Fresh Hope – 30th July 2016

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

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

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

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

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

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 29th July 2016

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

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

Leadership is spelt WORK.

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

Leadership is adding value.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 28th July 2016

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

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

He was a valiant soldier…BUT he had leprosy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘…I don’t listen to women.’

‘…who does she think she is?’

‘…what does she know?’

‘…you have no voice in my house.’

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

‘…I give out the orders around here.’

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

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

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

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

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

Listen to the words of the servant of God.

Follow instructions from a trusted man or woman of God.

Humble yourself and receive prayer.

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

Your miracle may be right on your doorstep.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 27th July 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Get wisdom.

Stop going it alone thinking that you know best.

Ask someone older and wiser for help.

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

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

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion fora better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 26th July 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 25th July 2016

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

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

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

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

But then he goes on to say:

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

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

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

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

Luke Cartwright

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 23rd July 2016

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

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

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

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

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 22nd July 2016

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

He was also well known for being a weapons manufacturer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dr Alfred Nobel eventually died in 1896.

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

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

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

What difference am I making in this generation?

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

Sobering thoughts?

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

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

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

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 21st July 2016

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

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

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

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

Melissa Reynolds-Lawrence

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 20th July 2016

I keep my sunglasses in the car.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a blessed day,

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – 19th July 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 18th July 2016

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

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

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

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

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 16th July 2016

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

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

A crisis is sometimes just what you need!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 15th July 2016

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

“Mark, ask me to use you,” He said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On that, I walked out and left for home.

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

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

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

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

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

Will you ask God to use you today?

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 14th July 2016

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

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

To him, that barrier was still there.

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

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

In reality, he could move a double decker bus.

Are you like that?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 13th July 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Luke Cartwright

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 12th July 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Melissa Reynolds-Lawrence

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 11th July 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 9th July 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – 8th July 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Luke Cartwright

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 7th July 2016

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

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

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

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

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

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 6th July 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I am found safe within Your love
— Hillsong Worship

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

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 5th July 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – 4th July 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 2nd July 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 1st July 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.