Fresh Hope – Day 347

I’m sure we’ve all taken part in a Christmas quiz or two, over the last few days…so while you’re in the mood…here’s a question.

What was the very first words that God spoke in the Bible?

Answer: Let there be light.

It’s one of the biggest clues to the fact that God doesn’t want you to be in the dark, in fact, there’s a little more to it than meets the eye too; the word translated light from the original text is the word ‘order’, and the word for dark came from the word meaning ‘chaos’.

Think about it for a moment…the first thing that God wanted for this world was to light it up, so that the chaos could be bought to order, in fact 740 years before Jesus came to Earth, we read these words…

Isaiah 9:2 ‘The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.’

Now skip to the New Testament and we find the fulfilment of that promise…

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’ John 8 v 12

Have you ever wondered why, when everything seems to be working in your life just fine, there’s still a longing for something more?

Have you ever wondered why in a very lit world, why you feel as if you’re lost?

Maybe you would describe your existence like this…everything is working, but there’s just one thing missing.

That one thing is what Jesus called the ‘light of life’. He said that if you find it you will never walk in darkness again. WOW!

That, my friend,is the greatest New Years gift that anyone could ever possibly give you- to step out of the dark and walk in the light from this moment forward.

I’m sure that we’ve all been in a power cut from time to time.

What’s the first thing that you reach for? A candle? A torch? The light from your phone? The truth is that everything comes to a standstill until the power comes back on. Whilst it’s off, your life is disorientated and even quite fearful, yet just one light can dispel the darkness.

Having the ‘light of life’ means that your life comes alive and you begin to see clearly where you’re going for the first time – your life comes alive.

My question to you on this New Year’s Eve is simply this…Have you got it? Have you found it? Or is life just one big puzzle?

When a popular town plans a date to have its Christmas lights switched on, it usually invites a celebrity to do so.

The greatest thing that you could do today is to invite the greatest person that ever walked the Earth to switch your light on, so that you will never walk in darkness again.

Invite Jesus to switch on the light in your life so that 2016 will become the greatest year ever.

Everything changes when the light goes on.

Everything makes sense.

Invite Jesus into your life right now. He’s just waiting for you to ask.

Happy new YOU.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 346

One of my childhood memories of the Christmas holidays was centred around the big cupboard in my sister’s bedroom.

The cupboard, known as the ‘big cupboard’, was built into the whole width of the far side of the room. It came up from the floor to about 3 feet in height and had two hinged lids that could be folded right back against the wall.

As the new toys for Christmas started to get put away, it was the job of the big cupboard to house them. We would spend hours pulling out old stuff from that cupboard, in order to make space for the incoming toys, cars, games and puzzles.

We rarely threw anything away as the old stuff seemed to have more of a magical attraction than the new, after it had spent a year or two hidden away from sight.

Many a Saturday throughout the year would be spent propping open the lid and digging deep to see what we could find that had long since been forgotten. Toys and games from many a Christmas past were often brought back to life and played with,just as if we’d never seen them before. If ever there was a childhood treasure chest then that simple cupboard would be one of them.

The big cupboard reminds be so much of the hidden treasures contained in the Bible; no matter how old they are, they are able to bring something fresh and alive to us, know matter how many times that we may have read them before.

I have personally read through the Bible many times over the last 30 years, but no matter when I read it, there is always something new to inspire, teach and transform me on any given day.

Sometimes it feels like that I have never read it before as its pages take a hold of me, just as if they were freshly written that day.

Digging deep into the Bible means that you have to set aside some time each day to uncover the hidden treasures that God has placed within its pages just for your own benefit and blessing.

I have acquired so many books over the years and I’ll often have about three on the go all at the same time and yet, when they are read they are read – I rarely read a book a second time.

The Bible is unique in that you can go back to it time and time again and discover pearls of wisdom and truth, and more importantly discover the living Jesus on every page.

Make a decision today to lift the lid on the Bible and find fresh hope, inspiration and wisdom on its pages – it’s God’s treasure chest to you every day.

Colossians 2:2-3 ‘My goal is…that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.’

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 345

What are you in the middle of?

Maybe a DIY project, perhaps halfway through a semester or college course, what about a journey to see family and friends, or even a pregnancy?

Be encouraged today that God wants to use you to do great things, even while you’re in the middle of the ordinary.

Luke 2 gives the account of the birth of Jesus and in verse 6 it begins,
‘While they were there…’

Joseph and Mary had made the journey to Bethlehem as they were required by law to register in their home town for the Census of the Roman Empire.

It was a legal requirement, something that everyone had to do – even though Mary was heavily pregnant.

I love how the Bible says ‘while they were there’, much like the words I hear when I pop to the shops and my wife says – “while you are there, can you get me something?”, or when I’m on my way to work…”on your way, can you pick something up for me?”

It’s almost a throw away comment in Vs6, ‘while they were there…’ but don’t forget the enormity of what was been required of them…give birth to a baby, but not just any baby – the one that will save people from their sins! Woow!

Today, whatever you maybe in the middle of, be open to God asking you, ‘while you are there…’

Never underestimate the power of your obedience to God’s call and know that God wants to use you each day, whatever you are doing.

Adam Nash

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 344

If your household or family is anything like mine, Christmas is a time of asking, ‘what would you like?’

Maybe like us, it’s when you sit down to write a letter to Santa with your children or when you are out shopping and you ask your wife, “is there anything you’d like for Christmas?”

Depending on the answers given, they’ll usually have an affect on the end result.

Parents, don’t you just love it when your children ask for something little and easy, but then quickly followed by biggest the request of the year…either way over budget or nowhere to be found? The highs and lows of #parentlife.

We love to give gifts that make people happy and there’s nothing more fulfilling for me than to see my family smiling because I got them what they wanted.

So, let’s be reminded today that our Heavenly Father, even more-so, longs to give us our heart’s desires and I love the assurance and power in this Bible verse:

“And we are confident that he hears us whenever we ask for anything that pleases him. And since we know he hears us when we make our requests, we also know that he will give us what we ask for.”
‭‭1 John‬ ‭5:14-15‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Today, remember these three things:

God hears our prayers – so talk to him regularly.
God answers our prayers – so have faith in him to give you what you need.
God loves us more than we could ever imagine – so He wants to answer our prayers, all we need to do is just keep talking with Him.

Adam Nash

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 343

It’s Boxing Day…and I trust you are enjoying your Christmas.

Here’s a quick little thought for you to go into your day with…

You’ll probably take time today to eat (even if it’s leftovers)…
You’ll maybe take time today to look at your gifts and decide where you may put them or whether you will actually wear that, or decide if you’re going to return one or two…
You’ll probably take time today to be with family or friends…
You’re most likely to watch a little TV, or play a game, or sleep on the sofa…
You may even text a few people to thank them for your gift and you’ll probably wish you hadn’t have eaten so much yesterday.

Make sure that today, whatever your circumstances and whatever you’re doing, that you take time to thank the one who made Christmas possible.

JESUS – take a little time for Him today.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 342

TODAY in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2 v 11)

Happy Christmas!

Take a moment to think and to thank today.

Think about the fact that no human birth could have born a saviour to us. That would be no different to you or I standing up today at the Christmas lunch table, stating that God had made us the saviour of the world. It is simply something we cannot do, as we too are in need of a saviour – a drowning man cannot save another drowning man.

God had a special plan. He would choose an ordinary woman and do something extraordinary through her.

The Virgin birth is central to the Christmas message, not because it makes a nice scene in a nativity play, but because it was the only way God could send His son into the world.

Jesus had to arrive a different way, a way in which He would not just be another human being unable to save anyone, but someone that bypassed the sinful bloodline that each one of us carries since the fall of mankind.

Jesus, born of a virgin, was not the product of an earthly father, but of God, His Heavenly Father.

…Luke 1:34-35 ‘How will this be,’ Mary asked the angel, ‘since I am a virgin?’ The angel answered, ‘The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.

Jesus was no ordinary man, prophet, god or a deluded person believing himself to be a saviour; He was born in such a way that excluded him from being born in sin, whilst at the same time including him in the human race in order to come down to our level.

You may well ask: how on earth could that ever happen?

That’s exactly the question that Mary asked…

‘How will this be,’ Mary asked the angel, ‘since I am a virgin?’ (Luke 1 v 34)

The answer came back…’for nothing is impossible with God’. (Luke 1 v 37)

As we think and thank on this Christmas Day, let’s never lose sight of the awe and wonder of the Virgin birth – it’s the only way our Saviour could have arrived.

…and remember, whatever impossibilities you may be facing today, with God, all things are possible

Have a wonderful ‘Saviours’ day.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 341

It’s Christmas Eve… Happy Christmas.
Today is the day we get ready for Christmas… the eve of something special.

It’s so easy to get caught up with everything else, that we can leave little room for Him.
Don’t be like the innkeeper; “no room”.
Make sure that you are getting ready for all that God wants to do in your life this season and make sure you leave space for Him.

Even at Christmas we can still have needs.
It’s possible that you are trusting God today with all of your heart for an answer to prayer.
It’s possible that you are believing Him for a miracle.

Well let me tell you this… your trust is in the right place.

Jesus is the King of Kings, the maker of the Universe and the Christ of Christmas, He can certainly answer your prayer!

So today, I would urge you to have a great expectancy, a great excitement about what God wants to do.

Keep trusting, keep believing and make sure CHRIST is the centre of all you do this Christmas.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 340

My grandson, Noah, came home a few weeks ago and told his Mom and Dad that he had been chosen to be the donkey in the Christmas nativity play!

After they privately smiled and wondered if this was a subliminal message from the teacher, Noah insisted that he had the main part in the play.

No matter how much they tried to gently reason with him that the donkey was not the main character in the nativity, he stood his ground and insisted it was the truth.

The day of the nativity finally arrived and as I sat on the front row as proud as punch, it quickly unfolded that yes, Noah was the donkey and he took the leading role.

He’d been telling the truth all along – it was just the adults that didn’t believe that a donkey could play such a part in anything!

It reminded me of the day that Jesus asked His disciples to go to a specific house, in a specific street in a specific village.

“You will find a donkey tied up outside the house”, He told them, “tell anyone that asks that the Lord has need of it”.

And just as had been said, sure enough, the donkey was there and they brought it to Jesus.

It was that very donkey that carried Jesus into Jerusalem where he was received by great crowds and noisy celebrations.

What a difference 24 hours made, in the life of that donkey.

You may feel today like the most unlikely person to ever be used by Jesus, the ‘bottom of the pile’ kind of person – stupid, with no great purpose.

It amazes me that Jesus uses everyone and everything that is willing to be untied and set free for His purpose.

Don’t be despondent today, just because you’ve been never been used by God yet, He’s merely waiting for the right moment, and when it comes you’ll be blown away at the plan that He has for your life.

Be still and wait.

Be willing to be set free.

Go where you are led.

Let Jesus use you.

Have a wonderful Christmas week.
Matthew 21:1-9 As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, ‘Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away.’ This took place to fulfil what was spoken through the prophet: ‘Say to Daughter Zion, “See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey,and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”’ The disciples went and did as Jesus had instructed them. They brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on. A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted,‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’‘Hosanna in the highest heaven!’

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 339

Never lose your wonder!

I’ll never forget the first time my daughter saw Santa Claus.

He was coming out of a small village church and she was in awe!

She was two years old as she ran to him shouting “Santa” with arms flung open she grabbed hold of his legs.

She’s now five and at Christmastime, she sees Santas everywhere and she doesn’t even bat an eyelid!

‘Familiarity breeds contempt’ can be a very true saying, but sometimes it should not be.

I have never liked the saying ‘you can tell a new Christian because of their passion.’

It’s as if there was a time when we were naïve enough to believe in the promises of God, but in the day-to-day of life, we have learned to tone it down.

Well this Christmas, let’s choose to tone it up!

Often we think ‘to wonder’ at something isn’t a choice but just a bi-product of a big event or encounter, almost just an involuntary action.

We have a choice right now to stop in all our festive preparations and consider what an amazing God we serve.

You can easily wonder on each of these thoughts from the Bible for hours!

– God had thoughts of you and chose you before he created the universe!
Ephesians 1:4

– God is familiar with all your ways, always thinking thoughts of you. He planned great things for you before you were born!
Psalm 139

– I’m sure you can imagine quite a lot, but, His power at work in you can do far more than you dare ask or imagine!
Ephesians 3:20

– God thinks the world of you, even counting the hairs on your head!
Luke 12.7

And my favourite!
– what God has prepared for you is so ‘other worldly’ so amazing that it says of all the billions of people who have ever lived or are alive today, no one has ever had a single thought in the right direction, even by accident, of just how great it is!
1 Corinthians 2:9

The bigger our picture and wonder of God the smaller our problems and less distracting they appear.

This Christmas, choose to wonder and increase in joy for all that Jesus has done in your life!

Luke Cartwright

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 338

I was reading recently what is recognised as one of the most well-known chapters in all the Bible and it’s found in Psalm 23. Here’s what it says in verses 1-4…

“The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

Now I’ve heard this collection of verses many times, but on this occasion, one particular part stood out to me that I’d previously overlooked. In verse 2 of Psalm 23 it says, ‘He (speaking of God) guides me along the right paths’… A very encouraging verse to say the least. However, in the following verse it says, ‘Even though I walk through the darkest valley…’ The not-so encouraging part of Psalm 23…

I was somewhat surprised to find these two verses side by side, because you would think that if God was guiding you along the right paths, then you would never encounter dark valleys, but only ever beautiful, green-grass, blue-sky type surroundings…

But what is being said here in Psalm 23 is that God always ensures that you are where you need to be, however that may not always lead you to be where you want to be. You see, the journey that you’re on will cause you to experience many different kinds of scenery, but whether you’re on a mountaintop today, or whether you’re walking through the darkest valley, you can be confident in knowing that God is guiding your steps and that His hand is upon your life.

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – Day 337

The other day (Monday) I talked about how we should be ready to welcome new seasons into our lives.

When God brings us into something new, we need to make sure that our heart and attitudes are right, so that we don’t miss it.

Here are 3 things to help you to be ready for that new season…

1. Have a faithful heart

When you are faithful in small things, God will entrust bigger things to you.
David in the Bible was doing ordinary small things, but he was doing them well, when God called him to be something greater.
He was just a shepherd boy, but a good one and God saw a King in Him.

Be faithful with what you are doing right now.

 
2. Have a willing heart.

When God called Esther to speak to the King and risk her life in doing so, she said she would, even if it meant her losing her life, because the outcome could mean that many would be saved because of her bravery.
And they were. She was ‘called for such a time as this’.

Be willing to do what God asks of you.

3. Have a worshipping heart.

The Bible tells us that David ‘was a man after God’s own heart’ . He was a worshipper. He delighted himself in God.

Be a worshipper, no matter what you’re going through.

Be  ready, be willing, be able.

Prayer – Dear Lord, whatever this new season holds, help me to be ready, help my heart and attitude to be right. Lord I am willing, please use me.

Now get ready for what God is going to do!

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 336

For years now we have paid a small insurance premium on our washing machine, mainly due to us being stung on numerous occasions when it broke down.

Paying to have it fixed became a financial burden at what always seemed to be the most inconvenient times in the year.

Four weeks ago, our washing machine, after serving us well for 10 years finally gave up the ghost, and an engineer came out to sign its death certificate.

“The insurance company will now pay out for you to have a new one”, he said.

“Great”, I said, not realising that that was to be the case.

After several long phone calls and days of humbly asking others to help with our washing, we eventually were told that we would now be getting the promised replacement and issued me with the model number.

Not wanting to sound ungrateful, whilst at the same time adding up how much we paid out in insurance for ten years, I flatly refused the offer, stating that I could buy the suggested washer from my local Argos, which meant it was just a bog standard machine.

“I’m not willing to accept it” I told them, which now meant I would have to wait another few days to re-negotiate and get them to agree.

Yesterday, after another 20 minute phone call, I was asked…”well want do you want?” I was bold enough to tell them that I wanted the best, one that will last and one that will do everything that I need it to do, after all, “we’ve paid enough insurance over the years to buy it twice over”, I said.

In two days time I, or should I say my wife, gets the washing machine that she wanted.

I didn’t demand something that I was not entitled to, I just refused something that I believed to be second or even third best, and politely, yet firmly, asked for what I believed was rightfully mine.

As I’m sure you know, this is not about washing machines, but a challenge to all of us who are willing to accept far less than God’s best for our lives.

How often do we bow to the first thing that comes our way, feeling that we should humbly accept it?

How many of us are living in the land of second best, simply because we couldn’t be bothered to push through to gain what was rightfully ours?

Anyone can settle for second rate living, but it takes a certain amount of boldness to push through to live in your promised land.

When Jesus spoke of prayer, He Illustrated it by saying that we should be bold enough to ask what we want and never give up.

I know that it sounds humble to accept anything and everything that comes your way, and to only ask for the minimum, but Jesus didn’t say that.

There are times in all of lives when we need to realign our thinking, our actions and our prayers with what Jesus said to do.

Be humbly bold enough today to ask for what’s rightfully yours.

Luke 18:1-8 Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’ “For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’” And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 335

If I asked you to sing a carol right now, I wonder which you’d choose?

It would probably be something pretty easy and well known like ‘Silent Night’ or ‘O Come All Ye Faithful.’

When you think about it, we have all grown up on carols, to the degree that they are instantly recognisable when we hear the first line.

Even though so old, they also have an emotional impact on us, and even inspire us to do our Christmas shopping, dare I say, as we trudge around the shopping mall.

There’s something almost magical and tingly about all those well-known ones but have you ever stopped to think about what some of the words mean?

What about carols like this one… ‘Good King Wenceslas looked out, on the feast of Stephen’…what on earth does that mean?

Or what about this line from ‘Hark the Herald’…

Late in time behold him come,
Offspring of the virgins womb
Veil’d in flesh, the Godhead see;
Hail, th’incarnate Deity:

I can guarantee that we’ve all sung that verse so many times without even releasing it – correct?

When was the last time you sang a carol and knew exactly what it meant?

Thankfully, there’s a new one just released and it captures beautifully the real message of hope that Jesus brings to all at this Christmas time and throughout every day of the year…

For the unclean, the unholy
For the broken, the unworthy
You came, Jesus you came

For the wounded, for the hurting
For the lost, and for the lonely
You came, Jesus you came

For the outcast, the defeated
For the weary, for the weakest
You came, Jesus you came

O come let us adore him
For He alone is worthy
Our King has come
O give Him all the glory
For He alone is worthy
Our King has come

I know this Christmas that it will certainly become a Number 1 hit at churches all over the world.

If you don’t have a church to attend, then may I take this opportunity to invite and welcome you to Champions:

Sunday 20th December – The Great Christmas Giveaway at both 9am and 11.30 am.

Christmas Eve at 7pm.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – Day 334

When the Angel delivered the message to Mary and Joseph, he told them that the name of their baby was to be Jesus.

There were no other names suitable for this special baby…he had to be named Jesus – why?

The name Jesus means ‘God saves’, and when the Angel announced the name, he also wanted everyone to be quite clear as to why…’for He will save His people from their sins’; but the message didn’t just stop there, as just a few verses later into the Christmas story, the Angel further announces that He will be called or known as Emmanuel.

Everyone of us is named one thing and called another from time to time, and Jesus was no exception; what He would be called and known for was more than just the name Jesus, as Emmanuel means ‘God with us’.

Can you imagine the breathtaking news that this day brought? Not only is the world getting a saviour, but this saviour was to be God in the flesh.

God so wanted to come down to our level that He came Himself in the form of Jesus. WOW!

Today, the same is still as true as it was then, in that every Christmas that comes and goes is yet again another reminder that God is with us.

Maybe you only ever think of God as out there somewhere, someone that exists, but cannot be personally known.

Jesus’s arrival changed all that in that He made it possible to be known, yes, personally known.

He actually invites you to come to Him and allow Him into your life.

The Inn keeper is one of the best known characters in the nativity play, as he was the fella that said ‘no room’.

Don’t be like him today as you get caught up in the busy-ness of Christmas, but be like the shepherds that put their own lives on hold just to come and see.

Take a look at Jesus this Christmas – after all, it’s His birthday that we are celebrating.

Maybe the last words of the old carol, ‘In The Bleak Mid Winter’ will help you in making that decision today…

What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give Him my heart.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 333

Today, we will form opinions of people.

Today, people will form opinions about us.

If we’re honest, we often don’t like the opinions people form about us, but in reality, those opinions are not without a reason.

Opinions aren’t random…if you don’t believe me, ask why you have formed an opinion of someone else?

Is it not based on what you have seen, perceived or heard about that very person?

Now admittedly, we can form wrong opinions of others because we judged them wrongly or decided to base an opinion on hearsay, a lie or mere gossip.

I wonder…can you change what people’s opinions of you are?

The answer is ‘yes.’

Take for instance, the opinion that you are stingy rather than generous.

How did people form that opinion?

The answer is simple…you are stingy!

In one sense, people’s thoughts about us don’t matter and yet they do, as their opinions are really a gauge to let you know how you come across to others.

Over the 30 plus years of our marriage, both Gillian and myself have at times said things to each other that we have later regretted.

One such conversation would go something like this…”When you said that you hurt me” to which the reply came back…”but I didn’t say it like you heard it”…to which the reply comes back…”I can’t help how I heard it, but you can help how you said it!”

As painful as those conversations are, there is a great truth contained in them – you can’t help how you hear things, but you can help how you say things.

If people have formed a wrong opinion of you, don’t be too harsh with them, as they have based it on what they saw, heard and perceived about you.

Take a moment today to listen to yourself in an unguarded moment – you may be surprised to find that you don’t like how you come across either.

Always be humble enough to admit that you got it wrong and be willing to change; you may be the last person to see the change, but others will soon spot it and be happy to review their opinions of you.

This Christmas time, ask yourself, what would you like to be known for and then give yourself a personality makeover…and if you think you’re perfect, ask a close friend to tell you the truth.

Proverbs 27:6 Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 332

I once had a dream that  I slept through the entire Christmas period!
I missed everything…the gifts, the family, the food, the fun, the rest, the laughter, the love, the Christmas PJs.
That was a BAD dream…to miss an entire season that you love.

Some of you may absolutely love the summer. Imagine going to sleep when the daffodils are up and waking up when the leaves are falling off the trees, you’ve missed an entire season.

How sad this would be, as each season brings with it, its beauty and enjoyment, as well as its hard times.

Sometimes, we can miss the very season that God has for us, because our heart is not in tune with His.
He may have something wonderful prepared for us, but because our hearts are hard, or we may have let bitterness creep in, or we don’t see anything good, it’s possible that we can miss an entire season.

I often come across people who are so ‘tied’ to old seasons, the way it’s always been done and the way we always used to do it, that they miss the adventure of an exciting new season.

God is not boring, He doesn’t do repeats. What He does do, is fresh and exciting and current.

Make sure that your heart is right, make sure that your attitude is right, make sure that your spirit is ready for all that God has for you in this new season.
Don’t be tied to the past, the past has gone.

Embrace it, welcome it, look forward to it and don’t sleep through it.

Remember this, that in your new season, “His mercies are new every day” (Lamentations 3:22-23) and He will walk through it with you.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 331

Last week, we looked at giants in our lives and how if we’re not careful they can try to defeat us…yet God has given us everything we need to defeat them.

Think of David and Goliath.
Small boy, big problem – yet with God, all things are possible.

Here are 4 ways to identify a ‘giant’ in your life.

1. It will be big
In 1 Samuel 17, it tells us that Goliath was huge and his armour weighed 9 stone alone.
Giants will always be ‘big’ things in your life (that’s why they are called giants).

2. It will taunt you
It will plague you. It will whisper in your ear and make you feel useless, like giving up, tell you that you can’t cope, that it’s not worth it.

3. It will bring you fear
Your giant may not be the physical size of Goliath, but it will scare you. Giants can overwhelm us with fear. Fear that you’re not going to get any better, that it’s never going to be any different.
STOP – God is not the author of fear.

4. It will be consistent
We read that Goliath was there everyday.
Giants are there when you wake, and they’re there when your head hits the pillow.

Don’t be scared by those four things. David wasn’t.

He faced it.
Whatever is in your life right now that is holding you back and stopping you from moving forward, deal with it. Call on God.
He is only a prayer away.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 330

We all have a story. The fact that you are sitting and reading this means that you have experiences completely unique to you.

It is human nature to want to present the best sides of ourselves. It can be tempting to hide our struggles because we want to be perceived in a particular way.

A challenge for all of us today is to be our authentic selves, flaws and all. The Bible says that where we are weak, God is our strength. Your struggles could encourage someone else today.

That redundancy that you overcame? It may push someone experiencing unemployment to their breakthrough.

Those children that you prayed so hard for? They may just show other couples God’s faithfulness.

Your past mistakes and how God changed your life may show someone the way out of their sin.

You never know whose faith can be lifted by your story. The greats that we read about in the Bible faced major struggles and made huge mistakes – God still uses their stories to encourage us today, on our own journey.

‭‭‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭12:9‬ ‭NIV‬‬ ‘But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”’

‬‬Never be ashamed of your testimony. God can use it in the most amazing ways. Nothing is wasted.

Melissa Reynolds-Lawrence

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 329

The postage stamp seems to be almost a thing of the past, but there’s still nothing quite like receiving a Christmas card that has a specially designed Christmas stamp stuck to its top right hand corner.

Since 1966, over 17 billion Christmas stamps have been sold.

The value of a stamp seems quite insignificant in monetary value and even more so in its size, weight and consistency, yet without it your parcels, letters and cards wouldn’t get very far.

Its value, therefore is in its ability to stick to things for the duration of its journey; once your item has arrived then the humble stamp has done its job.

To many people, God has no relevance and yet, He is the most reliable being in the universe; He is not only willing to love you unconditionally, but He is willing to stick with you and never let you go.

No matter what journey you’re on today and no matter how long and difficult it may be, you can rest assured that God will stick to you, so that you will make it right to the end.

His promise throughout the Bible is that He will ‘never leave you or forsake you’, but it doesn’t get much better than the promise below…

Jude 1:24-25 To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.

What an amazing promise to see you through this life and into His presence in the next…

– He will keep you from falling…
– He will present you without fault before God,
– He will present you to God with great joy.

All this is an amazing promise, if you hand your life over to Jesus and allow Him to deliver you safely through life and all its circumstances.

Feel like you’re travelling through life alone?

Jesus will stick closer than any friend…trust Him today.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 328

My metabolism doesn’t like me!

I have been on a diet since I was a teenager.

This has led me to adopting a lifestyle of running twice a week and using hand weights; all this combined with watching what I eat works for me.

I know this will sound obvious, but the reason I put time aside to run 3 miles twice a week is because in my natural everyday life (working behind a desk), I never spontaneously stop what I’m doing and run 3 miles.

My job doesn’t call for me to do that.

In the same way, there is nothing in my normal life activities that causes me to lift 8kg weights.

I purposefully make space in the week to do unnatural activities (as opposed to naturally occurring) that aren’t crucial for my survival, but beneficial for my existence.

As in the natural, so in the spiritual…

There is nothing in our normal day-to-day life that enriches and feeds us spiritually!

If there was, then we would all be Arnold Schwarzenegger’s in the faith, merely by our default lives.

I am far from perfect, but I know that I am better for, and enjoy more successes by, being disciplined by making space to feed my spiritual life.

From a ‘quiet time’ in the morning, to being part of a Life group, to being part of a healthy and growing Church, there are many ways that we can create opportunities to feed a side of our lives that won’t get built up by the natural course of events.

Today, you have made a great choice to put time aside to read ‘Fresh Hope’.

If you’re like me and struggle in life, it means you’re normal; if you’re normal it means you can grow stronger by learning to make space in your busy schedules to help build a wonderful relationship with Jesus.

Hebrew 10:24-25 ‘And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.’

Luke Cartwright

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 327

Famous failures…

Albert Einstein wasn’t able to speak until he was almost 4 years old and his teachers said he would “never amount to much”.

Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team, after which he went home, locked himself in his room and cried.

Walt Disney was fired from working on a newspaper for ‘lacking imagination’ and ‘having no original ideas’.

Oprah Winfrey was demoted from her job as a news anchor because she wasn’t fit for TV.

The Beatles were rejected by Decca Recording Studios, who said “we don’t like their sound – they have no future in show business”.

Steve Jobs, at age 30 was left devastated and depressed after being unceremoniously removed from the company he started.

How many times do we convince ourselves that we are failures based on what others have said about us? Don’t treat other people’s words as a prophecy over your life.

What God says about you and your future is the most important voice that you’ll ever hear.

When God called Gideon in the Bible, He referred to him as a ‘mighty warrior’.

Gideon was shocked by the title that God had given him, explaining that He must have the wrong fella, as his family was the least in their clan and that he himself was the least in his family. Nevertheless, God saw something in him that others could never see.

Always remember that when God calls you, He doesn’t do so in reference to your past but in recognition of your future.

No matter what has been said over your life up until now, make a decision to listen to God’s verdict today…you’re a winner.

Judges 6:12-16 When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.” “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.” The Lord turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?” “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.” The Lord answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive.”

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 326

As we approach Christmas, the yearly conversation has begun with my wife of how much we agree to spend on each other.

Under no circumstances do we go over this fixed ‘set in stone’ figure as it would render it a pointless spending-cap exercise; I then ignore the agreement, spend too much and so prove it to have been a pointless exercise.

We will go through the same ritual next year!

Often, we live our lives in this conditional, tit for tat, ‘you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours’ mentality.

It makes sense…it’s fair and we want to be done to as we do to others.

When we first become a Christian, we are overwhelmed at not getting our just desserts!

Unfortunately, in our day-to-day lives, it’s very easy to lose sight of this and go back, as my wife and I do every year, trying to make it a fair exchange.

What do I need to do now the honeymoon period is over to earn God’s goodness in my life?

Let’s take a minute today to stop and remind ourselves of this amazing verse:

Romans 3.23-24 ‘All of us have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. But God treats us much better than we deserve, and because of Christ Jesus, he freely accepts us and sets us free from our sins.’

You may have been a Christian for many years and feel you should be better than you are; you will never be good enough to deserve what He freely gives us, so stop with the feelings.

Romans 8.1 ‘Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus!’

He has already dealt with tomorrow’s failings, before we have even done them.

Now that’s not fair, it’s not tit for tat and we do not deserve it!

There is a famous analogy a well-known Theologian uses of Christians trying to earn God’s approval, he says it’s as if we are trying to get into a room which we are already in!

It’s too good to be true, and yet it is true!

We need to begin every day just being grateful for what He has done for us and live in the freedom He has given us to spread the good news to others.

This Christmas, let’s not waste emotion on the guilt of not being good enough, you are good enough because of what Jesus has done!

Remember, you are in the room. Enjoy it!

Luke Cartwright

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 325

If you raid the fridge at midnight once or twice, it’s probably quite acceptable. But when that becomes a habit and something you have to do, then you’ve probably got a problem.

Most ‘giants’ in our lives don’t start off as giants, they grow into them.

A small white lie here, a small one there and before long, you never really tell the truth at all.

Goliath in the Bible, wasn’t born a giant (thankfully, for all Moms out there), he grew into one.

Whatever your giant, if you don’t face it, you’ll never conquer it and if you don’t face it when it’s small, it will become a giant that’s harder to deal with.
A giant can come in many forms
– an eating problem
– depression
– a wrong relationship
– debt (you weren’t always in debt)
– sin
– bad habits
– addictions
– worry
– fear
– people

The list is endless…

In 1 Samuel, we read how little David conquered giant Goliath. If he can do it, so can you and I.

Don’t let little problems become massive giants in your life. Identify them now and ‘nip them in the bud.’
And if your giant, is already massive, like Goliath…do a ‘David’ on it and call on God’s help.
Because with God, all things are possible.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 324

Under coach John Wooden, the UCLA basketball team won the US national championship for seven straight years.

At the start of each season, he would sit his team down in their locker room and, for a long time – a very long time – they would learn how to put on their socks:

…”Check the heel area. We don’t want any signs of a wrinkle about it…the wrinkle will be sure you get blisters, and those blisters are going to make you lose playing time…”

The lesson wasn’t really about blisters or playing time, it was about doing the basics right, taking care of the details, looking after yourself correctly and being humble enough to sort the small stuff.

‘Winning takes talent,’ John Wooden would say. ‘To repeat it takes character.’

So often, we overlook the small details that really matter.

As I write, we are just embarking on the mammoth task of running our Christmas village that attracts around 2000 people each Christmas.

Hours of planning and hard work have already gone into this two day event that is on again tonight.

To the average person coming through the gates, the village will appear to have just magically landed on the one acre site of our church car park, but I know different.

The smallest of details have all had to be worked on, so that the magic and sparkle of the village will be evident to all…especially the children.

Seemingly inconsequential stuff, if overlooked, will be a ‘wrinkle’ that will end up giving us ‘blisters, when the crowds roll in.

To me, the smallest details, even in how the bow is tied on the base of the huge Christmas tree is important.

Life itself is made of many small details that many of us overlook, failing to realise the importance of doing little things really well.

If you only ever look to make a huge impact ,with your life, then I encourage you to work on the small details first; from there on in, you will build a reputation that will take you far beyond your wildest dreams.

Luke 16:10-12 “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?

…and by the way, if you haven’t experienced ‘Champions Christmas Village’, it’s not too late…gates open again tonight (Friday 4th Dec) 6-9.30pm. I would love to meet you there!

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 323

There are two types of people when it comes to opening a box containing a new gadget, device, appliance or piece of flat pack furniture.

There’s firstly the type that just rips off all the packaging and totally ignores the instruction to ‘read this carefully before doing anything’.

There’s no time to waste reading through a manual, when all you want is to see the product up and running. It’s so much quicker getting on with the job rather than wasting precious time deciphering all that information for dummies.

The second type of person is the one that carefully opens the box, lays everything neatly out and then makes a cup of tea. Whilst drinking the tea, they then sit back and read from cover to cover the instructions in order to fully understand what to do, what goes where and which way round it all goes.

We all know of course that the latter takes so much more time…but does it?

I have to admit that I’m in the first group, and I only look at the instructions after I’ve got five pieces still left from completing an IKea wardrobe.

I suppose I apply a simple principle that says: if I get it wrong, I’ll then read the instructions.

Over the years, I’ve come to understand that the words of the old proverb are really true…’More haste, less speed.’

In fact, the reality is that the slow starters in group two are going to not only finish quicker in the long run, but what they have established is going to last longer too.

Often, we just want to assemble our lives according to the law of ME. We want to see things quickly happen, so there’s no time to get wisdom or advice; but in the long run, what seems to be a head start, actually ends up as a false start.

Whether it’s a new phone, washing machine, car or wardrobe, the principle is still the same…’for best results follow the maker’s instructions’.

How much more should we apply that basic principle to life itself?

The maker’s instructions come in the form of the Bible, and then of course by listening to the still small voice of the Holy Spirit Himself.

Don’t rush ahead today, giving no thought, time or importance to God’s instructions for your best life, instead put the kettle on each morning, sit back and take in what He wants to say to you.

Read the Bible and pray every day.

You’ll find that instead of getting behind everyone else, you’ll actually get ahead and into the bargain will build something that will last.

Matthew 7:24-27 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”

BIBLE – Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 322

So, we know that over the last few days, the story of Ruth teaches us that difficulties do not necessarily mean that God has left you, and that if you remain faithful to Him, He will reveal His perfect plan for your life.

Naomi, her mother-in-law, urged Ruth to stay in her own land, but Ruth followed God’s plan for her own life by going into a new future with Naomi.

Sometimes God wants us to go into the unknown, and trusting Him is always the best option.

Sometimes your very own family may try to keep you out of God’s will, sometimes by good intentions and sometimes by bad.

You often have to shut out the noise of the crowd, even though it may be loud and go with what you believe God is telling you to do.

Make that decision to just ‘go for it.’
You have to believe that your destiny is out there and just be determined to give yourself to getting it.

The Bible says we should ‘set our faces like flint’…which means that we have to be single-minded in going for what God has for us.

You have a purpose – set about making it happen today.

Don’t delay.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – Day 321

Yesterday we talked about Ruth from the Bible and how that when everything seems to go wrong, God can still have an awesome plan for your life.

Naomi was her mother-in-law and Ruth remained faithful to her and went with her, even when it would’ve been easier to stay in her own land.

She may even have said, “I wish I hadn’t have got mixed up with you lot in the first place, I wouldn’t be where I am now, I wouldn’t be suffering or even a widow.”

What do you say when the heat is on?
What do you think when things get tough?
What is your attitude like, when the rubber hits the road?

Ruth remained faithful…
And what unfolded was one of the most beautiful stories ever heard.

More tomorrow.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.