving them to lock up. You even think of excusing yourself so that you can get your pyjamas on, but fear that they still may be standing there at breakfast time.   

When they eventually do go, you’ve already made up your mind that they won’t be invited back again for quite some time, if ever!

Just like that party wasn’t meant to go on for ever, so it is with the current situation that you’re in – it’s not here to stay and neither are you. 

Maybe you’ve been relying too heavily on the comfort of your current life, thinking that this is how it’s always going to be, not taking the hint that it’s time to move on and trust God for the next party of your journey. 

Letting go is especially hard for some people, particularly fearful people.

Holding onto stuff will eventually block you from going to the next level in your life. 

We all hang on to things- people, relationships, jobs, houses – because we are afraid that nothing else will come along.  

Don’t limit your life with tunnel vision – it’s making you outstay your welcome in that safe place; instead, be prepared to fully trust God for the next part of your journey, knowing that He has greater things for you ahead.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 275

There’s a reason why people employ personal trainers. When you become serious about staying or getting fit, you recognise that you need a plan. 

A personal trainer helps you to establish an order for your workout, according to the health goals you have set and the results you want to achieve. 

Once you have a plan in place, getting to the level of physical fitness you want will take time. 

Setting your priorities in order in an area of your life, becomes like having a personal trainer.

When your life is not in order, you feel discomfort. A little speck of dust can give you unbelievable pain, and so can an area of your life in chaos. 

How many times have you looked at the clutter that’s gathered in your spare room and have vowed to do something about it for at least the last two years, but have now opted to just keep the door closed so as not to make you feel bad about the junk?

Your life may be in total chaos right now, but that just means now is a good time to start setting some priorities. You can’t change everything at the same time and you can’t change everything quickly, but you can make a start.

Our bedroom had been in major need of re-decoration ever since we moved house, a few years back. Every time I walked in there, I would promise that it would get tackled…but it never did; that was until last year when  I made a plan and took the time to choose the wallpaper and paint with my wife. I then took a few days holiday to get it looking beautiful again. The truth is that no amount of thinking, praying or good intentions was ever going to get the job done. I had to make a plan and then plan to carry it out. 

Today, for instance, you may want to start a financial plan by setting a budget, cutting up a couple of your credit cards or getting someone in that’s good with budgets and finance. 

The key is to start. 

Ordering your life doesn’t happen by magic, but by sheer dedication to staying on top of things every day. 

Human beings function best when there is structure in their lives, but it often takes time to get your life in order. 

Ask yourself today: what chaos in my life needs to be given priority, so that I can focus my energy on that one thing before moving onto the next?

Often, we get paralysed by the amount of things that we need to address, so much so that we end up doing nothing. Everyday we just get more and more overwhelmed with the clutter in our lives. 

What do you need to give your attention to today?

Here are four simple steps…

Focus. 

Plan. 

Work. 

Done. 

Proverbs 24:30-34 ‘I went past the field of a sluggard [habitually lazy person] past the vineyard of someone who has no sense; thorns had come up everywhere, the ground was covered with weeds, and the stone wall was in ruins. I applied my heart to what I observed and learned a lesson from what I saw: a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest – and poverty will come on you like a thief and scarcity like an armed man.’

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 274

There are several times in our lives, when how something looks isn’t necessarily how it actually is. Living our lives dictated by how something appears can stop blessings and lessons, if we don’t overcome that habit.

Remember, it doesn’t matter what it looks like, for instance…

1)…when you fall into the trap of comparison.

We live in an age where it is all too easy to compare our behind-the-scenes with the highlights reels of someone else’s life. That person that has a sparkling existence is facing their own personal battle. Don’t be disheartened because others appear to have what you may want.

2…when you’re being obedient.

In The Bible, before King David became a king, he was just a boy, doing as he was told. When he took Goliath on and went on to defeat him, he didn’t look like the obvious choice. Yet he was God’s choice. When you are living out your calling, not everyone will understand. When God has chosen you, that won’t matter.

3…when you’re waiting for your miracle.

In Genesis, we read the account of Noah and the Flood. You probably haven’t thought too much about how scary the great flood was but imagine relentless rain for 40 days and 40 nights and looking out to see the same thing, day after day. When we are waiting for our breakthrough, we may find ourselves in circumstances that have been the same for a long time. If Noah had been become impatient and left the ark before the water had left the Earth, he’d have drowned. Remember: the flood and the ark preserved Noah and his family; its purpose was never to destroy them. When you find yourself in a flood, wait on God.

Remember, God sees beginning to end in all seasons and situations. Don’t lose heart, when things don’t appear to be going as you had hoped. Take heart and know that God is working things out for your good.

Melissa Reynolds-Lawrence

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 273

I want to ask how many of you suffer from back ache?

You may say “me!”

A lot more of us have a different kind of back ache. It’s called carrying too many burdens…

You get weighed down with heavy stuff, you carry too much worry and anxiety.

You get concerned about so much this and that…and it’s HEAVY.

There’s nothing I like more than my husband to be with me when I’m shopping. Why? So he can carry my bags.

Why do we carry around stuff that is heavy when there is one who wants to carry it for us?

I would not struggle home from the supermarket with heavy bags, if there was one more able than I to carry them.

Yet we hang on to stuff that’s heavy and cumbersome, so much that it makes our back ache.

You can carry something for so long that it gives you permanent back ache – it affects the whole of your being.

Let it go today. There is one who not only wants to take it, but He is able.

You can be free.
Free from burdens. Free from back ache.

Let it go. Give it up. Feel the release.

1 Peter 5v7 ‘Cast your burden onto the Lord, because He cares for you.’

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – Day 272

Occasionally, Gillian and myself get a takeaway on a Friday or Saturday night.

Sometimes, it’s just the two of us or for specials, it’s with one or more of our kids.

We all know that feeling, when you can’t face cooking yet again, especially when your taste buds are saying…’give me Chinese or Indian.’

Sometimes that takeaway is just what’s going to hit the spot, and it’s as easy as picking up the phone, ordering your favourite dish and popping out to pick it up.

As you sit there eating, you feel satisfied not only with the food, but also with the fact that you didn’t have to prepare it and there are no pots and pans to wash.

There are also times in our lives when we need a spiritual takeaway.

We sit down on an evening and feel that we crave something good and wholesome to satisfy our spiritual craving.

Just last week I began to think, ‘wouldn’t it be great if we could somehow recommend, and then provide instant and easy access to some of the finest spiritual food outside of being fed at Church on a Sunday morning?’

What if your craving is in the middle of the night as your problems keep you awake, or during the day when you may feel spiritually low? In reality, are you really going to flick the God channels and find just what you need right there and then?

Well…here is the perfect solution to offer everyone of the 1500 strong family of Fresh Hope. (A special welcome to the 70 folk that have joined us for the first time in September).

Below is a link to  what I consider to be one of my top 5 teaching videos by the legendary John Maxwell. I know it will greatly inspire and feed you. You just need to set aside 40 minutes to watch it and skip to 35 minutes in.

Click here to watch the video.

If it works well for you, then please look out for a fresh takeaway each month.

Enjoy.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 271

There are times when you may say, “it’s not fair”. Sound familiar?

There are times when your desire for what you want, is greater than the desire for what He wants.

There are times when you cry out “what about me?”

There are times when your own hardship and inconvenience becomes too much and you back down from what you really should be doing.

When God sent Jesus to the cross, what if He had said “It’s not fair.” or “What about me?”

What if His desires had been greater than the greater purpose or     what He was asked to do was too much of an inconvenience?

His actual words were, “yet not my will, but yours be done.”

 

Thank God that Jesus is not like me.

We are called to a much higher calling than ourselves.

It’s not about me. It’s about Him.

Commit yourself afresh today to a greater cause than you.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 270

I read an article in the news recently about a man who had sued his newly wed wife after waking up next to her the morning after their wedding thinking she was an intruder…

She had been wearing so much makeup for her big day, that when she washed it all off the next morning, she looked like a totally different person.

Thinking it was a burglar wanting to steal from their apartment, the man jumped out of bed, about to call the police until he realised that it was actually the woman he had committed his life to. This lady had become unrecognisable overnight.

I was reading the book of Colossians a few days ago and a particular verse stood out to me. It’s found in chapter 3 and it says, “For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.”

What this verse is saying is that when you accept Jesus into your life, God no longer sees you for who you are, but for who Jesus is – you have become hidden in Christ. You’ve taken on a whole new identity. No longer are you recognisable to those who once knew you, you are now a new creation!

If you want to experience this new way of living today, then all you have to do is simply ask Jesus into your heart, and in a moment, the old has gone, and the new has come… Welcome to this new life of living with God.

It seems too good to be true, but the best thing about the Gospel (the Good News) is that it really is that good, and it is absolute truth, that can transform our lives if we allow it to.

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – Day 269

We live in a culture where everyone wants to live a long life but no one wants to grow old. 

Unlike our great- grandparents’ generation, it’s considered much easier to live a long life – at least in this country with freely available medical aid.  

However, the primary goal of our life should not be longevity, but should be that of giving significance and value to our years. 

Most of the products we buy at the supermarket have an expiry date.  If ever I go food shopping on my own, the last words that my wife utters as I leave the door is…’make sure you get the best sell by date’.

None of us knows our expiration date, but we do know that it’s coming. 

Since we know that this is true, how should we approach the days that God has given us?

A mother eagle gets her eaglets out of the nest when she senses that it’s time to fly. She does so by unpacking the nest of all its comfort, sending a signal to her babies that the discomfort that you are facing is a sign to get out and do what you were created to do. 

The day comes when every person must leave the security of their nest and pursue their destiny. However we all know people, and we could be one of them, that never come out of their nest. They always have an excuse for why they haven’t accomplished anything or why they’ve been hindered from fulfilling a dream. 

Today, I want to encourage you to get out of the safety and comfort of your nest and live the life that God has intended for you to live. 

Anne Frank lived only about 5,700 days, but the diary she wrote about her days in isolation during World War Two would touch the world.

Martin Luther King lived only about 14,300 days. But he changed history during his thirty-nine years. 

Seize the day…today. 

Psalm 90:12 Teach us to number our days,that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 268

The Bible frequently talks about the’ fight of faith.’

1 Timothy 6:12 ‘Fight the good fight of the faith…’

2 Timothy 4:7 ‘I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith…’

At first glance, it almost sounds contradictory, in that faith suggests that we just trust God, and yet fighting suggests that we have to get involved. 

The best way of understanding this is to see that often we will be called upon to fight with our faith. In other words, we don’t just sit back and pray a little prayer and hope for the best, no, we battle in prayer with great faith believing that God will come through for us. 

When you have no resources or opportunities, no solutions of your own, nowhere else to turn, it’s then that you’re in a battle and you are forced to trust in God’s ability to provide and meet you in your time of great need. 

If nothing went wrong in life, then we wouldn’t need to trust in God. 

We all live in a world contaminated  by human sin and depravity – a world of temptation and disappointment. 

Sometimes it’s easy to have faith when everything is going great, but courageous faith is forged only when it is tested. 

 Today, don’t just sit back with a mindset that says ‘whatever will be will be’. NO – fight the fight of faith and battle over the things that matter most to you.  

Battling with sickness, family problems, finance, employment, trials?

…1 Timothy 6:12 Fight the good fight of the faith

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 267

Imagine that a bank credits your account each morning with £86,400. It’s carries over no balance from day to day. At midnight, the account resets to another £86,400 and deletes whatever part of the previous day’s balance that you failed to use. There’s no guarantee you will ever be given another  £86,400. If that were the case, what would you do? Draw out every last pound, of course!

Each of us has such a bank. Its name is Time. Each morning, you are given a gift that is credited to your life of 86,400 seconds. 

Every night, what you have failed to use is lost. 

Time carries over no balance from day-to-day. Time allows no overdraft and you cannot hold on to what you did not use the day before. 

If you fail to use the day’s deposits, the loss is yours. 

I challenge you today to take a long hard look at your life and ask yourself, ‘where does all my time go?’

How and where do I spend it?

How much time am I wasting?

How much time am I spending just on me?

How much time am I investing in others?

How much time am I spending with God each day?

Everything in life has to have a balance to it, but I’m sure that you will agree that it’s hardly a balanced life sitting in front of a TV every night.

Wake up.  We only have one life to live!

Make an important decision today to not waste another minute.  

There’s an old saying that says ‘time stops for no man'; today has already partly been spent. What are you going to do today with rest of your 86,400 seconds? 

Make your life count.

Pastor Mark

A dail devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 266

Florence Chadwick was a champion swimmer. In 1952, she attempted to swim a span of the peaceful Pacific Ocean between California’s Catalina Island and the state coastline. As she began the 26 mile journey, she was accompanied by small boats of supporters who watched for sharks and were prepared to help Florence if she got hurt or grew tired. Thick fog rolled in after about 15 hours of swimming.

Florence recalled that after already having spent so many hours navigating the waters with her body, she began to doubt her ability. She didn’t think that she could make it, but she kept going. She swam for another hour before asking to be pulled out, physically and emotionally exhausted. She was tired and in her mind the Californian coastline felt like it was a million miles away. 

After she got into the boat, she learned she had stopped less than a mile short of her destination. 

She couldn’t see the shoreline and the journey began to feel impossible. 

“All I could see was the fog,” she told the new paper reporters the next day. “I think if I could have seen the shore, I would have made it.”

Today, you maybe closer to your destination than you realise.

Your next attempt could well be like Florence’s, who two months later actually made it, because she kept an eye on her destination albeit through another foggy day. 

When you’re in a struggle, keep your goal in sight. It may be physical, financial, relational or spiritual, and it may feel like you’re never going to reach the shore of a new day.

You may well ask “if this is my God-given destiny, then why am I battling to stay afloat with no sign of the destination?” 

Remember, don’t take a life-storm as the absence of God; no one can see clearly in the fog, that’s why we must walk by faith and not simply by what we can see. The storm can make you stronger and give you confidence to handle future challenges. 

When you get through battling, you’ll have more wisdom, more tenacity, more strength and more vision to take you forward. 

Today, don’t get so distracted by your circumstances that you lose awareness of Gods presence, instead, let this challenge drive you to your knees, where you know you can find help in your time of need. 

Hebrews 4:16 ‘Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.’

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 265

I had another birthday this week. I’m a little older than I was 10 years ago and there’s still some things I can’t do.

I can’t roller skate, ice skate, or dive.  That’s okay though, because I’m not bothered about doing either of those, even though I’ve tried (a little), neither of them will actually enhance my life.
I’ve never parachuted, abseiled or climbed a mountain either. I’m not sure if I’d be successful, as I’ve never tried to be.

There are some things you have to learn how to do, and there’s some things that you can get by without.

I had to learn to cook, clean and iron when I first got married. I had to learn how to be a Mom, I had to learn how to do laundry, I had to learn how to read and write as a child. Some things you need to learn to do, because you’ll need those things in EVERYDAY life.

There are some things we are still learning every day, life should be about learning. You are never too old to learn something new.

‘If you don’t learn something, you won’t know it’, is a simple phrase with a weighty meaning.

God’s word, is there for us to read and learn. We need it in our everyday lives. We need to know what His promises are, because you’ll need them every day.

I’ll never learn to ice skate if I don’t try and you’ll never know God’s word if you don’t read it.

When you read a short passage each day, ask God to speak to you through it.  Memorise a verse or a truth from what you’ve read.
What you practise in the light, you will recall in the dark. Knowing God’s word will enhance your everyday life. It will make you rich.

Read and learn today and you’ll know it for tomorrow.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 264

It was my wife’s birthday earlier this week.

We love to celebrate birthdays in our house, but I have to admit that I’m not very good at buying that amazing surprise gift.

If I’m honest, it usually works like this…Gillian sees something that she likes, tells me about it, and then I go and buy it. I take it home in a carrier bag so that she won’t see it, wrap it up and give it to her on the day. Hardly a surprise.

I have been known to really push the boat out and get her something unexpected, but then I usually end up taking it back as the wrong size, style or completely unwanted!

Whatever the case may be with the presents, she knows that it is always my intention to demonstrate my love towards her.

It’s quite possible today to wake up feeling very alone and unloved even though you may have many friends.

Maybe your birthdays have long since been forgotten by others or maybe you’re at an age where you prefer to forget them yourself.

The great news is this: it’s not just on specials that God loves you – every day His love remains the same and is the only true constant in our lives.

God’s unconditional love means that He doesn’t find it hard to love you right now either, no matter what you have done; He continually pours His grace into your life day-by-day.

Why not think on this verse during today until it’s ingrained within you?

1 John 3:1 ‘See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!’

I just love the word ‘lavished’ – it simply means generous and extravagant and is the very word God chooses to reveal the extent of His love towards you.

You are loved…today and everyday.

 

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 263

Many of you reading Fresh Hope today will be rushing to work.

The alarm clock did go off at the right time but the snooze button got pressed a few too many times to make for a relaxed start.

You’ve already had to battle with the daily chores that never go away, let alone the children that need feeding, dressing and transporting to school.

Your only hope is that the day will be kind to you and that you survive to repeat the whole thing again tomorrow.

Whether a single mom struggling alone, or a fully functional family, you live in a high-stress environment and as such, you need to know how to take care of yourself for the long haul.

Finding ways to distance yourself from the normal rat race is of utmost importance before you burn out and become of no use to anyone.

Downtime is not a waste of time.

Rest is different from laziness.

Rest rejuvenates while laziness deteriorates.

Your body’s cells need rest to rebuild themselves and fortify you for another day of challenges.

The problem with many hard working conscientious people is that we confuse rest with laziness and end up feeling guilty if and when we sit down and take time out for ourselves.

Rest is not an optional extra but an absolute necessity.

Find ways to rest your body and mind from day-to-day stress.

A walk in the park, a night at the cinema, a coffee with a magazine or a few hours at what my wife calls herhappy place’ (which is an hours’ drive from our home) are some of the sort of things you might like to do too.

Ever wondered why you crave these moments and feel so much better after even an hour after doing one of them?  It’s because your body and your mind is sending a signal to say ‘thank you’ for looking after me.

From now on, don’t just plan to work…plan to rest.

Mark 6 v 31…

‘Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”‘

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 262

My mother-in-law had a new washing machine delivered, and my promise was to install it for her.

I was a little pushed for time, but she was eager to get it in place, so I popped in with a few tools one lunchtime.

I secured the water pipes, connected the electric supply and carefully pushed the new machine into a very tight spot underneath the kitchen units.

Everything was seeming to work fine, as I quickly tested it to make sure that the power and water supply were all as they should be. Job done.

For the next three days, I had calls from her telling me that something wasn’t right and that every time the machine went into its spin cycle, the whole kitchen would shake.

Like a Doctor, I asked her over the phone all about the symptoms and advised her about overloading it and anything else that I thought may be the cause.

Eventually, I decided to go back, take the washer out and start again.

It turned out that it was completely my fault.  I had overlooked the fact that I should have taken the very long transportation bolts that come with a brand new washer to hold the drum secure during delivery.

The bolts meant that there was no flexibility in the drum when spinning, so would violently vibrate, potentially damaging everything around it.

As much as it pained me to realise that I could have badly damaged the machine, I also realised that it was a great life lesson too.

Sometimes in our lives we have to acknowledge that we are being held back by the things that have never been removed during transportation.

I love the story in the Bible about Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead; but then in the very next breath Jesus says…’take off his grave cloths and let him go.’

It wasn’t enough just to be brought back to life, until the bandages that held him tight in death were unravelled.

How many of us today have felt the effects, not of bandages but of bondages that have wrapped around us during transportation?

Unkind words spoken over our lives, bitterness about our past, unforgiveness over a broken relationship – the list goes on and on but what is true is that not only do these things hold us back, they also affect everything and everyone else around us. When we behave this way, we cause a ripple effect of negativity wherever we go.

We were not created to be restricted by our hang-ups, but to be set free to do what we were created to do by God.

Today, take a brief step back, in order to go forwards.

Ask yourself: what is it in my past that is causing me to behave in such a way today?

Identify the problem and then ask Jesus to be the solution. Allow Him access into your private world so that He can take off your grave clothes and let you go.

Be free.
John 8:36 ‘So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.’

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 261

Psalm 18 v 2 says that God is our rock, our fortress and our deliverer.

He is our Rock – make sure you have a great foundation in your life. The best one is having your life based on a relationship with God.

That way, when storms and trials come your way, you will not be shaken because your foundation is strong.

‘The wise man built his house on the rock’, is an old Bible story that is very true, because when the wind and the waves came, his house stood firm. The foolish man, whose house was built on sand, was not so fortunate.

He is our fortress – He is a safe place, a refuge. He is strong and reliable. He will protect you from your enemies. You can feel safe with God as your fortress.

He is our deliverer –  what do you need help with today? A difficult situation? An impossibility? He can deliver you from it.

Do you need help with an addiction,  or need freeing from fear? He can help you. Are you surrounded by sickness? He can heal you.

Jesus wants to be YOUR rock and fortress and deliverer.  Give Him that chance today.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 260

One of the great temptations, when life’s path becomes difficult, is to isolate yourself.

It is a natural instinct to try to pull back from your emotions and not feel the sharp pain caused by your crisis.

If you’re like me in such moments, you may also feel the need to retreat and become isolated. Even when you’re around people, you can withdraw emotionally.

Going through a trial, a temptation, or turmoil makes you feel quite vulnerable, so it’s natural to want to put up your walls and hide behind them. But that never helps the problem and it’s little comfort.

When you least feel like being with others, it is often a sign that you need them most.

Are you struggling through a difficult part of your path? The best thing you can do is get into a positive faith-filled environment.

Don’t skip church or a life group when you’re feeling dismayed…it’s there to lift you and encourage you – it’s your very life line.

Hebrews 10 v 24-25
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

*An excerpt from Pastor Brian Houston’s latest book  ‘Live Love Lead’

Fresh Hope – Day 259

Many things in our lives are based on feelings.

Women in particular like to feel nice, feel loved, feel happy, feel blessed, feel confident. In fact, we all do.

We can base a whole day, week, year or even our lives solely on how we feel.

How many of us have made mistakes in our lives, because we’ve gone on those present feelings?

Just because you feel like it, doesn’t mean you should do it and just because you don’t feel like it, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t.

For example… ‘I feel angry, so I’m going to lash out at someone.’ No, that’s not right.

‘I feel hurt, so I’m going to hurt back.’ No, that’s not right.

‘I feel unloved, so no one loves me.’ No, that’s not right.

OR…’I don’t feel like brushing my teeth, so I won’t.’ That’s not right.

‘I don’t feel like cleaning up after myself, so I won’t.’ That’s not right.

‘I don’t feel like going to Church, so I won’t.’ That’s not right.

As you can see, feelings can take you all over the place. Be careful.

When it comes to making big decisions, don’t go on feelings alone; you could marry the wrong person, take the wrong job and move to the wrong house.

Here are 3 good rules…

  1. God’s word e.g. ‘I feel like robbing the bank’…no, God’s word says don’t do that.
  2. A trusted friend. Ask them to help and advise you.
  3. Someone who has a great relationship with God, who maybe further down the road than you, like a Pastor or leader.

When we aren’t in a great relationship with God we can make very wrong choices.

Just because you may feel God doesn’t love you today, doesn’t mean that’s right, in fact He couldn’t love you any more.

Feelings are great. God created them.

Just don’t rely on them alone, as you are likely to regret it.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 258

In the book of Genesis, we see what is known as the creation account. Over a period of six days, God forms the Heavens and the Earth. How does He do this? Well, He speaks them into being.

Genesis 1:3 says, “And God SAID, “Let there be light,” and there was light.”

In verse 6 it says, “And God SAID, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.”” This same process continues all the way through the first chapter of the Bible.

I think from the very get-go, God is revealing to us that your words will form your world.

He’s letting us know that there is a direct connection between the life that you’re experiencing and the words that you’re speaking.

“Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose”, is a verse found in the book of Proverbs that really leads us to ask ourselves a question: What situations are you poisoning with your speech?

Maybe you’re struggling right now financially, maybe things at home aren’t going great, maybe life is not heading in the direction you’d have hoped. Is it possible that your words have created for you a world that you don’t like? Is it possible that your mouth has got you in to a mess?

“I’m never going to get this job” may well lead to you not getting the job. Why not instead try replacing words of negativity with words of faith… “I believe that God can get me in this job if that’s where He wants me.”

“Though things at home right now aren’t that great, I believe God can turn that around.”

“Though my finances are looking low, I believe a breakthrough is coming my way!”

Today, you have the power to not only change the atmosphere around you, but the world around you with the words that you speak. Choose to speak life and not death today and watch things begin to turn.

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 257

London Community Gospel Choir, better known as LCGC, has sung at our church a number of times now and Bazil Meade, the founder and director, has become a friend over the years.

It was hardly surprising then on Saturday night that I was getting texts from people asking if we were watching The X Factor, as some of the choir along with Bazil were performing.

For anyone that saw it, I’m sure that like myself, you will have noticed something very special about what happened…

As the group of girls from the choir took to the stage and started to sing a well known pop song, the whole thing went flat to such a degree that Simon Cowell brought their performance to an abrupt halt.

One of the judges suggested that if they were a Gospel group then they would do much better coming back and doing something Gospel. Fair point.

With a sense of awkward disappointment they walked off, only to reappear with their heads held high, and what happened next almost took the roof off…they got into their own groove, simply sang a Gospel number and the whole place erupted.

Cameras panned around onto people’s faces that revealed wide open mouths, filled with amazement and pure delight.

On Saturday night, a huge lesson was learnt not just by LCGC but by us all…

Attempting to be popular by doing something that you were not created for is never going to win over others, but doing what you do best is going to have such a profound effect that people will not be able to contain themselves.

We should never be afraid or ashamed to stand on the stage of our lives and do what we were created to do and say what we feel we should say.

Sometimes the pressure to live as just another copy is only ever going to make you an echo and not a voice to a desperate generation looking for answers.

Saturday night proved to us all that the power of the Gospel is able to transform a dead performance into something so life-giving that anyone coming after would have a very difficult act to follow.

Don’t live your life attempting to blend in, in the hope that others will applaud you, but instead live to stand out – knowing that God will always give you a standing ovation if you will be willing to stand for Him.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – Day 256

I’ve loved being with our grandchildren for two whole weeks, whilst on our family holiday.

Noah and Hudson are so different, but both of them adorable.

I love being around children and have always felt a deep sense of responsibility to help to make their lives better, by having fun with them.

I guess that the painful lessons that I learnt in raising our own three children has helped shape me as much, if not more, than it helped shaped them.

It’s easy to forget what it’s like to have small children around you all of the time, but this past fortnight has brought back to mine and Gillian’s remembrance those exact feelings.

Here are just a few of the things that I’ve learnt once again from being in the presence of children…

1) A mood is something that can be got over very quickly.

2) If you want something…be nice.

3) Run towards those that love you and believe in you everyday.

4) Don’t be afraid to take risks.

5) If you’re tired, take a short nap.

6) Be a pleasure to be around.

7) Have fun as much as possible.

8) Don’t be afraid to ask for something that you would like.

9) Get excited about every day.

10) No matter how good things are elsewhere, always look forward to the place called home.

Mark 9:36-37
Jesus took a little child whom he placed among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, ‘Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me…’

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 255

We all know that once we get past the second week of September we can usually kiss goodbye to the thoughts of anymore warm sunshine.

This morning felt like autumn had well and truly arrived with me moaning about the cold and a rainy start to the day, as I reached for my dressing gown.

I’ve never been one for cold weather and have never understood anyone that can walk around in a t-shirt in the winter. It’s a standing joke in our family about me always wearing a vest at all times.

We have friends that live in a climate of year round, wall-to-wall sunshine and they often say that they’ve had a bad summer, which means something totally different to when we say the same thing – I’ve learnt that it means that it’s been too hot and that they are longing for some cloud and a little cool breeze. Rain is a novelty to them and a cause to celebrate.

The truth is that we are blessed with four distinct seasons here, and we have to learn to enjoy what each one brings with it.

Seasons are found in each of our lives too and we have to be aware that they exist, otherwise we can be caught out and miss the beauty of each one.

Just like the natural seasons of our year, we have to know what season we are in in order to dress appropriately for it.

Maybe you’ve had a long summer of success in your life, but right now are troubled that the once flourishing financial trees are now shedding their leaves and things are looking bare – don’t dismay…it’s a season.

Maybe your life recently has been one of long, cold and hard times that seem to last forever – don’t dismay…it’s a season.

No matter what you are passing through right now, appreciate the season and understand why it’s there…you’re passing through it.

A farmer knows from experience that if he’s going to have a successful harvest then he’s going to have to remain positive and faithful during the cold winter days, where he’s looking out on nothing but barren soil – he knows that at the proper time his season of success is coming, if he’s been faithful during his planting season.

God has placed seasons in your life in order to bring about fruitfulness at the proper time.

You can’t be in a season of harvest all of the time. You have to recognise that there is a season to plant and a season to wait too.

Recognise the potential of each and every moment in your life and embrace them knowing that it soon will lead to the summer of blessing.

Galatians 6:9 ‘Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.’

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 254

Autumn is upon us, a brand new season. The old has gone, the new is coming.

Maybe your child has just started a different school or college – a new season.
Maybe you’re about to start a new job or position in your company – a new season.
Maybe you’ve decided to start afresh with something – a new season.

New seasons bring many blessings. They also bring new challenges.

In this new season, make sure you are positioned correctly.
Are you in the game or just spectating?
Players participate and get on with winning, whilst spectators usually criticise.
Your positioning right now is very important, it will determine your importance and significance in this upcoming season.

Whatever this season holds for you, whatever faces you right now, be correctly positioned.  Be ready to be used by God for greater things.

Declare that this season is going to be better than the one before.
Declare that in this new season God is for me.
Be positioned in such a way that you are ready for all that God has for you.

I don’t want to miss anything that this new season holds. I hope you feel the same.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 253

I’m writing this at 4:30am. Not sleeping very well. Call it jet lag or too much coffee, I’m not sure.

I hate being awake in the night. I hate being awake in the dark. I like to wake and it’s morning.

Isn’t it interesting how things can seem worse at night, things can seem bad and we can get fearful?

The mind is a powerful thing. But here’s a truth, you are in charge of your own mind and thinking and although the dark doesn’t help, you can still take hold of those thoughts.

Don’t let yourself be told that things are really bad or that the situation will never get better. Instead, take your thoughts to good things and God-centred thinking.

A thought may enter your head, that you didn’t put there, but it’s what you do with the thought that counts. Don’t let it take you somewhere you don’t want it to go.

You can stop that ‘train of thought’ right now, before it takes you to the next station.

Philippians 4 v 8 ‘Whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is honourable,  whatever is holy…think on THESE things.’ Your mind is strong, train it in the right way.

Why go somewhere that’s not good?

Live in pleasant places.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 252

We have just returned from our family holiday.

Days of sunshine turned quickly to the dead of night there within a few short minutes.

As the early evenings approached, it gave an almost eerie feel to the mountainous terrain surrounding us for miles around.

Driving through the built-up area of shops and restaurants at night, there was just one thing that stood out…an illuminated cross, way up on the top of one of the mountains for all to see.

It was a sight to behold, as this simple yet magnificent symbol of freedom seemingly hung in the sky.

The reality is that a church in the area had paid to have the cross placed and illuminated there as a constant reminder of Jesus’s love for all.

We’ve been to that area a number of times now and each time we have tried to find the cross in the day time, but all to no avail -it’s as if the cross is invisible in the light of day.

Every time I think about the significance of the cross of Jesus now, I’m drawn to this example of how total darkness provides the very backdrop for the cross to shine.

That’s exactly what God intended when His only Son suffered the cruelest of deaths at the hands of men.

On that day, history records that the earth went dark as this most incredible one time event illuminated the sky forever.

Today, no matter what dark time you may be passing through, remember that Jesus is there to light your way.

If our lives were all just plain sailing with no pain, sadness or difficulty then we have to ask how many of us would seek out Jesus.

Is it not the very presence of our current darkness that draws us to the light of Jesus?

Light will always shine brightest in the darkest places.

John 8:12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, He said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 251

I have attended a fitness boot camp for the past 12 months and one phrase they use has impacted me, not just on a physical/fitness level but it has permeated through my life.

‘If it’s hurting, it’s working.’

Those days you wake up after exercising your legs and you can’t bare to walk down the stairs, this saying rings loud with every step…

The nature of muscle building and fat stripping to push your body to its limit  and as it recovers, it grows and becomes more lean.

I love how this can help us in life. Circumstances or situations will and can push us to our limits – hurting on all sorts of levels, but as the good saying goes: ‘whatever doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.’ I believe we can grow in character and faith.

Paul writes about this in his letters; how as our character is matured and patience is gained, there our faith is built up too.

Whatever you’re going through today, ask God to help you grow and to help you see the work He is doing within you.

I want to grow my faith in God, so I have to push it to its limit…not always easy, like fitness – some days I just don’t want to! However, persistence pays off.

I encourage you today to keep running this race and press on to that goal…for our God is faithful!

Adam Nash

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 250

Several years ago, I played for a local football team. We weren’t the best. To us, a draw was a win. In the few years that I had been a part of this team, I had played in almost every position, but for the most part, I was the goalkeeper.

I remember one particular game quite well, I was playing in goal and we lost 6-0. At the end of the game, I was ready to go home and eat lunch, feeling pretty down about our defeat, but not really surprised as we were used to this kind of loss. As our team came together following the final whistle, the referee walked over to us and announced to everyone that I had been awarded man of the match.

Now, I was as shocked as everyone else at that point. How could this be? I had conceded 6 goals. The reason given was that the scoreline could’ve been much worse had I not have been in goal. Suddenly, I felt somewhat better than I did moments ago.

When reminiscing about this occasion just a few days ago with a friend, I started to see that this story paints a picture for us of what it’s like to do life with Jesus. Because you see, Jesus has an amazing way of taking the negatives and turning them into positives. He takes the bad stuff, and through it, reveals the good stuff.

In Romans 8:28 it says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

This is good news for you and I today, because it means that although circumstances and situations in our lives aren’t always good, if you place Jesus at the centre, He will work them together for good.

You can live with peace, knowing that everything that God does is good, but most importantly, God IS good. ‘Good’ is not just what He does, but good is who He is… Be encouraged with that thought today.

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 249

How many times have you made a snap decision based on your feelings? I know that I have. Spontaneity can be a wonderful thing but sometimes, throwing caution to the wind can have consequences. We all have the occasional off day.

Sometimes, when our prayers aren’t answered how we expected them to be, we spend time trying to figure out why. It’s easy to think that maybe God just didn’t feel like giving us what we asked for and we should try harder to convince Him, next time.

We serve an amazing God who is the same yesterday, today and forever. Every single thing that He does for us is out of His love for us which never changes.

Isaiah 55:8 says ‘“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,  neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.’

God created us with emotions and the ability to feel. However, we don’t need to try to appeal to God’s feelings. We don’t need to convince Him that we are worthy, or to listen to us. We don’t always understand God’s ways but He is never careless with His children.

The more we seek Him, the more we learn His character and the better we know His character, the stronger our faith and trust in Him grows.

We can approach God in the confidence that the way He feels about us never changes, He always acts in our best interest (even if it doesn’t come packaged as we expected) and He never has an off day.

Melissa Reynolds-Lawrence

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 248

Let’s talk labels.  

Everyone wants to stick one on you at some stage during your life time.

Here’s the problem…

1) They stick very easily

2) They don’t readily come off

3)When they do come off…they leave their mark

When we moved house a few years ago, we found the best way of transporting all our stuff was to put a sticker on each box that corresponded to the room that the items came from. Once the box arrived at its new destination, it was just a matter of reading the label and placing the box in the correct room – job done!

However, when we re-used the boxes to store different stuff in at a later date, the labels no longer corresponded to what was inside.

In much the same way, have you ever noticed how people readily want to label you from your past, but when you change, they still want to keep the old label stuck on you?

Jesus had the very same problem.

His family and friends that had watched him grow up had only ever known him as Mary and Joseph’s boy, but when He revealed himself as the miracle working son of God, they couldn’t get the old label off.

The old label meant that they couldn’t come to terms with who He really was – God in flesh. The label became a major blockage to their faith and resulted in them being unable to fully accept Him and certainly restricted His miracle working power in their own lives.

TODAY, you are where you are, either because you have survived the labels or that you are still living with an old label; it’s time to rip it off and take charge of who you have become.

If someone refuses to give you a new label, then simply refuse to stay where they want to keep you.

We all have the right to change and be changed by the power of Jesus.

2 Corinthians 5:17 ‘Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, they are a new creation: The old has gone, the new is here!’

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – Day 247

There is a wonderful story in the Bible, in Acts chapter 8 about a man called Philip who was minding his own business when God called him to go out of his way to help someone else.

When you read the story, you will notice that the man that needed help that day was a very important, wealthy man who needed Christ.

We are all busy people. We have things to do and places to go. We have people to see and business to attend to. In your busy-ness, don’t be too busy to hear from God. He may need you that day, to do something very special for him.

We should be open every day, that no matter what we have planned, we are not too busy for God to reach us, in order that we can reach someone else.

You may say “but what about me? I’m supposed to be doing this and that.” I’ve learnt many things in my Christian life. One of the most important things is that when you put God first and His work, He’ll get you where you need to be.

This story finishes with after Philip helping the man and leading him to Jesus, Philip ‘gets to where he needs to be’ supernaturally.

Put God first, He’ll sort your business.
Look after His House, He’ll look after yours.

‘SEEK YE FIRST THE KINGDOM OF GOD AND EVERYTHING ELSE WILL BE ADDED UNTO YOU. ‘ (Matthew 6 v 33)

Yes, all your ‘everything else’s’ will supernaturally fall into place, when you put God first.

Try it.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 246

I was really surprised the other day, when I saw one of our church volunteers drinking a Starbucks coffee.

That may not seem unusual to you, as we serve Starbucks coffee at church. However, this particular person was only ever known for drinking McDonald’s coffee!

(Now I do have to confess that I have enjoyed an occasional McD coffee, when desperate, and only with three sugars – it was the only way it would go down).

I couldn’t resist asking this person if they had been converted to Starbucks; to which they replied, “no…shhhh…don’t tell anyone but it’s a McDonald’s coffee that I’ve poured into a Starbucks cup!”

That simple story helps us to appreciate how easy it is to camouflage what’s really going on with a false image.

We all know that nowadays it’s all too easy to live a life of pretence and mislead people by telling just that little white lie, which by the way is just a camouflaged lie and is just the same as any other coloured lie.

How many times have you found yourself telling half the truth, or exaggerating something to make yourself look better? Yet again a subtle form of lying.
When it comes down to it, the truth has to be totally the truth -otherwise it’s a lie, no matter how you dress it up.

Whatever sleeve you put around it, it’s what’s on the inside that really matters.

If you are continually masking what’s true with flowery words meant to divert others from the real facts, then don’t be surprised when you find yourself in a position that few people ever trust you.

At the end of the day, it’s not only you that knows the real truth, but God does too.

You may fool others for a time, but you can never fool God for even a moment.

Before you go any further down this slippery slope, take these words to heart…

Proverbs 10:9 ‘Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out.’

Always looking over your shoulder for fear of being found out?

Can’t understand why God seems to have withdrawn His blessing from your life?

Look no further…He upholds only those that walk in complete integrity.

Make a once-and-for-all-decision today, no matter what the cost, to be a totally trustworthy and honest person – God will uphold you.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 245

‘Dance as though no one is watching

Love as though you’ve never been hurt

Sing as though no one can hear you

Live as though Heaven is on earth.’

I love this! Let me make this clear, I did not pen this verse, but I wish I had!

Why not live this out today?

Have you ever stopped to think how much we compromise because of ‘fitting in’ or because of fear of what people will think?

Jesus said we are the ‘light of the world’…the last time I checked, a light only does its job when it stands out and affects its surroundings.

Today, live life to the full, uncompromised and without fear…you will make an impact, I’m sure of it.

Even the smallest candle can light up the darkest room.

Go sing, dance, love and live your day to the max.

Adam Nash

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 244

Recently, I attended a football match at the stadium of my home team, Wolverhampton Wanderers. (Don’t judge me). At this particular game, there was a celebration for the life of Sir Jack Hayward, a former Wolves owner.

Sir Jack became the owner and chairman of Wolves after buying the club in 1990 for £2.11 million. It is estimated that he spent well in excess of £70m of his personal finance on redeveloping the Molineux Stadium, writing off annual debts, and purchasing players for the club during the 17 years for which he was owner.

Having sold the club in 2007, Hayward remained the life president of Wolverhampton Wanderers and was later inducted into the club’s Hall of Fame.

By the time he retired as chairman at Wolves, Hayward was recognised as one of a select group of football benefactors who had spent huge fortunes of time and money on rescuing their hometown boyhood club from obscurity.

As I found myself in the stands at this particular game, I was moved when I saw a large, hanging picture of Sir Jack inside the stadium and beneath that, a quote that read, ‘Glad to have helped.’

In that moment, I was amazed at how someone who had given so much to build what they loved, was not quoting the amount of money they had given, or the countless hours they had put in, but they were simply happy to have helped…

When it comes to the end of my life, I want to be able to say those same four words. I don’t want it to be about how much money I gave, or about everything I sacrificed, I just want to have made a difference with my life. However that looks, however much it costs, I want my life to contribute to something greater than myself.

‘Happy to have helped’ is a quote that carries great humility, understanding that what I am a part of is greater than the part that I play, and I pray today that this is something that you would want to attach to your existence on this Earth.

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 243

In the New Testament, there is the story of the woman who had a medical issue, which caused chronic loss of blood and how she received her healing.

Matthew 9:20-22 gives us the account, ‘Just then, a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak. She said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.” Jesus turned and saw her. “Take heart, daughter,” he said, “your faith has healed you.” And the woman was healed at that moment.’

There are some things that this woman’s healing can teach us…

One touch is all it takes – once she had touched Jesus, she was healed instantly. She had been on her journey for 12 long years, treated by medical experts. Many would have given up but her healing shows us that it is never too late to reach out to Jesus. Where man fails, God’s glory can be shown.

God sees it all– as weak and feeble as her touch may have been, Jesus knew immediately that someone had touched his garment. We may feel sometimes as though we have no strength to put behind our prayers, but no matter how weak we feel, God’s power can touch us all the same.

She received her whole miracle – we serve a God who doesn’t do half-measures. The scripture tells us that she was ‘freed from her suffering’. God’s promises are ‘yes’ and ‘amen’. She didn’t just feel a little bit better, she was completely free. Such is the nature of God.

Don’t give up. It only takes one step towards God to get his attention and one touch from Him can restore you fully.

Melissa Reynolds-Lawrence

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 242

How is it that some people come through incredible challenges so well, yet others are crushed by lesser things?
How can we remain unshaken and unafraid in bad circumstances?

James 1:2-4 in the Message Bible says…

Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.

Strong convictions strengthen.

Growing through challenges has to do with your convictions – what you truly believe. How do you see God? Do you see Him as forgiving and loving? If so, you will be able to trust Him to sustain you through difficulties. But if you see God as a distant, harsh judge who waits for you to slip up so He can punish you, then you will run from Him in hard times because you’ll see Him as the problem instead of the answer.

Worry and fear will rob you of faith and prevent you from moving forward. But when you trust God you will have a firm belief in His reliability and a confident expectation that He will carry you through anything that confronts you.

Maximising your life means taking every opportunity to learn and grow. No one escapes challenges and trials; the difference is in how you face them. Take James’s advice and consider these ‘a gift’, then you’ll approach any hardship from a position of strength and come through with increased confidence in God.

Is your life anchored?

Today, develop strong spiritual ‘muscle’ by spending time in His Word and taking it to heart. Determine to know God more intimately and through every storm, keep your hope anchored in Jesus.

PRAYER: Thank you Lord that my hope is anchored in You. No matter what comes my way, I choose to believe that You love me, You will provide for me and that my future is secure in Your hands.

* excerpt taken from Pastor Brian Houston’s blog

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 241

Do you remember the TV programme This Is Your Life?  I always thought it was strange when they took a 30 year old and made the programme about them. Yet the truth is, even at a young age, you can have already done something very significant with your life and the great thing for those 30 year olds, is that they have plenty of time left for many more great things too.

We’ve probably all heard the phrase “it’s his or her season.” You only have to look at a footballer to know that is true.  One season can be great, the next can be not so.

Did you know that there will come a season for the very reason of your life?
God saw a problem and He sent you to sort it. There is a purpose for your very life and there is a plan that God Himself designed.

When you think about seasons, they are all very different, but in their own way, all very beautiful.

Thank God for the very season you are in right now. Thank Him that He has a plan and purpose for your life and when ‘your season’ comes, make sure you are ready for it and you don’t miss it.

Be like the surgeon’s instruments in the theatre, all clean and ready to be used.  You may not need to be used in the next operation, but when it’s your turn, you are ready and willing and able.

THIS IS YOUR LIFE.  Make sure you live it on purpose.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 240

King Solomon wrote the book of Proverbs to instruct its readers in the art of living.

In Proverbs 1:7, he connects reverence for God with the ability to live with “knowledge” and “wisdom”.

Throughout Proverbs, Solomon contrasts the path of life for the wise, to that of a fool – the person who doesn’t believe God or value His Word.

When you love and respect someone, you will value and trust their word. Likewise, if you love and respect God then you will value and trust His Word – the Bible.

Simply put, wisdom is applying God’s Word to your everyday life.

If you want to live a blessed life, the pathway is found through making wise choices every day. The most important decision you will ever make is to love and honour God and accept Jesus as your Lord. You are then in prime position to receive the wisdom to navigate your life as God’s Word becomes your principal source of direction.

At times, we all ‘fall short’ and can make unwise choices. We know however, that God is a loving God full of grace, mercy and forgiveness. However, as we read the Word and are transformed into His image, we will obtain wisdom in every area of life.

Is there something you are facing today that you don’t know how to deal with? Perhaps you need some guidance concerning your job or a relationship, or maybe your life just needs a change in direction. God has your answers and He is ready to show you. Making wise choices for your life is the daily decision to prioritise God’s Word and apply it in any and every circumstance.

“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” James 1:5

Prayer: Father, Your Word promises if I ask You for wisdom, You will give it to me. Thank you for the wisdom to carry out my responsibilities and in the decisions I must make today.

*Excerpt taken from Pastor Brian Houston’s blog

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 239

Waiting…it is a struggle for most people today.

The 21st Century society is such a ‘now’ culture – everything in an instant, access to anything at the touch of a button…therefore waiting has become almost extinct, or just seen as down-right wrong.

I’m sure you’ve said the same as me…things like ‘how long is this queue?! I’m not standing in this.’

‘Why should I have to wait? I’m paying for this!’

Whilst I don’t like queuing or waiting a long time, I feel that we should be careful that we don’t become totally ‘instant’.

When it comes to food, mainly the best items or dishes take the longest time.

Have you ever seen items like a 28 day cured steak, or had some slow roasted pulled pork? Or maybe you’ve seen the drink Port, with ’10, 15 or 20 year aged’, printed on the bottle.

It’s incredible to think some food and drink will sit for days, weeks or years just waiting…waiting for the day they fulfil their purpose…to be consumed.

Let me encourage you today to ask God to you give you patience, so you too can see some very special moments in your life.

Let’s live life with depth and meaning, not just filled with instant fixes.

Isaiah 40:31 ‘But those who wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.’

Remember whilst you’re waiting, you are growing, you are becoming a better, more tastier and beautiful version of yourself.

Adam Nash

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 238

In the Bible, we find a well-known story known as ‘The Feeding of the Five Thousand.’

The story goes that a large crowd had followed Jesus and He had compassion on them, and so He began to heal the sick that were amongst the crowd. As the evening was drawing to a close, the disciples noticed that the people were getting hungry and so they suggested to Jesus that He send them away so that they can go into the village and buy some food.

I love how Jesus responds, in Matthew 14:16, “Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.””

In other words, ‘I’m glad you’ve identified a problem, now go and be the solution.’

You see, day-to-day we will encounter various problems and challenges, but my question to you is: are you providing a solution, or more importantly, are you being the solution?

Maybe it’s an issue in your workplace or in your home or within your community that continually bugs you because you know there’s a better way of handling it. Let me encourage you today that now you’ve identified the problem, do something about it!

I love the fact that Jesus didn’t need the disciples, their involvement in this miracle wasn’t imperative, but Jesus chose them and He wanted them.

Jesus doesn’t need you today friend, but He wants you.

He’s God, He’s able to do whatever He wants, whenever He wants. Yet, He’s looking for you to make a difference in your world today, no matter how big or small. Jesus wants you to be a part of the solution.

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 237

Think for a moment about your wardrobe. Not the physical piece of furniture but the contents of it. Maybe you’re into fashion, maybe you’re not bothered but one thing that most of us have in common is that an item or two is our absolute favourite. When you wear this particular item, you may feel confident, turn heads and receive compliments. You don’t wear it just to go shopping, you save it for best.

So often, we do this with God. It can be easy day-to-day to take things on for ourselves and sometimes, not consider Him at all. Maybe you do the same job everyday, so you don’t always pray specifically about your day.

Have you ever saved God for ‘special occasions’? We don’t invite Him to the menial moments of our lives because they’re not a challenge but when we’re believing for something MAJOR, that’s when we dust our faith off, from the back of the wardrobe and wait for that ‘wow’ feeling, of when God shows up.

Truth is: every day is a favourite jacket day. The Bible says to ‘pray without ceasing and give thanks in all circumstances’, so that must mean that God wants to be involved in every moment of our lives.

He is waiting to turn the mundane into the miraculous, if we’ll only take the time to ask Him along.

Melissa Reynolds-Lawrence

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 236

I was particularly excited to be going on holiday with our young family many years ago, mainly because I’d borrowed a small camcorder from a friend.

They were the newest gadget around at the time and the thought of being able to film the family holiday, rather than taking snapshots, gave me a buzz.

I began to think of myself as a film director and had already planned in my mind a family reunion for after the holidays, in order to view the footage.

Having arrived at our holiday caravan, I carefully unpacked the film equipment and began to look for my first film set.

Highlights ranged from Gillian’s dad having his annual ‘in-house’ hair cut in his string vest, to scenery of woodland and beaches that I later found bored everyone to tears.

I became obsessed with my new gadget and it was never far from being strapped around my shoulder.

After our seven day family break, I got home exhausted. I’d been on holiday, but had been absent at the same time. I’d become the distant figure that filmed the whole thing but had made a big mistake in that I had never been in even one of the scenes, never enjoying the moment.

I’d watched everyone playing and laughing, but had never engaged myself in any of it.

You may have well done exactly the same thing at the school play or end-of-year concert.

Instead of being there in the moment, you were the distant onlooker that filmed it to watch later.  

You never smiled or applauded with every other parent, as you were too busy looking through your tiny lens to be present in once in a lifetime stardom for your child.

This distant memory has served well to remind me of how we can tend to live our lives in just the same way.

We are present and we are seeing what everyone else sees, but we are never engaged in the moment. We are too preoccupied with what’s coming next to enjoy the scene that we are living in right now.

Before we know it, life has been and gone and we have never played an active part in much of it.

Before you live another day, make a decision to engage yourself fully in all that each moment has to offer.

Count your blessings.

Laugh every day.

Enjoy being with friends and family.

Be thankful for life and health.

Be present in every situation and refuse to only keep waiting for the next scene to unfold.

Stop worrying about what may happen and be grateful for all that is part of your life right now.

Don’t be distant from people because you are too cautious, but throw yourself into every situation with passion.

Don’t watch life go by through the small lens of your narrow mindedness, but be present in every scene in order to be a blessing.

King Solomon was known as the wisest man on the planet. After all his searching for the meaning of life, he had this to say…

Ecclesiastes 5:18-20 ‘This is what I have observed to be good: that it is appropriate for a person to eat, to drink and to find satisfaction in their toilsome labour under the sun during the few days of life God has given them – for this is their lot. Moreover, when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil – this is a gift of God. They seldom reflect on the days of their life, because God keeps them occupied with gladness of heart.’

Let today be the first day of the rest of your life.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 235

I was walking through our local mall once and I was happy and minding my own business and then all of a sudden ‘whoosh’…I fell right over.

I was shocked, embarrassed and after asking myself if I’d broken anything, I got up to investigate the reason why I had fallen.

And there it was, a slice of gherkin from a burger, that someone had flippantly discarded, right onto the floor.

The person who dropped that should have thought of others before they did. We may not all like gherkins, but the bin was the place for that, not the floor.

Too many people ‘flippantly discard’ things, like words and actions and motives, not realising that the very stuff we so flippantly discard, will possibly cause someone else to fall and even get hurt.

Every thought, every motive, every word and every action you put out has the potential to pull someone down or lift someone up.

Take time to think about the words you discard and where you put them. You may not want to carry that thought alone, but bin it, take it to God, don’t just dump it for someone else to get hurt on.

Make sure today and every day, that what you put out there, is going to help someone, to lift them up and encourage them, to help and build.

There will still unfortunately always be people who dump stuff everywhere, but for your own sake, if you see someone’s gherkin on the floor try to avoid it, before it takes you down, like it did me.  

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 234

Just like marriage, family is God’s idea. God intended family as a place of nurture, guidance, protection, forgiveness and love. However, He knows that in this day and age, many people do not grow up in families like that…perhaps you are among them.

The good news is that God has made provision for everyone to experience family as He intended. When we accept Jesus Christ as our Lord, we enter into God’s family – we become His children, sons and daughters of the Most High.

Psalm 68:6 says, “God sets the solitary in families.”

This is a beautiful picture of His heart for the alone and the rejected.

The power of any healthy family lies in its unconditional embrace. For the lonely, the grieving or the abandoned, the embrace of family brings healing and wholeness.

Our Church is a family, created to embrace everyone. Building relationships within our Church is a wonderful way to experience the benefits of family connection.

When you were born, you became a part of someone else’s family, but when you become a parent, you will create a family of your own. As parents, we long to provide the very best we can for our children.

You may look at your family and be discouraged or you may be at a loss to know what to do to help your children. Take heart – God has provided you with a wealth of wisdom and counsel in His Word, an ‘open-all-hours’ access to Him through prayer and a church family offering love and support.

PRAYER: God, You are my Father. Thank You for the gift of family. I ask You for the wisdom and understanding to appreciate and nurture my own family and to strengthen and support other families in my world. In Jesus’ Name.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 233

I love the book The Fred Factor by Mark Sanborn.

It’s a book about how passion in your work and life can turn the ordinary into the extraordinary.

In it, he lists the Seven B’s of great relationships.

They go like this…

1) Be real

 Don’t try to impress anyone by trying to be anybody but yourself.

Always do your best at being yourself.

Let your actions come out of who you really are, what you truly believe in and the things that you are committed to.

 

2) Be interested.  

Being genuinely interested in others is always an appreciating asset in anyone’s life.

 

3) Be a better listener.

I always used to think that I had to have all the right answers for anyone that came to me for counsel; now I realise that in the main I just need to be a great listener.

 

4) Be empathic.  

The need to be understood is one of the highest human needs, but too often people either don’t care or don’t make the effort to understand how we really feel.

Philo Judaeus was a wise man that lived 2,000 years ago. He said these words…“Be kind, because everyone you meet is fighting a tough battle”.

 

5) Be honest.

Be a man or woman of your word- that’s integrity.

 

6) Be helpful.

Go out of your way every day to just be nice to someone.

Little things make a big difference. Lots of little things make a huge difference.

 

7) Be prompt.

Time is one thing many people have far less of than money. Helping them save time by being prompt is gift of great value.

Hope you enjoyed and felt as impacted by it as I did.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 232

There are one of three ways that you can live your life today.

You can be either a risk-taker, a caretaker or an undertaker.

Many people want to live out their lives by minimising the risk. They only feel happy if they can do things by having everything sorted first – a play it safe mentality.

That’s completely understandable and necessary at times; but if you always only live life like that, you will find that it becomes counter-productive, in that you lose the passion for doing things – you end up just being a caretaker of your life.

The caretaker kind of person basically takes care of the present to make sure that everything is carefully thought through and water tight, yet has no dr