Fresh Hope – 30th December 2017

I love the story of Esther in the Bible. A real story of rags to riches, peasant to palace. A young girl who was handpicked by a King to be his Queen.
I’m sure her days were full of pampering, servants, new outfits and beauty treatments. Sounds ideal and maybe every woman’s dream..

However, God had higher plans for her.
He had chosen her “for such a time as this”.
In fact the verse in Esther 4 vs 14 tells us “…but who knows, that you have come to royal position for such a time as this.”

What I love is this: she was in the royal position, yet she still chose to do God’s will.
I’m sure there are times when we all feel like staying within the comfort zone, when in fact God is calling us to a far higher purpose.
She could have stayed with her royal gorgeous lifestyle and yet she chose to risk her own life in order to save others.

She chose to ditch the pampering for the purpose.
God doesn’t want you to live a comfortable life, He has called you to live a life ‘on purpose’.
As a new year approaches, find out what yours is and go all in.

And maybe like Esther, you’ll go down in history as a great DIFFERENCE MAKER.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 29th December 2017

Recently,  we had the largest amount of snow I can remember since I was about 8 years old. For my boys, it was lovely, and maybe for me too! But for a lot of people, it was a big problem.

Clearing the snow from the driveway was one of the hardest tasks I’ve had to do in a long time.
Mainly, this was due to the snow being trampled down and driven on. It was no longer light, fluffy and easy to remove but hard, compacted and turning into ice.

This made me think that our lives can sometimes be like my drive and this snow.
We all experience troubles and issues that can come upon us unannounced, but if we don’t deal with them straight away, they can become compacted and pressed down making them hard to remove. They can stick to us and at worst, make our lives and hearts hardened to the people around us.
I want to encourage you today to step out and begin to move those issues that are resting on your life before they become a stronghold.
Unlike the snow-fall we experienced recently, we will face struggles and issues almost on a daily basis, so let us deal with them quickly.
The bible says to ‘cast all your cares upon Him (Jesus), for He cares for you.’

Today, let us do just that. Shovel away!

Adam Nash

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 28th December 2017

Today’s Fresh Hope is a contribution sent in by a young person from Champion Youth.

As it’s the Christmas season, we all have probably made a snowman at this festive time of year – especially with all the snow we have had. Building a snowman is like life. To build a snowman, you add more snow, take snow away and shape it to how you would like it. Each bit you change on the snowman means it’s closer to your final product. No snowmen are exactly alike – each are unique.

This can relate to us, because God shapes each one of us uniquely and he constantly keeps building you up and taking away negative influences in your life, for you to be more like Jesus. God shapes each one of us with His own hands. He already knows what you will be like before he shapes you. Sometimes, snowmen fall down, but you build them back up again, so it’s even stronger and won’t fall again. In life, you will have some knockdowns but God has it in control and makes you a stronger person through them. Each snowman you make, is created with care and love – this is how God is  towards you and me. He shapes each one of us with love and care. Each bit of snow you add to the snowman is done for a reason (to make it bigger). God adds more things into our lives to make us bigger and stronger people of God.

God has everything in control so you do not need to worry about anything. He is making you stronger each day. Rely on Him always! Each day you press into Him, He shapes you.

Chloe Beswick

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 27th December 2017

You may have heard it said that how you start something determines how you finish it. Today I want to flip that statement and let you know that how you finish something will determine how you start the next thing.

Maybe you’re like me in that when you see the end of a season in your life drawing close, you have a natural tendency to slow down and transition from giving your best to giving just a little of yourself.

However, I do believe that how you end one season has much to do with how you start the next.

As we approach the end of a year, may I encourage you to have a desire to finish it well.

We all want a strong start to a new year, so let’s commit together to having a strong end to this one.

I once heard someone say, ‘do something today that your future self will thank you for’.

What foundations are you laying during the conclusion of this season, that you’ll be grateful for in the season to come?

Begin to sow the necessary seeds now, so that you’ll enter into a new year ready to receive a harvest that you have made preparations for.

You’ll be glad you made a decision to finish well!

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – 26th December 2017

When a baby is born, we all want to see that precious little face. We want to ‘oooh’ and ‘aaah’ over the cute little nose and eyes, lips, everything. I must have spent hours staring at my son those first few months. Just taking in every single detail of his little face and feeling completely in awe of the gift we had been given.

This Christmas season, watching nativity stories, I wondered how Mary must have felt when she saw her new-born baby, those thousands of years ago; looking right into his perfect little face. I can imagine she was in awe and amazement not only at her first-born child but at her Saviour.

For many of us, Jesus is our first true love. When He first saved us, we felt His gaze and stared into His face like there was no tomorrow. We sought Him out and took time to just be still with Him. But life happened. Family, work, commitments may have taken the place of the time spent seeking His face. Instead, we throw Him a quick glance every now and then to make sure He’s still there. It isn’t because we love or adore Him any less, but we have allowed the temporal to take precedence over the eternal. We all have on many days, but sometimes we need to put down everything and just spend time with Him, savouring him and seeking his face beautiful magnificent face.

As we enjoy the Christmas break, let us return to our true love, let our hearts crave him, our eyes marvel at him and our ears listen tentatively at him.

This Christmas, let Psalm 27:8 simply be our cry “My heart says of you, “Seek his face!” Your face, LORD, I will seek.”

Christine Mudenha

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 25th December 2017

Happy Christmas everyone!

As we celebrate this day with family and friends, it’s also a special moment to pause and reflect on the true meaning of Christmas.

Christmas Day, up until the 4th century BC, was celebrated on the 6th January; that was until the first Christian emperor, Constantine, changed it to the 25th December. This was not because he believed it was Jesus’ day of birth, but because it marks the day of the winter ‘solstice’. This is the day that the natural eye can see for itself an astronomical phenomenon, where the light starts to overcome the darkness during the day. From here on, in the natural world, we start to see longer days of light. Was it not this very day that was chosen so that we could be pointed to Jesus who came to overcome the darkness?

John 8v12…Jesus said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of Life’.

Today – whether spending it with a house full of loved ones or sitting all alone – begin to see for yourself that you no longer have to walk around in the dark, but you too can experience Jesus Christ’s love for you as He lights up the rest of your life.

Like any gift this Christmas, in order to experience it, you have to receive it with open arms.

Don’t just stumble around in the darkness anymore…open your heart and your arms to receive Jesus right now.

Have a blessed and happy CHRISTmas.

Remember: FRESH HOPE is waiting for you first thing every morning over Christmas (Mon –  Sat).

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 23rd December 2017

You can have what you want if you know how to get it.

In Luke 18 verses 1-8 we read about the persistent lady who wanted justice and would not quit when she has been told “no”.

You can often be held back by the word ‘no’ when in fact God says “yes”
Here’s some things we can learn from this story…

You have to go to the right person – she went straight to the judge and not to her neighbour.
She went straight to the top!
Take your request straight to God, don’t complain about it to someone else, they probably can’t help you.

You have to know what you want –
be specific, don’t be frightened to ask God. She went and asked for justice. She knew what she wanted.

Don’t give up – she didn’t. She kept on persisting even though she probably got weary.
Too often we give up too soon.
The Judge said “I’m going to give her what she wants, not because I want to, but because of her persistence.”

You’ve got to be in a right relationship – when you have a relationship with God as your Father you can go to him with your requests and concerns, your desires and your needs.
Because of relationship, He will answer.

What are your needs today?
What are your desires?

DON’T QUIT PRAYING

Luke 18 vs 1. I want to teach them to pray and not quit, to be consistent and not give up.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 22nd December 2017

Prior to the birth of Jesus, we find in the Old Testament hundreds of commands that people would aim to obey in order to please God.

Now of course, this was an impossible task to adhere to. Every time one of these commands was broken, so would their relationship with God also be considered broken.

In order to put things right, you were then required to present a sacrifice, and in doing so, your relationship with God would be restored.

Now if you’re like me, by this point I am pretty exhausted just thinking about the weight of these religious exercises. Thankfully, the story doesn’t end there…

When Joseph is met by an angel, who informs him that Mary is going to give birth to a baby boy, they’re instructed to give Him the name Jesus. This name Jesus, means ‘Saviour’, because He would save people from their sins.

Notice, the very thing that up until now had prevented people from having a relationship with God is the very thing that Jesus would come to remove.

You may be thinking, what does this have to do with me in 2017? I’m glad you asked…

It means that because of Jesus, you now have the right to have a relationship with God. A relationship with God that wasn’t earned by you and therefore cannot be unearned by you. You didn’t qualify yourself for it and neither can you disqualify yourself from it.

It means that God’s love towards you and His desire to have relationship with you is totally predicated upon Himself.

And the Bible says that all you have to do is simply confess with your mouth and believe in your heart that Jesus is who He says He is, and you will be saved!

Can I invite you at this special time of year to enter into a relationship with your creator, the God of Heaven and Earth? He’s only one invitation away…

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – 21st December 2017

Three times the New Testament, letters quote Habakkuk 2:4 ‘the righteous will live by faith!’

We know that no amount of good behaviour can qualify us or bad behaviour disqualify us, only by faith are we accepted! How vital it is that we check ourselves to ensure it’s faith driving our behaviours and not our circumstances!

Hebrews 11:1 | NIV
Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

All through the Bible, God is either pleased with people because of their faith or displeased because of their lack. Jesus often performed a miracle and declared ‘your faith has made you well’ and he also condemned the unbelieving towns where he could perform no miracles.

It’s the same today that in our lives we either activate something from God by believing (regardless of circumstance) or we displease him by allowing ourselves to just behave like the world without God.

I wonder how often in our lives we continue (needlessly) in a bad circumstance, purely because we keep reinforcing the bad situation by speaking just factually about it, rather than with faith of what it could be? Basically, we moan!

I find this very challenging! When we moan about anything at all, regardless of whether we’re right or not, we declare we don’t believe in the goodness of God for that situation! If we did believe in the goodness of God for the situation, as if it’s already happened, our confession would follow what we believe and we’d have nothing to moan about.

I personally enjoy a good moan, but if I want to see more of God in my life, I can’t afford to be negative about people or situations and neither can you.

Let this not discourage or condemn us today, but let it convict and challenge our thinking in relation to the way we talk, especially when things aren’t going great.

If someone has let you down, if you have a desperate need, if you’ve had some bad news or if you’re disappointed and frustrated, before you open your mouth, stop and think! Make a decision that what you’re about to confess doesn’t declare ‘there is no God’ but declares ‘my God has this!’

‘Faith is confidence in what we hope for and the assurance about what we do not see.’

Luke Cartwright

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 20th December 2017

Recently I was deeply moved by the extravagant generosity of a friend. Over a period of a few weeks, she decided to bless me over and over and over and over again with several gestures of her time, talent, and money. It got to the point where it just felt like it was too much! She didn’t just do one gesture to cross it off her ‘must do’ list – she wanted to go well and truly over and above the norm. What was most moving about these gifts was that she did them with absolutely no agenda. She didn’t want anything in return, and she didn’t want anyone else to know about it. She simply did it because she wanted to bless me no with strings attached!

I share this story, because I was so inspired, challenged and blessed by her. We serve an extravagant God – one who also goes above and beyond. As His children, made in His image, it is in our DNA to be the same – to be generous givers. As we approach Christmas, let’s not settle for crumbs, scrapping together our odds and ends for others, let’s give big! The word ‘generous’ means ‘to give more than is usual or expected’. When is the last time you took someone off guard by being unusual in your giving? When was the last time you not only met the expectation, but also exceeded it? That is God’s way.

Live with an awareness of who you are. You are a representative of the King. As a royal, think of the access you have to unlimited resources (and it doesn’t have to necessarily be money). Think of the God-given authority and ability you have to change lives.

The Christmas season is a celebration of the greatest act of generosity in history. When God gave His one and only son to redeem humanity. Then Jesus, again in an extravagant act of love, gave His life for us. As we walk in imitation of their unusual, abundant generosity, let us seek to give all we can this Christmas. Look for opportunities to display the goodness of God in the everyday. You are a conduit of his generous heart.

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
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Emma Montesi

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 19th December 2017

Sometimes real life events that were embarrassing at the time, can turn out to be some of life’s funniest moments when recalling them some years later.

One such event involved my brother in law; he had ordered his favourite Christmas drink from Starbucks at our local shopping mall. He’d ordered it complete with loads of whip and caramel sauce on top.

As he was hurrying with it through the mall, he tripped and almost fell flat on his back. He just about managed to right himself, and more importantly save his drink from spilling.

No sooner had he composed himself, when he bumped straight into someone that he knew, but hadn’t seem for quite a while. The conversation lasted for several minutes as they caught up on the last few years. Eventually, as he got back to his car, he looked down and realised that all the whip and sauce from his coffee was actually displayed on the front of his coat. When he tripped he didn’t realise that his drink had shot out of the cup! He started to think about what everyone else was seeing and thinking that he’d passed, not least of all the person that had been standing right in front of him, chatting for several minutes.

I wonder if you are oblivious today of something that is blatant to everyone else, but you are completely unaware that you’re ‘wearing’ it wherever you go.

We can all be very quick to criticise other people’s faults and failings, but have you ever stopped to examine your own life?

In the Bible, Jesus explained this hard hitting truth in such a simple yet graphic way…

Matthew 7:1-5 ‘Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way as you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. ‘Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

Are you walking around today with a critical, judgmental spirit, not realising that the plank in your own eye is far bigger than everyone else’s speck of sawdust?

Don’t be fooled that no one is noticing your bad attitude…it’s there on display for all to see.

In order to keep you from falling into the trap of feeling a sense of superiority over everyone else, be determined to ask a trusted friend/ leader/co-worker this simple yet effective question…’is there anything you need to say to me today?’

That one question, needn’t be asked everyday or even every week, but it should be asked at least once a year and should be asked to more than one mature person.

The answer will not only help you grow in character as a person, it will help you to appreciate that the first rule of leadership and life is self leadership.

What are you trying to hide and deflect about your own life simply by projecting that very same problem onto someone else?

Make a plan to have a healthy check up every morning.

Ask to Holy Spirit to change you from the inside out, and remember: check yourself before you wreck yourself. People won’t look up to you because you are always right, but they will look up to you because you’re always real.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 18th December 2017

At one point or another we will all come face to face with disappointment. Disappointment is a product of unmet expectation, delayed dreams and hope deferred. It can be a real painful pang deep in our hearts and comes in all shapes and sizes. Maybe that promotion you’ve been working toward for years wasn’t offered to you, perhaps a loved one is ill and you are still waiting on healing, maybe someone you care about didn’t come through like you wanted them to, you let yourself down, or there is a promise from God that He seems to have forgotten, or maybe it is even just the monotony of life that is a disappointment for you. Disappointment is a reality of life, but it is so important that we learn how to overcome it before we find it taking root in our hearts and turning into depression, resentment or rebellion.

So how can we deal with disappointment?

1. Acknowledge it! Don’t deny your feelings of disappointment by covering them up and ignoring them. Recognise them and share them with God. Even David a mighty warrior and ‘a man after God’s own heart’ said, ‘My eyes fail, looking for my God’ (Psalm 69:2–3). Why would God include someone expressing their disappointment in Him, in scripture? I believe God is secure enough to let us know that disappointment is part of the Christian life and acknowledging it and expressing it to God is part of processing it.

2. Choose joy! If ‘the joy of the Lord is my strength’ (Psalm 28:7) then that means the level of my strength is determined by my level of my joy. Happiness is to do with happenings, which changes all the time. Joy is choice. The level at which we believe God loves us, cannot be determined by our circumstance, it needs always to be defined by the finished work of cross! That is our reference point and reminder, and source of joy. 1 Thessalonians 16 – 18 says, ‘be joyful always’. ‘Always’ implies always – good times and bad!

3. Surrender! Nothing feels quite as good as just letting go. Coming to the end of yourself so God can carry you in the pain. Habakkuk knew what it was to surrender to God and choose joy. When it was revealed that his country would be destroyed, he concluded:

‘Though the fig tree not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord. I will be joyful in God my Saviour’ (Habakkuk 3:17-18).

Find hope today that truth reigns over your feelings. Trust the nature and goodness of God, despite what your feelings and circumstance tell you.

Proverbs 3:5 ‘Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.’

Emma Montesi

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 16th December 2017

One of my favourite things at Christmas to read in the Bible is the story of Philip who went to talk to the Ethiopian Eunuch. (Acts chapter 8 vs 26 onwards).

What’s that got to do with Christmas, you ask?
This: it reminds me that at a very busy time of year when we can get so focused on what WE have to do, that we can actually forget what we are SUPPOSED to do.

Philip was on his way somewhere, when God instructed him to go somewhere else. To talk to someone who needed help in understanding about the Scriptures and God. Philip, we read, went way out of his way to do what God had asked of him.

The result? The man found Christ and got baptised.
You could say that was a result.
Then we read that Philip ‘suddenly’ got taken away by the Spirit of God and taken to the place he needed to be.

That’s why this always blesses and speaks to me at a busy time of year…If you do what God has called you to do, and make way for Him… He will get YOU where you need to be and people will get blessed along the way.
Win Win.

“Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you” (Matthew chapter 6 vs 33)

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 15th December 2017

Gone are those times when the family photos had to be sent off to be ‘developed’.

I well remember the days of having a set of flash bulbs for Christmas; they had to be inserted in the top of the camera, with each one only lasting for one flash photograph. It was then a long wait before someone decided to get the film sent off in the post in order to be ‘processed’. It was quite common that the photograph that you took at the family Christmas party was never seen until well after Easter. It was quite a gathering when finally those photos arrived back through the letter box.

There was no such thing as delete or the facility to photoshop a picture if you didn’t like it. It was what it was, and the only delete facility was to rip it up and throw it in the bin.

It’s interesting that the term ‘develop’ in relation to the photography world, meant that your reel of film would have to be processed by a professional in dark room in order to keep the film from being exposed to to light, thus ruining the photograph.

Can you believe today that we had to go to such great lengths to take a picture. It’s possible today, depending on your age, that what I’ve just described is completely foreign to you. Nowadays it’s the click of an iPhone and there you go.

‘Developing’ is not only what happens in the photography world, but is something that happens in our lives too. Developing happens in the dark. It’s the dark places that produce the greatest pictures.

Despite the bright lights of Christmas, you may well find yourself in a dark place that seemingly has no purpose in the grand scheme of your life. You don’t like it, want it, and you certainly didn’t ask for it, however rest assured that your dark place is going to be used to develop you in ways that the easy places of your life never will.

If you want your life to turn into a beautiful picture, then see the power and purpose and the dark place that you’re going through right now.

In the Bible, Joseph (and his technicolour dream coat) is still today recognised as one of the most famous of all Bible characters. Yet, his life didn’t start out in a West End theatre, but a dark and dinghy pit. PIT stands for ‘person in training’. That’s exactly what your dark place does…it trains you for greatness.

If you’re not sure how to handle the dark place you’re in right now, then always remember…what you learn in the light, practice in the dark, and what you learn in the dark you’ll never forget in the light.

Dark places never last forever, but rest assured they will last until they do the required work in your life…and then comes the fully developed picture.

Romans 5:3-5 …we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 14th December 2017

We have a Christmas tree in our front garden, this year it has grown so much, it really is beautiful. Each December we cover it in lights and make it even more so.

After the recent heavy snow fall of the last few days, the tree got absolutely covered, so much so, that the snow was weighing down so heavily on its branches and even the bright lights on them were entirely covered.
Today I decided to take the snow shovel and ‘knock off’ the snow.
What a shame, I thought, this tree is being weighed down and burdened with snow, that may look pretty, yet is probably going to damage it long term.
As I started to ‘free’ the tree of the heaviness, I thought about our own lives and how we let stuff weigh us down.
If you don’t do something about that weight, it will eventually affect you and will probably damage you long-term.

Sometimes we don’t even realise that things are weighing us down.
If we fail to deal with things as they come, then eventually you’ll be covered under a great pile.

The lowest branches of the Christmas tree, the largest ones, were so buried under the few feet of snow, that I physically had to lift them free of the drifts.

Sometimes you need a little help to lift burdens, that’s where Jesus comes in. The Bible tells me He is the great burden lifter.

You can come to Him today, wherever you are, He is only a prayer away. He is the one who can lift your burdens and set you free.

And like my tree, you’ll be free again to shine brightly and be all you were created to be.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 13th December 2017

I do believe that how we see God determines how we approach Him, and that how we approach Him plays a part in what we receive from Him.

I saw a quote recently that read, ‘God is more eager to answer your prayers than you are to pray them.’

I don’t know about you, but when I have a need or a request, I’m pretty eager to see that need met or that request granted.

And there are even times when I can think to myself, maybe without realising it, ‘if only God wanted this as much as I do…’

However, the truth is that if what you’re believing for is God’s will for your life, He wants you to have it far more than you want it for yourself!

He wants to provide for you more than you’re hoping to see the provision. He wants to restore that which is broken more than you’re longing to see restoration… God is eagerly desiring not only to answer your prayers, but exceed your expectations.

I wonder what would happen if we approached God with this view of Him…

I wonder the things we would see happen in and through us if we believed that there is a God in Heaven who is more eager to provide than we are to pray and who desires to do exceedingly and abundantly more than we could ask, think or imagine.

Allow me to encourage you today to approach God with this revelation and believe that He is ready and waiting to do for you that which you cannot do for yourself.

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – 12th December 2017

Many people fall into the trap of self-pity. Self-pity as defined by google means, ‘excessive, self-absorbtion over one’s own troubles’. Often people carrying a spirit of self-pity seek others to validate their feelings, and they easily attract people with the same sense of unhappiness.

I believe that as Christians, when we partner with self-pity, we open ourselves up to a whole host of emotional and spiritual issues. Why? Because Christ died, making us victorious people, therefore we are no longer powerless slaves to our circumstance, or feelings like self-pity.

In Galatians 2:20 Paul writes, ‘I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me’. Sulking over disappointments, or obsessing over hurts, is living from the flesh, not the Spirit.
The grave has been overcome and we are not defeated anymore! By wallowing in self-pity we are saying that the cross is not enough!

The key ingredient in self-pity is ‘self’. It is making the focus YOU, rather than the cross. We should never let the circumstances of our life be the measuring stick of how much we believe God loves us. Rather, we should always look to the cross to reaffirm the degree to which God loves us – we then see that He loves us extravagantly, and unconditionally!
Romans 6:6 confirms this with, ‘For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin’.

Let your feelings be governed by the reality of the cross, not your circumstance and feelings of self-pity. Shift your focus from self to what has been won for you!

Emma Montesi

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 11th December 2017

As we approach this Christmastime, we are once again reminded of the great lengths that God went to in sending Jesus to reach us. Yet, no matter how many times we think of that, we all are prone to slip back into our default mode of believing that God only wants from us and not for us.

One of the simplest stories in the Bible that helps us to grasp how much God really wants to reach out and do for you, is found here…

Mark 10:46-52 Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus which means ‘son of Timaeus’, was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’ Jesus stopped and said, ‘Call him.’ So they called to the blind man, ‘Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.’ Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus. ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ Jesus asked him. The blind man said, ‘Rabbi, I want to see.’ ‘Go,’ said Jesus, ‘your faith has healed you.’ Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.

Everyone tried to silence the voice of the blind beggar, apart from Jesus. Everyone presumed that the beggar would have had no chance of getting an audience with the son of God, and yet to everyone’s surprise, He wanted to know what the guy wanted from him.

Think about it: a beggar stopped Jesus in his tracks with a request for something. That something was not a small thing either… “I want both my eyes!”

Here’s the message that got back to the guy…cheer up…on your feet…He’s calling you.

Then came the crux of the whole conversation as Jesus asked him …‘what do you want ME to do for YOU?’

Not only did Jesus listen, He responded with an outright miracle for a guy that could nothing for Him in return.

The man received his sight, because he believed that Jesus would not only be able to do it, but that Jesus would be willing to do it.

Today, I encourage you against all the odds that may be going on in your life…CHEER UP! Jesus is calling you right now. The question is, do you have the boldness of the beggar to ask Him to meet your need, or are you still stuck believing that Jesus is only a taker and not a giver?

Finally, there was only one thing that the beggar could do after such an amazing life changing encounter… ‘immediately he received his sight and FOLLOWED Jesus…’

The same is true for you. Your miracle is not the end, but the beginning of a new life ahead of you.

Be a bold asker…be a bold follower.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 9th December 2017

If you decide that you want to go for greater things in your life, get ready for life not to be comfortable.

If you want to remain comfortable and in ‘your comfort zone’ forget reaching for higher things.

Whenever we decide we want to do something greater, make a greater difference, expand, climb higher, take a risk, step out in faith…then you have already decided that your life won’t be comfortable.

Ask a pregnant woman if she is comfortable- the answer will be NO!
But does she want that baby? Of course she does, more than anything probably.

Her temporary discomfort is because of the greater things to come.

When a Momma eagle decides it’s time to let those babies go out of the nest and fly for themselves, she starts to take the nest apart, twig by twig; making it so uncomfortable for those babies, that they have to get out.
Cruel? Definitely not. Teaching them to fly? Of course!
The very reason for which they were created.

If you want to be comfortable, you’ll never fly and if you want to fly, you won’t be comfortable.

So when life seems hard work and you’re having to push forward and it’s hard… just remember why and take heart.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 8th December 2017

Today, Fresh Hope turns to fresh Christmas chocolate brownie.

Simple, yet great recipes should be passed around, so today I’m sharing a favourite that will be a hit with all the family, especially when it comes straight out of the oven.

Many recipes can be too complicated for most people to try…here’s one thats not!

Rich chocolate brownie cake – serves 8-10 (or 4-5 in our house!)

125g butter at room temp

250g caster sugar

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

Pinch of salt

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

125g plain dark chocolate.

125g plain flour

Grease an 8 inch round cake tin and line with foil or greaseproof paper.

Pre-heat the oven to 350°F or 180° C

In a large bowl beat the butter until light and fluffy, add the sugar and beat well until blended.

Add the eggs and vanilla and beat again until well blended.

Add the salt and a third of the flour and beat well. Add another third of flour and beat, and then the final third and beat.

Break or grate the chocolate into a bowl and melt over hot water or carefully in microwave. Leave to slightly cool and then add to cake mixture and beat until well blended and creamy.

Pour into cake tin and smooth

Bake for 20-25 mins until cake is puffed up and is cooked in the middle.

Leave to slightly cool and then turn out onto a plate.

Dust with icing sugar and serve warm.

A wonderful family fireside treat for Christmas.

Enjoy.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 7th December 2017

‘See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland’ Isaiah 43:19

As we sit on the cusp of a brand new year, we usually begin to reflect on the year gone by and consider the one to come.

I’m sure for many of you, 2017 can be defined as a year in which you saw and made it through many challenges. It is always encouraging to look back and see that which you once thought was impossible, but have now overcome. For some of you perhaps, your growth as a person can be marked. Perhaps there have been difficulties that you are sure will be carried into 2018.

Last night I was going through my wardrobe sorting out clothes for the charity shop. I love the feeling of simplifying. Cutting back on what is not used and making room for the new. I believe in many areas of our lives we should regularly review, cut, and make space for the next season.

God is a God of new beginnings and His desire for all of us is to walk into the new year with a strong sense of hope and faith for the future. We may not be able to change our circumstances or situations, but we can shift our perspective and attitude.

Focus on what you can do, and leave the rest to God.

Some good questions to ask yourself are:

What do I need to stop worrying about that is out of my control?
What do I need to start including in my day that feeds my soul?
Who do I need to unfollow – in life or on social media?
When is the last time I got lost in the wonder of  God’s word?
What consumes too much of my head or heart space that is unhealthy?
When is the last time I did something for my spouse, friend or work mate – just to see them smile?
When is the last time I set personal goals?
What did I do today to prioritise my health (mind, body and soul)?
When is the last time I did something for the first time?
What can I start today to make a positive impact on my future? (saving, investing, reading or writing).

Tune into what God might have for you in the new year.
Be prepared for God to do a new thing. Get rid of the old and make space.

Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 6th December 2017

Samson could have been one of history’s greatest leaders, yet when all was said and done, he turned out to be one of the worst.

Samson had everything going for him. He was a special child, foretold by the Angel of the Lord to his parents. He had a God given destiny and purpose, which was to deliver his nation from the opposing forces, namely the Philistines.

Samson performed many great feats of strength during his life, yet despite his good start, Samson got himself into trouble many times and in the end he finished tragically. He was weak, blind and enslaved to the Philistines from whom he was supposed to deliver his people.

Why didn’t Samson become the great leader he had the potential to be?

Simple…his despicable character made him untrustworthy, destroying his ability to lead. He was impetuous, volatile, lustful, moody, emotional and unpredictable. No one could figure out his intentions, not even his new wife, his Father in law, or his own nation, the Israelites. Even his own people bound him up and handed him over to the enemy in order to save their own necks.

Not everyone of us has a great start in life but what we do have is the chance to build our lives and character in order to finish well. Samson’s lack of integrity was his undoing, when you lose that you lose peoples trust.

Be determined today to stay strong in character, no matter what temptation comes your way. If you’ve messed up, make sure you fall forwards, pick yourself up and start again. This time do it right.

Remember: it’s not how you start that matters, but how you finish. Stay strong.

Be a person of integrity, no matter what everyone else around you is doing.

1 Corinthians 10:12-13 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 5th December 2017

Even seasoned Christians probably haven’t heard a lot about the Bible hero, Enoch. Unlike some of the more famous characters of the Bible, Enoch didn’t lead an army into battle, he didn’t stand before kings, nor was he persecuted for his faith. So what was he known for?
‘Enoch enjoyed a close relationship with God throughout his life’ (Genesis 5:24). What a thing to be known for!

What does it really mean to be “walking with God”? I remember during my years at university, my friend Rachel and I would get up at 6am, grab our Bibles and go for walks together. Although the exercise was of benefit, the real prize was the time we spent together and therefore the friendship we cultivated. We began to love starting our days together and the day just didn’t seem quite right if we didn’t start it with a morning of walking and talking! Now there is unfortunately a geographical distance that separates us so we don’t get that time together like days gone by. With God, distance is never a problem! We can have constant intimacy with God, the ability to connect with Him at any point in our day, and therefore the opportunity for growth in our friendship with Him.

The blessing of Enoch’s close walk with God spilled over into generations after him. Did you know that Enoch was the father of Methuselah? Methuselah was the oldest person mentioned in the Bible – he lived to be 969 years old! I believe that in Enoch having a beautiful, close friendship with God, he would have gained incredible wisdom that his children would have reaped from.

The heart of the apostle Paul was also for deeper companionship with Christ, ‘For my determined purpose is that I may know him – that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His person more strongly and more clearly’ (Philippians 3:10, Amplified).

Naturally the more we get to know someone, the more we trust them. If a stranger on the street came up and asked you for your credit card PIN number, we would never hand over the details because we don’t know this person! If our spouse on the other hand requested personal information, we wouldn’t hesitate because we know them and therefore trust them. If we are struggling to trust God with our lives, perhaps it is because we don’t know Him. Maybe we need to work on our developing our friendship with Him first!

Let constant companionship with God be the ambition of our lives. After all, the very reason Christ died was so we could have fellowship with Him!

Genesis 5:21-24

“And Enoch lived sixty and five years, and begat Methuselah: And Enoch walked with God after he begat Methuselah three hundred years, and begat sons and daughters: And all the days of Enoch were three hundred sixty and five years: And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him.”
‭‭

Emma Montesi

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 4th December 2017

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

I wonder what impossibility you have woken up to today?

Whatever it is, remember, nothing is too hard for the Lord.

I’ll never forget the day when a couple came to see me at my office on the way back from hospital. The wife had been diagnosed with fluid around the heart.

This couple were known to me at the time and into the bargain the husband was walking aided by two sticks. He had bent down a few years earlier and had damaged his spine. Surgeries had followed, but all to no avail. No matter which way you looked at their situation, they were in a pretty sorry state of affairs to say the least.

All of a sudden faith started to rise in me and I firmly believed that God could do a miracle for this lady. I also privately reasoned that her husband was too far gone for God to do anything. Mistake!

As I rose and walked around to them from my office desk, I started to pray for the lady’s heart condition. By this time she was struggling to breathe and was obviously in quite a serious condition. No sooner has I prayed forJesus to heal her, the atmosphere in the room changed from defeat to victory. Her breathing returned to normal and her heart condition was completely healed. Whatever the diagnosis just an hour earlier, had now been reversed by the God of all impossibilities.

The couple were amazed and started to walk away so thankful for what God had done. As I watched the husband leaving with his two sticks, barely able to make a walk of it, I felt compelled to call out to him “what about you?”

What happened next was completely astonishing for us all to see. My office was situated just off the foyer of the church at that time, and so I asked them both to join me in the church for prayer.

As the guy stood, I placed my hands on his spine and commanded the pain to leave and for healing to come. As I was halfway through the prayer with my eyes closed, I heard a loud bang followed by the cracking of his spine. When I opened my eyes, he was lying flat out on the floor. The cracking of his spine panicked me and his wife as we felt he must have done himself a further injury, but to both our amazement he got up and started to do some kind of press ups! He then stood and started to walk unaided, followed by climbing the stairs without a problem, saying over and over again “I’M HEALED!”

I’d seen this guy in the school playground waiting for his kids for months before and I knew what he could and couldn’t do. I’d often felt sorry for him watching him unable to pick them up in his arms. I knew that this guy was for real, but the truth was that no amount of sorrow for him led to him being healed, but one prayer in faith saw him instantly receive what no doctors could do.

The next day that couple were seen walking arm in arm, completely unaided at the local shopping mall. Weeks later he was batsman for the church cricket team. I’ll never forget seeing a snapshot that hung on their lounge wall months later. It was an action picture taken of him hitting the ball ‘out of the park’.

What God did for that needy couple that day, God can do for you TODAY.

Remember; ‘With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.’

Why not fully trust God right now and receive your very own miracle?

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 2nd December 2017

The Bible tell us that Jesus came not to be served, but to serve.  (See Matthew 20 v 28)

What a great example.

We should all strive to be servant-hearted in everything we do and the lives we lead.

What is servanthood?

1. It’s the act of putting someone else’s interests before your own
2. Doing for someone, what you’d like to be done for you
3. Serving can be seen by some as ‘lowering yourself’ – it’s actually elevating to a higher level. (See Jesus as the perfect example).
4. Be a servant without making a song and dance about it
5. Putting credit into someone else’s account, without showing your debit slip
6. Being big enough to do small things
7. Being a friend to the little man
8. Going the extra mile without claiming expenses
9. ‘Picking up the litter’ when you know it’s not your responsibility.
10. Rewriting your job description downwards, knowing that God can rewrite it upwards

When we understand that our purpose in life is to serve, that’s when our life will be truly fulfilled.
Serving will not only bring joy to those around me, but to my life too

J = Jesus
O = others
Y = yourself.

Get this order right and you won’t go far wrong.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 1st December 2017

At this time of the year we are all looking at two gauges more than usual. The first one is the thermometer. If I’m really honest, first thing this morning, I reached for my iPhone at the side of the bed, and after shutting off the alarm, the next thing I did was to look at the weather forecast and temperature. It informed me that it was -2 degrees Celsius and would rise throughout the day to just +2 degrees Celsius.

The next gauge that we go to is the thermostat. In this kind of weather we place great trust in it, as we notch it up even more than usual in a bid to keep our homes warm. The trusted thermostat is responsible for setting the temperature at any given time. We pay little notice of it once it’s set, but we’d certainly know if it wasn’t working.

Just as with the natural elements, we too need to see the importance in our lives of both the thermometer and the thermostat.

Our inbuilt thermostat can walk into a room full of people and detect the ‘frostiness’ of even one person, knowing instantaneously that they are trying to bring the rest of that group down to their level. Thankfully we are not only capable of measuring the temperature, but more importantly we are given the task of setting the temperature.

Being a thermostat in life is one of the greatest gifts that a person can have. They can walk into a room and instantly change its frostiness into a place that feels the warmth of its positivity. Don’t underestimate your temperature setting ability in any and every situation.

As our children were growing up, we’d often say to them, ‘you are not allowed to change to atmosphere here’. This was usually on a day when they were having a hard time being pleasant!

Understanding your responsibility in ‘being’ a temperature setter in life is vital if you are going to raise the level of the people around you, no matter if it’s family, friends or work colleagues.

Don’t just settle today for being a weather forecaster. That’s easy and requires no one around you to change, Instead be an atmosphere changer where ever you go. Even if you’re the only one doing it don’t worry, it only takes one thermostat to change the temperature in a whole building.

Smile when you walk into a room.

Speak words of life and encouragement.

Always give people hope.

Shine with the love of Jesus.

Have a joyful heart.

Proverbs 15:13
A joyful heart makes a cheerful face, But when the heart is sad, the spirit is broken.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.