Fresh Hope – 31st December 2016

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 were 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 2017 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 – 30th December 2016

Several years ago, I played for a local football team. We weren’t the best. To us, a draw was a win. In the few years that I had been a part of this team, I had played in almost every position, but for the most part, I was the goalkeeper.

I remember one particular game quite well, I was playing in goal and we lost 6-0. At the end of the game, I was ready to go home and eat lunch, feeling pretty down about our defeat, but not really surprised as we were used to this kind of loss. As our team came together following the final whistle, the referee walked over to us and announced to everyone that I had been awarded man of the match.

Now, I was as shocked as everyone else at that point. How could this be? I had conceded 6 goals. The reason given was that the scoreline could’ve been much worse had I not have been in goal. Suddenly, I felt somewhat better than I did moments ago.

When reminiscing about this occasion just a few days ago with a friend, I started to see that this story paints a picture for us of what it’s like to do life with Jesus. Because you see, Jesus has an amazing way of taking the negatives and turning them into positives. He takes the bad stuff, and through it, reveals the good stuff.

In Romans 8:28 it says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

This is good news for you and I today, because it means that although circumstances and situations in our lives aren’t always good, if you place Jesus at the centre, He will work them together for good.

You can live with peace, knowing that everything that God does is good, but most importantly, God IS good. ‘Good’ is not just what He does, but good is who He is… Be encouraged with that thought today.

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 29th December 2016

There are some things in life that we don’t realise are important, until they’re not there anymore.
Take labels and signs for instance. They are everywhere in our day to day lives; on doors, the pumps at the petrol station, our food and drink, our luggage in the airport…the list goes on and on.

Now imagine that someone has come along and removed them all. We would make all kinds of mistakes, it would cause mass confusion and it would take a lot longer to get anything done.

Many of us wear labels and they affect us in many ways; they influence the decisions that we make, the dreams that we pursue (or don’t pursue). Some labels are put on us as children – we inherit them. Or maybe you’re labelled ‘poor’ or ‘broken’, through circumstances. The list is endless; we all deal with them at some point.

We are surrounded by people in society who feel like failures because they didn’t meet an expectation that was put on them. Maybe that person is you.

How do we become free of all of this? By looking at what our Creator calls us. The labels that God puts on us include ‘free’, ‘redeemed’, ‘healed’, ‘accepted’…and most importantly ‘loved’.

These are labels that we can wear and not be ashamed of. He gave us amazing purpose and we should share that. He loved us so much that He gave His everything (Jesus) to show it.

Hebrews 12 tells us to ‘throw off everything that hinders.’ Sometimes that can be our circumstances, other times it’s a mindset and the things that we have said about ourselves for so long that were never even true.

We are always on God’s mind. Be encouraged today. Be unstoppable.

Melissa Reynolds-Lawrence

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 28th December 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

F – Focus on the positive in your life right now

A – Affirm yourself and encourage yourself

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

T – Trust God for everything… He is for me

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

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 27th December 2016

When Rudy Giuliani took office as the mayor of New York City in the 90’s, the crime rate was at an all time high.

He decided to implement a strategy that would set about repairing every broken window in the city within 24 hours of its breakage, sending a message of response, order and law enforcement to the community.

The plan worked better than anticipated.

The average person’s perception of the local law was enhanced greatly because the results were visible in their everyday lives, and the criminals noticed too.

Not only did the overall crime rate drop by 57%, more violent crimes were reduced by 65% as well.

The city once infamous for its dangerous streets, was now being recognised as the safest, large city in America for several years in a row.

How on earth did this happen by just repairing broken windows?

The answer was simple: by taking care of the small things, the bigger issues got dealt with as well.

It’s very easy to put off doing the small stuff, in favour of dealing with the bigger issues in our lives.

Maybe we’ve put off making that one phone call to apologise, not realising that a whole host of other bigger issues would be solved if we did.

A dripping tap may seem insignificant, but failure to repair could lead to a later flood and far greater time and expense.

My Nan used to say this, ‘take care of the pennies and the pounds will take care of themselves.’

Solomon in his wisdom put it like this…‘it’s the little foxes that spoil the vine.’

Today, set about taking care of some of those nagging, little issues that you’ve failed to realise are having a much bigger impact on your world than you thought.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 26th December 2016

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 – 25th December 2016

Special Christmas greetings to all of our 2,500 Champions app family today.

Praying that God will fill you with His peace, presence and joy during this celebration of the birth of our Saviour, JESUS.

Luke 2:10-11 ‘…Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; He is Christ, the Lord.’

With much love,

Pastor Mark

Fresh Hope – 24th December 2016

I was travelling with my friend the other day who has three very small children.
We asked her how they were. What she said was very beautiful and very profound – she said that her three year old was at a stage where “Prayer solved everything.”
Maybe if his finger was hurting…prayer solved everything.
If he was hungry…prayer solved everything.
If his older brother was being mean to him…prayer solved everything.

We can learn a lot from children, because indeed ‘Prayer does solve everything.’

It’s Christmas Eve today. Remember this: whatever sort of Christmas you are facing…good or bad, remember to pray.

Remember not to carry your worry and concerns yourself, but bring them to Jesus.
Bring your thanks and appreciation and count your blessings today.

Prayer solves everything. When you pray, God listens and brings you His wonderful peace.

Have a happy and joyful Christmas and remember Jesus – He’s the reason for the season.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 23rd December 2016

Over the past few weeks and months, one of the things that I’m sure will have been at the forefront of your minds is buying gifts for your friends and family.

As a result, you most likely haven’t had time to think about buying for yourself, so I wanted to take this opportunity to inform you of one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself during this season…

A desire to grow.

As we look back over the past year, one of the things that I want to be able to say about myself is that I’m not the same person I was 12 months ago.

Maybe you look at your life and don’t see a great deal of change from this time last year. If that’s the case, today’s a fresh start…

Don’t allow yourself to be in this same position again next year, but instead, begin to stir within yourself daily a desire to grow and give yourself continual permission to change.

God has an amazing plan for your life, and it requires for you to keep moving forward. God doesn’t just see you where you are, but where you could be. He doesn’t just see you for who you are, but for who you could be.

Don’t stand still, but desire growth and pursue change. Your future self will thank you for it.

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 22nd December 2016

My parents still live in the same house that I grew up in alongside my older brother and younger sister.

The house was, and of course still is, about a 20 minute walk from the town centre of Dudley.

In the run up to Christmas, when I was around 12, I spotted a remote control racing car in the window of my favourite toy shop in the town, and insisted and persisted that if I had but this one thing I’d never ever want anything else again. Sound familiar?

Well, once again my parents pulled it off, and there on Christmas morning was my bright red racing car waiting in the lounge where all presents had to be displayed. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on my dream gift and after opening everything else, I got to race my car.

I was surprised that it didn’t go faster or turn as sharply as I’d imagined, but then came the biggest let down of all…the four huge batteries that were in it, died within half an hour of use, putting a very abrupt end to my Christmas day dream.

Battery after battery was begged and borrowed from everything else we owned, but then a week later the car itself stopped working. The forward and reverse gears had shredded inside and put a further end to my Christmas holiday dream. A few days later, I walked with the huge box to the toy shop as soon as they reopened after Christmas and promptly was given a new one in return. I made that journey to my knowledge four times to get further replacements before giving up on it once and for all. My belief that this was the one thing that was going to change my life was now a distant memory. I was now looking ahead to the next thing that would satisfy my childhood longings.

Throughout our lives we each look to various things that we believe will satisfy the deepest longings of our hearts, only to find out as I did as a boy, that nothing satisfies more than for a brief moment.

Several years ago I was given a very expensive brand new car, a real one this time, straight from a dealership showroom, and once again that old belief system kicked in, telling me that this would be the only car that I would ever need to satisfy me, but of course, even though more than 40 years had passed since my toy car had been received, it was just the same lie – it could never quench my thirst for satisfaction.

More than ever today I realise that Jesus is the only one that can fulfil your life and meet the deepest longings of your soul. More than 35 years later, after giving my life to Christ, I can safely say that His presence has never diminished and His faithfulness has never wavered. Instead of Jesus ‘wearing off’, He just keeps coming on stronger as each new day that unfolds.

He is the only gift this Christmastime that can truly bring you lasting satisfaction.

Don’t believe the lie that this year’s Christmas present is going to change everything, or that next year’s holiday, new house or relationship is going to bring eternal satisfaction…it wont. Instead, look to the one who alone can bring peace, joy and fulfilment.

If you are not part of a great church that worships and preaches Jesus then may I take this opportunity of inviting you to our Christmas Eve service for all the family at Champions Church, Netherton – 7pm?

I’d love to personally meet you there.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 21st December 2016

Are you jealous or envious of someone else’s life this Christmastime?

As you look into their world to see their happy, problem free life, and get star struck with their amazing family, gathering together on Christmas day, remember things that appear to be perfect rarely are. What you are looking at is not perfection nor is it a problem free life, but maybe what you are staring at is the blessing that comes from God upon their lives.

God’s blessing can never be earned or worked for, but can only ever be received by faith.

If there’s someone you envy, don’t try to live their life as you wouldn’t be happy – it’s theirs and not yours, instead look to the God that they serve, as ultimately it is God that has blessed them in this way. That very same blessing can be yours today.

Think of the shepherds in the Christmas story; Humble, lowly and underpaid. At the time they were the lowest of the low, doing such menial tasks that few ever wanted to do what they did. There was no long queue in the job centre of the day for tending sheep.

Yet, God chose to first reveal Jesus to them in the middle of the night. Why you may ask? Was it not because they were the only ones awake on that first Christmas night. Jesus came as the light of the world, and so that his arrival could be seen, God chose to reveal Him where He would shine brightest.

When you think about it naturally speaking, you would imagine that God would have revealed Himself to kings in palaces or religious people in Churches, but not so, He chose to make Himself known to the humble and lowly of heart.

Instead of looking at other people’s lives and families this years, ask yourself ‘what do they have that I don’t have?’ It’s not because they’ve deserved it but because they’ve been humble enough to receive it.

God sent His Son into this world that that you too can receive him and become a child of God right now.

It may feel like the darkest moment of your life right now, but remember God shows up best in dark places.

He’s holding out the free gift of life to you and just like with any other gift you have to reach and receive it with the words ‘thank you’.
The moment you do that you will instantly start to see for yourself God’s blessings upon your life.

John 1:9-13 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognise him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 20th December 2016

My Mother-in-law is a greetings card fanatic.

She just loves sending cards to people, and many would say that it is a gift that she has. She always has something meaningful to write in a card and seems to know just when to send it in order to lift a friend or even someone that she doesn’t really know in their moment of need.

No matter where we go, Gillian has to look for cards of all shapes and sizes for her Mom, but they have to be of a certain standard otherwise they get rejected. Cheap and cheerful will never do.

Not only does she love sending cards, but she’s passionate about receiving them too – in fact she has a system whereby she records every Christmas card that she sends out and then checks in every card that comes back.

Christmas isn’t Christmas for her until all cards have arrived and been crossed off her list, and woe betide anyone that sends a card late or forgets altogether.

The idea of sending presents and cards to only those that reciprocate is a practice that we’d prefer not to admit to, but in reality we know that’s what happens most of the time. How many times have we been dropped off someone’s ‘list’ only to find ourselves doing the very same to them the following year?

In this season of giving and receiving, wouldn’t it be wonderful if we each looked to do something for someone else knowing full well that we wouldn’t receive anything in return?

Random acts of kindness are rare today, but what if we turned the tide on our selfish world and made a difference to just one person’s life by surprising them with a card or gift this week.

The greatest demonstration of giving in this manner originated at that very first Christmas time, when God sent His son Jesus, knowing that He could never be repaid and that many would even reject His offer of the free gift of life.

Let’s each lift our eyes off ourselves today and look for someone to bless and encourage – you may just change their life forever…and ultimately God will bless you back in return.

Luke 6:32-36 ‘If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 19th December 2016

I recently began to look over the birth of Jesus found in the book of Luke. This of course was a major event – one of which we still celebrate thousands of years later.

Upon Jesus being born, you would think that God would choose to break the news to Kings & Queens, people of great wealth and influence. After all, the Saviour of the world has just been born.

However, God chooses to announce the birth of His Son, Jesus to shepherds in a field…

This left me bewildered as to why the greatest event in history would be disclosed to sheep watchers who carried no influence and had very little ability to spread the word.

Until I realised that the Bible informs us that these shepherds had set night watches over their sheep. In other words, they were the only people awake whilst everyone else was asleep.

God didn’t choose to announce the news of Jesus’ birth to the elite, He chose to announce it to the available.

God isn’t looking for perfect people, He’s not looking for strong people, because they don’t exist – He’s looking for people who are simply available.

God wants to reveal Himself to you this Christmas time.
If you would stay alert to the fact that He is closer than you think, and realise that He wants to make Himself known to you, then watch what He will do in and through your life.

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 17th December 2016

There’s a few very special verses in Luke chapter 1 that I love…’When Mary went to see Elizabeth, the baby inside her womb leapt for Joy, she was filled with the Holy Spirit and sang exuberantly.’

These few verses show how powerful the presence of Jesus was even in the womb. It caused Elizabeth to react in such a way.

When you meet someone who carries the presence of Jesus, it’s a wonderful thing – it can have a great impact on your life.

Think also about your own relationship with God. When you have been in His presence, you will carry that very same with you.

When you walk into a room, spend time with people, they should notice something different about you.

You should be a carrier of the presence of God wherever you go today. Make a difference to every dark place where your feet have to tread, every difficult situation that you have to walk into and every home you visit.

I’ve loved being in the presence of some great people of God. I’ve walked away better than when I walked in.
Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and sang exuberantly after meeting Mary who was carrying Jesus.

Lord I pray that your presence in me will be so strong, that everyone I meet today will be impacted by You.

Happy Saturday.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 16th December 2016

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

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

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

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

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

If you know you need to go to a new level in your speech, here are 3 simple thoughts to help you.

1. Think first – Before you speak, pause for 10 seconds and mentally preview your words. Are they accurate or exaggerated?
Kind or cutting? Needless or necessary? Grateful or complaining? Remember, what you don’t say you’ll never have to explain.

2. Talk less – Ecclesiastes 5v3 ” Many words mark the speech of a fool.”

Which basically means…put a sock in it.

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

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

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

Make a decision from this point forward to only ever use words that will bless and build up others. You’ll be amazed at how your life will change and at the same time others will be amazed too.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 15th December 2016

December is no respecter of persons!

As you watch people preparing for this happy season, you may well be faced with a personal crisis that makes you feel anything but in the mood for celebrations.

Pain and problems don’t stay away just because it’s Christmas. However, the presence of a storm in your life does not indicate the absence of God.

Storms are a part of life.

You may have been on a flight and encountered some pretty strong turbulence along the way. The pilot just takes it all in his stride –  for him it was just a normal day at the office.

It is possible today that you are a person that wants to know where God has gone during your storm, however your turbulent day has little to do with the absence of God.

Someone once said…’If God seems far away, guess who moved?’

Your storm may well even be your own doing.

You may have ignored some simple advice and have gone head long into a ferocious thunder cloud. Your storm was not the absence of God, but the absence of wisdom.

Here’s what we should consider when going through stormy and troubled times…

God is not repelled by trouble; He is actually attracted to it.

Psalm 46:1 NIV
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.

When Jesus told his disciples to get into a boat and cross the lake one day, He didn’t warn them that they would run into a storm that would completely scare the wits out of them, instead He met them IN the storm and said ‘cheer up, it’s me….don’t be afraid’.

Jesus doesn’t always favour leading you around a storm, as He knows that that won’t help strengthen your faith, but He does always hold your hand as He takes you through the storm.

He didn’t lift the disciples’ boat out of the water, but instead He lifted the disciples by turning up at the most crucial time.

No matter what you’re going through this Christmas time, hold onto to Jesus…He’ll never let you go.

Psalm 46:1-3 God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.

V10 He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God…’
Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 14th December 2016

The old chapel that my parents attended from childhood was also the spiritual home to several previous generations of my family, dating back to the early 1800’s.

I was also taken there as a baby, and growing up never realised that I would one day be invited to take on the leadership of that little church; There had been no full time leader for 55 years when I became the Pastor on the Easter weekend of 1989.

I preached my first sermon there, was baptised there, our children were all dedicated there and not least of all, I saw the power of God move there as lives were changed week by week.

That old damp building now holds so many memories for so many people, but now it’s time to say goodbye. After 206 years of faithfully standing as a place of worship, it has finally been sold and its days of being a church are no more.

Sentiments are a powerful thing in many people’s minds. They provide for us strong feelings about the good old days gone by, but sentiment alone will never help us build for the future, in fact, to get so attached to a building or a certain way of doing things has been proven to keep us from achieving all that lies ahead.

I’m sure many people, when they drive by and see the building being turned into apartments, will shed a tear or two, but we must never allow a love affair with the past to stop us from doing what is right for the generations to come.

Allowing the building to be sold off could even seem cold and callous to some, but those that believe in the future will totally appreciate that its sale is a means of providing towards all that God wants to do with the new children’s wing of Champions today.

Maybe today you have an ‘old chapel’ in your life that you feel afraid to let go of? Sentiment has kept you stuck back in the past, simply because you feel afraid of offending the very attachments that have brought you to this point. Sentimental attachments are simply warm feelings that we have towards a person, place or an era, but in reality have no power to change what lies ahead.

I encourage you today to be bold enough to break with sentiment and let vision and passion lead the way.

Isaiah 43:18-19 ‘Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 13th December 2016

Be careful not to mistake the life you may have with the life you could have, if only you would meet Jesus.

The whole point of the Christmas story is that Jesus came to bring us life with a capital ‘L’.

I was enjoying a meal out recently, with a group of marrieds from our church. The deal was, come to have your marriage enriched and at the same time have a speciality burger and dessert. As the main course ended and the dessert came, I was busy chatting away to a couple sitting next to me and didn’t realise that the ice cream that was accompanying my treacle tart was in exactly the same looking small white dish that the mayonnaise had come in with the burgers. I was so engrossed in conversation that I mistook the icecream for the mayonnaise and gulped one enormous spoonful right down. The look on my face must have been a picture, but it had to go down! I didn’t want to let on what had just happened, so I just kept smiling.

Life comes to us in various packages and often from the outside, they look quite the same.

On the outside, my life can look pretty much like my next door neighbour’s but that’s where it ends as on the inside of both of us something very different is going on.

You can wear the same trendy and fashionable clothes as the next person standing in line for the bus, but one person can be filled with fear and anxiety whilst the other can know the peace and joy that  only Jesus can bring.

At the staff Christmas party it may be hard to differentiate who’s found real life and who hasn’t because everyone is laughing and happy on the outside, yet we know that once home, those seemingly happy lives can find themselves in the depths of despair.

The reason that you find real life in knowing Jesus is because He created life in the first place and understands how it works. We’ve all heard the advice ‘for best results follow the makers’ instructions’ and it’s true especially when it comes to finding lasting life.

This Christmastime don’t just settle for the life you have that’s filled with anxiety and devoid of purpose – hand it over to the one that came to give you life by inviting Jesus to become your friend and Saviour today.

Deuteronomy 30:19-20 ‘This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years…’

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 12th December 2016

A love affair is between two people who are infatuated with each other. The feeling has to be mutual.
If you love someone and it’s not reciprocated then it’s known as a ‘crush’!

How many times have you loved someone and they didn’t want to know? Or they didn’t love you, like the way you loved them? That’s hard.

I had a crush on a boy in my junior school, one on David Cassidy the pop star and also Donny Osmond. But on all three occasions, they were just crushes, not love affairs. They didn’t want to know :(

God loves us in such a way that He gave His only son for us. His love for us is much more than a crush, yet is it a love affair?
Do you love him back the same way? You will probably never love Him like He loves you, yet my desire is to love Him more every day.
A love affair needs great commitment and communication to keep it fresh and alive.

How are you doing with yours today?

“We love, because He first loved us” – 1 John 4v19

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 10th December 2016

One of the shows that I enjoy watching on TV is The Apprentice. However, one of the things that frustrates me is when the candidates are interviewed at the beginning of the series, stating their mission for the process ahead.

More often than not, you will hear one of the candidates say, ‘I’ve not come here to make friends.’

Now to me, that is one of the dumbest things you could say as you’re about to spend the next 12 weeks living with people, teaming up with people and trying to claim victory as part of a team. I think to myself, ‘surely you’d be better off trying to build as many relationships as possible…’

The reality is, many of us approach life with that same mindset of ‘I’m here to attain knowledge and gain experience.’ This kind of thinking comes out of a belief that life is all about what you know.

However, life isn’t about what you know, it’s about who you know.
Who you know will accelerate you far quicker to your destiny than what you know ever will.

And when you decide to build walls instead of bridges with people, what you’re actually doing is putting a barrier between you and your destiny.

Relationships are a major key to your success. The whole premise of life is for you to have a relationship with God and a relationship with people.

Today I encourage you, have a willingness to put aside knowledge, pick up humility and recognise, ‘I need people’.

Life is better lived together.

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – 9th December 2016

Luke 1:26-38 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, ‘Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you.’ Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favour with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants for ever; his kingdom will never end.’ ‘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. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.’ ‘I am the Lord’s servant,’ Mary answered. ‘May your word to me be fulfilled.’ Then the angel left her.

Imagine the shock on Mary’s face and the public disgrace that she and her husband-to-be would have felt, knowing that they had not slept together and yet she was pregnant! The big question was for her…’how can this be…since I am a virgin?’

Down through the ages, God has called humble people, just like Mary, to be the carrier and incubator of a dream that will in some small or large way, change the world, or even just change a life.

When this interaction takes place between God and man there will always be questions asked of suitability, knowing that in your humble opinion, you are not cut out for such a task. It’s impossible.

God is not short on answers to any of our questions, but don’t expect Him to give loads of details, as He is often looking to you to merely read the headlines and then get on with it.

In responding to Mary’s question. God replies with just two brief confirming sentences:

The first being…’the Holy spirit will come upon you’, and the second being, ‘no word from God will ever fail.’

When doubting the very call of God upon your life, feeling that He has got the wrong person, you too just need to hear the same words that Mary did two thousand years ago…

…the Holy Spirit will come upon you

…no word from God will ever fail.

Don’t let seeming impossibilities rule out God from using you to carry His dream into this world; simply make yourself available and allow Him to do the rest.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 8th December 2016

I was brought up in a church that was dowdy, dull and uninspiring, and into the bargain had no Christmas decorations to brighten the place.

We’ve changed all that over the years, so much so that everyone that comes to our church nowadays is wowed by how much time, energy and money is spent making it feel like a real place of warmth and vibrancy, especially at Christmas.

I’m sure your home is like ours in that there is always so much to do. Replacing or repairing broken things, cleaning and tidying things, painting and decorating things and then at this time of the year Gillian comes into her own as she pulls together a magical Christmas theme in every room. I just have to do the donkey work and make it happen. We so love Christmas that we even called our house ‘Christmas House’ – it’s a great talking point even in the summer.

We’ve always felt that whatever we do for our own home we should do equally and even more so for God’s house, the Church. It would be wrong to have the most amazing decorations at home if the church was still that dark, dowdy and cold place. The hard work that we put into our home in making it a welcoming place is nothing in comparison to the thought and time that we put into making Champions Church a home for all walks of life.

If you’ve never considered coming to church, or maybe you’ve been put off by something the last time you attended, then give it another go this Christmastime; you’ll not be disappointed this time round…it’s just like coming home.

For all our events over Christmas starting with ‘Champions Night of Carols’ this Friday – which includes our renowned ‘Christmas village’, then why not visit our website? http://www.championschurch.org.uk/events/

I look forward so much to welcoming you and your family this Christmastime.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 7th December 2016

No one likes pain.

For those that have followed the last three weeks of ‘I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here’, you will know only too well that pain is difficult to bear, but can lead to amazing results and rewards if you’ll see it through.

For those that have watched from the comfort of our arm chairs, we can see not only the worst in people but the very best too. We have witnessed with our own eyes that most of the celebrities taking part have gone through a life transformation in three weeks, this being mainly due to the endurance of pain.

People that stay away from pain remain the same people – nothing changes.

When the ‘world famous’ Joseph in the Bible endured the pain of rejection, betrayal, prison and false accusation, he took it on the chin and allowed it to forge his character, making him a very different person.

Here are some thoughts on the pain of change:

– When you change, you will have to leave certain people behind.

– a sure sign of no change is that you are still trying to please everyone from your past.

– when you make your home in the pit or the prison, it’s a sure sign that you are not ready to reach the palace.

– when your attitude towards those that have hurt you is revenge, then you’ll know that you haven’t grown up yet.

–  when you do come into abundant supply, a better position or authority and you use it to bless even your enemies, then you know that you’ve grown up.

– never apologise for changing to those that haven’t.

– when people leave your life, do not try to stop them – it’s so that you will be free to grow.

– your personal growth will either attract people or repel people.

– if people complain that you’ve changed, make sure that the change taking place is in the right direction.

Why wait for the new year? Give yourself permission to change today.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – 6th December 2016

One of the things that I’m sure we all love about the Christmas season, is the smell of cooking.

For over 30 years now, we have had all the family over for Christmas day and we love every minute. Most of the day is spent cooking and eating, interspersed for some with the occasional nap. The kitchen is my domain and I love being able to put my culinary skills from years gone by to good use.

With the busyness of everyone’s lives, the time to cook things from scratch is for many, a lost art; however all is not lost as the all too familiar packet mix is available for just about everything you could wish for in the kitchen.

The words ‘just add water’ are a welcome sight to any stressed out Mom or Dad that’s trying to survive the Christmas family ordeal.

Adding water to what’s already been prepared in a factory somewhere is so quick and easy, not to mention being a pretty fail safe method of getting perfect results every time.

Adding water to a simple packet of dry cake mix can turn it into what the manufacturer created it to be. Without adding that vital ingredient from the tap, means that it remains nothing more than a load of dry crumbs in a box.

Whether a useless cook or a useless gardener, the same is true for all – adding water makes all the difference in the world.

The Bible is likened to this very thought and is called ‘the water of God’s word’.

Life pretty dry?

Nothing growing in your world?

Having trouble understanding why you never seem to be able to get beyond a crumby existence?

If so, it could be that you just need to add water.

Reading the Bible every day is not only a practice that I’ve adopted for many years, but is something that I recommend to everyone that wants to live a significant life.

Unlike any other book in the world, it has the ability to not only read you, but it has the power to grow your life too.

There’s a reason that the Bible is still the world’s best seller…people realise without it that life can never be lived to the full.

Simply add water today.

If you don’t have a modern translation of the Bible then simply let us know by clicking here and I’ll make sure that we get one to you in the post right away.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 5th December 2016

Too many of us, me included at times, look around at our circumstances and think “how on earth can this be any different? Can I survive? Will I make it out alive?”
When we think thoughts like that, we are allowing already heavy circumstances, to become even heavier and very soon we will be swamped by them.

How many times have you let your thoughts run riot in your mind, so that by the time you have finished thinking, you are actually worse? When you think about it, nothing has changed, yet your thinking has made everything seem far worse.

My bible tells me to take my eyes off my circumstances and to put them onto Jesus. Start reaching for what you are believing for. You may not see it right now, but start to speak it into action. Words are powerful, they will change your thinking and your situation.

Don’t look down on your circumstances, don’t look around at them either.
Lift your eyes up and off them and onto the one who is able – JESUS.

Psalm 121. I will lift up mine eyes to the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help comes from the LORD the Maker of Heaven and earth.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 3rd December 2016

I was waiting in a queue the other day at a local coffee shop. The shop was busy and the queue was long, so I got talking to the lady in front of me. She was very friendly and proceeded to talk about Christmas and shopping.

She said something that I’ve never heard before. She said “I’ve given my family a list this year of what I don’t want.”
Now, don’t people normally write lists of what they do want and not what they don’t want!?

I’m glad that when I come to God in prayer it’s not that complicated. I don’t have to think of all the things I don’t want, He’s got that covered.
It’s ok however to bring to Him our specific prayer requests.

I remember several years ago living in a small two bedroomed home and praying specifically for what I wanted.
I didn’t pray “Lord, I don’t want a three bedroomed house, I don’t want a house without a downstairs loo, I don’t want a house without a garage. I don’t want a home without a room for guests etc etc etc.”
That all sounds too complicated for me! I came with the list of what I wanted.
“Lord, I want a four bedroomed house, with a porch, a downstairs loo and a garage”. And guess what? God answered.

Vague prayers = vague answers.

Be specific in your requests. He’s your Heavenly Father. He knows your needs before you ask Him. (Matthew 6 v 8)

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 2nd December 2016

It is estimated that an adult makes on average 35,000 remotely conscious decisions every day. I don’t know about you, but I’m often happy to have finished my day having made one good decision…

I think it’s fair to say therefore that we spend the majority of our lives faced with choices that have to be made. The place that you find yourself in today on the journey of life is predominantly as a result of the decisions that you have made up until this point.

Now whether you consider those to have been positive or negative choices, I have some good news for you today…

1 Corinthians 1:25 says, “For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.”

You may be thinking to yourself, ‘I didn’t realise God had a foolish side…’
He doesn’t. But this verse puts into perspective for us just how truly wise God is. That if He did have a foolish streak to Him, He would still be far wiser than any wisdom we could produce.

The reason that this is good news for us, is that no longer do we have to struggle and strive in the daily decisions of life. But instead, we can come to God and ask for wisdom, and He will give it to us. He won’t withhold it, but He will pour it out generously to all those who ask.

I want to encourage you to begin your day, asking God to lead and to guide you in every step. The decisions that you make today will determine the future you experience tomorrow. And because your destiny matters, so do your decisions.

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – 1st December 2016

Our chocolate Labrador ‘Snoop’, was just a tiny bundle of brown fur when we drove him home that night from the family that had reared him.

He soon found his feet and I had such great fun with him, much to Gillian’s annoyance, as I got him playing underneath my armchair and eventually got him stuck underneath the sofa.

He soon started to do what all the books said he would do…and that was EAT. He had an appetite just as if at every meal time that he’d never seen food before.

Seconds after eating, he would be scouring the place for his next meal.

Things were fine for a few months and then took a turn for the worse. He would writhe in pain on his back and no matter what we did we couldn’t seem to console him. We decided the only thing for it was a trip to the vets. This turned into several examinations and rising costs with no answer forthcoming. Everyone was baffled and he was still rolling in pain.

I decided after several days to pray about the situation and ask God to give me some insight as to what we should do. That night God spoke to me and said…”POTATO!”                                   ‘What on earth did that mean?’, I thought.

My mind started to go back and forth over the last couple of weeks and there lay the answer: Snoop had become obsessed with eating raw potato. Every dog we’ve ever had had loved eating raw carrots and so in my wisdom thought that raw potato would be similarly healthy. I researched dogs and potato and found to my horror that raw potato was like poison. Some owners had posted warnings that potato had resulted in near death and some dogs going into a coma.

Within days of the revelation, Snoop returned to pain free living and normal health and strength.

Sometimes we can be totally bereft of which way to go in a desperate situation. Seeking professional advice is good but can still leave you clueless.

The highest level of wisdom comes from God. He knows the end from the beginning and can instantly know what’s going on inside any complicated situation.

Stuck for answers?

Need a solution?

Consulted everyone but God?

James 1:5-6 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.

Stop panicking…sit down…ask God.

He has the answer.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.