Fresh Hope – Day 111

In 1969, Neil Armstrong stepped out onto the Moon and said those famous words… ‘ONE SMALL STEP FOR MAN, ONE GIANT LEAP FOR MANKIND.’

What happened all those years ago was unique, in that it took place on the Moon, but as far as the steps are concerned, it is just as true for you today, in that a giant leap will always start with a small step.

Now, I’m a great believer in having a dream for your life. A dream that is bigger than you. A dream so big, that if God doesn’t come to your rescue, you are well and truly sunk; but I am also aware that too many people are sitting around, doing nothing, apart from idling their time away, waiting for their dream to become a reality.

On the road to that dream, there has to be a daily stepping out in order to get you there.

Don’t just wait for the giant leap of faith, somewhere, somehow, sometime in the future, start today with a small step.

A toddler doesn’t wait until it can run a marathon before getting up off the floor, no, he or she starts to take just one small step at a time.

Ask yourself today, what steps am I taking towards the goal for my life?

If you sense that God is calling you to do something specific with your life, then what steps are you taking towards that very thing?

Proverbs 14:15 (NIV)

‘A simple man believes anything, but a prudent man gives thought to his steps.’

Proverbs 16:9 (NIV)

‘In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.’

Psalm 119:105 (NIV)

‘Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.’

Psalm 37:23-24 (NIV)

‘The Lord makes firm 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.’

In 1998, we bought the 2-acre plot of land on which our new Church sits today…

In 2008, after hours and hours of meetings, consultations, set-backs and knock-backs, doubts and fears, we decided to take one small step, which was to authorise the contractor to come onto site.

It was quite scary as there was no turning back, but we were driven on by one simple phrase that we coined during that time… ‘If we don’t start, we’ll never finish.’

Those first steps of faith turned into a giant leap for our Church.

Today, we are dreaming again and once more, taking some fairly significant steps towards building the next phases, knowing that the steps today will result in a completed project some time in the near future.

NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF A STEP – Miracles belong to God… steps belong to man.

WHAT IS YOUR NEXT STEP?

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 110

About 12 months ago, I started attending a fitness bootcamp that we hold on our Church carpark several times a week. To begin with, I wasn’t thrilled about the thought of going as I knew that I would be feeling the after-effects for days to come…

But I went, and found my experience somewhat enjoyable. I then went back again, and now find myself attending 3 times a week. It’s true what I had been told, ‘It gets easier after the first session.’

Over the past year, there have been many times where I haven’t felt like going…

It’s been a long day, I’m tired, It’s raining, I’ve heard that we’re doing legs all night, etc.

During those times, there has been one thing that has pushed me to go… Above getting the physique that I want, above impressing others with my regular attendance…

It’s the people. It’s the sense of community. It’s the common knowledge that we’re all in this together.

I believe that in all of us, there is a desire to belong. There’s a desire to gather with other people and be yourself, understanding that none of us are perfect, we’re all on a journey, we’re all in need of help — that’s an encouraging environment to be in… Because we all understand, ‘Hey, we’re in this together, so let’s help one another.’

I believe that Jesus is passionate about community. He is of course, a community within Himself, ‘Father, Son & Holy Spirit’ and I believe that His desire for our lives is that we wouldn’t do life alone, but that we would understand, ‘Life is better together.’

To make this kind of life easily accessible to us, He created the Church.

I heard Church described once as this, ‘A place where a bunch of people who realise they need help, get together to love Jesus and encourage each other.’ That’s the kind of place I want to be!

And Church is not just a Sunday morning experience, but a 7-day a week, 52-week a year community in which we do life together. It’s the one thing that God said He would build… Evidently, it’s something that He’s absolutely passionate about and wants us to be involved in.

Hebrews 10:24-25 (ESV)

‘And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.’

‘Life is not about what you do, it’s about who you do it with.’

Caleb

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 109

Whatever you see, experience and hear, has POTENTIAL to not only affect you, but also to define you.

If something bad happens, if you hear something that’s negative, if you experience a situation that’s not good, you can potentially be defined by that. It can AFFECT your life… If you let it.

We let things that have happened to us, define us.

‘I’m no good… I can’t… It won’t happen…’ are defining statements that will affect us. Words have the potential to determine our future.

God’s Word has the POWER, not just the potential to define your life.

When you read or hear the Word of God, and when you dwell on it, when you know it, when you start to speak it and live by it, it will define your life.

Here are some great promises and reminders this morning… Dwell on them and let THEM define you.

When you think you can’t do something…

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” – Philippians 4:13

Can I believe God for this?

“Whatsoever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it shall be yours” – Mark 11:24

I don’t feel strong enough to fight this…

“He that is in me is greater than he that is in the world” – 1 John 4:4

God, my enemy is too big…

“If God is for me, who can be against me?” – Romans 8:31

Why isn’t this plan working, Lord?

“Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it’s the Lord’s purpose that prevails” – Proverbs 19:21

Will God help me out in financial difficulty?

“And my God will supply all my needs according to His glorious riches” – Philippians 4:19

God, have You got a great purpose for me?

“For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you” – Jeremiah 29:11

God, I feel like giving up…

“Do not grow weary in doing good, for at the proper time you will reap a harvest if you don’t give up” – Galatians 6:9

Lord, I don’t know which way to turn…

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go” – Psalm 32:8

God, where are You?

“Draw near to God and He’ll draw near to you” – James 4:8

Lord, please help me out here…

“When you walk, your steps won’t be hampered; when you run, you will not stumble” – Proverbs 4:12

Nothing seems to be going right, Lord…

“There is no wisdom, no insight, no plan that can succeed against the Lord” – Proverbs 21:30

I challenge you to take those verses and make a note of them, highlight them in your Bible, pin them on your fridge…

If you don’t read it, you won’t know it.

If you don’t know it, you can’t use it.

If you don’t use it, it won’t define your life.

Love His Word. Speak His Word. It has the POWER to change your life.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 108

I was in my early 30’s when the phone rang at home one night.

The call was from a person that was giving me a lot of grief.

For me, this was the last straw, as once again he had a further list of complaints to address me on.

I put the phone down and the next thing I knew, I was having chest pains and couldn’t stop shaking.

Gillian quickly fetched me a glass of water as I lay back on the sofa, and promptly called the Emergency Doctor, after I suggested that I may be having a heart attack.

The diagnosis came back later that evening and said it was ‘chronic stress’, brought on by the earlier conversation and a culmination of many other, similar situations at that time.

That night saw me nose-dive into a 6 month period of fear, coupled with Doctor’s appointments, more than I would like to admit.

One Saturday morning became the turning point to end this horrible season of my life, as yet again, I was driven to the Emergency Doctor’s by a friend after experiencing chest pains.

As I waited to be seen by the Doctor on duty, I heard a voice from within me say, ‘What are you doing here, man of God?’

I knew instantly that it was the voice of the Holy Spirit. I literally stood up, and without a word to anyone, I walked out and started to say out loud, ‘I am never going back there again!’

That day, as I walked back up the road on my own, I addressed my irrational fears, pains and the voices in my mind that kept stating over and over that I was going to die.

I went back into the house a different man and never returned to the doctors again.

Amazingly, all of my symptoms disappeared and I walked in complete health, as if nothing had happened.

How many of you reading this today, can identify with that season of my life, as you deal with the battlefield of your mind?

Often, our biggest enemy is our inner-me.

Take courage as you inwardly digest today’s Bible verses…

Romans 12:2 ‘Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…’

2 Corinthians 10:4-5 ‘The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.’

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 107

My parents acquired an old ‘honky tonk’ piano for me when I was in junior school.

The piano belonged to an old lady and sounded like it hadn’t been tuned for many a year.

I wasn’t very good at most things at school, but the piano became my passion.

I would come home from school and start to memorise and play by ear, the old songs and hymns that were sung in the school assembly.

My Mom and Dad then decided that I should develop my new-found talent further, by paying for me to have piano lessons from a lady that lived just a few doors away.

From the age of ten, I would walk to her house and learn the more intricate stuff, right up until I was around seventeen.

One of the most basic things about the piano is the note called ‘the middle C.’

Just like it suggests, ‘the middle C’ is right in the middle of the 88 keys on a full-size piano.

When I first sat at that old piano, I couldn’t help but think about how long it would take a person to remember 88 different keys.

Now… you probably know this, but you don’t have to know 88 keys, as there are only 7 different white notes, plus 5 different black notes.

Once you had learnt the notes that made up an octave, all you had to do was repeat the same notes, higher up or lower down from the middle C.

All these years later, I can’t help but think about how much those octaves are a lot like our development in areas of our lives.

Once you’ve learnt some of the most basic stuff, you don’t have to keep re-learning the same stuff, but rather, you simply have to practice it at a higher level.

I’d been speaking in our Church for many years before we opened the new auditorium, seating over 800 people. I quickly realised that all the stuff I had learned about communicating from those previous 20 years had to now rise to a totally different level.

In effect, I was doing what I’d always done, but this time around it was much higher up the keyboard.

Maybe today you’re really scared about going up a key or two in what you do, thinking that it’s going to require you to learn a whole new lot of notes.

No, your past is never wasted, but now it’s time to take what you’ve learnt and apply it to doing greater things at a higher level.

I sat at a pipe organ at 13 years of age and was told by the old man that was about to teach me, that I was now going to have to play with not just my 2 hands, but that it was going to involve my 2 feet, as well (on the pedals, that is)…

I was relieved to learn once again, that though it was a new set of skills that the eyes couldn’t see, it was however, exactly the same set of notes that I learnt from day one.

My dream one day would be to play the organ at the Royal Albert Hall… albeit with no-one there!

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 – Day 106

Several years ago, I went to speak for a few days at a friends Church.

Because we had known each other for a number of years, he invited me to stay with his family at their home.

Their house was in a beautiful part of the world and was situated about a mile from a large village Church, complete with spire and clock.

As I’d never stayed there before, I didn’t realise what I was in for when my head hit the pillow that night.

Retiring early for bed, I fell fast asleep, tired from a long journey.

It was exactly 12-midnight when I awoke to the sound of the village clock, chiming out its twelve beats.

After falling asleep again, I was then awoken every hour, before deciding to get up at 6am.

At breakfast, I enquired as to how far away the village clock was, and asked how they slept through it every night…

My question was greeted with blank faces. Each of the family looked bemused at each other and said, ‘Oh, does that old thing still work? We haven’t heard it for years.’

It’s called the power of over-familiarity…

When you constantly hear the same sounds, your brain starts to block them out, so that you no longer hear them.

How many of us share that very same experience each morning, with the sound of the alarm on your phone or clock?

It’s almost guaranteed that many reading this will have overslept this morning, simply because of ‘over-familiarity’ regarding the sound of your alarm.

Is it therefore possible, that some really important issues in your life today are being overlooked, because you’ve blanked out the inner voice and conviction to do something about them…

The greatest error to be made has surely got to be in relation to silencing God’s voice that has called you so many times.

Before you can push Him away for good, He has placed several things in your life that you will have to deliberately climb over and ignore, before asking Him to leave you alone for ever…

… the Bible

… the conviction of the Holy Spirit

… a Grandmother’s prayers

… the witness of a friend

… a caring Church

And above all… His irresistible love.

Listen again… He’s still calling you.

2 Peter 3:8-9 ‘But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: with the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.’

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 105

Sometimes, we desperately want to step out and do something new; something that will excite us, something that will take us beyond the norm of our everyday lives.

It’s called a step of faith.

We put our one leg out of the boat of familiarity and step onto the calm waters of our next big venture.

All is well, if not somewhat scary, as we lift the other leg over the side of the boat and plant it firmly onto the lake of the unknown.

This water-walking step of faith is going so well and we sense that we are breaking new ground.

But, in a moment of fear, our natural mind kicks in.

Hang on a bit… I’m not supposed to be walking on water.

These are real waves lapping around my feet, and isn’t that the sound of howling wind blowing through my hair?

HELP… I’m beginning to sink.

I didn’t sign up for sinking, only walking on water.

When Peter asked Jesus one day if he could walk to Him on the water, he was immediately met with a resounding ‘COME.’

So why did Peter have this sinking feeling if Jesus had already said that it’s ok to step out of the boat?

The answer was quite simple and explains why many of us never set foot on any great adventures of faith ever again…

He took his eyes off Jesus and began to see the waves.

Those waves are waves of doubt, waves of fear, waves of unbelief, and waves of ‘I’m not supposed to do this.’

Whenever you get a green light from Jesus, but then begin to sink, simply ask yourself, ‘What am I looking at? The waves, or the water-walker… Jesus?’

Remember, every time you take a step of faith, you will always be met with the wind and the waves of doubt.

The great news to start your day is this… Jesus reached out His hand and held Peter up.

Today, if you’ve got that sinking feeling, don’t despair, He’s reaching out His hand to you – take it.

Matthew 14:28-33 NIV

“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?” And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Remember, when you step out into unknown territory, you risk sinking… but, you also risk walking on water.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 104

We all like to look ahead for what’s to come. That’s great, dreams for the future are very important. However, we can lose sight of today’s blessings by looking too far ahead.

It’s easy to keep looking ahead to what’s coming, and not live in the moment and enjoy today.

God is interested in the daily… Don’t be so consumed with the future, that you miss God’s blessings today. Someone once said, “Don’t be so concerned with the destination, that you miss out on the journey.”

Neither should you be worried about what’s ahead, thank God for what you have today and trust Him for what’s to come. A very famous prayer says, ‘Give us this day our daily bread.’

Psalm 119:105 says that God gives us a lamp unto our feet, He doesn’t give us a floodlight for the rest of our lives.

You may not know what tomorrow will bring, but you can trust Him for today.

Think about what you have today and be thankful for it. Pray and believe for the future. Living for God requires faith… Faith for today and faith for tomorrow.

F – Focus on the positive in your life right now

A – Affirm yourself and encourage yourself

I – Imagine God doing something greater, dream better things for your life

T – Trust God for everything… He is for me

H – Hope for the best, expect something good to come to me

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 103

We see and meet lots of people… Some of them you’ll remember and some you won’t.

Those you remember are the ones who made an impression on you.

Unfortunately, not always for great reasons… someone may have been moody, rude, a troublemaker, immature etc, and you remember them for those reasons.

I wonder what people remember about you…

Kind?

Friendly?

Generous?

A great attitude in a bad situation?

Genuine?

Hard-working?

As Christians, we should be people who ‘stand out’ for all the RIGHT reasons. We should be the people that others look at and say, “I want to be like them.”

In 1 Samuel 16, when King Saul was looking for someone to enter his royal service, he said of David, “He has made an impression on me.”

David had made a great impression by the way that he was and by the way that he lived. He impressed the King. God’s plan came into being for David from that very first impression.

Ask yourself right now… What do people see in me? Am I reflecting the goodness of God in my life?

Make a great impression wherever you go, one that will last… And when you do, God’s plan for your life will come into being also.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 102

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 this… “Ok, 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 3 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 – Day 101

My parents are both in their 80’s now and are considerably fit and healthy for their age.

They had both reached 70 when Gillian, myself and our family decided to take them to Scotland for a few days.

Interestingly they had never been, simply because they had been told by their own parents many years earlier that it was ‘too far to go!’

For seventy years, they had restricted their own lives because of the opinions and voices of others.

Scotland was not that far after all… after an early start, we were in Edinburgh by 10.30am.

So often, we can live our lives governed by the opinions and restrictive influences of others, resulting in a limited life at the very least, but more importantly, being limited in what we feel and believe that we can accomplish for God.

In the New Testament, Jesus is informing His disciples that His destiny is to go to the cross and die for the sins of the world, something that His good friend Peter didn’t take too kindly to.

Peter suggested that Jesus should not speak about such things and argued that He should be protected from His cruel death.

Notice the very ‘gentle’ response that Jesus gave to His friend and disciple… ‘Get behind me, Satan!’

Matthew 16:22-23 ‘Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!” Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”’

Why such a stern response?

Because anyone that speaks against the very thing that you were created by God to fulfil, should always be told, in no uncertain terms, to get off your case.

Who or what is creating a stumbling block to your future?

Speak to it today, don’t delay.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 100

My journey of trusting God started many years ago…

I had little money, but I did have a little faith.

I was 21 and living in student accommodation in Christchurch, Dorset.

On one particular evening, I had planned to go by myself to a Gospel concert in Bournemouth; it would take every bit of money that I possessed to buy the ticket.

As I drove my old, beat-up car onto the carpark of the concert hall, I saw the biggest yellow sign you could imagine. It stated that anyone parking without a ticket would have their car clamped and towed away.

The problem was, I only had enough money for the concert…

I sat there for a few minutes mulling over in my mind the scenario of what might happen that night.

I could ignore the sign and go to the concert, only to find that my car had been towed away, or I could pay to park and have no money to get into the concert… pointless exercise I thought.

‘What would faith do?’, I asked myself.

‘What would be the right thing to do?’, I asked myself.

Well, I decided that I should first pay to park the car and then have complete faith in God to stand in the concert ticket queue without any money to buy one.

FEAR LOOKS… FAITH LEAPS

As I stood in the long line of people, I started to play out, once again, what might happen when I get to the ticket kiosk.

My natural mind told me to stop being so stupid and go home. However, my simple trust in God convinced me to stay put.

All was well until I got within three people from the ticket kiosk.

“What now?” I prayed anxiously.

My little faith was being tested to its limits and now there were just two people in front of me; I stood my ground, just as if I had all the money in the world.

30 seconds to go…

…When all of a sudden, a side-stage door flew open and a man came bustling out, shouting, “Does anyone need a ticket?”

I simply reached out my hand and said, “Yes please,” trying not to look desperate. And as I turned back around, I was at the front of the queue and heard the lady in the kiosk say, “Ticket please, sir.” I simply handed it over and walked straight in.

I can’t remember anything about the concert, but I’ve never forgotten one of my first experiences of simply trusting God.

Never trusted God before? Start today by trusting Him with something simple and just watch what happens.

Faith is like a muscle, it needs to be worked in order for it to grow strong.

Listen to the words of Jesus… “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.” (Matthew 17:20)

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

#FreshHopeDay100

Fresh Hope – Day 99

Today we continue where we left off yesterday, with five more questions that are frequently asked when wanting to know God’s purpose and plan for our lives…

6) Does my age matter? YES… but only to you.

Your age is irrelevant to God. The biggest clue that your assignment isn’t over, is that you are still alive.

7) Can I stop the plan?

Yes! You can stop the plan for YOU by your stubbornness and disobedience, but you can’t stop God’s ultimate plans.

You can also delay the plan by your unwillingness to say yes, but after God has waited for you, He will then find someone else who will fulfil what you refused to.

8) When will it start?

It has… You just didn’t know it!

It’s a bit like when your parents bought you that surprise present for Christmas that you’d been asking for. You thought that they’d forgotten, but in fact, they’d already got it. They had just kept it hidden from you until the right day came.

Psalm 139:16 ‘Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.’

9) Do I just sit back?

No… His plan is a partnership.

Your part is to start serving Him in any way that you can, in any area that you can.

What often looks like your plan, is actually HIS plan flowing through your desires.

Psalm 37:4 ‘Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.’

10) What if I’m unable to do what I’m asked?

God will never ask ‘CAN you?’, He will always ask ‘WILL you?’

He already knows what you can and can’t do.

ALL YOU HAVE TO DO IS ANSWER HIS CALL…

Remember, God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called.

The moment you connect to God, you connect also to His higher purpose for you; it’s woven into the very DNA of your life.

WILL YOU ANSWER THE CALL?

Jeremiah 29:11 “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.”

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 98

Over the next 2 days, I want to pose 10 searching questions from my own experience in wanting to know God’s purpose for my life.

1) What if I don’t know what the plan is?

That’s ok… most people don’t to start with.

Think of it like a treasure hunt… Look for the clues. One clue leads to another, which then leads to the treasure.

Sometimes it can take years to identify the treasure, but don’t give up… anything that will effect eternity usually takes time.

Serve wholeheartedly in a whole variety of things and you will soon discover the area of your gifting and passion, ruling out what you are no good at.

Once that has happened, you can begin to look for further clues within that specific area, and soon you will be focussing on the very thing that you were created for.

Whatever you do, don’t just sit around, hoping for something to happen. Find a need and fill it.

2) I’m worried that I may miss it.

You’ll only miss it if you are content to live your life for yourself.

Pray everyday and be open for God to speak to you. You’ll start to see pieces of the puzzle coming together.

3) What if I don’t like the plan for my life?

You may not to start with, as sometimes it’s the most unlikely thing that you had in mind, but the reality is, once you get into it, you’ll fit into it like a hand in a glove.

4) I’ve got my own plan, thank you very much.

I certainly did… in fact, you have the freedom to carry on with it if you choose to, but remember, it’s only when you fulfil God’s ultimate plan for your life that you will feel totally fulfilled.

5) What form will it come to me in?

Email, post, dream or a sign at the end of the bed?

It can come in many ways… but it will generally be delivered as a result of KNEE MAIL.

Surrender your hopes, dreams, aspirations and all your fears over to God right now and He will make sure that He gets in touch with you regarding your future.

Jeremiah 29:13 NIV

‘You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.’

Psalm 20:4 NIV

‘May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.’

Proverbs 16:3 NIV

‘Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.’

Proverbs 19:21 NIV

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

Remember… it’s not for you to DECIDE what you’re going to do with your life, but to DISCERN what God wants to do through your life.

More coming up tomorrow…

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 97

I was in a greeting card shop a few days ago and I heard a very sad conversation between 2 Moms… The one Mom was telling her friend that her daughter was now 9 and she’d still never received a Mother’s Day card, because her husband ‘didn’t do Mother’s Day’. I felt very sorry for that lady and the daughter, who were missing out because of a very unthoughtful husband.

Often, we can shelve being thoughtful, in favour of being too busy or having an ‘I can’t be bothered’ mentality.

Before you think like that, think about the receiver, and how much being thoughtful will bless them. It says to the receiver, ‘you are thought highly of’ and it says about the giver, ‘this person has been thoughtful.’

This isn’t a Mother’s Day message, it should be part of our everyday lives. Being thoughtful and kind is a culture that we need to do our best to support. The tide of being unthoughtful and unkind needs to turn.

Jesus himself said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

Give some kindness, sow some thoughtfulness.

If right now, you have no-one acting that way towards you, go ahead and sow some yourself, it’s amazing what will come back.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 96

We don’t always realise the impact we have on the lives of those around us, even through small, simple acts. When you focus on the opportunity that you have to make others’ lives better, it becomes easy to celebrate where you are — no matter what you do.

You may have heard the saying, ‘Go where you are celebrated, not where you are tolerated.’ While it is important to be appreciated, we can also flip that saying around: ‘Celebrate where you are, don’t tolerate it.’ You could just tolerate life or you could choose to celebrate it. The choice really is yours…

*I read a true story about a young man with Down’s syndrome named John, who worked in a grocery store bagging groceries. During a training presentation for the large grocery chain, John and the other employees were challenged to create memories for each customer that would make them want to come back to the store.

At first, John wondered what he could do, being ‘only a bagger.’ After some thought, he came up with an idea. Every night at home, John and his Dad printed out his favourite sayings. He took painstaking care to cut out each little encouraging phrase. When at work, he arranged his little pile of sayings close to him, so that he could sneak one into each customers grocery bag, saying, “I hope you enjoy my quote of the day.”

The store manager began to notice that the line of people at the till where this young man bagged groceries was considerably longer than the other lines. Even when given the opportunity to move to a shorter line, many would stay in his line. In fact, one lady said, “I used to come to the store once a week and now I come two to three times a week just to see the smile on his face when he drops in his favourite quote!”

The manager shared with his team what John was doing to create memories for the customers, and soon, the manager in the florist department began gathering her broken flowers to pin on elderly ladies, and the meat department manager began putting little smiley stickers on his meat packages to make his customers laugh. Although John may have seemed like an unlikely leader, he did lead — through influence.

John didn’t focus on the menial part of his job. He focused on serving people and making their day brighter.

It is easy to get cynical in life, but we don’t always realise the impact we have on the lives of those around us, even through small, simple acts. When you focus on the phenomenal opportunity that you have to make others’ lives better, it becomes easy to celebrate where you are — no matter what you do.

Matthew 5:16 ‘In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.’

*Taken from the story of Johnny the Bagger

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 95

I determined several years ago that part of my life’s work was to leave behind something far better than what had been handed down to me.

What we start with in life may not be much, but we each have the opportunity to make significant strides forward with the time allotted to us.

Think about how you can impact your little corner of the world.

How sad would it be if we left this planet in exactly the same way as we found it…

In 1992, we moved into our second home. It was in a terrible state of repair and needed lots of attention. The outside looked pitiful and was a real eyesore in the street.

I decided to draw on a piece of paper the house that I envisioned, and slowly but surely started to turn my plan into a nice family home that complimented the houses around it.

When we came to sell it 15 years later, it had increased five-fold in value.

That very home today is lived in by our daughter, son-in-law and their 2 children.

Each of us can make the place that we live in better than it was when we found it.

Some of you reading this today can change a street or a town, but some of you have the capacity to change a city, or even a nation.

An eighty year old man was seen planting an apple orchard. He lovingly and painstakingly prepared the soil, planted the tiny saplings and watered them daily.

After watching him for a while, a young boy enquired, “You don’t expect to eat apples from those trees, do you?”

“No” the old man replied, “but I’m doing it so that lots of people will in the future.”

Your actions today can help those that come behind you reap a great reward tomorrow.

When you serve people or influence them positively, and when you encourage them to pass along to others what they have received, you create a chain of impact that can out-live you.

Be a difference maker today and at the same time, make a brighter future for those that are behind you.

Psalm 33:11

… ‘The plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.’

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 94

A woman who had fifteen children was once asked by an interviewer, “With so many kids, how do you love them all the same?”

She smiled and gave an answer that he wasn’t expecting, “I don’t love them all the same.”

Taken aback, the interviewer awkwardly asked, “Well… which one do you love the most?”

She gave a thoughtful smile and answered softly, “The one who is hurting the most, the one who feels the most loneliness, the one who is brokenhearted… that’s the one I love the most.”

God has a lot more kids than just fifteen, and I don’t believe that He plays favourites, but the Bible does teach that God has a special place in His heart for those who are hurting. He’s with us always, but in our moments of deepest despair, I believe His presence is strongest.

“The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Psalm 34:18)

If you are in a place right now where you feel like you’re all alone, I want to reassure you that you are not alone. God is with you. Jesus has said, “Never will I leave you or forsake you.” God loves you more than you can imagine. He will be your strength until the pain passes and He will bring good out of it somehow. Trust Him and know that you are loved with an eternal love.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 93

Yesterday, we looked at 7 things that God hates. Today, we take a look at 7 things that God loves.

Here’s a list to help us see the things that are very near and dear to God’s heart…

1) YOU

– The greatest message in the whole of the Bible and in the whole of the world, is that God loves people… and that means YOU.

He doesn’t love you with the kind of love that has conditions attached to it, but He loves you unconditionally. Whether you’ve lived a bad life or a good one, He loves you just the same.

Unconditional love is a love that has no conditions attached to it. God doesn’t have degrees of love for nice people and then a lesser love for the not so nice. We could talk all day about the love that God has for you, but here’s one simple thought… As a human being, we have the capacity TO love, however, God is more than that… He IS Love.

1 John 4:7-10 ‘Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.’

2) GENEROSITY

Proverbs 11:25 ‘A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.’

3) OBEDIENCE

1 Samuel 15:22 ‘…To obey is better than sacrifice…’

Sometimes we try to play God off by saying that we will sacrifice things for Him, rather than do what He is asking of us…

‘Lord, I won’t get baptised, but I’ll give up chocolate instead…’

God loves people that will simply say, ‘Ok, I’ll do it!’ – No questions asked, just plain and simple obedience.

4) INTEGRITY

If there’s anything on God’s list of top things that He loves, it’s this one.

Proverbs 10:9 ‘Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out.’

When you walk in integrity, you never have to look over your shoulder. God always upholds a person with integrity.

5) THANKSGIVING

Being thankful is the key to everything. It opens the door to everything in your future. Being ungrateful and unthankful is a kick in the face to God.

Jesus healed ten lepers, but only one came back to give thanks to Him. Jesus wanted to know where the other nine were… It was important to Him then and it still is today.

6) HUMILITY

Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less.

James 4:10 ‘Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.’

7) PURITY

Purity is not being prudish, but it is being different.

It’s having an invisible line drawn in your heart and mind at all times, that says, I will not cross this and become rude, crude or involved in course joking. Having a sense of humour is a must. Having a sense of conviction regarding impurity is a must too.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 92

I’ve been married now for more than 30 years.

I no longer have to wonder what my wife likes… it’s ingrained within me.

I know what food she likes, I know what weather she likes, and I know what kind of hotel she likes.

I know what makes her happy and I know what makes her sad.

I know the kinds of gifts she likes and I know the kind of flowers to buy her. (Apparently not often enough though)

I know the places she likes to go to on a day off and I also know the places that make her feel uneasy.

I know the things that I do that annoy her and I know the things to do to make her happy.

I’m still learning and I can still be surprised by her reactions, but hey, what married man isn’t… but generally speaking, i’ve got it sorted.

Have you ever wondered what God likes, or more to the point, what He doesn’t like?

You can tell a lot about someone by their likes and even more so, by their dislikes.

If a person says, for instance, that they love people, but then laughs at someones downfall, you know that their love for others is fairly shallow.

If a person hates injustice and has compassion towards the poor, then equally so, you know their love for people is genuine.

You can understand a lot about the nature of God, by what He hates.

You don’t have to go rummaging through the Bible to gather this information; He’s made it simple for us by putting it all in one place.

It’s not a comprehensive list, but it’s really all the headlines you need to know. It’s the kind of passage that says… steer clear of this stuff!

Here they are…

Proverbs 6:16-19, There are seven things that the Lord hates and cannot tolerate:

•A proud look

•A lying tongue

•Hands that kill innocent people

•A mind that thinks up wicked plans

•Feet that hurry off to do evil

•A witness who tells one lie after another

•Someone who stirs up trouble among friends

Amazingly, they are all the things that you and I find repulsive and offensive, unless that is, you are living on the wrong track…

It may be worth storing this information in a file, tucked deep within your heart, and labelling it, ‘Recipe for disaster’ – stay away!

/Tomorrow… ‘things that God loves’/

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 91

Isn’t it interesting how life’s circumstances can affect different people in different ways?

Unfortunately, bad stuff will always happen to good people… yet, it’s how you let it affect you that matters most.

Jonah is a classic story of one man in the middle (literally) of a major situation. Many of you will know that Jonah, due to his disobedience, got swallowed by a great big fish.

It’s in those moments of desperation, those moments of stress, those moments of trial, that we have the choice to determine how we come out of the situation.

Jonah decided in those crucial moments to praise God anyway and be sorry for his wrong actions.

Jonah 2:7

“When my life was slipping away, I remembered God, and my prayer got through to you.”

Verse 9: “But I’m worshiping you, God, calling out in thanksgiving! And I’ll do what I promised I’d do! Salvation belongs to God!”

A very powerful choice… Because what happened next was an awesome demonstration of the God of the second chance.

There were 2 ways out of that fish… He could have come out the back way, chewed up and bitter, but his attitude caused him to come out the front way, better.

Make the right choice today and come out of your situations better, not bitter.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 90

Will Noris, the journalist wrote, “If your lips would keep from slips, five things observe with care; to whom you speak, of whom you speak, and how… and when… and where.”

Publius, the Greek sage wrote, “I have often regretted my speech, but never my silence.”

I was invited to do a live television interview earlier this week. I was very aware that there was no taking back my words once I’d said them. There was no room for me to convey a message that I could later retract. I would never have that luxury.

It serves as a daily lesson that our speech is ‘live’ at all times.

There’s no taking back what you have just said in a heated moment.

If you know that you need to go to a new level in your speech, here are 3 suggestions to help you…

1) Think first. Before you speak, pause for ten seconds and mentally preview your words. Are they accurate or exaggerated? Kind or cutting? Needless or necessary? Grateful or complaining? Remember, what you don’t say, you’ll never have to explain.

2) Talk less. Ecclesiastes 5:3, “Many words mark the speech of a fool.”

Which basically means… put a sock in it.

You increase your chances of blowing it when you talk too much. Compulsive talkers find it hard to keep friends. Conserve your verbal energy.

3) Start today. You’ve now read enough to help you get started. Once you condition your mouth to the new ‘muzzle’, it will become easier each day to resist the urge to speak out of turn.

James 3:2-6, 9-12 ‘We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check. When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.’

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 89

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 – Day 88

To me, life is simple… it’s about God and it’s about people.

Jesus himself said these words in Mark 12:30-31;

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’…‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

For almost 30 years now, I’ve devoted my life to serving others, so that they too could have a meaningful life that carries at its very centre, the importance of loving God.

Often, people find it hard to love others, simply because they find it hard to love themselves.

Loving yourself comes from knowing that you are loved.

I’ve listed below some of the things that I’ve held in my heart when trying to encourage people to see their true worth. I hope they help you to help others today too…

5 minutes of proactive care is worth 5 hours of reactive care.

One surprise gesture is worth ten planned ones.

Telling someone that you appreciate them takes really no effort at all.

Time spent encouraging people is never time lost, but ground gained.

A shoulder to cry on is far more absorbent than the words ‘you’ll get over it’.

I, me, and mine, are 3 words that may make you feel important, but there are only 3 letters that make everyone feel important… OUR.

‘Let’s get together sometime’ are just empty words that never happen. ‘Let’s make a date now’ is what relationships are made of.

A full vase means more than empty words.

‘Better is open rebuke than hidden love’ (Proverbs 27:5-6)

A timely, 5 minute phone call is far better than 5 hours of counselling when it’s too late.

A cup of coffee with a troubled person is worth to them its weight in Gold.

Today, instead of just thinking about what more you can get out of life, start to lift others that have no life at all.

Proverbs 12:25 ‘Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.’

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 87

Knowing Jesus is not religion… it’s relationship.

Maybe you’re not quite ready to dive straight into a relationship with Him?

Maybe you have questions that you still need answering?

Maybe the thought of giving your life to Him is too much to ask right now?

Consider this lady…

Luke 8:43-48 ‘And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped. “Who touched me?” Jesus asked. When they all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.” But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.” Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.”’

She wasn’t ready to look Jesus in the eye or to even kneel in front of Him. All she felt comfortable with was to touch the ‘edge’ of His cloak.

Maybe she thought that He wouldn’t notice her.

She certainly didn’t bargain on Him stopping and asking who touched Him; but He did notice… He did stop… and He did respond to her, even though it came as a result of a very nervous touch, right on the edge of his cloak.

Maybe you need to follow in her footsteps today and move towards the edge, rather than keeping your distance.

If you’re not yet comfortable at a face to face commitment, start by touching the edge.

Pick up your Bible in private and ask God to meet you in its pages.

Start to pray in the privacy of your room and bring your thoughts, concerns and requests to God.

Start to attend Church… even if it means sitting on the back row… that’s ok.

Start to open up your heart and ask God to become real to you.

All of that is a way of touching the very edge of what God wants to do in your life.

Once you’ve touched the edge, you’ll be amazed at how you’ll want to jump straight in after a while.

You’ll soon be talking face to face.

Touch the edge today… Jesus will know that you’re there.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 86

Take a helicopter ride today.

A ride that will give you an aerial view of your life.

A ride to help you see from above how your worries and cares are weighing you down.

You can get so close to your worries that you no longer see the effect that they are having on you.

How many of us today are being pulled down and pulled back, without even knowing it?

Not all worries are the same, there are different types.

Here are a few…

Floating Worry –  It just drifts aimlessly through your mind. You know it’s there as it keeps popping up each day, but there’s no way of solving it, as these types of worry don’t actually tell you what you’re worried about. Floating worries are really automatic negative thoughts that want to use up valuable space in your mind. Just let them go – They don’t belong.

Fake Worry – Is really like the mouse and the elephant crossing a bridge. The mouse said to the elephant, ‘we sure did make that bridge shake.’ Fake worry is the mouse behaving like it’s the elephant. It thinks it has the power to shake you – It doesn’t.

Guilt Worry – Many people have high-guilt proneness because of their past life. The mind continually replays the bad things of the past and as a result, you continually keep talking yourself out of a forgiven life.

…I feel bad about myself.

…I feel like I’m letting people down.

…I’m not good enough.

Then we feel guilt for feeling guilty.

It’s a vicious circle.

Settle it once and for all; I’m either forgiven or I’m not.

Jesus either died for my sins or He didn’t.

He settled it 2000 years ago… You have to settle now.

Perfectionism Worry – Anne Wilson Schaef said that perfectionism is ‘self abuse of the highest order.’

A perfectionist is never happy with results. They are never happy about where they are.

To them, non-perfectionism is mediocrity; yet you can do things with excellence without being a perfectionist.

Stop worrying that you haven’t got everything perfectly lined up, but at the same time, don’t settle for second rate nor second best.

Understand that in an imperfect world, there will always be a problem to keep you just short of perfectionism.

Remember… when we do our best, God will do the rest.

Take to heart today this great Bible verse…

Matthew 5:48 ‘Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.’

The word ‘perfect’ means complete.

Be complete IN God.

Throw yourself into His arms and let Him take your worries, cares and concerns. Feel His complete love for you.

1 Peter 5:7 ‘Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.’

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.