Fresh Hope – 31st May 2017

From time to time, we all face undeserved criticism. On occasions, it comes when we offer our best to the Lord and our good intentions are misunderstood or even ridiculed by those  who don’t get us.

One such event in the Bible, describes a woman who took a bottle of precious perfume and poured it on Jesus’ head as He reclined at the table. There is no record of any great results coming from this loving gesture. No lives were saved, no converts were made, and nothing measurable was obtained. Worse still, the woman was scolded for her actions by those sitting around the table. Her efforts were viewed as extravagant, unreasonable, and irresponsible. Jesus, however, thought otherwise. His commendation for this woman’s loving sacrifice was astonishing. In His mind, it deserved to be memorialized—He said, “What she has done will also be told, in memory of her.” (Matt. 26:13 NIV).

Do you sometimes wonder how much God is noticing our efforts to please Him? At times, some of our greatest sacrifices seem to bring nothing but misunderstanding or even criticism from our family and friends. Voices from others—and even from within our own heart—rise up to condemn us for godly choices that now seem to be incapacitating us.

Don’t worry, Jesus knows the depths of our soul, and sees and understands the torment we face. He hears the condemning voices of our accusers. When our sacrifices for Jesus make little sense to the selfish world around us, it’s God’s commendation that really matters and He will be your reward.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 30th May 2017

In the Bible, Thomas is unfortunately known for being a doubter, stating in John 20…

“Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
Then a week later Thomas exclaims;
“My Lord and my God!” to which Jesus replies;
“Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

We often read this story from the point of view of being blessed as a Christian for believing in a God we can’t see, but let’s look at these verses from the point of view of being faithfully upbeat in our lives when potentially we’d have good reason to cry.

How often when in real need do we cry out as if the world is ending telling anyone who will listen? When Jesus (faithfully as always) performs a miracle we exclaim like Thomas ‘My Lord and my God!’

But Jesus says to us, ‘you say I’m Lord because of the answer, try being this buoyant and positive before you see the answer, then you’d be really blessed!’

I believe we would take so much more ground in our lives if we could learn to walk as if we’ve already won the victory especially when we can’t see it! It’s called faith!

Isaiah 54:1 (NIV) says “Sing, barren woman, you who never bore a child; burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labor; because more are the children of the desolate womanthan of her who has a husband,” says the Lord.

Living in this very logical world with the knowledge of a God who loves us, should make us positively very irrational at times. How irrational, and non-logical for a woman who’s barren to sing and shout because she’s going to have many children – at least wait until your pregnant, right?

No!

When struggling for answers that seem like impossibilities and when everyone else seems to have seen Jesus but you, believe and exclaim Jesus is Lord regardless!

Because…

“blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Luke Cartwright

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 29th May 2017

On Saturday, we read about having higher thoughts and trusting God’s higher ways.

I love to read about the Eagle…
– It can fly higher than any other bird
– Its wing span can reach 9 feet across
– It uses the stormy weather to soar higher
– It has an amazing view because of the height it reaches.

The Bible talks a lot about eagles and a lot about high places.

You’ll never see an eagle mixing with a chicken. Why? Because a chicken can’t get very far off the ground, but an eagle was made to fly high.
An eagle and a chicken were not meant to mix or mate.

Maybe one of the reasons you cant get very far off the ground, is that you’re mixing with chickens, when you should be mixing with eagles.
You’ll end up with the potential of an eagle, but starting to sound like, behave like and live like a chicken. How sad is that?

You have been created for a higher purpose, a higher way of thinking and you need to get to some higher places.

Jesus often went to some high places to pray. Why? Because there aren’t many people there, it’s never crowded and he needed that special place.
God often met with people in high places.

Did you know that whatever situation you find yourself in today, you have the opportunity to get to a higher place?
When you get there, you can behave like the eagle and USE the storm to help you soar.

Desire to go higher in your life today. Make some decisions that will help you get there. However hard they may be, they will certainly be worth it.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 27th May 2017

In the book of Isaiah chapter 55 and vs 8 & 9, it tells me that God’s ways are higher than mine and His thoughts are higher than mine.
That reminds me that whatever way I may think is best, He has a better one and whatever my thoughts are, He wants me to think higher ones, because His are higher. He challenges me to raise my thinking.

When something doesn’t go the way that maybe you wanted it to, thank God, instead of blaming God and say “Thank you, your ways are higher than mine.”
God always has a plan…you just need to wait and trust Him.

Once I become a Christian, if my thinking stays the same, then my life will pretty much stay the same also. Your thinking has to change.
When faced with a situation, a difficulty, a crisis, we can often think like we have always done so. Yet my Bible teaches me there has to be a higher way – God’s way.
My first thoughts, may not always be God’s. Don’t always act on your first thoughts…ask God for His.
When something doesn’t go the way you’d planned, ask God for His thoughts. Ask for His wisdom, He will give it you.

If you’re a parent, your child may not see your ways or understand your thoughts on the parenting front. But you know they just have to trust you , even though they may not at first like it.
Today I say THANK GOD that He didn’t and doesn’t always agree to ‘MY WAY’ or allow me to be ‘boxed in’ by my own thoughts.
I’m thankful for the times things didn’t go as I had planned, because He had a far higher way to show me.

Start thinking higher thoughts today, start thinking God thoughts. Start trusting Him that His way is best.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 26th May 2017

I pulled up early this morning at my local coffee shop. As I sat in the car for a few minutes, I watched a mom with her young family getting out of her car, trying her best to gather everyone together, whilst at the same time erecting the pushchair at the back of the car.

Eventually she managed to coordinate the whole family and made her way from the car park to the coffee shop. The stressful process caused her to lose her focus, and without thinking she left the driver’s door wide open.

Being the Good Samaritan, I found the family in the coffee shop and told her what she had done. What was interesting is that she had no idea why she would have done such a thing, however the answer was pretty simple – distraction.

Every day we can easily live distracted lives simply because of the sheer weight of our daily responsibilities.

Living a distracted life not only leads to losing focus in what is important, but equally it leads us to leave certain doors in our lives wide open.

A door left open attracts the attention of intruders.

Imagine for a moment that you get so busy that you let your guard down and the lines of what’s right and what’s wrong get blurred. Some people wouldn’t even dare take a paper clip from the office, but a person with blurred lines would not think twice of taking a whole ream of paper. That person has left the door open and allowed themselves to become what they vowed they never would.

Take an inventory on yourself today and ask what doors are you leaving dangerously open. You may well find yourself judging other people about the very things that you are now doing yourself…and you haven’t even noticed.

Don’t lose sight of what’s important today, just because you’ve been distracted by everyday things. You may not even be busy with work, you may have simply got busy watching too much TV! The effect can be just the same.

Take back control of your daily life and make sure you shut the door before someone steals it from you.

1 Corinthians 10:12 Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 25th May 2017

We are living in a world without windows.

A world without windows is a world that no longer sees an unseen world beyond where we are.

We have so perfected ourselves, or so we think, that we don’t see the need for any supernatural intervention.

I’ve been at a conference for the last three days and just like a cinema, the auditorium had no windows.

Outside it was hot and sunny, but I had no concept of that because I was kept from seeing it. As all the delegates made for the fresh air at lunch time, I was stunned by the brilliance and heat of what had been there all morning. It was a shock on the eyes, and then on the body. It was real, so long as you stepped into it.

Today, don’t allow the conditioning of this world to get you to believe that there is no radiance of the supernatural power of God beyond where you are.

If you are sick…reach outside of your world and touch the healing power of Jesus.

If you need answers, step outside and open your eyes to His brilliance.

If you want to experience His love, open the doors of your life and feel the warmth of His love.

If you’re in a dark place right now where there seems to be no natural solution, don’t forget there is a whole new world beyond you.

God wants you to tap into it by faith right now.

Matthew 19:26 But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 24th May 2017

Your mind is your most vulnerable organ in the body. It’s where all temptation begins. To reduce temptation, keep your mind occupied with God’s word and other good thoughts.

‘Fill your minds with those things that are good and that deserve praise: things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and honourable.’ (Philippians 4:8)

You defeat bad thoughts by thinking of something better. This is the principle of replacement. You overcome evil with good.

The more you think about something, the stronger it takes hold of you, which is why the Bible teaches that we should “run from anything that gives you the evil thoughts . . . but stay close to anything that makes you want to do right.” (2 Timothy 2:22)

Temptation begins by capturing your attention. What gets your attention arouses your emotions. Then your emotions activate your behavior, and you act on what you feel. The more you focus on “I don’t want to do this,” the stronger it draws you in.

Ignoring a temptation is far more effective than fighting it. Once your mind is on something else, the temptation loses its power. So when temptation calls you on the phone, don’t argue with it — just hang up!

Many years ago I was in a room, and in a potentially compromising situation.
I was praying like mad for the Holy Spirit to help me, and for Him to speak to me. Then all of a sudden He gave me the simple solution with two very simple words…THE DOOR. All I had to do was walk over to the door and walk out of the room. If you keep putting yourself in the way of temptation, no wonder that you’re struggling.

This is one time it is okay to run away. Get up and turn off the television set. Walk away from a group that is gossiping. Leave the theatre in the middle of the movie.

Don’t compromise yourself any longer.

Stay pure.

Stay strong.

1 Corinthians 10:12-13 Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 23rd May 2017

Both the Bible and History record for us that Dagon was the national deity of the Philistines. He was huge and made of stone.

You are probably aware that the most famous Philistine was named Goliath. He was the guy that kept taunting the Israelites and was eventually taken down and killed by a young boy named David.

Goliath and the Philistines worshipped Dagon, and so revered him, that they had a temple built in order to house this god of stone.

One day, the Philistines captured the ark of God, which in the Old Testament was a special box that contained items that represented the presence of God (some of you will remember the movie…’Raiders of the Loat Ark’)and placed it beside Dagon in the purpose built temple. I’m pretty sure that they thought that this would be the safest place to store the box, maybe thinking that Dagon would kind of ‘baby sit’ the ark.

Little did they realise that the one thing you should never do, is underestimate the power of God’s presence.

During the first night, Dagon, the God made of stone, fell face down in front of the ark. The Philistines promptly stood Dagon back up and thought it was just a coincidence.

However,  the next night things got a whole lot worse. Dagon not only fell prostrate again, but this time his head and his hands were broken off. This was no longer a coincidence…it was plain scary!

When you are in the presence of God there will be times when you need to fall on your face and acknowledge His presence. And then there will be times that you need to surrender your head and your hands to Him.

Your head is your brain power.

Your hands are your brawn power.

Stuck for answers?

Lacking in strength?

Are you willing to surrender your head and your hands today? He’s right beside you now and is awaiting your response.

Whatever your response is, don’t be foolish like the Philistines that thought that the presence and power of God was just a myth. God is real and so is His presence.

Once you’ve experienced it, you’ll never be the same again.

Psalm 16:11 In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

He wants to make a splash.

You can either fall forwards or you can fall backwards.

Choose today which one it will be.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 22nd May 2017

Have you ever felt like sometimes you are under too much pressure and that you can’t cope anymore?

I’m sure from time to time, we all feel like that.

Today I was thinking about rubber elastic bands. When I open my desk drawer, there they are, all different shapes and sizes and really are quite useless…UNTIL…they are stretched.
Yes, that’s right, the only use for an elastic band is for it to be stretched – then it will reach its full potential.
It’s absolutely no use, until that time. It’s just taking up space and doing nothing of any significance.

It’s amazing what we can do when under pressure. It’s amazing what we can achieve when stretched.
I remind myself daily, that God is with me, helping me and He will give me everything I need to get through today.

So the next time you feel that stretch, or that pressure, change your thinking and say “This is where I can become all God wants and needs me to be.”

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 20th May 2017

I love the law of seed time and harvest. I love the fact that God loves a cheerful giver. I love that God blesses the generous. I love that whatever I sow, I will reap.

We all know that seed is useless in your pocket, it has to be sown. A farmer’s seed is useless in his shed, it has to be sown.

Here’s 4 reminders about sowing seed

1. There has to be a SEQUENCE.
Give to God first, then bless others. You have to make sure your giving to God takes first priority.
God blesses sequence.

2. Check the SOIL
The future of your seed is determined by your soil. Be careful where you sow. Ask a farmer, he will have put his seed into good soil.

3. There will be a SEASON.
There is always a season. A season for sowing and a season for reaping. There’s always a time to wait between the sowing and the reaping. Seed time and harvest. What comes between? ‘Time’.
Sometimes when we sow in a ‘crisis’ season, our seed can be magnified and will even have greater effect. Don’t withhold seed in a crisis season. Even more reason to sow.

4. Seed can be a SACRIFICE
Ask the farmer if he’d like to keep all of his crop back to eat, and he’d say “no, I can’t afford to. I have to sacrifice a portion of it to sow again.”
A sacrifice is that which costs us dearly and sometimes sowing can be just that.

Galatians 6 vs 7 “God cannot be mocked, a man WILL reap what he sows.”

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 19th May 2017

Have you ever felt as though you’re treading through deep waters? Have you ever felt as though you’re sinking in the waters of life, unable to rise up out of them?

Maybe you think that God is taking you into the deep so that you can drown. I want to suggest to you that He’s taking you there because He knows your enemies can’t swim.

Wherever you find yourself today, whether you’re enjoying the mountaintop views or whether you’re paddling for your life, know that God has you where He has you for a purpose.

God wants to take you to places you’ve never been before, to heights you’ve never experienced – but so often, we see God as the God of the destination, but fail to recognise He’s also the God of the detour. And that detour sometimes leads you into the deep.

It’s in those moments you have to realise that God has brought me here, not to punish me, but to protect me.

I want to encourage you today to remind yourself constantly that He is with me, He is for me, He will never leave me nor forsake me, and wherever my feet tread, God is right there by my side.

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – 18th May 2017

Proverbs 25:28 Like a city whose walls are broken through, is a person who lacks self-control.

Every supermarket nowadays has a very basic range of products in order to appeal to shoppers that want or need to purchase goods at the lowest possible value.

We are all aware of entry level ranges that carry labels like ‘smart price’, ‘basics’ or ‘value range’.

Those special labels that we have come to recognise, help us to identify quality at affordable prices, knowing that there is not going to be anything of a better value than this. The supermarket branding is telling us that this is the lowest we can go. There is no need to search for a bargain, as this is it.

As we search in life for what is of great value today, we have to come to a point of understanding that there is a very basic entry level to which we can go and no lower. If we go any lower in the way we conduct ourselves, then we have passed the point of being effective and helping anyone out there today.

The basics of our faith can be displayed at the very least in three areas…our Mouth, our Mind and our Moods.

You may well be able…but can I ask…are you stable?

Are you depend- able?

Are you reli-able?

The labels on the value range of our faith have got to be displayed in us being trustworthy, having integrity, and living honestly.

If you are living below the very basics of who we are, then we are living below the ‘spiritual poverty line’. You cannot live any lower than that and profess to be a Christian.

Stop blaming everyone else for your mouth, mind and mood. The only way others can influence you is by you allowing them to.

One translation of the above verse, says…’like a city whose walls are broken down, is a man who has no rule over his spirit.’

It’s time to get back to basics and start taking rule over your own life.

Stop telling half truths which are really lies. Stop compromising your stance on things which really means you are afraid to be counted. Stop making lame excuses for being late, being in a mood and ripping into someone with your tongue again.

Your values have been compromised and there is no one to blame but yourself.

Ask God to forgive you right now and start to live a life that worthy of Gods calling on you once again.

Colossians 1:10 … live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God,

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 17th May 2017

Several years ago, there was a new fad around whereby all ladies were encouraged to get their ‘colours done’. Women were being trained like there was no tomorrow, to become ‘colour advisors’ and then opening their homes so that you could go and get your ‘colour reading’. I have to say that I was very skeptical and initially saw it as a money making racket.

It wasn’t before too long that my wife insisted that she should go and have hers done, and off she went.

The idea was quite simple. You sat down in front of a mirror for an hour during which the host would drape every single colour known to man around your neck area and then show you in the mirror the different effects that each colour had on your complexion. Once your session was finished, you were told what your skin tone was and then presented with a plastic wallet containing swatches of all the colours that you could now wear.

When Gillian arrived home that night, she took me through the procedure and then ventured to empty half her wardrobe. Her new revelation meant that the colour of many of her clothes were not on her colour chart!

As I watched this exercise unfolding, I too became aware that what she had been told was true. Certain colours didn’t suit her skin tone, whereas others broughy her face alive.

You’ve guessed it…I ended up going myself too!

It was one of the most painful and uncomfortable nights of my life. Sitting in front of a mirror for a whole hour with a multitude of different coloured scarves around my neck. Yet, the revelation was amazing. I had wondered for years why certain clothes made me look completely washed out. I’d put it down to being tired, but in fact it was all to do with my skin tone.

The lady announced to me that my tone was winter and then gave me my trusty colour chart, which I still refer to to this day. No matter what I buy to wear nowadays, I know instinctively whether it’s going to suit me or not. The colour chart never lies.

Each of us have a different category of skin tone, and depending on your tone, it will decide for you what will and won’t suit you.

In much the same way, we all have a certain ‘skin tone’ when it comes to our gifts and talents. I could never figure out why I couldn’t succeed at doing certain things when others could do them quite naturally. I was forever frustrated at my lack of ability in certain areas. It became apparent that I was ‘wired’ for certain things, but outside of that I would never succeed. The key was to establish what gifts God had blessed me with, and then to be comfortable only in those areas in my life. I now realise that the things that I couldn’t succeed in and left me feeling frustrated, should be left to those that are blessed with those gifts and vice versa.

Don’t spend the rest of your life working on the things that you are useless at, as you’ll never make a go of them, instead, spend your time working on the things that suit your ‘colour tone’ and you’ll soon realise how effective you can become.

Right now, be honest with yourself as to what roles suit you best and what roles you are least likely to be good at.

The list should have no more than five things on it. Most people make the mistake of wanting to be brilliant at 25 things, but that’s not going to happen.

My colour chart is limited, but it’s meant to be. It tells me that my best colours are reds, blues and blacks, with a smattering of purple, grey and even yellow and one very specific brown.

Apart from that, I know it’s best to stay away from all others. They will never suit me…but they may look amazing on you.

From now on, wear what suits you most.

1 Corinthians 12:1, 4-6 Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed…There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 16th May 2017

My Grandfather got on the bus one day, in order to go to the markets in the city centre of Birmingham. As he settled in his seat for the 45 minute journey, he fell fast asleep. When he eventually woke up, he realised that he was on the way back home. He had completely missed the reason for getting on the bus in the first place.

In all of our lives, we have to be awake enough to realise when it’s time to ‘get off’, otherwise we will miss our destination.

If you’ve ever travelled on the London Underground, you will know that you have to be completely alert and follow the map on the inside of the carriage, otherwise you will end up in completely the wrong place. Sometimes that journey will involve getting off one train and getting on another. It may even involve changing platforms, which may well be on very different levels of the station.

Ready or not, your destination is fast approaching and you have to know how to read the signs, otherwise you WILL get left behind.

Here are some ways to help you recognise just what to do when it’s time to change trains on your fast moving life.

1. Don’t get stuck in a time or season of your life.

‘Yesterday’s excellence is today’s mediocrity and tomorrow’s failure’. People sometimes remain in yesterday, but God doesn’t stay there. God is doing something new in your life right now. The world of fashion and hairstyles teach us how inappropriate it is to stay in one season for too long!

2. Realise that change is supposed to happen.

When change happens people assume that something is wrong, but change is not just an indicator that something’s wrong. Change is supposed to happen, otherwise you will just get stuck in the same old rut.

3. Recognise change as an opportunity to grow.

One of the reasons change is supposed to happen, is for us to grow and transform. The metamorphosis of life develops our character and makes us strong. Changes in life bring about changes in you.

4. Stay positive about change.

When God was transitioning the Nation of Israel from slavery to the promised land, the greatest challenge He had was getting the people to think positively throughout the season of change. They grumbled about all of the changes and complained that nothing was like it used to be. Sound familiar?

If you keep your attitude positive, God will take you through the difficult transitions and bring you through to a better place.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 15th May 2017

I used to have a pet rabbit in a hutch in the garden. I felt guilty that this rabbit was in a little hutch, so decided to let him roam free in the garden. He destroyed the garden. So he went back in the hutch.

I remember thinking, ‘if only he would agree not to destroy the garden he could enjoy his freedom?’ But no, there was no reasoning with this rabbit, so he lived out a limited life in the hutch.

Psalm 32:9 Do not be like the horse or the mule, which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you.

Here God is stating, a bit like me to my rabbit, don’t be stubborn and just carry on oblivious to the consequences of your actions, where the only way you can be tamed is by the ‘bit and bridle’ or the ‘hutch and circumstances’ of life.

The problem is we can cry out to God for our freedom or rescue and when it comes we carry on in the old way that got us into that mess in the first place. We want to dig around where we’ve been asked not to, and want to eat what’s not good for us and we end up in a hutch again and once more crying out for our freedom.

In Matthew 16:25 Jesus says “whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.”

This is great advice to help us live outside of the hutch. The local church gives us the opportunity to ‘lose our life’ for HI’m by serving in relationship with those planted around us, rather than trying to save and hold onto our lives continuing to please ourselves.

God has so much for us, and wants us to enjoy the freedom of the garden, if we would just submit all areas of our lives to him.

God is asking you today, not to be stubborn like a horse or even the rabbit, and don’t miss out on the freedom that comes from submitting to HI’m. He loves us and has the most amazing, enormous garden for us to live in – don’t live out your existence in a hutch!

Luke Cartwright

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 13th May 2017

Acts 10:1-4 At Caesarea there was a man named Cornelius, a centurion in what was known as the Italian Regiment. He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly. One day at about three in the afternoon he had a vision. He distinctly saw an angel of God, who came to him and said, ‘Cornelius!’ Cornelius stared at him in fear. ‘What is it, Lord?’ he asked. The angel answered, ‘Your prayers and gifts to the poor have come up as a memorial offering before God.’

Cornelius was hungry for God to touch his family.

He was a well respected man in authority, but knew where his authority ended and where God’s began.

He modelled for us his daily belief that when we come to the end of ourselves we come to the beginning of God.

Notice that his prayers ‘stacked up’ in Heaven before they received God’s attention and intervention.
Remember, nothing leaves Heaven until something leaves earth.
It’s almost like that your persistent daily prayer reaches a tipping point in Heaten and then when it does, get ready…God is about to move on your behalf.

If you stop praying for something after a short while, it shows the level of its importance to you and to God.

The things that really matter should become an ongoing daily prayer, accompanied by times of fasting. It’s those ‘important’ prayers that get Heaven’s attention.

In the mid 80’s, I felt compelled to pray for our tiny little church to have a full time pastor. I prayed daily for four years, seemingly without any answer. I started to take my prayer up a gear or two, and with boldness prayed for my request to happen before 1988 was out. Little did I realise that my prayers were being answered from the very beginning. Without me knowing it, God was preparing me to be the answer to my own prayers. I was appointed as the church’ first full time Pastor in 54 years. The month was December and the year was 1988.

Be encouraged to keep praying…make it your daily appointment with God.
Hebrews 6:12 We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.

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 – 12 May 2017

Don’t you just love a project? Maybe you’re into DIY and you have a list of things that you want to get done around the house. Maybe you’re a student with a pressing deadline. Truth is, many of us get great satisfaction from looking at something and thinking ‘how can I improve that?’ There’s also something great about seeing something through to completion.

Often, we approach people in the same way that we approach DIY. We look at their brokenness or situation and think ‘I can fix that.’

The problem is that when things don’t go as planned, we can become frustrated with people for not turning out how expected them to be.

We’ve all heard stories of people who thought they could fix that leak and a flood and expensive bill later, they’ve had to hand it to an expert instead.

People aren’t projects. A challenge for today is not to try to fix or improve people but simply to love and understand them. This is where God really shines through you and He can fix those broken places in people that we love. Or even yourself.

He’s the only one who can truly make us whole. It may seem like the long way round but it’s much better to be worked on by the master craftsman, than a hobbyist.

Melissa Reynolds-Lawrence

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 11th May 2017

The Bible records the words ‘fear not’ 365 times…that’s once for every day of the year.

Have you ever stopped to ask why God continually had to remind us to fear not? Is it not because we fear so much?

What are you fearing today?

Whatever it may be, here are just a few verses that will encourage you to stand firm today…

Psalm 118:6-7  The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me? The Lord is with me; he is my helper. I look in triumph on my enemies.

Isaiah 41:10  So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Deuteronomy 20:4  For the Lord your God is the one who goes with you to fight for you against your enemies to give you victory.’

Deuteronomy 31:6  Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.’

Proverbs 29:25  Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.

Psalm 27:1  The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life – of whom shall I be afraid?

Hebrews 13:5-6  Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?’

2 Timothy 1:7  For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.

DO NOT FEAR!

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 10th May 2017

All great breakthroughs show up when you are at peace. Anxiety and worry will chase your blessings away. You only have two options in life; you can try to do everything yourself, or you can partner with God and allow Him to do things through you, for you, and with you.

If you are going to allow God to do it for you, then you don’t have to ‘camp’ on top of it mentally all of the time, trying to dissect it and figure it out. While you are doing that you are losing your peace and losing the faith that you had to see it through. Allowing God to have total control of our lives not only brings you to a place of peace, but also to a place of confidence that He will bring about the breakthrough that you so desperately need.

A few years ago, when we were part way through the building of our new church auditorium, we were hitting one frustrating road block after another. We were fast running out of cash and had been waiting for months for confirmation as to whether or not we would get a mortgage on the property. We were just nine days away from losing everything.

I’d done everything in my power that I knew to do and still nothing. One morning I received an email from the contractor to say that we would need £186,000 in just over a week or they would have to walk off site. As you can imaging this was enough to drive me to my knees one more time. That morning, I handed everything over to God once more, knowing that if He didn’t turn up fast then the whole project would die.

As always, God did come through for us and we were able to pay that invoice with three days to spare! God is the God of the miraculous breakthrough.

No matter how huge your problem may seem today, fully surrender it over to God and be at peace.

He’s rarely early, but He’s never late.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 9th May 2017

God wants to be our partner throughout life.

Too often we are tempted to either carry the entire load ourselves or give everything to God and do nothing. God doesn’t like either strategy. Sometimes He moves before us, and sometimes He moves after us – but rarely does He move without us.

Without God…we cannot. Without us…God will not.

Now of course God can do anything He likes all by Himself, but He CHOOSES to use us in the process.

Throughout the pages of the Bible, time and time again we see God encouraging people to step out in faith, so that He can move with them. How many times have you and I desperately wanted God to step out ahead of us, so that we could simply follow in His footsteps? But that requires no faith.

Here are but a few examples of God waiting for us to step out in faith so that He can work with us…

Joshua 3:15-16 Now the Jordan is in flood all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away, at a town called Adam in the vicinity of Zarethan, while the water flowing down to the Sea of the Arabah that is, the Dead Sea was completely cut off. So the people crossed over opposite Jericho.

Mark 16:20 Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.

Matthew 10:8 Heal those who are ill, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.

Luke 9:1-2 When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal those who were ill.

If you are a believer in Jesus, God has given you His power and authority so that you can do mighty things in His name today. You just have to have the faith to step out today.

Waiting for God to move?

He’s waiting for you to move.

Step out today.

‘Attempt great things for God – expect great things from God.’

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 8th May 2017

The story of David and Goliath is a pretty spectacular one, where we find two guys going head-to-head in battle. On the one hand, we have David, just a young man, and on the other hand we have Goliath, a giant of a human being.

For most, this was a no-contest. However, to everyone’s shock and surprise, David approaches the battlefront with five small stones and a slingshot in hand, and with one accurate shot, hits Goliath and kills him instantly.

David then goes on to add insult to injury and proceeds to stand above Goliath, take a sword and chop off his head…

I don’t mean to be graphic or gruesome, but I want to turn your attention to the sword that David used. This sword wasn’t David’s sword, nor was it one that he just happened to stumble across. The sword that David used to finish off his opponent was none other than Goliath’s sword.

The very sword that was intended to kill David was the very sword that David used to complete his fight against the enemy.

I don’t know what battles you may be currently faced with, I don’t know what might have come your way, intending to wipe you out and finish you off, but what I do know is that the very thing that was sent to destroy you, is the very thing that God is going to use to bring about victory in your life.

The Bible says that no weapon formed against me shall prosper, and I do believe that that very same weapon will become the weapon that God will use to slay whatever giants come against you in your life.

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 6th May 2017

I’m not a gardener. But I can usually recognise a weed.

Here’s a few things about weeds…

1. Sometimes they are very well disguised amongst the good stuff.
We can have things in our lives that are ‘weeds’…in other words, they really shouldn’t be there and we can disguise them well. Sometimes these traits can go unnoticed for ages, until someone really looks for them or a certain situation happens, and up they come.
Watch out for well disguised weeds. Keep checking on your life regularly.

2.  Sometimes they are very obvious.
You walk past a patch of garden, and that weed calls out to you loudly.
Just like in our own lives, we can walk around with massive planks sticking out of our eyes (see Matthew 7 vs 3) and everyone knows about them.
Deal with them quickly. DO NOT think it’s okay to leave them there.

3. Sometimes weeds pull up very easily.
Yes, because they really shouldn’t be there, some of them come up with very little force (I like those sort). And like in our own lives, once identified, some weeds can be dealt with quickly and painlessly.

4. Some weeds are hard work to get rid of.
We all know that sort. You need good sharp gardening tools and a pair of thick protective gloves.
Some weeds in your life will take patience, determination and force to get rid of. But be assured of this: once the gardener gets to work, those weeds have to go.

Tell God about every one (as if He didn’t already know!) and ask Him to deal with it.
Maybe for the stubborn ones, you will need a little help from someone else too. Prayer, support and even confession.

But be assured of this. The weed has to go. It isn’t mean to be there in your beautiful garden and it isn’t meant to be in your beautiful life.

Now, go and do some weeding!
Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 5th May 2017

There’s a story in the Bible about two brothers, Esau and Jacob who were born moments apart from one another. Esau came first, closely followed by Jacob. During these days, there was a lot of importance placed upon the first born child. They would receive a birthright that would enable them to become head of their family, take charge of the property and receive a double portion of inheritance.

One day, when they were both grown up, Esau came in from the open country to find his brother cooking some lentil stew at home. He asks Jacob for a bowl as he is extremely hungry. Jacob spies an opportunity and tells Esau that in order to get some lentil stew, he must first trade his birthright.

Out of desperation, Esau agrees and trades his birthright for a bowl of stew. It was a totally ridiculous trade, but when desperation enters the equation, it’s amazing what you’ll do…

In life, you too will be tempted to trade in the ultimate for the immediate.

The name ‘Jacob’ means ‘deceiver’, a term also used in the Bible to describe the devil. The devil wants to deceive and mislead you by selling you the lie that says the things of this world can satisfy you, but they can’t.

Let’s be people who choose lasting fulfilment over temporary satisfaction every time. And the only One who can give you that is Jesus. He is the only One who can quench your thirst. He’s everything you’ve been wanting and more.

Today, I want to encourage you through the help that only Jesus can offer – don’t make the trade.

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – 4th May 2017

PWhen you are so close to something, you will tend to do one of two things…

You will notice every minute detail – You notice all the flaws with your spouse, you notice only the problems with your children and you see all the things that are wrong with the place where you live.

But, the other side to this for some is that you will notice nothing – you don’t see the dirty wallpaper in the lounge, the untidy cupboard, your wife’s new hairdo or the fact that your garden is like a jungle and is making the neighbours mad.

Either one of these dilemmas is often the result of living life in isolation.

Isolation is having no one to bounce things off and no one to show you what you really cant see. Being accountable isn’t a popular word, as it means that you have to include others in things that you would prefer to be a loner about.

Just imagine how many people could have been saved from doing weird stuff, if they’d have simply invited one or two good people into their lives.

Now, having too many opinions is not good for you, as you end up not being able to make any kind of a decision; choosing wallpaper is never best done by a committee. However, there is also safety in a multitude of counsellors…Proverbs 11 v 14
‘Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellers there is safety.’

Having good people around you is maybe something that you’ve never had or never wanted, but it’s not only advisable, it’s totally necessary.

If you were thinking of buying a home in an area unknown to you, it would be foolish to go ahead without asking a few questions to a few people that live there. Yet, so often we move ahead into unknown territory with our very lives without seeking the counsel of good people around us.

I use a little saying with some of the guys closest to me in leadership, and it goes like this….’I’m not necessarily asking you to give me permission, but I’m asking you to give me perspective.’ In other words, if I’m determined that I should climb that mountain, don’t stop my plan but advise me as the best way to carry it out. That will of course mean at times, that their advice will cause you to completely rethink your plan, or even cancel it all together.

None of us have the answer alone, but together we have the answer.

If you don’t have good people in your life, then simply start by asking one or two to have a coffee with you when you most need help. They will not only help with your problem, they will help you gain more good friends.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labour: if either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 3rd May 2017

We were entertaining special guests at our church a few weeks ago. They had flown in to speak for the weekend and we had just finished eating Sunday lunch together, so I dropped them back at the hotel so that they could have a quick rest before the next event that night.

As I was driving back home on my own, my wife phoned me and asked me to drop in to the local supermarket, as we urgently needed a few things for the next couple of days. We didn’t usually operate like that, but because of our busy schedule that weekend, we had not had time to shop.

As I dashed into the supermarket, I realised that a person that used to come to our church, was approaching from the right, and so we exchanged a quick hello and off we both went to shop. Several years earlier, this particular person had stood against when we started to build the new church, but thankfully we had both put it behind us and moved on.

It was not until I reached the cash till that I suddenly realised that I didn’t have my wallet with me. It suddenly dawned on me that I’d given it to my son in the restaurant so that he could pay the bill.

I quickly called Gillian and told her of my dilemma. In the mean time, an embarrassingly long queue had formed behind me, and was watching my frustration.

‘You’d better pray for a miracle’, Gillian said, as I made it clear that I would not come home without that shopping.

I let out a quick silent prayer, and there before my eyes was the person that I had bumped into earlier. Feeling prompted, I quickly walked over to them and explained my dilemma.
Within seconds, a credit card was being placed in the machine and my shopping was paid for. As I thanked the person and promised to be at their home later with the cash, they insisted that this was a gift and did not want any repayment at all.

Sometimes our miracles are hidden in the most unlikely places, with the most unlikely people.

It would have been so easy to have walked away and left my shopping at the till and returned home with nothing, but instead I chose to I believe that somewhere and somehow, God would supply my needs.

I wonder if you have written your problem off as a hopeless case just because you don’t see the miracle right in front of you, or have you decided that your impossibility is too big for God to handle?

Why not stop for a second right now and bring your request to God? Take your eyes off the problem, look up, and and wait for God to respond.

He’s more willing to provide, than you are willing to ask.

John 16:24 Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 2nd May 2017

What can I do for God?

Today I have been reading Psalm 116 – (go on, read it).

It talks about all the great things that God has done for me.

“I love God, because He listened to me…I was up against it and didn’t know which way to turn, I cried out to Him to save my life.”

We’ve all been in this position – a time where we needed God to come through for us, a time where we needed rescuing, a time where we needed Him to save our lives.

“God is gracious – it is He who makes things right.”
Yes He does. Even when we don’t deserve it (which is usually all of the time) God is gracious and makes it right.

How many times have you been in a difficult position? Sometimes through your own mistake or sometimes through no fault of your own, yet God always comes through.

Vs 7 “Soul you have been rescued from death and eyes, you have been rescued from tears.”

Such richness of God’s mercy has come my way. Thank You.

When we get to verse 12, the psalmist writes… “what can I give back to God?”
Let’s face it, whatever we can do, seems pretty insignificant and useless compared to what He has done for us.

“…I will lift high His name, I will pray and I’ll complete what I promised Him I would do.”
Wow.
How can I repay God? What can I do for Him?

Pray, Praise & Serve.
Pray – live a life of communication with your Heavenly Father.
Praise – In every circumstance & situation.
Serve – honour Him with your life, live a life that is totally sold out to Him.

One of those final verses he writes continues by saying, “I’ll complete what I promised Him I’d do, and I’ll do it in the company of His people.”

We were not meant to do life alone, get in to a great church and serve with others.

Live a life like that today and you won’t go far wrong.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 1st May 2017

Prayer shouldn’t be a burden but a privilege – a privilege God has freely given to us because He wants to spend time with us.

Jesus died to destroy the barrier of sin that separates us from God, and when we give our lives to Him, we have a personal relationship with Him. In fact, we only have access to God because of what Jesus did for us in his death and resurrection.

He opened the way for us once and for all to come freely to Him.

Central to any relationship is communication. A father that never talks to his children, or a married couple that never speak to each other is a recipe for defeat in any relationship.

In a far greater way, our relationship with God involves communication – not just a brief ‘hello’, but a much deeper level of sharing our cares, concerns and requests with Him.

Prayer is simply talking with God- it’s a two way street, just like any other relationship.

God could of course simply do everything on His own. He could make every problem go away, sort all your burdens out, and then just shower you with everything you need exactly at the time you need it…so why doesn’t He? Because that wouldn’t be a relationship; it would be a completely one-sided acquaintance.

God has given us the privilege of prayer, so that we will have a moment-by-moment friendship and relationship with Him.

There are some things that my children have asked me for over the years that I haven’t been able to supply, but then there are times when I’ve sorted things straight away.

Often my phone will ring and the voice on the other end is saying, “Dad…can you…?” The truth is that any Dad loves to be asked for things or to do things by his children. It’s the stuff of relationships.

At other times, the call comes from me to my children. Maybe I need to talk to them about something or give them some information; and so it is with God, He wants you to not only communicate with Him, but He also wants to communicate with you.

Jesus demonstrated the importance of prayer by His own example when we are told that He got up very early in the morning, while it was still dark, to pray. (Mark 1 v 35).

Today, I encourage you to engage with God in the privilege of prayer.

1 John 5:14-15 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of him.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.