Fresh Hope – New Years Eve

Every Christmas we put out a novelty mat in our porch that reads… ‘SANTA, PLEASE STOP HERE’.

 

When our Grandson’s came to stay overnight just before Christmas, they wanted to know what the mat said.

 

Gillian read it to them and after a few seconds, Noah turned to us and said, ‘Why would you keep Santa standing outside the front door?’ He’d misinterpreted the message…

 

As we approach the New Year, it’s not Santa that we need to concern ourselves with. His job ended on the 25th.

 

We all know the story of Mary and Joseph being unable to find accommodation for the birth of Jesus. The Innkeeper gave them an abrupt ‘There’s no room!’

 

As the door of the New Year swings wide open tomorrow, its potential to become a great year in your own life will be hinged on the answer to just one question; where will you put Jesus?

 

Will it be like our Grandson’s misinterpretation of the doormat? ‘JESUS, PLEASE STOP HERE’… meaning, come no further, or maybe it’s just a simple, invisible sign hanging on the outside of your life saying ‘NO ROOM!’

 

Does your heart long for something else? Something new? Something that’s life changing?

 

That something else is not easy, but it is simple…

 

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.”

 

The simplicity of this story is the same simple message conveyed on the doormat; ‘JESUS… PLEASE STOP HERE.’

 

Instead of living another year with Him on the door step, call out to Him and invite Him to step across the threshold of your heart and say sincerely… ‘STAY HERE.’ He promises to do just that if you will invite Him in.

 

Here’s a simple, yet profound prayer that you may like to pray as 2014 draws to a close.

 

Lord Jesus Christ,

 

I have sinned against you in so many ways.

 

Please forgive me and accept me into your family.

 

With your help, I turn from all that is wrong in my life.

 

THANK YOU for giving your life for me on the cross so that I can be completely forgiven.

 

I gladly give my life back to you.

 

Be my Lord and my leader from this day forward.

 

In JESUS’ name I pray,

 

Amen.

 

I would love to hear from you if you just prayed that prayer.

 

Send us an email to info@championschurch.org.uk to let us know. You can also request a free New Testament Bible to help you on this new journey.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 33

I hope you’re having a wonderful Christmas break!

 

Here’s a favorite breakfast that I cook once in a while for the family. It’s a typical American style breakfast that was given to me by a good friend in the states.

 

As I’m probably going to cook it at home on New Years morning, I thought today would be a good time to share it so that you can get the ingredients in.

 

CARAMEL APPLES WITH CINNAMON TOAST AND CRISPY BACON

 

Ingredients for 3-4 servings:

 

Tin of sliced apples (or slice and cook your own)

2oz butter

2 tablespoons brown sugar

 

Ground cinnamon

2 eggs

½ a pint of milk

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Sliced white bread (thick and stale is best)

 

Pack of streaky bacon

 

Method:

Place apples in a small saucepan – add brown sugar and butter. Simmer until the juice turns into a nice, sticky syrup.

 

Whilst the apples are cooking, whisk eggs, white sugar and milk together with a fork. Add tsp of cinnamon and whisk in.

 

Place the mixture in a shallow dish.

 

Start to grill or fry bacon until crisp.

 

Whilst bacon is cooking, take a large frying pan and get hot.

 

Add a knob of butter. When it starts to froth, take a slice of bread and dip in the egg mixture for around 5 seconds on each side. Quickly place in frying pan and cook for around 1-2 minutes on each side until nicely browned.

 

Cut bread through into 2 triangles and plate up. Spoon hot apples onto plate and top with crispy bacon.

 

Delicious!

 

Pastor Mark

Fresh Hope – Day 32

We have a very large bowl of fruit in our kitchen.

 

It’s not that we eat a lot of fruit, but it does look nice for Christmas.

 

Alongside it is a very large Christmas basket with all kinds of wrapped chocolates. It also started out full, but now is down to the remaining ones that no one likes.

 

Last night I started to unpack the fruit bowl as some of the tangerines had started to go bad along with a couple of nectarines.

 

One of the fruit responsible for ripening the other fruit is of course the banana.

 

I’m sure you know that it’s not an old wives tale, as bananas help to speed up the ripening process. The reason for this is because they emit a plant hormone called ethylene.

 

Then we have the old adage… one bad apple spoils the barrel; meaning in the old days that one bad apple can ruin all the others that were kept stored together in a barrel.

 

That’s because when one apple turns rotten it emits the same gas and turns others apples bad too.

 

So we have two truths in one bowl of fruit; one brings out the best, whilst the other brings out the worst.

 

Which fruit are you? The one to be avoided or the one to be welcomed?

 

When people see you coming, do they run and hide or do they go ‘YES!’

 

Every one of us has the power to influence up to 10,000 people in our lifetime. The question is, do we influence for bad or for good?

 

Are you the kind of person that sows discord, jealousy and always brings a negative report, or are you the person that always sees the best in people and has a ‘we can do’ attitude.

 

You’ll easily find out which one you are by listening to yourself for 2 minutes in an unguarded moment.

 

At the end of the day… the choice is yours.

 

God gives to us all the power of choice.

Change is made possible by allowing the Holy Spirit access into those rotten areas of our lives. It all starts with honesty and ends with a sincere desire and prayer to change.

 

Matthew 7:18-20 ‘A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.’

 

Want to know whether that person you’re hanging out with is good for you or not?

 

Check the fruit… Ripe or Rotten?

 

Pastor Mark

 

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 31

Gillian takes her mom food shopping each week.

 

There are always stories to tell after one of my wife’s adventures to the shopping mall.

 

Last weeks adventure with Alice did not disappoint.

 

Alice was given strict instructions to make her way to Starbucks as Gillian had to pop into the Bank.

 

Alice went missing…

 

I received a call telling me the good news. Oops

 

I suggested that maybe she had gone to the disabled toilet in M&S, but after a thorough search, she was nowhere to be found. To make matters worse, she had also been left with our youngest Grandson…

 

Eventually, after a frantic 15 minutes she was found in Costa Coffee, in a somewhat different location to the one mentioned.

 

As Gillian approached the scene, Alice began to say how nicely surprised she was at how Starbucks had completely refurbished the whole store since she was there last week.

 

Eventually, the large coffee shop sign told its own story. She was lost and was totally oblivious that she was in completely the wrong place.

 

Funny now. Not then.

 

Being lost is a serious matter, but being lost and not knowing it is even more so.

 

On this the last Sunday of 2014 and as we quickly approach the end of another year, ask yourself these 4 simple, yet profound questions;

 

Am I sitting comfortably in the WRONG place?

 

Have I ignored all the warning signs offered to me this year to help guide me to the right place?

 

Am I happy being lost or am I just oblivious that where I’m headed is not where I should be going?

 

Am I willing to take a long hard look at my surroundings and ask myself… is this where I’m intending to be?

 

Don’t just go with the crowd in 2015.

 

Don’t just swim with the tide.

 

Don’t just make yourself comfortable half way to where you should be.

 

Don’t settle until you can honestly say… this is where I’ve been looking for.

 

Matthew 7:13-14: ‘Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.’

 

Pastor Mark

 

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 30 (Pastor Gillian)

I drove to the office this morning, much of the route consists of narrow roads and streets where you need to give way to oncoming traffic.

 

On 3 separate occasions today, I pulled into the side to let the oncoming car pass and on all 3 occasions, neither driver acknowledged the fact, waved, smiled or said “thank you” through the glass.

 

What is it with some people and their manners? It’s almost like it’s their right to drive on and yours to stop.

 

Unfortunately, a lot of society is not about putting others first, it’s just about ME, ME, ME. We seem to have lost the art of being thankful and courteous and mindful of others.

 

I find it when I go into a store and speak to the person behind the counter and ask them ‘how are you?’ Some people look at me strange, and others will say, “You’re the first customer today that has asked me how I am”

 

I know we’re all busy, but let’s not lose sight of being helpful and courteous to others. Let’s change the culture that society is putting onto us and let’s swing that pendulum back to one of being friendly and thankful.

 

Romans 12:10 ‘Be kindly affectionate towards one another, in honor give preference to one another.’

 

May you continue to enjoy this wonderful season and in doing so, make someone else’s Christmas also.

 

Happy Saturday x

 

Pastor Gillian

 

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 29

When our daughter Esther married Adam, they moved into their first little home. Some months later they asked me if I would be able to come and apply some DIY lead to the windows.

 

The house was quite near to the street, and as the days of net curtains had long since gone, the front windows attracted a stare from those walking by.

 

After considering the options, they asked me if I could do a diamond shape pattern, so I got to work.

 

The ladder went up to the upstairs windows and within an hour or so the ‘posh’ effect started to take shape.

 

As I worked my way along the large bedroom window, I became aware of neighbors and passers by, glancing up and quietly commenting on my handy work.

 

From a distance, the precise diamond patterns looked like pure guess work or even genius, but what I could see that no one else could, was the paper template that I had taped to the inside of the window…

 

My lead work was not left to chance.

 

It was spot on because of the design that was being closely followed.

 

As many of you may know, my life was on course to be a Chef, and for ten years I pursued the career that I trained for and was totally passionate about… little did I know that Gods plan was about to take me in a very different direction, that of pastoring Champions Church.

 

Looking back over 25 years now, I can see the incredible plan that God had woven into my life.

 

It appeared that everything was randomly happening without any template behind it, but now I can see the intricate and detailed purpose for my life being fashioned each step of the way.

 

What part have I had to play in the plan?

 

If anything, I think it would boil down to just 4 key things.

 

1) Being willing to surrender the dreams I had for my life

 

2) Reading the Bible each day, like you would a road map before going on a journey.

 

3) Having a daily 2-way conversation with God. Talking to Him and then listening to Him.

 

And finally…

 

4) Being willing to risk it all for the higher purpose as to why I exist.

 

Proverbs 19:21 says, ‘Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.’

 

In just the same way, God has got the perfect plan for your life too, and even though you may not know it, he has prepared a very unique template for your life to follow.

 

Why not implement those 4 steps into your life for 2015?

 

Pastor Mark

 

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Christmas Day

HAPPY CHRISTMAS!

 

Grandpa was feeling his age.

 

He found that shopping for Christmas gifts had become too difficult, so he decided to write a cheque and send to everyone instead.

 

In each card he wrote, “Buy your own present!” and mailed them early.

 

He enjoyed the usual flurry of family festivities, and it was only after Christmas Day that he noticed he had received very few cards in return.

 

Puzzled over this, he went into his study, intending to write to a couple of his relatives and ask what had happened.

 

It was then, as he cleared off his cluttered desk, that he got his answer. Under a stack of papers, he was horrified to find the signed cheque’s, which he had forgotten to enclose with the cards.

 

The empty Christmas cards that he had sent out to all his loved ones now simply read… ‘BUY YOUR OWN PRESENT!’

 

Hopefully today will go somewhat better than that, but just in case you need a little help, here is my Christmas recipe for a blessed day:

 

1) Make the day all about others

 

2) Be thankful

 

3) Put yourself out for someone less fortunate than you

 

4) Be bold enough to say a few words along with a prayer of thanksgiving around the Christmas lunch table

 

5) If you’ve got out of the wrong side of the bed, get straight back in and out the other side with a smile

 

6) Do something in the spur of the moment… invite a person who you know is on their own to Christmas supper.

 

7) Have fun with the children… no matter how old they are

 

8) Go over the top with love. Forgive and overlook your differences

 

9) If you still have them, serve your grandparents and make it their best Christmas yet

 

10) Stay awake as long as you can and be grateful that you’re alive on another Christmas Day

 

And if you’re sad when it’s all over… remember JESUS isn’t just for Christmas, He’s for LIFE.

 

With love from all our family to yours x

 

Pastor Mark

 

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Christmas Eve

We had not really had time to eat all day and it was now 9pm. The last leaders had just left our home, after we had hosted our annual Christmas gift giving evening in appreciation for all their hard work.

 

We never really eat late, but both Gillian and myself were starving.

 

The only food in the house of any substance was in a ‘no go’ area of the fridge. Gillian had already made the annual announcement about the fridge being full, but it was not to be touched… It’s for Christmas.

 

The Chinese takeaway sounded like the only late night option, so off I went to collect my favorite beef in black bean sauce.

 

As a special Christmas treat, the lady at the takeaway gave us some specially wrapped fortune cookies.

 

The moment I finished my meal, I couldn’t wait to see what my future held according to the paper inside the crisp, edible shell.

 

Mine said… ‘You will have good news in 5 days’.

 

Gillian’s said that ‘prosperity would knock on her door soon’.

 

We were both to have an amazing Christmas it seemed.

 

Not content with such good news, I opened the extra fortune cookie to reveal that my lucky flower was a tulip. Oh well, you can’t win them all…

 

Thankfully our futures do not rest on a fortune cookie, a fortuneteller or anyone else for that matter.

 

The greatest news on the planet has got to be that God has a plan for YOUR life.

 

Your life is not left to chance, fate or luck.

 

The God that gave you life did so with a very distinct plan in mind, a plan that would give each of us a very special reason to be alive.

 

You were created ON purpose, FOR a purpose.

 

It’s possible that you have a few days away from the usual humdrum of life during the Christmas holidays…

 

Take a few quiet moments to refocus for 2015.

 

Think about where you are going. Is your life counting for something?

 

Ask God to speak to you about what HE has in mind for you to do in the coming year.

 

There are two very special days in your life; the day that you were born, and the day you found out why.

 

Jeremiah 29:11-13 ‘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. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.’

 

Take time in this wonderful season to connect with God and all that He has for you.

 

 

 

Now… My favorite non-alcoholic Christmas Mulled Wine recipe:

 

Makes approx 20 glasses

 

1 carton cranberry juice

 

1 carton orange juice

 

3 cartons of red grape juice

 

1 box of mulled wine spices (they are like 6 tea bags – available in most supermarkets)

 

1 cup of sugar (to taste)

 

Warm and add orange, lemon and apple pieces.

 

Serve & enjoy!

 

Pastor Mark

 

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 26

If you’ve never tried a Krispy Kreme donut, then you must at least have one before you die.

 

Have more than one and you may die sooner than expected.

 

No, seriously… they are something else. They originated in the states in the 50s and are now available in a number of places throughout the UK.

 

The best ones though have to be the ones that have come straight out of the fryer.

 

Selfridges in Birmingham has a production kitchen right there in its entrance, perfectly placed to tempt every passerby.

 

Originally, Krispy Kreme had a policy to give away a free glazed donut to everyone standing in the queue or in my case, standing near the queue.

 

Unfortunately that stopped some time back.

 

Walking into Selfridges not so long ago, I noticed that they seemed to have lifted the free donut ban, so with tongue hanging out I stood in the appropriate spot.

 

As the assistant placed the hot glazed donut in a square of greaseproof paper he reached towards me from behind the counter.

 

As he did so, everything seemed to go into slow motion. I reached towards the donut, but just as I was about to take it, his face turned to a look of disgust, as he bypassed my hand and stretched beyond me to offer it to a little girl standing there at my side.

 

He never said a word, but I knew he wanted to say ‘go away you silly man’.

 

I turned, put my head down and walked away doing that embarrassing whistling thing, hoping that no one had spotted me.

 

Apparently they were just for children…

 

‘Just pay next time Mark’ was one of the morals of that story.

 

It’s quite possible that the only image of God that you have is pretty similar to the donut man, whereby you feel almost afraid to reach out to him for fear that you will be rejected and made to feel silly for thinking that he’d want to help you.

 

 

Amazingly, Christmas is one of the biggest yearly reminders that God is a generous, giving and forgiving God.

 

He doesn’t turn people away because they haven’t lived a perfect life, in fact just the opposite; Jesus’ nickname in the Bible was ‘friend of sinners.’

 

Christmas is a celebration that God made the first move towards you. He GAVE his son JESUS; so that no matter who you are or where you’ve been or whatever you’ve done, you can receive a brand new life from Him.

 

It’s not how you started out in life that matters, but where you go from here.

 

Think of it like this, before you ever thought of reaching out to Him… HE reached out to you.

 

God does not require you to try your best to work your way UP to him, No. Instead, He sent Jesus DOWN to you to meet you right where you are.

 

Reach out to Jesus today. He won’t turn you away.

 

John 3:17 ‘For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.’

 

Pastor Mark

 

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 25

Throughout her childhood, all Wilma Rudolph wanted to be was normal. As a toddler, double pneumonia and scarlet fever kept her bed ridden, while other children played outside.

When she was four, she contracted polio, which crippled her left leg and forced her to wear a heavy metal brace.

For seven years, she and her mom made the weekly 100 mile trek for treatments on her leg, and her brothers and sisters took turns massaging it daily.

When she was 11 years old, Wilma finally walked without the brace, and her hope of being a normal child was finally in sight, but a strange thing happened. Rather than just keeping up with the other children, she outran them.

At age 16, she won a bronze medal at the 1956 Olympics.

At 20, Wilma Rudolph became the first woman to win three gold medals during the 1960 Games in Rome.

Thankfully her dream of being just a normal child would never come true.

Today be inspired, not just to exist, but to excel.

Don’t just settle for average, stretch for gold.

Instead of contemplating retiring, consider re-firing.

You don’t exist to survive, you exist to thrive.

CELEBRATE the gift of another day.

Philippians 4:13 ‘I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.’

 

Pastor Mark

 

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 24 (Pastor Gillian)

‘If you’re going to do something, do it right’ is a motto I love and try to live by.

 

Why be half hearted about something? Give it ALL you’ve got.

 

I went to a pop concert once to see my friend Lionel Richie; I was horrified as to how many people kept walking in and out of the concert… I thought, ‘you’ve paid good money for this and yet you keep coming in and out? You’re missing so much. How rude.’

 

Last year my son treated me to tickets to see Robbie Williams. We were late getting there due to traffic and had to sit near the back. I found I was people watching, more than Robbie watching, and the amount of people who weren’t even bothered astounded me. I thought, ‘you chose to come here, you paid to come here, but you’re not entering in at all. How strange.’

 

We get like that in life. What you put in is what you’ll get out. When you fully apply yourself to something, it’s amazing what you’ll receive from that.

 

Ladies, you may have to force yourself to that fitness session, but you’ll feel great after. Men, you may have to force yourself to go Christmas shopping, but with the right attitude and heart, you’ll love it. What’s not to love about shopping?!

 

In Matthew 28:16-17, it talks about the disciples meeting with Jesus after the resurrection. It says that some worshipped and others held back because they weren’t sure.

 

Don’t start your weekend, don’t go to church, don’t even enter this Christmas season being unsure about God and worship. Throw yourself in… Totally.

It’s amazing what you’ll get out of it when you do.

 

Happy Saturday x

 

Pastor Gillian

 

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 23

With just a few more days until Christmas and that one big food shop looming, today is going to have a bit of a different twist…

Christmas brings with it the wonderful smell of traditional home cooking that we all enjoy.

If we’re honest, we all tend to go back time and time again to the tried and trusted recipes that have been handed down to us, after all, everyone enjoys a wonderful home cooked meal that we recognise.

With so many great recipes out there that need to be shared, what better way for me to help you cook something a little different over Christmas and the new year, than by posting a few of my favourite recipes.

‘Every mouthful is joyful’, is a great way to describe some of the dishes for this time of the year and I don’t know about you, but for me, there’s nothing quite like the smell of hot, fresh doughnuts.

Here’s a simple recipe that brings that same amazing smell to the kitchen, but surprisingly is made from bananas.

It was created by one of my favourite Chef’s and I tried it for the first time last Christmas. It was an instant hit with the family.

Banana and Coconut Fritters
Makes 12 – 16

Ingredients:
125g plain flour, sifted
1 tsp baking powder
75g caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
25g desiccated coconut
Finely grated zest of 1 lime
Pinch of salt
4 ripe bananas, peeled and mashed (about 400g flesh in total)
Vegetable oil, for frying

Method:
1. Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl. Stir in the sugar, coconut, lime zest and salt. Stir the mashed bananas into the dry ingredients, mixing until well combined. Cover the batter with cling film and chill for 15 minutes.
2. Fill a large saucepan one-third full of oil and heat to 180c, or until a cube of bread dropped in the oil sizzles and turns golden in 30 seconds.
3. Using a tablespoon, carefully drop 4 or 5 spoonful’s of the batter into the hot oil and fry for 2-3 minutes, until golden brown on both sides and cooked through.
4. Lift out with a slotted spoon, drain on kitchen paper, and repeat with the rest of the mixture. Serve hot, sprinkled with a little sugar.

Serve with plenty of love on your Christmas buffet table.

Enjoy!

 

Pastor Mark

Fresh Hope – Day 22

When Alice In Wonderland asked the Cheshire Cat which road she should take, he replied, ‘Where do you want to go?’ to which she replied, ‘I’m not bothered’, to which he responded, ‘Then it doesn’t matter which road you take.’

 

One of the most asked questions that has come my way over the past 25 years has got to be… which road should I take?

 

I’ve always given the same reply, which is this; I can’t tell you what to do or where to go in life, but I can give you some pointers to help you choose the right path.

 

If you really want to make your life count, then you may want to consider the following signs along the journey…

 

1) What’s the real desire of your heart?

 

2) What stirs your passion?

 

3) What flows naturally from your life?

 

4) Ask for an assessment of your qualities from those wisest and closest to you.

 

5) Listen to the still small voice of the Holy Spirit within you. He will often speak to you as you read the Bible.

 

6) What are you willing to give yourself 100% to?

 

7) What produces good results in your life?

 

8) Follow peace. Simply put… when you sense peace about something, move forward. But when you sense unrest and confusion, WAIT.

 

God has the perfect plan for your life, BUT He’s in no rush to show you the whole thing all at once. Allow Him to work on your character each day and your gift will make way for itself at the right time.

 

Psalm 20:4 ‘May He give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.’

 

Pastor Mark

 

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

 

…Coming up later this week… festive recipes for you to try at home!

Fresh Hope – Day 21

We have two dogs, Harvey and Snoop or Snoop Dogg to be more precise.

 

Harvey is a cocker spaniel that was given to us after being rejected by not just one, but three families. For fourteen years he has remained a faithful friend to everyone that meets him. Now he’s an old man and has the new kid on the block to contend with … Snoop Dogg.

 

Snoop is a chocolate Labrador. He eats everything as if he’s never had a meal before… boundless energy, playful, obedient and as for the saying ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks’… he has taught Harvey so much.

 

Eat everything you can as fast as you can, before someone else takes it is one of the new lessons learnt. No more leisurely meals around here.

 

They are so funny to watch and are a great asset to our family.

 

I believe that you can learn lessons from almost anything; here are just a few of the life lessons that we can learn from a dog this Christmastime.

 

1) When loved ones come home always run to greet them.

 

2) Play daily.

 

3) Eat with enthusiasm.

 

4) Be loyal.

 

5) Never pretend to be something that you’re not.

 

6) If what you want is buried, dig until you find it.

 

7) When someone is having a bad day, sit close by, listen, and be patient and affectionate.

 

8) Avoid biting when a friendly growl will do.

 

9) When you’re happy, dance around the room.

 

10) Delight in the simple joy of a long walk.

 

11) No matter how many times you get scolded, get over it, run back and make friends.

 

12) Don’t be afraid to let people get close to you.

 

Proverbs 18:24 MSG

“Friends come and friends go, but a true friend sticks by you like family.”

 

Pastor Mark

 

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

 

…Coming up later this week… festive recipes for you to try at home!

Fresh Hope – Day 20

We were trying to find the best battery operated flickering candles for a new stage set that we wanted to create for Christmas Eve this year. As a couple of my staff were sifting through literally 100’s of options on Amazon, I took a few minutes to look at the online reviews for a couple of the lights that had been shortlisted.

 

One of the most interesting reviews had got to come from a person that stated ‘Although I have not used my candles so far I believe that they are of good quality and I would definitely recommend’.

 

Are you thinking what I was thinking?

 

How can you write a review for something that you haven’t tried out for yourself? Yet how many of us today do exactly the same thing as we approach yet another Christmas…

 

We make a judgment on something we haven’t yet tried ourselves. We look at the Christmas presentation of Jesus, we admire his qualities and even positively believe him to be a good man… yet we never stop to think that the only way of knowing what Jesus is really like is to open the gift and not just judge the packaging.

 

For 20 years I looked at Stilton cheese with all its moldy veins and smelly sock aroma and turned away, flatly refusing to go near the stuff.

 

One day I decided to see what all the fuss was about and took a little morsel. Today my most favorite cheese has to be the strong and mature taste of Stilton.

 

When I’m asked nowadays, ‘Is there anything you don’t eat?’ I have just one response… olives. I hate olives. But then again… I’ve never tried one.

 

Psalm 34:8 ‘Taste and see that the Lord is good’

 

Don’t just judge the Christ of Christmas from the outside wrapper… open the gift of Christmas right now, by inviting Him into your life today. You will be totally amazed and will never look back.

 

The greatest Christmas is the one that happens in your heart.

 

Pastor Mark

 

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 19

Tomorrow it’s our Grandson Noah’s nativity play at school.

 

No doubt there will be a packed assembly hall of proud parents and grandparents, all with video cams rolling.

 

No matter how bad the performance (and there have been plenty of those down the years) it doesn’t seem to be important.

 

Forgotten lines and crying children will be overlooked in an atmosphere of both laughter and tears present at each moving performance.

 

As we get closer to the season of Christmas, we will of course be brought face to face with Mary the mother of Jesus, albeit acted out by a 7 year old with a tea towel on her head.

 

We are all well aware that this young teenage woman was chosen by God to give birth to Jesus, but have you ever stopped to think of the things that SHE had to overcome to allow this to take place?

 

Whenever God wants to use a person through whom He can dream, there will be very similar problems that we have to overcome.

 

Both Mary’s challenges and ours will look something like this if we are going to be used to do something significant with our lives…

 

1) I’m not worthy – why would God choose me?

 

2) It’s impossible – how can this be?

 

3) I’m deceived – I must have this wrong?

 

4) It’s different – it’s never been done before.

 

5) Pressure – there’s always necessary pressure at birth. Pressure pushes out the dream.

 

6) Underestimated on arrival – Few recognized the magnitude of this world changing occasion. Don’t expect everyone to applaud.

 

7) Threatened in infancy – King Herod wanted him dead. Every dream will be threatened when it’s just been born.

 

Be encouraged today to go full term and live the dream that God has for YOUR life.

 

Pastor Mark

 

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 18 (Pastor Gillian)

This week I met with some wonderful people who had just lost their few week old baby boy. He was born premature and wasn’t quite strong enough to make it.

 

As we talked about their loss, I noticed in the corner of their home were congratulations cards on the birth of your baby boy.

 

How things can change… One minute life can be going one way, and then we hit a fork in the road.

 

It’s which way you take when you hit that fork that will determine your future.

 

Your attitude in those darkest times will determine your altitude in the coming days.

 

Amidst all the tears in that room and the very raw, sad feelings, there was hope. Hope for a brighter tomorrow – Because we don’t always know why, but we can trust in the One who does.

 

We may not know what the future holds, but we know who holds our future.

 

And in those very, very sad times, we still know that God is good.

 

1 Thessalonians 5 v 18

‘Give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.’

 

Happy Saturday x

Pastor Gillian

 

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 17

There’s something within me that always wants to park the car where it’s convenient. Even at Christmastime when the car park at the mall is heaving, I still want to drive round and round until I find a space near the door.

 

It’s like as if I want some kind of applause for parking on the front row when others have settled for the back. I even feel at times like parking where it says ‘NO PARKING HERE’ just to see if it would be worth it to get close to the main entrance.

 

The sad thing though is that I could have parked straight away in a less convenient space, but would prefer to spend another ten minutes battling for first place.

 

On the odd occasion that I have had to relent and park further away, I’ve been surprised at how quick you can actually walk from a parking space that’s less convenient. I even find myself timing how long the inconvenient walk has taken. I don’t think it’s ever added more than two minutes to my shopping trip, however, I still prefer to drive round and round and experience that buzz of claiming my front spot. Sad, I know.

 

Convenient car parking reminds me so much of how we are tempted to live our everyday lives. We want to opt for the convenient space to park or even the one that says ‘NO PARKING HERE’, just because it’s so much easier, or so it seems.

 

Ask yourself today, where am I parking my life for convenience and ease rather than facing up to the reality that this is not getting me anywhere.

 

Here are just a few of the many places where we should hang a sign ‘DONT PARK HERE’.

 

Our failures.

 

Our hurts.

 

Our regrets.

 

Our doubts.

 

Our fears.

 

Our self-hatred.

 

Our pride.

 

Our past successes – Even that can become something that holds you back from doing more significant things in the future.

 

Hebrews 12:1-2 ‘… let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus…’

 

Today, make a decision to park your life in the right place rather than just a convenient place.

 

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 16

Do not fear.

 

Those same 3 words are stated 365 times in the Bible.

 

That’s one for every day of the year.

 

It’s not a suggestion, but a command.

 

Every person that I know deals with fear on differing levels.

 

As I’ve traced my own journey of fear, I wanted to share with you 10 things that fear causes…

 

1 – It reduces the size of God and magnifies the size and opinion of man.

Proverbs 29:25 ‘Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.’

 

2 – It causes us to retreat from the great things ahead.

 

3 – It causes us to stay quiet when we should speak up.

 

4 – It causes us to play it safe rather than embrace change.

 

5 – It causes us to want to control things rather than trust in God.

 

6 – It causes us to seek the easy decision rather than the right one.

 

7 – It causes us to deflect defeat onto others around us.

 

8 – It causes us to become physically ill.

 

9 – It causes us to become passive about an issue that has been brought to our attention.

 

10 – It causes us to settle for second best and miss out on our destiny.

 

Many years ago, in one of the most difficult times of my life, a man walked up to me and gave me a scrappy piece of paper with these words on. It changed everything for me.

 

I hope it will change your day too.

 

Deuteronomy 31:6 “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.”

 

Pastor Mark

 

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 15

As a child, I would stand for hours fascinated by the escalators in Beatties Department Store.

 

My Dad would go to the Wolves match every fortnight with my brother, and I would have to go shopping with my Mom.

 

As a way of entertaining myself, for what seemed like hours, I would find a price sticker and stick it on the moving hand rail, then watch it go down and then reappear again as it did full circle.

 

What I then thought to be a simple game has now become an important reality in life. Dominant thoughts are like escalators… they can take you up, but they can also take you down.

 

Think about this for a moment: when you woke this morning, what was the first thing you reached for?

 

IPad, laptop, phone, TV remote, radio?

 

When we get in the car, it’s almost guaranteed that we reach for the radio.

 

More than likely, the first thing you do when you go home at night is switch on the TV.

 

Even a walk down the road now means that you have to have your headphones on…

 

We can’t live without noise.

 

Just maybe, it’s to drown out what we don’t want to hear being replayed in our heads?

 

Apart from sleep, when was the last time that you were quiet?

 

Silence can be deafening.

 

Maybe we’re afraid of what God might want to say to us?

 

Maybe we just can’t be bothered to allow great thoughts to overcome the negative thoughts that take us down daily.

 

Dominant thoughts cannot be dealt with just by drowning them out BUT by replacing them. Replacing them requires you to have a daily ‘time out’ to be quiet and realign yourself.

Being quiet takes practice.

 

1 Thessalonians 4:11-12 … “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: you should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.”

 

Interestingly, one translation says ‘study to be quiet’.

 

Becoming good at something requires us to study it in order to master it.

 

We practice because it’s a hard thing to do.

 

Make it a priority from today to take control of what you choose to hear.

 

Make time and take time to address your dominant thoughts by facing up to them and then replacing them.

 

Philippians 4:8-9 “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. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

 

Don’t just empty your mind today… fill it with good things.

 

Pastor Mark

 

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 14

2 nights ago, we drove the 15-mile journey to spend the evening celebrating Christmas with all of our leadership team.

 

As we were unfamiliar with the area, we came to a junction that stated that the road ahead was CLOSED.

 

Being a man, alongside being in a rush, coupled with the fact that it was Sunday evening so the sign probably didn’t apply, I continued the journey believing that I would be vindicated in being such a brave fella to risk the route.

 

As I settled back into my seat, filled with pride that I’d beaten the system, we came to an abrupt stop.

 

Yes, you’ve guessed it… after driving a mile, full steam ahead, the road was closed.

 

I suggested to Gillian that I could mount the pavement and dodge the barriers and the occasional street light, but after a sharp rebuke and a slap on the leg, I turned around a went all the way back.

 

Interestingly, instead of arriving at our destination early like we had planned, we actually arrived later than those that obeyed the warning signs.

 

Lesson learnt.

 

If you want to add time to your journey, simply ignore the warning signs.

 

Warning signs and diversions are placed in our lives for a very good reason. They seem like a hindrance at the time but actually, they are there to help.

 

Getting ahead in life will never happen if you choose the ‘I know best’ attitude. In fact, the longest distance between two points is a short cut.

 

A short cut around integrity will always lead to a very long road ahead. If you are ever given a choice between doing the lesser of two evils, choose neither. Always chose the higher path. Do what’s right.

 

In the Old Testament, the followers of God had just been released from Egypt, the land of slavery. Every one of the three million or more people were very anxious to get going to their land of freedom. At last, they would soon be there.

 

Surely the best way would be the quickest way?

 

God had a plan. Not the quickest way, but the best way… A way that would guarantee their safe arrival.

 

Exodus 13:17 “When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, ‘If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.”

 

Ironically, the shortest way can often get you to a place too quickly. A place that’s ready and prepared for you, but you’re not ready and prepared for it.

 

What signs are in front of you today?

 

They come in many ways… through a friend, circumstances, a Bible verse, and of course, the still small voice of the Holy Spirit.

 

If you want to live a significant life, then don’t ignore the warning signs.

 

Pastor Mark

 

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 13

I tell my wife that I love her every day. In fact, I tell her several times a day.

 

If I’m away, I call or text to say that I love her.

 

This love affair has gone on for more than 35 years now.

 

We have a little dialogue that we’ve worked on, in that each time that I say ‘I love you’, she always responds, ‘I love you more’, I then say, ‘it’s impossible… you can’t love me more than I love you’. It sometimes goes on and on.

 

My question is this; how do I know that I love her more than she loves me or vice versa?

 

It’s impossible to know, so we have to concede by saying that we love each other the same.

 

Is it possible to be loved more than we can love in return? In one word, YES!

 

There is one simple word that jumps out and settles God’s love towards us, tucked away in probably the most well known verse in the whole Bible… John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only son…”

 

It’s found right there, in the word SO. ‘For God SO loved that he gave…’

 

God didn’t just love the world as if that wasn’t enough; he SO loved the world.

 

His response to the world that he created, could have been, so what, who cares. But instead He not only loved us, He SO loved us.

 

His love for you is far beyond your love for Him.

 

His love is deep and wide and vast.

 

His love is unconditional.

 

His love doesn’t DEPEND on our love for Him; it simply DESIRES our love in response.

 

We can’t earn it… we can only receive it.

 

Couldn’t care less?  He couldn’t care more.

 

 

 

Romans 8:38-39 (NIV)

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

SO… what are you waiting for? It’s your move.

 

Pastor Mark

 

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 12 (Pastor Gillian)

There are some things in life that I don’t know the answer to, they are not always major, often just everyday things… And I wonder to myself, which is the best direction to take?

I just say, “Lord, you know what’s best in this situation, please tell me.”

 

Last week someone asked me for some advice. I’m not sure if it was because I was tired, or very busy or I just didn’t know the answer; but this was my reply “I don’t know, but ask the Lord, He knows the answer.”

 

It may sound simple, but it’s true. You may not know, but He certainly does. We would save a lot of time, energy, and worry if we just asked Him. We’d also save ourselves from making mistakes.

 

The bible says in James 1v5:  “Ask the Lord for wisdom, He gives freely to those who ask.”

 

I love it when my children ask me for advice, it says they respect and value my opinion. How much more does our Heavenly Father love it, when we ask Him for His?

 

Last weekend, the emergency doctor sent our grandson, Noah to the hospital because they didn’t know why he couldn’t walk. It was a stressful pressured time. On the way to A&E my husband asked the Lord for wisdom. The answer came back, “Ask him what he’s jumped off…”

 

After a few cuddles off Papa, he said, “Noah have you jumped off anything lately?” The reply came back that he had jumped off his bunk bed without using the ladder. That little bit of wisdom changed the course of the tests that the hospital gave and revealed a damaged foot instead of something more sinister.

 

It’s wonderful to know that everyday of your life; He knows the answer that you need. He knows what’s best for your life. Whatever it is you need an answer on today… ASK HIM. He has the answer for you.

 

Happy Saturday x

 

Pastor Gillian

 

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 11

I’m a creature of habit. I’m predictable. I like to get up at the same time each day. I like to keep to a routine. Each morning I come downstairs before anyone is up. I make a cup of tea. I sit in the same chair, read my Bible and pray.

 

I find that when that habit gets messed with, I have to work hard to be in the right frame of mind for the rest of the day.

 

I can feel robbed if I wake late or something crops up unexpectedly before I’ve had time to settle into my ‘quiet time’ in a morning.

 

Many of you will be different. You are more spontaneous and prefer to just wake up and see what happens. You prefer variety.

 

Being predictable has had a lot of bad press.

 

It’s viewed as boring and bland, but actually there is a very positive side to being predictable… People are rarely in any doubt with me as to what they are going to get. I’m usually the same, positive person every morning with my wife and family.

 

My staff knows that I will be the same when I walk into the office.

 

In a crisis I will never blow up and in the good and bad of life I will not blow hot and cold.

 

The other alternative of course is being unpredictable.

 

However, that person is the person you most fear when you go to work and have no idea as to how they will be.

 

How about the friend that one day is up and the next day is down. You have to walk around on eggshells hoping not to upset them and praying that they will be having one of their good days. Being unpredictable is in the same family as being unstable.

 

I give my vote to being predictable. Being a person of substance, stability and reliability. You’ll know where to find me every day.

 

Maybe your challenge as you start a new day, is to become more predictable, whereas my challenge is to become more spontaneous… it’s also Gillian’s prayer for me when it gets close to her Birthday and Christmas.

 

Today ask the Holy Spirit to help you be both predictable in character but spontaneous in acts of generosity and kindness.

 

Pastor Mark

 

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 10

According to the laws of aerodynamics, the bumble bee should not be able to fly. Its body mass is too heavy for its wingspan. One problem; the bumble bee has not been informed.

 

The world would come to a standstill if it were run by those who say ‘it can’t be done’.

 

Today refuse to let the word ‘impossible’ stop you.

 

Do you feel you are in a hopeless situation? Is there no sign of a change in the natural? Hold on tight. What looks impossible with man is possible with God.

 

In the Bible, God told Abraham that 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 the verse (Romans 4:18) says ‘…hoping against all hopeless circumstances he believed’. Hey presto… they had a son named Isaac.

 

Most of us are persuaded into believing for too little, rather than believing for too much.

 

Today I encourage you to go against all the odds. Hold onto your promise by faith.

 

Keep believing. Keep moving forward.

 

Don’t focus on the impossible circumstances, focus on the God who makes the impossible possible.

 

Attempt great things for God, expect great things from God.

 

(Matthew 19:26) ‘…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 – Day 9

We recently sat down for lunch with a well-known leader and his wife from the other side of the world.  After a few minutes, his wife told us of her annoyance at her married son who had posted a picture on Instagram of a deer that he had killed whilst hunting. She was so annoyed that it consumed the conversation for the first 1/2 hr.

 

She told us that she hadn’t been able to sleep for thinking about what she should say to him; after all, he himself was very much in the public eye.

 

For 2 days she had been deciding whether or not to post something back to him telling of her disgust at him doing such a thing.

 

The day we had lunch was the day she had decided to write him a one line rebuke.

 

As the photograph on her phone was passed around the table, we all began to smile, as it was pointed out that it was NOT her son, but someone with the same name and similar Instagram account. Shock and relief came over her as she realised that she had been communicating various posts with this guy for months, not least of all her latest telling off about the slaughter of an innocent deer!

 

How many times a week do you get wound up by something that is actually not the truth?

 

It appears to be true. It appears to be coming from the right source. It appears to have the right address on it. It must be true.

 

Hours and hours are lost on meaningless worry and sleepless nights, concerning over things that have no truth in them whatsoever.

 

They are simply a diversion.

 

They are sent like deadly arrows to rob you of peace and to steal your day.

 

Make a decision today to keep short accounts with people and in doing so you will save yourself so much time spent in worry and heartache.

 

Here is my recipe for a far better way of living in order to keep yourself free from the over exaggerated nonsense that will inevitably come your way this week:

 

1) Chose your battles carefully – don’t lose sleep over things that don’t matter.

 

2) If you’re unhappy about something that you see, then speak to the person concerned directly.

 

3) If you hear something about someone that doesn’t sound right, then humbly challenge the information.

 

4) Always bear in mind that WHO said it, is as important as WHAT was said.

 

5) We all have the potential with our words to fuel a fire, or put out a fire. Make a decision today to throw cold water on every flaming arrow that comes your way today.

 

Ephesians 6:16 ‘In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.’

 

Pastor Mark

 

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – Day 8

When our son Joshua was just a toddler, he had to go into hospital for a small operation. I wanted to go into theatre with him, but as we approached the doors I was told to go no further. The doors ahead said ‘Authorised Personnel Only’.

 

In the same way, we all have to come to a point in our lives whereby we understand the importance of the words on that sign.

 

Not everyone is allowed to go with you for the whole of life’s journey.

 

Do you remember the day that you left junior school? It’s almost guaranteed that you pledged to your friends that you would stay in touch and be friends forever. Truth is, very few of them made it past the 6 weeks holiday, let alone stay friends for life.

 

That was repeated a few years later when you left school life behind forever. Where are those friends now?

 

In reality you would never be able to maintain friendship with all of the people that you pledged your life to.

 

Imagine everyone from every season in your life right now… Nightmare!

 

People pleasing would take up every waking moment.

 

Life is a natural cycle of leaving people behind in order to move on and grow.

 

Each time that that happens there will be a call to a new level.

 

In your walk with God, there will be points along the way in which your destiny has to have a greater pull than the emotion of wanting to keep everyone happy in your life.

Each part of your life is like a train journey. Some people will get on to help you and some people will get off to make room for others.

 

Some people are called TO your life and some people are called THROUGH your life.

 

Not everyone can go where you are going.

 

Not everyone can go where you need to go.

 

You cannot take everyone with you.

 

Don’t live as a people pleaser. Live to please God.

 

Proverbs 13:20 MSG

‘Become wise by walking with the wise; hang out with fools and watch your life fall to pieces.’

 

Pastor Mark

 

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – Day 7

Last night I fell over in the bedroom. I got up to go to the bathroom and I misjudged where things were and tripped. Fortunately, I managed to break my fall and didn’t come off too badly, that is, apart from Gillian waking up and wanting to know what on earth all the commotion was. I laughed…

 

There was just one reason why it happened; it was dark.

 

Things that are so obviously clear in the light are not so in the dark. We are left fumbling and feeling our way around, many times without knowing where we are and what we are doing.

 

As we approach this Christmas time, I wander if my nighttime tumble helps us to appreciate the necessity of light.

 

For a number of years I had no idea where I was going or what I was doing.

 

Then came that amazing day when the light was switched on… I could see.

 

The reason as to why I had been born started to become clear, not immediately, but I knew that I was no longer here by chance, but by design.

 

I was not just here to take up space on the planet but I had a very clear purpose.

 

Like a glass of cloudy water, the longer it stays still, the quicker it becomes clear. Be still.

 

Have you been wondering lately as to why your life seems to be lived out like a person in a dark room, looking for a black cat that doesn’t exist?

 

The celebration of Christmas is really found in this verse in the Bible, 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.”

 

The reality for us all is that Christmas isn’t Christmas till it happens in your heart.

 

Inviting JESUS into your life is a defining moment when everything becomes clear. You start to see where everything fits and start to see clearly where you are going.

 

The other option is of course to just go it alone in the dark and hope for the best.

 

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.”

 

 

If you’ve been wondering why the happiness of Christmas always fades so quickly, then the answer is right here in front of you.

 

Jesus is not only the missing piece, but He’s the missing peace.

 

Don’t let another Christmas pass by without you asking Him to be your personal Savior. Only He can turn on the real Christmas light.

 

Pastor Mark

 

A daily devotion for a better way of living.