Fresh Hope – 31st January 2017

What a question Jesus asked to a cripple of 38 years: “do you want to get well?”

Who wouldn’t?

This paralysed man had been lying by the pool of Bethesda for almost a lifetime.

How long does it take for a problem to become a way of life?

When Jesus asked the question, He was really asking him if he wanted to take responsibility for his life by getting a job, becoming a father to his children, a contributor to his community and a solution to someone else’s problem.

Kay Arthur tells of meeting a beggar one day on the old streets of Jerusalem. As he sat begging, his trouser leg was rolled up to reveal his terrible sores. She says, “my nurse’s heart brought my feet to a halt. I wanted to bend down and shield the open wound from the dirt. It should be washed, medicated and dressed by someone that cared. Suddenly a friend took me by the arm and pulled me away from the man and onwards to my destination. I was a tourist and didn’t know about these things. My friend told me that this man didn’t wish to be well. He made a living from his wound. He could have been made well years ago but didn’t wish to. He was enjoying bad health. As I looked back sadly, I caught one last glimpse of a man that was less – much less- than he could have been.”

Are you using your circumstances as an excuse to stay the way you are today?

If Jesus asked you right now, “do you want to get well emotionally, physically or spiritually?” – what would your answer be?

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 30th January 2017

Our small dog is very protective of his food when placed in the bowl on his ‘territorial’ bed. Our larger (much larger) dog is totally respectful that this is not an area to venture into.

Even though this bundle of fluff called Percy has nothing to shout about in terms of size, he is well able to stand guard and ward off anything that threatens what belongings to him by right.

Snoop, the larger one, has learnt all by himself, a very interesting tactic that makes it so simple to steal what is not his. He simply waits for a diversion to be created in order that Percy will lose focus on what’s important to him. This can be anything from the door bell ringing, to a mention of something more attractive on offer, like a trip in the car to the office, or even better: a walk to his favourite spot.
Snoop senses the diversion of interest and simply strolls over to the unattended bowl of food, picks it up and carries it off to his own bed and scoffs it like there’s no tomorrow. Percy is none the wiser as he’s now far too busy thinking about something else that’s taking his fancy. I’m pretty sure that when he realises that the person at the door was just the postman or that the ride in the car was in fact a false alarm, he must look back and think to himself…’I’ve just been ripped off – again!’

How much is that so much like our lives? We are so passionate about what we should rightly be protective of that we would fight off anyone -that is, until we get distracted. Distraction comes in a number of ways, from exciting offers to another legitimate battle that we should fight, and all of a sudden we realise that we have been ripped off whilts we have been ‘barking up the wrong tree’.

One of the greatest weapons that Satan uses against us is exactly this. Look at how easy it is to believe that we should leave what we should be guarding for something seemingly more attractive…

2 Corinthians 11:14 ‘…for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.’

The next time you feel that your attention is being diverted by something that seems a good and even godly cause, think again, you could well be being drawn away from looking after what is rightfully yours, and losing everything from right under your nose.

John 10:10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 28th January 2017

We are all called to mountain living.
Why live in a valley, when there are mountain tops to experience ?

Here’s a few things you’ll need to know before and as you climb:

The closer you get to the top, the less people you’ll see. Not many people make the climb – be prepared for that.

When you meet people up there, they’ll be happy to see you. Because it’s a lonely place, when you do meet others who made the climb, you’ll immediately have a great connection.

It’s hard work to get there. Often you’ll feel like giving up and it will be very scary at times. Sometimes it will take all you have, all your stamina, all your persistence and energy and all your effort and will.

You’ll get close to the edge on many occasions. Yes, it can be a dangerous place, the path’s will get narrow and you’ll feel like turning back. Be careful as you go, as the edge is a risky place to be. But remember nothing was ever accomplished without risk.

The view is spectacular. You’ll see things for yourself that you only ever heard about. You’ll experience some breathtaking moments…and you’ll feel amazing.

The next time will be easier. Do it once and you will be an experienced climber. You’ll know how to do it, you’ll be able to take others with you and you’ll wonder why you never did it sooner.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 27th January 2017

Imagine you have a tree covered with bad fruit. You decide to remove the fruit, and using sellotape, attach nice tasty fruit bought from the local grocers.

What would be the point? It would prove expensive, time consuming and frustrating to keep up!

Even though this sounds crazy, it’s easy to fall into this trap in our Christian lives. We can focus on the bad or lack of fruit in our lives and start to manufacture or enhance our fruit, but the taped on fruit doesn’t last and for how long can we keep it up? Not long.

For a tree, it’s an obvious solution. Don’t focus on the fruit but on the conditions of the tree, the soil it’s planted in, the sun and water it is or isn’t getting. If the conditions are right, you don’t have to worry about the fruit, it will just follow.

For some reason in our lives, it’s not so obvious and we fall into the trap of feeling guilty over our lack and end up just trying harder. We should instead step back and assess our environment and our growing conditions.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

Here, Jesus clearly states what growing conditions are needed to produce fruit, simply ‘to remain’ in him.

Two areas that will help us do this are:

Where are you planted? Deeply in His Church or more shallow and uncommitted?

What do you feed on daily? Social media or the Bible? Even just a 10 minute daily devotion at the start of the day can set your course for the following 24 hours.

I encourage you this year to assess your growing conditions, do what you can to remain in Him and watch the results follow!

Luke Cartwright

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 26th January 2017

At 19 months, Helen Keller contracted an illness that left her without hearing and sight and was labelled as deaf and dumb. Helen’s parents didn’t agree, and so they hired a teacher by the name of Anne Sullivan to work with her, and she eventually learnt to read and write using Braille. Amazingly in 1904 she received her degree with honours and went on to devote her life to helping others.

Mark Twain and Robert Louis Stevenson praised and almost every American President of her day invited her to the White House.

When asked if there was anything worse than being blind, Helen replied, “Yes having sight but no vision.”

At 12, Thomas Edison developed such a severe hearing loss that his teachers recommended he be taken out of school. Labelled as a slow learner, he used his ‘handicap’ to focus on his work and gave the world over 1000 inventions including the light bulb and the motion camera.

No matter how you’ve been labelled by the experts, understand that God’s plan for your life is still as strong today as the day you were born. Use what you have to be a blessing to others and God will enable your life to shine and stand out more than most.

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 But Jesus said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 25th January 2017

We all want a stress-free life without ever having to work at it, but it can’t be done.
Over 25 years ago now I was experiencing some really strange symptoms and after a series of visits to the Doctors I was diagnosed with chronic stress. I was advised that day that I should take a break and go on a holiday, something that I explained that I couldn’t afford to do or wish to do. I eventually ended up having to take three months off and a very kind couple paid for us to go on holiday.

That time away saved me and helped me to understand that I’d simply burnt myself out.

As I’ve put things in place in order to live a more balanced life over the years, I realise that its kept me from ever going backwards, even though I’ve come close on a number of occasions.

Here are a few things that you should consider in order to help you keep stress free in 2017:

  • Take time to pray and read the Bible each day
  • Plan for a holiday…if you look like your passport photograph then you probably need one.
  • Eat right – a balanced diet is not about having a biscuit in each hand.
  • Exercise 3-5 times a week for 30 minutes.
  • Develop better time-management habits.
  • Make room in your life for fun.
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Maintain your sense of humour.
  • Start counting your blessings.
  • When you talk to yourself, say nice things.
  • Simplify your life by eliminating clutter.
  • Develop a sense of purpose by setting yourself goals.
  • Forgive – grudges are too heavy to carry.
  • Be generous.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

 

 

Fresh Hope – 24th January 2017

I grew up with my older brother John, and my younger sister Stephanie.

In my sister’s bedroom was a huge built in toy cupboard and every year at about this time it would over filled with all of our ‘played with’ toys from Christmas that needed a home.

Just about every toy from every Christmas past been shoved into that space, which made it into one giant mess, but also made for one amazing adventure on a boring Saturday morning.

With nothing to do but rummage through endless layers of toys, games and puzzles, we would find something from several Christmases ago that was as exciting as the day we’d received it, but forgotten how good it was. My favourite was always finding an old jigsaw puzzle and getting to spread it out on the dining room table. Days would pass by as we each tried to do our bit to put it all together, only to find that there was just one piece missing…and that piece was probably at the bottom of the toy cupboard.

Life is pretty much like that puzzle as you spend days and years constructing what you want from life, only to find that despite an amazing picture that’s forming, there is still something missing and you’ve no idea where to find it.

The puzzle will never be complete without the missing piece and no matter how much you try to console yourself that there is only one piece missing…it just never will be right.

The missing piece in all of our lives is a mere change in the spelling of that one word – PEACE.

Billy Graham said that inside every human being is a God-shaped hole that only God can fill.

Before anyone’s life can be fully complete, you have to find peace with God.
That is as simple as believing in Jesus and inviting Him into your life. That prayer changes everything and completes the picture on the box of your life.

It may seem just one pretty simple step in the grand scheme of things, but believe me, it’s a huge step to bring to your empty existence.

When you make peace WITH God, an incredible transformation takes place deep within you, and what follows is equally incredible and is explained as the peace OF God – A once and for all peace that comes from experiencing Jesus in your life.

Missing peace?

Search for Jesus today.

No God – no peace

Know God – know peace.
Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 23rd January 2017

I don’t know whether you have a best friend, or maybe a close friend. Someone that you can confide in, someone that you can share your heart with, someone who knows you better than most.

The amazing thing to me about a friend like this, is that they know both your strengths and weaknesses and yet still want to be your friend.

However, can I suggest that even your closest of friends don’t know everything about you? There are still parts of you that you would be embarrassed or quite possibly ashamed to share even with them.

But I have some great news for you today. There is a God who knows everything about you (and I mean everything), and yet still loves you. He’s the God who created you, He’s the God who knows you better than you know yourself and yet despite Him knowing your good side, your bad side and your ugly side, His love for you remains unchanged.

When you recognise that Jesus both knows you and loves you, it makes it all the more scandalous.

I believe that a relationship with Jesus begins not with you knowing Him, but when you realise that He knows you.

I want to encourage you to remind yourself each day – ‘He knows me and He loves me’… ‘He knows me and He loves me’… ‘He knows me and He loves me’…
I promise you’ll never be the same.

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – 21st January 2017

One of my favourite ever Bible verses has to be from Psalm 92 ‘Those who are planted in the House of the Lord will flourish’; it also goes on to say ‘They will bear fruit in old age. They will stay fresh and green.’

Let me encourage you from these verses today.

Here are a few pointers…

1. You have to be planted.
There’s planted and there’s planted.
Every year when I put my bedding plants into my garden, my husband asks me “have you pushed them in properly?”
Sometimes through laziness and lack of time, I will do it quickly. But one thing I have learnt: if it’s not pushed in properly, it won’t grow and it will die.
If you don’t push yourself down into the house of God and plant yourself fully, you will not be flourishing.
You have a responsibility to push yourself in deep. Get committed, get involved, get planted.

2. I love the word flourish – it means to do really good. Unfortunately, some people flourish and some don’t.
Ask yourself today, “am I flourishing?”

3. Age doesn’t matter. You can still be old and flourishing for God. You can still bear fruit and you can still be used by God in a great way. How awesome is that? The world may have written you off because of your age, but not God, you are useful to Him as long as you have breath.

4. Stay green and fresh.
We don’t buy vegetables and fruit that have gone past their ‘sell by date’. We buy the freshest, we buy the greenest – even if it means looking at the back of the shelf and reaching for the best pack.
When you’re not planted firmly, you may be past your ‘sell by date’ because you’re not green and you’re not fresh. The way we stay green and fresh, is to stay planted in God’s house.

So get planted, stay planted and let God do the flourishing in your life.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 20th January 2017

Mark 4:35-39 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, ‘Let us go over to the other side.’ Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?’ He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

As I read this passage, I was intrigued as to why Mark, the writer, would include the four words ‘just as He was’.

As you read it again for yourself, you will notice that it was in reference to the disciples taking Jesus along with them for the ride.

How could you take someone along with you anything but just as they are or were?

As I thought about the significance of such words, I began to understand why Mark would include some seemingly throw away comments about Jesus.

It’s one thing for us to come to an understanding that we can get into Jesus boat just as WE are, but the equally great truth is that we have to allow Jesus to climb into our boat just as HE is.

How many times do we find ourselves wanting to change a little bit of Jesus – that part of Him that says ‘give everything up to follow me’, or that bit that says ‘don’t worry about anything’, when we know we’d rather fret about things?

How small is Jesus in your life, simply because you’ve shaved so much off Him that there’s hardly anything left?

You can’t make Jesus fit around your lifestyle and expect Him to simply downsize who He is to accommodate you.

He’s God…you’re not!

I encourage you today to take Jesus on board ‘just as He is’ and not make Him a ‘pocket sized’ version that you can pick up and throw in your bag like some lucky charm.

Jesus is either Lord of all or not at all.

Do you want Him with you on you journey today? Then take Him just as He is…He’ll calm your troubled water, speak to your storm and make sure that you get to the other side.

Let’s go.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 19th January 2017

The defining moments of my life have determined who I have become. Take away just one of them – good or bad -and I would not be the same person.

The defining moments that lie before everyone of us today will continue to shape who we become in the future.

As I look back, so far, over my life and reflect on them, I can see that all of them fall into different categories.

Leadership expert, John Maxwell, says there are four categories that each of our defining moments will be filed under.
Ground breakers – many of my defining moments enabled me to start something new. One such defining moment happened just two years ago when I felt that many people would benefit from receiving some fresh inspiration every morning before they went to work or in fact at any time they decided during the day. ‘Fresh Hope’ was born and now has a following on our app that is quickly working its way towards 3000. It gives daily hope to people from all walks of life and from all parts of the world.

Heart breakers – not all defining moments are positive ones. All of us will have experienced some very difficult moments I’m sure, but those experiences give us a valuable opportunity to stop and take stock of our lives and change direction if necessary.

Cloud breakers – back in 1992 I felt strongly that God had spoken to me about buying a two acre piece of land. I knew instantly what piece of land it was, but didn’t know at that time what it would be used for. Today our church stands on that property and is home to hundreds of people that gather there each weekend. We had been ‘on the road’ for almost 15 years when we opened the brand new building seven years ago this week, and little did we know that the ‘cloud’ that was keeping us from growing beyond two hundred people was now to be lifted as the church quickly grew and more than trebled in size.

Chart breakers – the finest defining moments allow a person to soar to a much higher level. A number of years ago I felt moved to give a very large donation from our church to a very needy but worthy cause. The money was being held in an account to enable us to build our own new building. We really were in need of that money ourselves, but I was convinced it was the right thing to do. That one act of giving resulted not only in supernatural finance coming back to us within nine months but also has remarkably opened doors for us to be in relationship with many outstanding people all across the world. That one defining moment became a chart breaker for us at the time and we are still feeling the effects today.

You don’t get to choose your defining moments – they choose you when least expected. But you do get to chose how you respond to them, and i can safely say that we become better people when we experience a defining moment and respond to it correctly.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 18th January 2017

Final day – prayer and fasting

Don’t worry if nothing of any significance has happened for you, to you or through you during the last ten days…they will.

There is no promise whatsoever that during a fast that you will get the breakthrough that you needed or wanted, but that breakthrough will come.

Remember Jesus didn’t fast for a breakthrough there and then, but fasted so that He would always be prepared for whatever came His way at any given time.

Ultimately we know from the Bible and from experience, that God openly rewards those that privately fast.

When we fast and pray, supernatural occurrences start to take effect. They may well happen today or they may be gearing you up for your breakthrough in 12 months time, so don’t be discouraged; in fact most of what happens during a fast is done ‘in’ you rather than ‘for’ you.

Here are just two stories to encourage you as to what can happen during these special sacrificial times with God…

A few days ago, a lady had to go to hospital and was surprised to hear that she had a heart murmur. She told the nurses that they must have it wrong as she had never had such a thing. They repeated to her that this was serious and that she would have to stay in hospital. She refused what they were saying and said that she didn’t want to stay. Eventually she was allowed to go home and on Monday afternoon (this week) she started to pray. She asked God to help her and as a sign, she wanted to go the miracle service at Champions on that evening and that Pastor Mark would publicly call out her very condition so that she could be healed.

The question I would ask is: what chances are there of that very thing happening without God’s supernatural intervention?

As I was praying on that very same day ahead of the miracle service, I had the very distinct impression that I should draw a heart monitor on a piece of paper and write alongside it ‘heart murmur’.

As the miracle service got under way, I called out all those that had a heart murmur. You can imagine how amazed that this lady was that God had done exactly what she asked for just a few hours earlier.

When we pray, things happen – when we don’t, they don’t.

A young lady had recently been taken by her mom to have tests, as her periods had suddenly stopped. At the hospital, she underwent a scan which revealed that she had cysts on her ovaries and would need at some stage to have them treated.

They decided to come to the prayer service on the first day of the fast and see what would happen.

I had never spoken to this young lady or her mom before, but during the service I saw an unusual picture in my mind of ovarian cysts that were popping and being healed. Right at the end of the service I called anyone forward that had this problem as God wanted to heal them.

You can imagine the tears of joy that flowed when this young lady was brought forward by her Mom for prayer. She was totally amazed that God had pinpointed her daughter’s exact condition and was about to heal her.

As we come to the end of this particular time of fasting, I encourage to keep praying daily for the things that have been on your heart at this time, until you see them come to pass.

God does not finish His work when the fast finishes, in fact this is just the start of Him decluttering your life, so that you can receive everything He has for you this year.

God is a supernatural God and can and will do supernatural things for you, in you and through you.

Thank you so much for being on this ten day journey with us; I know that God will be your reward.

Make a plan to have fasting as a part of your lifestyle from now on.

Stay strong in faith.

Never give up.

Matthew 6:16-18 ‘When you fast, do not look sombre as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Mark 10:27 Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.’

Pastor Mark

A daily devoting for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 17th January 2017

Day 9 – Prayer and fasting

When you are praying and fasting, remember that your persistence breaks resistance. It brings you to a place where you can feel God more powerfully in your life – but it also positions you so that HE can hear your heart’s cry too.

So many times throughout the Bible, Jesus was passing through a city or passing right by a person. He didn’t stop until the people or person cried out to Him in order to get His attention. He would then immediately stop, turn and help them, often resulting in a miracle.

Prayer and fasting says to God “I’m serious about this. I want you to come and help me. I desperate for you to deal with situation in my life.”

As we come to the final two days of this special time, be determined not just to pray and fast on special occasions and when encouraged to do so for a limited period, but make it a part of your lifestyle in the future.

When you persist in prayer, you will notice that you start to see breakthroughs that no one else sees simply because…’persistence breaks resistance.’

Many of the prayers that I have seen answered in my own life have not come quickly, but as a result of week in and week out prayer for that very stubborn problem or situation.

For years I prayed for a particular person that had gone far away from God. That was more than 25 years ago now, and only in the last month has that prayer started to be answered. It had been so long, that when I saw them in church for the first time last week I didn’t even recognise them.

Don’t be disappointed if nothing seems to have happened yet – your prayers and fasting have been stored up by God, and no matter where and no matter when, God will answer at the right time.

Keep going.

Stay strong in faith.

Hebrews 10:35-36 So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 16th January 2017

As we continue in our days of prayer and fasting, here are some thoughts from 1 Kings chapter 18 to encourage you.

The nation was in a famine. Maybe your life feels like that? Nothing is growing, everything seems dry and there seems no end to it.
You’ve prayed and you can’t see the answer yet.

Elijah the man of God in this story, didn’t just pray about it, he believed it.
He said to his servant not once but several times to go and look for the clouds because they were surely coming. He believed for the answer.

Your prayers right now may seem unanswered, but God is certainly on the move.
Don’t be influenced by negative reports.
Don’t be put off by ‘no sign’ of your prayer getting answered.

Like Elijah, you have to get into a place of “I can hear it, but I can’t yet see it”, “I’m expecting it, even though with my physical eye, I can’t see it yet.”

He kept telling his servant to go and look because he could hear the answer. The servant did what was asked, several times. Until eventually he came back with a great report. “Yes master, I see a cloud, it’s only small, but the rain is coming.”

Be assured that God is answering your prayers, He’s on it.

When faith accompanies your praying…God loves that.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 14th January 2017

As we journey through this time of prayer and fasting, I want to encourage you with these few thoughts that will help you. As a Christian, the Holy Spirit lives within us. The Bible refers to the Holy Spirit as a fountain of life within us.
We however, are responsible for the upkeep of that Fountain.
When you go to church, someone may have prepared a great meal for you (the word, the service, the worship) but it’s your responsibility to drink for yourself.
When you spend time in God’s presence, when you pray, when you fast, when you read His Word, when you worship, all those things will replenish the fountain within you.

Think of it like this: a camel is an animal that has a built-in reserve, so that when he is in a dry and dark place he can call on the reserve that is in him and drink. See this time of prayer and fasting as a time of building up your reserve, so that when you hit a time of dryness or a dark place (and we all do from time to time) you can call on the reserve within you to get you through.

God has designed that camel to still drink even in the driest of conditions, and God has designed you and provided you with a fountain of life within you so that you can overflow and call on that reserve whenever it is needed.
The camel will only be able to drink from his reserve, if he has taken the time to drink when he was at the place of water.
During these days draw close to God, drink plenty and let that fountain inside of you flow out in the coming days.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 13th January 2017

DAY 5 – prayer and fasting

Are you in a desperate situation today?

Jehoshaphat, King of Judah was. He found himself surrounded by a powerful enemy army – Annihilation was certain without God’s intervention.

The Bible records in 2 Chronicles 20:2-4 Then some came and told Jehoshaphat, saying, “A great multitude is coming against you from beyond the sea, from Syria; and they are in Hazazon Tamar” which is En Gedi. And Jehoshaphat feared, and set himself to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. So Judah gathered together to ask help from the Lord; and from all the cities of Judah they came to seek the Lord.

He desperately needed to know God’s plan in order to defeat this great army and so asked everyone, even the children, to fast and seek God.

As they did this God spoke and said…“Listen, all you of Judah and you inhabitants of Jerusalem, and you, King Jehoshaphat! Thus says the Lord to you: ‘Do not be afraid nor dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but God’s. Tomorrow go down against them. They will surely come up by the Ascent of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the brook before the Wilderness of Jeruel. You will not need to fight in this battle. Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, who is with you, O Judah and Jerusalem!’ Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them, for the Lord is with you.” (2 Chronicles 20:15-17)

As the people fasted and prayed, God told them exactly how the enemy would approach and exactly what they should do in response.

As they obeyed what God had said, they not only defeated the enemy in just one day, they then took a further three days to carry off the all the riches that the enemy had left behind -now that’s what you call a victory!

Do you want God to tell you what to do at this time in your life? Fast, worship and pray. Be still and see Him work on your behalf – they didn’t even have to fight…God fought for them.

The promise of God for you today is…stand still and see the salvation of the Lord. He will fight for you, and not only that, you will take back everything that the enemy has stolen from you too.

Your prayers and fasting WILL bring a reward.

Stay strong.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 12th January 2017

DAY 4 – prayer and fasting

Whether done corporately or individually, fasting is a personal, private discipline. It is a sacrifice born out of an expectancy that God wants to do so much more in me and through while I’m on this planet.

Fasting is not a manipulative tool to get something from God, but is a personal sacrifice that God chooses to reward openly.

Private devotion brings public promotion.

When you read about Jesus, you do not see Him praying in public nearly as much as you see Him praying in private.

He would often pray through the night and then out of those times in private devotion, public demonstrations of God’s power would be poured out in healings, raising the dead, abundance and so much more.

Where there is little private devotion there is little power.

Prayer and fasting plugs you into the power of God.

It’s interesting that the three wisest men in the Old Testament, Joseph, Daniel and Solomon were three men that fasted. They also each went on to great success, honour and wealth – I personally believe that fasting can bring breakthrough in every area of your life, including a breakthrough over poverty.

Daniel diligently sought God through fasting and prayer while in captivity, and was given wisdom over all others and greatly prospered.

I encourage you today not to be shy about praying about all matters in your life, and not least of all those things which effect you financially.

If you’re in business or starting out in business then make it a daily matter of prayer accompanied with fasting.

If you are struggling financially in any way, then bring your requests to God during this time, otherwise you will end up ‘hiding’ certain things from Him that you feel He wouldn’t want to know about – He already knows about them!

I chose to pray about everything concerning my life, family and church. I have done so for several decades now and can look back at breakthrough after breakthrough that has come through regular prayer and fasting.

Start to get comfortable with talking to God about everything that concerns and touches your life. He wants and loves to hear from you.

Be specific with your requests.

Vague faith…vague answers.

1 Peter 5:6-7 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.

Matthew 10:29-31 Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 11th January 2017

DAY 3 – PRAYER AND FASTING

Fasting is not going without food for a period of time – that is starving, or even dieting, but it’s not fasting.

Simply stated, biblical fasting is refraining from food for a spiritual purpose.

From the very beginning, fasting has been a normal part of a relationship with God. The Bible never says ‘if’ you fast but ‘when’ you fast, and in the New Testament it is placed in its importance alongside prayer and giving – (Matthew Chapter 6 ) – each bringing its own reward.

Spiritual fasting alongside prayer brings a person into a deeper, more intimate and powerful relationship with the Lord.

When you eliminate food from your diet for a number of days, your spirit becomes uncluttered by the things of this world and amazingly sensitive to the things of God.

Once you realise what can happen during and after a fast, you soon begin to realise that fasting is an overlooked and forgotten source of power.

Matthew tells a story of a father who had a demon possessed son. For years he watched helplessly as his son suffered with severe convulsions. Having exhausted every attempt to cure the boy, he took him to the disciples for prayer but all to no avail.

When the boy was bought to Jesus, the Bible says …”And Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him; and the child was cured from that very hour. Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” So Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.” (Matthew 17 v 18-20)

Now we all like to focus on the statement ..’nothing will be impossible for you’, but the main thrust of this miracle is found in what comes after the word ‘however’ – the key to this stubborn problem was prayer AND fasting.

If that’s the case, we have to ask what blessings are not being released; what answers to prayer are not getting through, and what bondages are not being broken?

If Jesus could have accomplished all that He came to do without fasting, why would He fast?

He knew that there were supernatural things that could be released only that way.

Let’s press into fasting and prayer today and see God unlock some supernatural things that have yet to be part of your life.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 10th January 2017

Welcome to day 2 of prayer and fasting.

Sometimes the most helpful advice and inspiration when starting out in a fast is of a very basic and practical nature.

For most people, fasting is foreign and they therefore don’t know what to expect in terms of physical occurrences. Many turn back after the first day simply because they don’t think they are cut out for this type of thing.

One of the most basic needs of the human body is of course for food – take that away and the body goes into meltdown.

The first thing that was said of Jesus after he had been on a prolonged fast was…he was hungry!

Matthew 4:2 After fasting for forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.

Yes…the first thing that you will feel is ravenous. Even a piece of dry bread will be to die for. Its normal.

Here are just a few simple guidelines on fasting that will help you on your journey, be it the first fast or hundredth you’ve been on.

Fasting without being combined with prayer is little more than dieting. Set aside a few moments each day in prayer when you would normally be eating. Find a quiet room at home or go for a walk in your lunch break at work, in order to pray.

There will be days when your energy is sapped and you can’t focus on prayer. Don’t condemn yourself – Jesus sees your sacrifice.

Fasting is like spring cleaning for the body – drink as much water as possible each day.

I normally get a headache on the first 1-2 days of fasting; if you do, it’s usually a sign that you needed to fast! Headaches come from burning off the toxins that have been stored up in your body. It’s also your body craving the caffeine that you normally give it daily. After three days, the headaches will normally disappear.

Whenever you fast for at least three days, your digestive system shuts down and takes a well-earned rest. Some feel sluggish and can’t sleep and yes you’ll feel hungry, but after those initial days, if you’ll keep drinking plenty of water and juices, you’ll come out the other side into an amazing ‘sweet place’. You’ll begin to find a deeper place with God than you’ve ever done before and the thoughts of food and eating will take a back seat.

Medical doctor, Don Colbert says…”fasting not only prevents sickness, if done correctly, it holds amazing healing benefits to those that suffer illness and disease. Fasting is a mighty key to healing the body.”

At the age of 77, Dr Tanner decided under strict medical supervision to fast for 53 days. Among other things, his once thin, grey hair was replaced with new black hair. It was the same colour as when he was a young man. What’s more, he did this several times and lived to be 93!

Remember…if you’re already feeling like giving up – you’re not alone in this. There are hundreds of people right now joining together in this spiritual fast.

Whatever you’ve decided to fast during this next few days, push through and you’ll see a breakthrough.

Ezra 8:23 …So we fasted and petitioned our God about this, and he answered our prayer.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 9th January 2017

Welcome to DAY 1 of our 10 day journey of prayer and fasting.

Remember fasting never changes God towards you, but your ways towards Him.

Fasting sensitises us towards the voice of the Holy Spirit and therefore increases our ability to hear what He wants to say to us directly.

Going without food and other luxuries also gives us more time with God and more of a hunger for God.

Sacrificing what would normally be for most, three meals a day (or a partial fast of goodies) brings with it a very special reward from God that can be easily found in the teaching of the New Testament…

Matthew 6:16-18 ‘When you fast, do not look sombre as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.’
Although no one can definitively answer what that reward is, I would suggest that it comes in the form of greater answers to prayer like you’ve never seen before.

I got off a plane after a 12 hour flight to Capetown a few years ago, right after a prolonged fast at our church. I was pretty weak and underweight but what followed was nothing short of a modern day miracle. In the very first services that I spoke at, a non – believing man that was at home dying with cancer was taken a handkerchief by a friend that I had prayed over in the service. Within days of receiving the handkerchief, he went back for further diagnosis and the five tumours, each the size of tennis balls had disappeared.

Many people testify of miraculous interventions in their lives during an intense time of fasting.

Now of course you will feel hungry as you’d expect, but many also speak of no desire for food after a few days, whilst others say that they never want to go back to their old lifestyle of eating everything in sight!

Now let’s get down to business…

Unashamedly take a piece of paper and write down as many things that you want to believe for during this special time of prayer. Make your list unselfish, in that it should be about the things that need to change in your life, family, finance etc rather than “Lord, I want a new Ferrari next week.”

Now ask yourself if you actually believe that God could do these things for you. If you can honestly say that you have faith for them to happen, then make them a direct prayer to God each day.

Keep your list private, but also keep it where you can access every moment that you spend time in prayer.

Remember God is more ready to answer your prayers than you are ready to pray them.

We may not see immediate answers in the 10 days, but the more time that passes the more answers to prayer you will see happen in and through your life.

Don’t delay.

Start to make that list now, and then add to it as the 10 days roll by, and remember this kind of prayer and fasting doesn’t finish after that, but can become part of your lifestyle as a Christ follower for the rest of your life.

Here’s our key verse for today…

Philippians 4:6-7 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Have a blessed day.

See you tonight for our ‘kick-off’ prayer meeting at Champions Church – 7pm.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 7th January 2017

I love the story of Elisha and Elijah.
Elisha was his apprentice, his assistant and he was learning all he could from his Master Elijah.

In 2 Kings Chapter 2, we read how Elijah was about to die and he had to visit several places before he did. He urged Elisha to stay, but Elisha would not leave him.

Several times he told him, and several times Elisha insisted on sticking close to his Master.

When Elijah was just about to die, he asked Elisha what he would like “a double portion of what you have, I want your life to be mine” was his reply.

Here’s three things we can learn from this account.

1. Be committed. Elisha was so committed to Elijah and would not leave him, no matter where the journeys were going to take them.

Be committed to Christ and His Church.

2. Serve with clean motives.
Elisha had a heart for God and a heart to serve Elijah and he served with all his heart, because he was serving God. He did not put himself first.

Serve with clean motives, not for selfish gains.

3. Position yourself correctly.
When the time came for the blessing to be passed on, Elisha was right there with him.
Make sure you are exactly where God wants you to be.

Your time is coming to be mightily used by Him, just make sure you’re in the right place at that moment.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 6th January 2017

I have a 12 week old baby at home. Could you imagine me saying ‘I’m a little disappointed wth his attitude?’ In the last 12 weeks, he’s not once asked me how I am, or done a single thing to help out around the house!’

Obviously, you would presume I’m joking because these are things a baby can’t do and shouldn’t worry about. What a baby can do and does worry about is sleeping and eating. That’s all they need to do – the basics that are in their grasp. Then everything else like mortgage repayments and nursery places are taken care of for them.

We would enjoy life a lot more and make greater progress if we would just follow the same example of focusing on what we can do instead of what we can’t. Why worry about what we can’t affect and fail to do the basics that we can?

Don’t waste time and emotion worrying about where you feel you’re called to be in the future, or regretting the lost opportunities of the past, just do the basics that God is asking of you in the present!

James 1:22 ‘But be doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.’

You can’t steer a boat that’s not moving, but as soon as you become a ‘doer’, you start to get some momentum in life and God can start steering you into the plans He has for you.

Don’t waste time trying to figure out what God’s not asking you to figure out, instead, make full use of your time with what God has put in your hands to do now, however basic and simple that is.

God loves you so much! Hand over your concerns and worries today and look at, who you can encourage. Where you can give. Where you can serve. He will then amaze you with the bigger picture He has had planned for you all along!

Luke Cartwright

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 5th January 2017

If I’m honest, and maybe I’m speaking for the majority here, I’ve felt pretty lousy today. It was my first day to be back in the office and I’m suffering from Christmas lag – that’s a new phrase I’ve just created.

I’ve so enjoyed the rest, the festivities and the food that my body is crying out for more. Instead of feeling energised I’m actually feeling more tired than when I started the Christmas break! In reality, I’m not more tired, how can I be with so much rest; it’s just that my body is craving more of what I’ve been feeding it – ‘give me chocolate’ was its cry at 3 o’clock this afternoon.

By tomorrow I am hoping to feel on top of the world again as my stomach gets the message that the biscuits, and the chocolate, and the Christmas pudding, and the sweets, and the rich food is well and truly over, at least for a while anyway.

Isn’t it amazing how your body can dictate your mood, your emotion, your energy and your desire to such an extent that you actually begin to believe that that’s the way things are going to be around here?

In the same way that over-indulgence can actually make you feel down about yourself, so the opposite is also true, in that when you subject your body to a fast of all the things that you crave, then you start to heighten the very things that matter most in life. Spirituality takes on a whole new level and senses that you feel you had lost forever start to return as you seek God, more than your next meal or box of chocolates.

Each year we start a corporate fast at the church and I always encourage each person to participate at whatever level they wish. No matter what you give up sacrificially in order to seek God, you will start to feel the incredible closeness of the Holy Spirit, even though you may battle at the same time with hunger pangs.

I encourage you to journey with us on this year’s 10 day fast and begin to experience God’s presence in a powerful way. I can guarantee that you will feel spiritually energised and renewed, not to mention the fact that you’ll lose weight into the bargain.

This year’s fast begins on Monday 9th January and ends on Wednesday 18th January.

Each day I will be sharing inspirational stories, teaching and prayer points to help guide you through your time alone with God.

Knowing that hundreds of other people will be starting their fast at the same time, will in and of itself be an encouragement to set this special time aside to seek God and to keep going until the end.

Be sure to join me each day from Monday onwards for a special prayer and fasting edition of Fresh Hope.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 4th January 2017

How would you score on a rating scale of 1-10 with how thankful you have been this Christmastime?

Go on…be really honest.

Maybe you’ve felt ungrateful for what you didn’t get rather than what you did, or maybe you didn’t get anything and so you feel justified for being in a new years strop.

Being thankful has very little to do with what you have and don’t have, as its very essence is to do with having a grateful heart in each and every circumstance of life. There will always be something to complain about and many times in this coming year you will feel hard done to, but the key is to maintain a thankful heart, no matter what.

Being miserable and ungrateful not only affects your own well being negatively, but affects everyone around you also, as they pick up that very noticeable vibe coming from you.

The story of the ten lepers in the New Testament is a very well known one. They each got healed by Jesus who then advised them to go and get their condition checked out by the authorities of the day. The story then highlights how only one of the nine came back to Jesus in order to give thanks for his miracle.

Not only did Jesus make mention of the one who returned, He also made another point that is not so easy to see in this familiar passage. It says that all 10 were ‘healed’, but for the one that returned to give thanks it paints a very different picture, in that it says he was ‘made whole’.

This powerful change of words helps us to understand the nature of gratitude in that it brings a wholeness to our lives like nothing else.

How is your attitude of gratitude going to score from now on?

Mine has just gone up to a seven or even an eight.

I’m thankful for you today.

Be thankful…be whole.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 3rd January 2017

As we start this brand new year, and for most today, a brand new working week, it won’t take too long for that Christmas spirit to take a back seat and our focus to be drawn towards the never ending cycle of bad news that grips our world each day that we wake.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful, yet unrealistic to hope that 2017 would be somewhat different to previous years, in that we would once and for all find World peace.

It’s possible that you could be one the many that are always fearing what is going to happen to you or one of your own family members at any given time. Maybe your mind right now is totally consumed with a tragedy that may well come close to you, so much so that you have forgotten how to live in the freedom that Jesus has paid for you to experience.

2017 is the year to live free from fear; not that we shouldn’t be cautious or be wise about where we go and don’t go, but God wants you to know and feel His protection at all times, in fact, even His angels are assigned to your life specifically to watch over you.

I wonder if today your biggest enemy is your inner- me and you too like Job in the Bible have this to say…

Job 3:25-26 ‘What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me. I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil.’

Be careful as you approach this year to not keep almost wishing things on yourself so that when they do happen, you simply say, ‘I told you they would!’

There is a very serious side to life, and I’m not suggesting that we should all just be totally flippant about what’s going on around us, but the woman described by Solomon in the book of Proverbd gets my vote any day…

Proverbs 31:25 She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.

Why not today, set your focus on all the good things that God has in store for your life and begin to trust Him with the wonderful new year that He has blessed you with?

Are you allowing fearful thoughts to rob you already this year? Then make this verse your own as you travel into today.
Philippians 4:8 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.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 2nd January 2017

As we start this new year, I want to remind you of this great biblical truth: ‘Great is Thy faithfulness.’

It doesn’t say ‘okay is Thy faithfulness.’ or ‘average is Thy faithfulness.’ or ‘good if I’ve been good, is Thy faithfulness.’ or ‘Depends on how I feel, is Thy faithfulness.’
But it does say ‘GREAT is Thy faithfulness.’

Whatever your day is going to bring you…
Whatever your life is throwing at you right now…
Whatever the new year holds for you…
Remember this ‘GREAT is Thy faithfulness.’

The dictionary definition of great is ‘Of an extent, amount, or intensity considerably above average’

Think of your best, then hundred fold it. That’s the extent of His great faithfulness today.

Lamentations 3:22-23
Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

Happy new year to you all.
He is a faithful God.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 1st January 2017

Happy new year!

Today is that magic day where you hope beyond hope that 2017 will turn out to be a good one, or if not a good one, at least not so bad as last year.

Yet in reality, New Year’s Day has no such special power to make the next 12 months any better or worse than the previous 365 days.

Happiness cannot come from a new year in and of itself, but rather from the decisions we make and the directions we take.

If you continue to make unwise, unhealthy, ungodly decisions then I can tell exactly how your year is going to turn out.

Take the wrong directions in life that are contrary to your values, beliefs and convictions, and you can pretty much forecast what your new year will hold.

The blessings contained in the new year are never down to chance fait or luck, as some would suggest, but down to applying wisdom to our lives and living in a way that’s right.

Over the next 24 hours, before its ‘business as usual’ take a little more time to refresh, but more so use the time to reflect.

How I am going to live this year that’s different to 2016?

What vision do I have for my life?

What am I unhappy with…is there anything that I can do about it?

What unfulfilled dream do I have that’s bigger than me?

Where does God feature in my life?
Don’t fall for making New Years resolutions, they don’t work, instead make a realistic plan or set a goal that you can live by each day.

If you’re overweight for example (which most of us are at this time of the year) don’t make a resolution to be thin, instead make a plan to lose just a pound a week and see how that weight just starts to go.

The greatest and most important decision you can make today is to place God at the top of your priorities. Allowing Him to take first place brings with it unbelievable rewards and blessings, in fact when you put Him first, He will add to your life all the things that you could have only ever dreamt about in 2016.

As we embark on 2017 together, may I take this opportunity of praying for you Gods richest blessings for you and your family.

Have a happy and blessed new year.

Much love,

PM