Fresh Hope – 31st July 2018

There’s a guy in the Bible whose name is Jacob. The name Jacob means two things; heal grabber and deceiver, and during his lifetime, Jacob lived up to both of these names.

Jacob was a twin. His brother Esau came out first, with Jacob following, grasping at his heel. During this time, there was great significance attached to being the firstborn in a family.

The firstborn would receive both a birthright (a larger portion of inheritance) and a blessing.

As these brothers grew older, Esau would end up trading his birthright for a bowl of stew, made by his brother Jacob. He would sacrifice something of long term importance for something of short term satisfaction…

Then, sometime later, Jacob would deceive his father, Isaac, and wrongfully take the blessing due his older brother, Esau. Now he had both the birthright and the blessing and ended up going on the run for 21 years to avoid the consequences.

One day, Jacob had an encounter with God, in which God changed his name from Jacob (heal grabber and deceiver) to Israel, meaning triumphant with God. This was a truly beautiful moment in the life of Jacob…

Many more years then went by, Jacob by this point had passed away and the Israelites that had come through his family were now in slavery. A man named Moses came to God and asked Him how He would like to be introduced to the Israelite people. And this is how God responded; “Say to the Israelites, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.'” (Exodus‬ ‭3:15‬)

Now I’m thinking, if I were God, surely I would want to attach my name to Israel, not Jacob… After all, Israel was Jacob’s good side!?

But here God wanted to paint for us a picture of who He really is…

God wanted you and I to know that He’s not only the God of our successes, but of our failures. He’s not just the God of our good side, He’s the God of our bad side and ugly side too.

This God that I’m talking about wants to associate Himself with you, no matter where you’ve been and what you’ve done.

He wants you to know that His love is proud to be seen with you and that His name will gladly be connected to yours.

I’ve got great news for you today – He’s the God of Jacob, which means He’s the God of you too.

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – 30th July 2018

Having faith doesn’t exempt us from difficulties.

Jesus told a parable about two people. Both of them built houses, but one built his house on the sand whilst the other built his house on the rock.

The very same storm came and hit both houses in just the same way. The wind blew and the rain fell on both. The house on the rock wasn’t exempt from the storm, but it stood firm whereas the one built on the sand was knocked flat.

The difference is that when you surrender your life to God, it’s like building your life on a firm and indestructible foundation. Building on sand is like living a life without God – there is no firm foundation.

The storm is not the problem …the foundation, or lack of it is.

The storms of life may hit you time and time again, hoping to take you down, but you’ll come through the storm stronger than you were before if you will trust in God.

When your life is built on the rock, God will give you the power to endure whatever comes your way with a good attitude. Even when the wrong thing is happening to you, you’ll have the strength and courage to do the right thing. Every time you do the right thing, God will bless you

If you’re being treated unfairly at work, or you’re in a difficult marriage, don’t resort to being negative and being a complainer, instead rise above the storm and be positive. Your house is built on the rock.

Don’t expect a storm free life…it’s not going to happen. Instead, build your life on a solid foundation.

Psalm 46:1-7 God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day. Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts. The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 28th July 2018

Prayer should never be difficult. It should be natural, our first port of call, not our last.

How many times do we worry first and then pray?

This very week I was ‘mithered’ about a situation.  I mulled it over for at least an hour.  When my husband returned home, he could see I was troubled. He suggested we should pray together, which we did.  Immediately, I felt peace.

Two things spoke loudly to me..
1. There is power in agreement.  When two people come together and pray.  It shall be done.  (See Matthew 18 vs 19)

2. Why did I wait all that time being troubled, when I could have committed it to God myself?

Here’s 4 things that prayer should be:

1. SIMPLE.
Simple prayers, yet informed prayers.
Dont pray about things that aren’t God’s will.   Like “should I rob a bank?”
Instead, find out what God’s will is and pray about that.

2. SPECIFIC.
Don’t just ask God to bless the world. How will you know if He does?  Pray specifically.
Don’t just ask for a husband or a wife…pray specifically.  Ask God for your heart’s desires.
Don’t just ask for finance.  How much do you need? £200 for the gas bill? Be specific in your praying.

3. SINCERE.
Pray heartfelt prayers.   Be honest with God.  He knows whether you are anyway.  He knows your heart and He knows what you want and what you need.  Be sincere.

4. SERIOUS
Keep praying until something happens. Get serious.  Don’t give up.

God wants to answer prayer.
He delights in answering prayer.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 27th July 2018

A few weeks ago I had a pile of laundry to do, so I dedicated my day to getting it washed, dried and ironed.  I carefully sectioned it according to colours and decided to do my son’s laundry first.  A little while later, when the washing was finished, I went to get it out of the machine. I exclaimed with horror as I opened the door and saw that the white t shirts and new pair of white shorts I had bought him were now ‘bright pink’.   I was really annoyed with myself, as I found that in the mix of clothes, a red pillowcase had got mixed up in the laundry and ended up spoiling the rest of the clothes. How could I have missed such a bright hard-to-miss colour among white clothes?  When my husband asked what had happened and I explained it to him his response was “Oh, I thought something worse had happened.” I was the only one who seemed bothered about it, my son certainly did not care what colour his clothes were.

 

Sometimes it’s easy to let little things that go wrong in our day get to us.  I thought of the verse in Isaiah 1:18 Come now, let’s settle this,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, I will make them as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, I will make them as white as wool.” The Lord spoke these words to His people who didn’t just have petty stains but had really rebelled and turned away from Him. He wanted them to know that if they would return to Him, there was no sin that He couldn’t forgive and cleanse.

I think that sometimes, even though we receive salvation, and come into God’s Kingdom, we need to be reminded of this truth. When we know we have sinned against the Lord, we can come to Him and confess it and repent of it, and He will forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). But we need to forgive ourselves in order to be able to receive the Lord’s forgiveness.

Do you struggle with this? I think we all do at times. We all need to let go of the guilt of the sins we have confessed and repented of, instead of remaining in guilt and shame. In 1 John 2:1-2 it says, ‘If anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our cause before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous. He Himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins’.

If we are forgiven by God, we must accept the forgiveness. To reject God’s forgiveness is to say that we are a higher authority than God.

C.S Lewis wrote, “If God forgives us we must forgive ourselves otherwise it’s like setting up ourselves as a higher tribunal than Him”. Forgiveness, of others as well as of self, is important for us and our mental health, as well as our spiritual health.

Sometimes forgiving ourselves is the hardest thing to do. We sort of have a self-imposed mental classification of what level of sin God can forgive us of and feel like our sins are way above the radar of what He is able to forgive. That is not true, he promises to cleanse us from ALL unrighteousness.  We also tend to be our own harshest critics, so we continue to beat ourselves up even when others have long forgiven us.  Yes, repentance is important when we’re in the wrong, but the Bible reminds us how important it is to learn from our mistakes and move on. Forgiveness frees us to be better people through God.

The moment you asked for forgiveness, God forgave you, now do your part and leave the guilt behind.

Christine Mudenha

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 26th July 2018

Everyone loves a fresh start – the idea of leaving behind the old and starting with the new. On Mondays you can guarantee that it is always packed at the gym – everyone motivated by a new week, and pumped to form a new habit. Likewise, on the first day of the year, everyone sets their goals for the coming year. They are motivated to leave behind the old and start from scratch.

God loves a fresh start. From the death of Jesus on the cross, allowing us to leave behind the old and start with a new life, to this very day, with fresh and new mercies (Lamentations 3:23), God is constantly inviting us to start afresh, to leave behind the old and embrace the new.  

Unfortunately it is often ourselves that stops up from stepping into the new. We can get stuck in the old and struggle to find the strength or motivation to move into the new and see it through. “I’ve been eating bad for a month now, why stop now?”, “I’ve been yelling at my husband for 20 years, why stop now?”, “I’ve been doing this job for years, why try now?”, “It’s too late now, I’ve been acting like this my whole life, people expect it from me!” 

Don’t be afraid to start the journey and to embrace the new start that God is always offering us. His fresh start doesn’t begin on a Monday or January 1st, it is available today. It is never too late. Just because you have been doing something for the last 20 years, doesn’t mean you need to waste another 20 doing the same thing. When you fail, a new day comes. The faithfulness of God continues. When others expect the old, continue in the new. A new reputation takes time. Maybe you have a reputation for being a gossip, and it’s going to take time to break that habit and form a new habit in social situations. Maybe you’ve been mistreating a family member for years, and it is going to require you to be vulnerable in order to show them that you are different. Whatever it is, God offers us the opportunity to move into the new.  

Isaiah 43:19 says, ‘Listen carefully, I am about to do a new thing, now it will spring forth; will you not be aware of it? I will even put a road in the wilderness, rivers in the desert’.

Don’t miss out on embracing something new, because it feels impossible to change the old.  Continue to step into new ways of doing things, forming new habits, making new efforts and all the while giving yourself the grace to make mistakes along the way.

Psalm 103:1-5 “Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits— who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”
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Emma Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 25th July 2018

How lovely it is when you receive an invitation to a party?

When you receive that invitation you feel special knowing that someone thought of you, and values you enough to request your presence at their event!

Like someone would invite us to a birthday party or wedding, desiring our presence there, so should we be inviting God into our lives, desiring His presence there. Sometimes we can think giving God an invitation into our lives is a once in a lifetime occasion. “I invited Him in 20 years ago, I don’t need to do it again!’ But inviting God into our lives is about inviting Him into every area, every day. You wouldn’t say to my best friend, “you aren’t invited to my birthday party this year, because I invited you last year”. When we have a relationship with God, we should be ever inviting His presence into our lives.

When you are inviting in the presence of God into the details of your life, you are inviting His peace, wisdom, protection, favour, and love into that area too. Proverbs 16:3 says, ‘Commit to the Lord WHATEVER you do, and your plans will succeed’. Want success in your finances? Then invite God into them! Want success in your marriage? Then invite God into it! Want success in your friendships? Then invite God into them! Want success in your home? Then invite in the presence of God! As scripture says, it applies to WHATEVER plans and any and every area of your life – big or small. Invite God in.

Finally, God shouldn’t be just a guest in the area of our lives that we have invited Him in to, He is to be acknowledged as the ‘Guest of Honour – the most important member of the occasion. When a Guest of Honour attends an event, they are given the highest treatment and respect. They are given the very best and esteemed above all else. Let us both invite God into every area of our lives, and also honour His presence in that area.

Consider what areas of your life you need to send an invitation to God to, and honour Him in. Maybe it is this very day? Maybe it is your job? Maybe it is a physical space like a home? Or perhaps an emotional space like your heart? God is a gentleman, He will never gatecrash your party. He waits for you to send the invitation. And when you do, you’ll find He’s been waiting on your doorstep the whole time, waiting for you to let Him in!

Emma Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 24th July 2018

Neither myself or my wife are expert gardeners when it comes to the naming of plants and shrubs, but we do know what looks right and where it looks right. Anything more than that then we just read the tag inserted in the plant pot.

Knowing where something will thrive is to us more important than knowing the fancy Latin name. In fact you could know all the names and still have a lousy garden.

On our back patio, Gillian has become quite a dab hand at filling three large square planters with white polyanthus (I think that’s what they are called).

She planted them out some weeks back. Each one had the equal number of plants and each one had the very same plants from the same place, however one of the planters looks lame compared to the other two. It has grown to only about half the size of the other two.

Having watched them develop during this long summer spell, it’s pretty simple to see what is happening. The two that are in full bloom are facing the afternoon sun, whilst the other one is less than a metre away and is obviously not in the right environment.

In life, how can two people live in the same town for the same length of time and yet one is floundering whilst the other is flourishing? The answer is environment. Being in the correct environment is not just a good idea, it’s a necessity in order to grow to your full potential.

The Church family today is alive and thriving like never before and is the perfect example of a growth environment. You get fed, watered, inspired and it is a greenhouse to enable you to flourish in life. Of course, you can choose to opt out of the Church and decide to do life alone or life down the pub or life in the house and never ever expose yourself to the right environment.

We may all look the same as we start out in life, in that we live in the same area and we are all human beings, however it doesn’t take too long before you start to recognise those who are blessed and those who are not. Is it that God randomly blesses some whilst withholding His blessing from others? Of course not. It’s to do with where you choose to plant yourself.

Remember: God is the master gardener; He not only knows your name, He know where you need to be planted in order to thrive and flourish.

Don’t keep uprooting yourself from the soil of the Church just because you found imperfect people there, look beyond that and make a decision to be well and truly panted in the ‘greenhouse’ of God.

Psalm 92:13 ‘…planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish…’

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – 23rd July 2018

Have you tried the roof yet?

 

Mark 2:1-12 A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralysed man, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralysed man, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’ Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, ‘Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?’ Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, ‘Why are you thinking these things? Which is easier: to say to this paralysed man, “Your sins are forgiven,” or to say, “Get up, take your mat and walk”? But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.’ So he said to the man, ‘I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.’ He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, ‘We have never seen anything like this!’

 

Stop making excuses and start making plans. That’s the order of the day for you today.

 

For these four men, they saw through the eyes of possibility, and thankfully not through the eyes of impossibility. Just imagine what would have happened to the poor guy if they had given any of the following excuses…

 

It’s too high.

 

Never done that before.

 

What if we fall?

 

What will people think. Which people?

 

What if we get into trouble. Who with?

 

It’s too hard. Who for…you ?

 

We don’t have a budget for that.

 

I don’t know how to get up there.

 

I might put my back out.

 

We don’t have a ladder.

 

That’s not my calling – Stop talking calling and start asking what needs to be done.

 

They said it won’t work.

 

I’m tired – then do it tired.

 

Not in my job description.

 

Maybe next week – maybe too late.

 

The Church should do something about that – you are the Church!

 

I don’t want to upset people – sometimes you have to!

 

The truth is, if it had been left in the hands of excuse-makers, he would have remained exactly the same; but because they made a plan as in accordance with their faith, they saw their friend healed, whole and forgiven.

 

What is it today that you need to do, but are stopped by your excuse-fuelled mentality? Throw off every excuse right now and start to make faith-fuelled decisions.

 

You’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish if you simply stop making excuses.

 

Have a faith fuelled day.

 

‘Don’t put it off, do it now. Don’t rest until you do’ Proverbs 6 v 4.

 

Pastor Mark

 

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – 21st July 2018

Worry is worthless…

The Bible says in Luke 12 v 25 “who can add a single hour to his life by worrying?”

You won’t add hours to your life by worrying, but you can lose many of them.

Worrying will take our peace, it will take our joy and it will take our sense of well being. Worrying can lead to anxiety, illness and depression.

Let’s face it, there could always be something to be concerned over. We wouldn’t have to look very far to find something.

Yet we take it all on board ourselves. We think it’s something we have to work out.

We try to ‘captain’ our own ship, fight our own battles.

We worry about tomorrow and most of the time what we worry about, doesn’t happen anyway. 

If you are a Christian, then God is your Father and if you aren’t, He wants to be.

He tells me that the birds of the air don’t worry about their food and the flowers of the field don’t worry about their clothes , so why should I be concerned about life’s matters?

I was talking to someone this week who may be made redundant from their job…even though that’s concerning, why do we need to worry? If God is my Father, which He is, then His plan is perfect for my life. He has the best in store for me and if I lose my job, it means there’s something out there that is far better for me.  So it’s called TRUST, not worry.

TRUST says “God’s got this, I don’t need to even concern myself with it.”

Oh yes, I should pray, but leave it with God is what I should do.

Worry robs us of now, of this moment, of my joy and of my peace.

Worry can send us into a state of despair and can lead to anxiety and illness.

That’s not what God wants for me.  He’s my Father, I’m His child. He can and WILL work out everything perfectly.

Remember today that worry is worthless.

Trust is where I need to be.

God is MY Father.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 20th July 2018

A name is a powerful thing. There is nothing quite as attention grabbing as calling someone by his or her name. Learning another person’s name is step one to forming a relationship and connection. A name is personal, intimate, and deeply linked with one’s identity.

Before a parent gives their child their first birthday present, a Christmas gift, a piece of advice, a home to live in or food to eat, the first thing given to them is a name. In many cultures, names hold prophetic significance, so as a person is called, so they will be. Names provide identity and words have power – that is why namecalling can be so destructive when it is done to harm. People begin to label themselves with the names spoken over them and thus form an identity and self-worth based from that name.

Jesus knew the power of a name so much so that he even changed people’s names! Look at Simon. Jesus renamed Simon, ‘Peter’. ‘Peter’ means ‘rock’, and he was to be the rock of Jesus’ Church (Matthew 16:18). Peter in fact was anything but a rock! He was so unstable and weak. But despite his failings, Jesus continued to trust him to fulfil the calling of his name as He constantly spoke the name of ‘Peter’ over him.

In Isaiah 43:1 God himself says to you, ‘I have called you by name’. This doesn’t just mean that He knows your name, there is greater meaning. For the Hebrew people (the context in which this scripture was written), a name said a lot about who a person was. It would tell you a lot about their presence as a person. Therefore to call someone by name was to actually be seeking their presence as a person. So when God is calling you by name, as scripture says, He isn’t just calling your name because He knows it, He is calling YOU because He wants you as a person.

Today God is grabbing your attention. He is getting personal. The maker of the universe is using your name, and it isn’t just calling your name so you can do something, it is because He is calling YOU as a person and all that you entail. He wants your company.

Perhaps the names and words spoken over your life and identity aren’t actually the names and words that God speaks over your life. Ask God to show you how HE sees you. Tune in to the God calling you by name.  

Isaiah 49:16 “See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me.”
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Emma Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – 19th July 2018

Have you ever heard of the term, ‘Hangry’? By definition it means, ‘to be irritable as a result of being hungry’.

I will humbly admit that I am someone who gets hangry if I don’t get food when my body is asking for it! I did some research and found that hangry isn’t just a mental state, it’s a real thing. Your brain wants glucose (sugar) and it reacts to a drop in sugar as a life-threatening event. The receptors in your brain that regulate hunger also regulate anger and aggression! If I can’t get to food fast enough, sometimes I’ll hunt down a quick and cheap fix – something sugary or caffeine to give me the energy!

Mankind is born with an inbuilt spiritual appetite. This appetite is designed to be fulfilled only by God. For many, this hunger has been dulled out or cheaply masked, and needs to be awakened. People mask their hunger with the cheap fixes of the world – things that superficially satisfy, but this only dulls the hangry state that we were actually made for. We are made to be restlessly hungry for more and more of God alone. Why should we ever be satisfied when God always has more for us? Our soul is called to be ever earnestly seeking and deeply desiring God alone (Psalm 63). If you have reached a lull in your relationship with God, where you have no hunger for the things of Him, ask the Holy Spirit to awaken it again.

Watch the direction of your appetite. As John Piper says, ‘Our appetites dictate the direction of our lives — whether it be the cravings of our stomachs, the passionate desire for possessions or power, or the longings of our spirits for God…Our hunger for God — and him alone — is the only thing that will bring victory’.

The devil works hard to displace our appetite. We are perhaps hungry for the wrong things, or deceptively satisfied by worldly things. Allow God to stir up in you a hunger for MORE of Him. May you be spiritually “irritated”, and hangering for greater things in God.

Many times in my spiritual walk I have found that I have received greater things in God when and because I first hungered for it. God planted a seed in me and the appetite grew. I would actively stimulate the hunger further by surrounding myself with people and things that carried the fragrance of the very thing I was craving. Sometimes you have to stimulate your hunger for God by searching for the fulfilment of it, and God always honours our hunger (Matthew 5:6).

The Bible tells us that God ‘satisfies the thirsty and fills the hungry with good things’ (Psalm 107:9). 

Emma Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 18th July 2018

One place that fascinates me is The Leaning Tower of Pisa, in Italy. It is a freestanding bell tower, of the cathedral in Pisa and is known worldwide because it is tilted.  When people first see the structure they are amazed that it is still standing! The architect never intended it to be that way but it leans because the ground on which it is built was too soft on one side of the structure. It is quite literally leaning according to its own understanding of weight, pressure and gravity!
If the ground on which we build our lives is not firm, then we, too, will lean according to our own understanding and go our own way. It is absolutely vital that we follow the advice in Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not unto your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”
Only He knows everything about us and our circumstances and only He is able to direct our steps according to His plans and purposes for our lives. When we begin to lean according to our own understanding, independently of God, our lives will soon become distorted and no longer be upright. That is why we are seeing such extremes of ungodliness in society. And just like the cost of propping up the leaning tower of Pisa has been massive, so is the societal cost when people ignore God’s Word and do their own thing.
In conclusion to one of the biggest sermons Jesus preached he says in Matthew 7:24-27 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.  But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.”
In this parable of the wise man and the foolish man, these two men raise the question: what kind of foundation are we building on?
These two men had the same vision. They both wanted to build a house. Their dreams were the same. Their longings were the same. Their desires were the same. What makes these two men alike is that their view of the future was on par. Maybe we can look at the concept of building a house like building a life, building a life that is significant and fulfilling, building a family or building something that you have dreamt of and will be proud of.  But, we know that these two men had different outcomes because of the foundation they built their houses on.
Jesus teaches us that true wisdom comes from trusting in Him and His word. If we build our lives on the basis of God’s truth then we will be able to persevere when the storms of life come. If our foundation is built on our own worldly desires and wisdom then we will fail when we are tested. Jesus is the only worthy foundation because his death and resurrection is our only hope to overcome. Even our best efforts to follow Jesus’ teaching must be covered and made acceptable by His grace and the righteousness of Christ.
Christine Mudenha
A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 17th July 2018

A couple of years ago I thought I would make my husband a steak. I had had very little cooking experience at this point and assumed that cooking the perfect steak simply involved going to the meat aisle in the supermarket and picking up a large chunk of meat and frying it at home. I later leant that there are different types of steak and the meat packaging specifies what the steak is best used for and how long is takes to cook. I had unknowingly picked up a steak labeled ‘casserole steak’. In other words, it was best for sitting in a slow cooker for up to 8 hours in order to become tender. What did I do? I fried the casserole steak for about 10 minutes. What did my husband do? Chewed till his jaw almost dropped off! The meat was far too tough to be eaten, let alone enjoyed. Lesson learnt.  

There is something special about tenderized meat. Meat that is soft, slow-cooked, has taken time to prepare, drops off the bone, and melts in your mouth. The Bible speaks a lot about keeping our hearts in a healthy place. One of the markers of a healthy heart is if it is tender. A heart that has been protected from the hardening factors of the world, and that has spent time with God is a tender heart.

Ephesians 4:31-32 says, Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamour and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, TENDERHEARTED, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

There are many small opportunities in the day for us to either toughen our hearts, or to put it in the slow cooker of God’s love.

Maybe you want to do something, but you know you shouldn’t. You ignore the inner voice of your heart, because you don’t feel like doing what it says, all the while toughening your heart. Perhaps you are scared and overwhelmed so you let fear come in and harden your heart in order to protect yourself. One of the most common heart-tougheners is anger and offence. In anger or offence you build a case against someonepassively punish them, or cast judgement. On the other hand, a heart kept tender calls to love, forgives, and shows grace.  

Like a pair of teeth trying to chew through a tough piece of steak, not much can get through a tough heart. Sensitivity is lost. We can no longer form relationships easily with others, we struggle to hear the voice of God, we don’t have the compassion to love others anymore, and we stunt our growth because we are no longer malleable.

Let’s be proactive about keeping our hearts tender before God. Be ruthless in recognising offence and fear when it comes up in little moments throughout the day. Spend time in the presence of God, allowing Him to tenderise your heart again.

Proverbs 4:23

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”
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Emma Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 16th July 2018

‘Blessed are those who strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. As they pass through the Valley of Baka, they make it a place of springs; the autumn rains also cover it with pools. They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion’ (Psalm 84: 5,6 & 7).

Blessed are those who have their hearts set on pilgrimage. What is pilgrimage? Pilgrimage is defined as a ‘spiritual journey’. God blesses a heart that is set for a journey.

Before any trip I take, I make a note on my phone, listing everything I need to pack for the journey. This is how I best prepare. If I’m heading overseas, I will weigh my luggage before I even get to the airport. I will check that I have adaptors for the country I’m going to, that I have the currency needed for where I’m travelling, that I have my passport and my toiletries in a clear bag (all under 100 mls too!).  A journey takes preparation. You need to prepare for the low of the flight, and the high of finally arriving at your destination.

When this Psalm speaks of preparing your heart for a journey, it is encouraging us that we must settle in our hearts that the journey of life will have both highs and lows and we mustn’t camp in the lows, but have a heart to always be moving forward.

Psalm 84 speaks of “passing through the Valley of Baka. Baka was a place of bareness and drought. This is a metaphor for the dry and barren parts or seasons of our life. The verse goes on to say, ’they make it a place of springs’. ‘Springs’ refers to water and life! How do the pilgrims turn a barren place into a place of life? They find their strength in God and set their hearts on the journey’, not on stopping and camping in the drought. They are moving. They are journeying. They settle in their hearts that like the earth has seasons of summer, autumn, winter and spring, so in our lives we will go through various seasons.

Perhaps the tears we sow in our Valley of Baka are the springs that we will one day reap from. In Psalm 126:5 it says, ‘Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy’.

Psalm 84:7 says, they go from strength to strength. As you find the strength in God to overcome one mountain on the journey, you gain the strength for the next. It is through the journey that we gain character, tenacity, growth and strength that we would otherwise not have had we not embarked on the journey or stayed in the one place.

View your trials as the opportunity to become stronger – to gain what you need for the next step. Thank your trials for what you got from them. That which you once cried over, God will bring joy from. That which was dry, will spring with life! Although there will be valleys, don’t stay there – have a pilgrim’s heart – a heart that is always set on the journey, always moving forward!

Emma Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 14th July 2018

The school year is nearly ended, and after the summer holidays some of the children will change schools and meet a whole new group of friends. It can be an exciting time, but there can be challenges. Sometimes when a child starts in a new situation, their language and behaviour start to change. They’re influenced by the attitudes and outlook of their new peer group and not only their vocabulary changes. As the time they spend together increases, and especially if other influences are shut out, it becomes clear they’re being deeply changed and moulded by their new relationships. Maybe you’ve noticed this with one of your own children, or a child you know well. Our son is only in nursery but we do have similar concerns.   In a few months’ time he moves from the toddler room to the nursery room and I’ve had some relief knowing that he will be moving into the same room as most of his friends who are a nice little group that he is very fond of. We are comfortable because we have known them and their parents for a little while.  Of course, it can be a huge blessing if the new group are a positive influence for good, but it can also have a negative effect if these new friends lead the child into bad habits/behaviours or for the older child, rebellion or deception.

I’ve noticed this same effect in the lives of adults who start following some new theory or strange idea. Before long, their words and phrases are peppered with the new attitudes and words they’ve assimilated. Gradually their beliefs change to reflect those of the new influence. What power a teacher has to transform the lives of his followers, for good or for bad!

Proverbs tells us to be careful who we spend time with, the enemy wants to trap us into beliefs and attitudes that reflect his ways, so spending time in bad company may trap us into their ungodly ways. “Make no friendship with an angry man, and with a furious man do not go, Lest you learn his ways and set a snare for your soul” (Proverbs 22:24-25).

Jesus sent the disciples out to preach the good news and do the Kingdom work. He knew that having spent extended time with Him, obediently following His instructions and with His authority, they were sufficiently transformed by Him that the words they spoke would be heard as His words. In fact, they would reflect Him, His love, His truth and His compassion.

So, the question is: how transformed are we? How much time do we spend with Jesus our Teacher, reading or listening to His life-changing truths? How often do we allow His attitudes and words to flow into us and transform our hearts, so that His words flow out of us to others? It’s the desire of Jesus, and should be our desire, that we, who declare ourselves His disciples, spend sufficient time with Him, so we’re transformed, and those around us truly hear Jesus’ words coming out of our mouths.

Our prayer today should be that we become better disciples and spend more time in His presence so His ways and His teachings transform our hearts and mould us into His likeness.  Let us desire that His gracious words increase out of our mouths when we speak so that people encounter Him through us.

Christine Mudenha

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 13th July 2018

Having a good morning?

You hoped so…but then you decided to get out of bed.

Having a bad morning?

Shouted at the kids, took it out on the dog, found your work shirt in the ironing basket, late for the school run, no time for breakfast and it’s still only 8am.

Here’s the good news: things can only get better!

‘Fresh Hope’ is here to lift you, encourage you, help you, direct you, teach you and give you a God perspective.

Think about this: your greatest enemy is often your inner-me.

History records for us how ancient cities were always built around a constant flow of water.

They’d figured out that no matter what battles they’d face on the outside, they could survive and even thrive because they had their own supply and would never die of thirst.

No matter how long you live, there will always be a problem. Once one problem is solved then before too long another will rise up. If you don’t build your life around an inner supply then you will always fall at the first attack.

Taking care of the externals is what we do most in life, but without taking care of our inner selves we will have no resources to draw from each day; let’s face it, driving a nice car doesn’t help you one bit in a day of trouble.

When Jesus met the woman at the well, (John chapter 4) He asked her for a drink, and then replied with these words…”Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life”.

Jesus is like having, living, thirst quenching water, springing up within you so that at anytime and in any circumstance he can be an everlasting source of hope to you.

Do you have some battles that you are facing right now that you feel want to take you down? Then draw inner strength from Jesus with the words of this old song…

‘Got any rivers you think are impossible?

Got any mountains you can not tunnel through?

God specialises in things thought impossible

And He can do what no other can do.’

However your day has started out, stop right now and give it over to God, by simply calling on His name.

He may not get rid of your problem, but He’ll certainly give you the inner strength to get through it.

Have a blessed day.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 12th July 2018

Life gets busy. Between managing a job, a family, a home, a social life, and all the other add-ons of life, it is easy to feel guilty for not doing what we know we should. Things like exercise, that overdue catch up, unrushed time with the kids, and “quiet time” with God are often the last things to get ticked off that never-ending to-do list – if at all. For many, life has become about merely surviving the day, one minute at a time. We can feel inadequate as we chase our tail day after day and then remember, ‘Oh, I haven’t opened my Bible today, this week, this month!’

Before you start feeling like a less than Christian, let’s see what connection with God in our lives can and should look like…

Whilst time set-aside for the study of scripture, meditation, and prayer is amazing, for many it can be a luxury. When I speak to my friends with young kids, quiet moments in the day are virtually impossible sometimes. If you fall into this category, it doesn’t mean that you are on the shelf until you can find free time.

Scripture talks about our union with Christ. We are ONE with Christ. Christ is IN us (John 14:20, Romans 8:10, Galatians 2:1), and we are IN HIM (2 Corinthians 5:17, Romans 6:3, Ephesians 2:10).

This is why Paul said, ‘There is no NO condemnation for those IN CHRIST (Romans 8:1).

Connecting with God and meeting with God is not an event reserved for a certain day of the week or time of the day. We live in perfect union with Christ, which means that we live with Him – constantly. We can always connect with Him throughout the day, in any moment.

When you are changing a nappy, you can be connecting with God, when you are washing the dishes you can hear God speak. Be free from the pressure to have your relationship with God look like something you think it should look like, and just be you, living your life, knowing you are in God and He is in you. Enjoy constant communion with Him.

If you struggle to find time to read scripture, let me encourage you that some of my post powerful, life-changing revelations of scripture have come from taking one simple line in the Bible and just thinking about (meditating on) one word in that verse for a week! If you have one spare minute in the day, read what you can and then meditate on that until it solidifies in your heart.

As for worship, you may not have the time to lay on your bedroom floor basking in the glory of the latest Hillsong album. But know that worship is not just a moment on a Sunday morning, or 30 minutes on your bedroom floor. Worship is a lifestyle. It is a position of the heart. It is every moment, of every day – working as if you are doing your work for God Himself (Colossians 3:23). Do the gardening as if you are doing it for God Himself, run your business like you are doing it for God, teach your students like you are doing it for God, do your admin like you are doing it for God, raise your children like you are doing it for God.

This is why in Romans 12:1 we read, ‘Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship’.  Because of the mercy of God, we LIVE (meaning the mundane of every day) in a position of worship – this is the truest and most proper form of worship.

Don’t disqualify yourself from being able to hear from God because of the season you’re in, or the demands on your life. Tune in at this very moment, as you are!

Emma Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 11th July 2018

Recently, I shared with you part of my friend Meg’s story as she found freedom in forgiving a drunk driver who killed her beloved brother. Today I will share with you a glimpse of her journey to find freedom from crippling anxiety and post-traumatic stress. I trust that you will also find freedom from her words – either for yourself, or someone you know.

I remember when I had my first panic attack, it was 4 months after the accident, I was sitting with a client in the coffee shop where I’d last seen Andy. There were a lot of people in the store, a lot of strangers. Too many strangers. The music was loud. Too loud. And then I felt it – the pair of hands wrapped themselves over my head, pressing the sound into my ears, forcing the volume up, higher and higher as they tightened their grip. Another pair of hands took hold of my lungs, squeezing out all the air, crushing my chest in, throat tightening up. My heart began beating faster and faster. It was mid-meeting and I couldn’t hear anything my client was saying, all I could hear was the sound and the people and the noise and the lights and the…

All of a sudden I wasn’t in the coffee shop but I was back at the accident scene. A man was shouting at me “IF YOU DON’T GET THE DRIVER TESTED RIGHT NOW, YOU WON’T BE ABLE TO CHARGE HIM. GET HIM TESTED. RIGHT NOW!!”

This continued for about 4 months, I would find myself in restaurants, coffee shops, friends houses, my lounge. Crippled by post-traumatic stress.

I didn’t know who this girl was, she couldn’t function in social settings. She would leave a restaurant after reaching her capacity at 15 minutes. She couldn’t meet strangers without having a panic attack. She would make irrational decisions.

It was completely debilitating. I called it the “emotional wheelchair”. To the world, Meg was doing great, she could wake up and feed herself and dress herself and run a business. Except that every situation I needed to be in, required me to walk up a flight of stairs, whether it was coffee with a friend or dinner at a new restaurant. There I would sit at the bottom of the stairs, in my invisible emotional wheelchair, with the world standing at the top saying, “Meg, come on, you can do it, you can walk up the stairs, you’re so capable, look at you, you’re standing on your own two feet…” And everything in me was shouting “BUT I CAN’T, you just don’t know, that I CAN’T.” 

It was the loneliest season of my life. I would spend hours doing Sudoku, training my brain to focus on numbers so that I could cope in a social setting and not crumble under the pressure of strangers and sound. I would swim underwater for as long as I could because that was the only way I could drown out all the noise, and all the voices, and the only way I could hear Jesus amidst the commotion.

I also started to see a psychologist. She gave me tools to help me cope in my emotional wheelchair, and she taught me that grieving was not like any other part of my life, she pointed out that my standards of myself were far too high and that if I applied the same standard to my grieving that I wouldn’t process my brother’s death properly. She taught me to “cheat my own system” – I’m a to-do list girl, and trying to grieve and run a business at the same time was very tricky, especially for a girl of too many high standards. She told me to add “fun” and “rest” into my daily to-do list, it would help me feel accomplished, make me feel like I’d done something. My “fun” was an Instagram story, I would create characters and laugh for the rest of the day, this was where I truly learnt what “Joy as a weapon” looked like. And my “rest” was a candle-lit bath, a nap or game (or 5) of Sudoku.

It was during this time that I became so aware of mental illness and the reality that a lot of people face on a day-to-day basis – anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, PTSD. We’ve been taught for years that when you break your arm, you go to a doctor. But somehow because mental illness isn’t tangible for someone else it can be fixed with a “Just be happy”, “You’ll be okay” or a “Stop stressing, there’s no need to be anxious”. Mental illness is so real friends, and this post is nothing else but to let you into the reality of what it looked like for me. And to urge you to extend grace to those who can’t put words to how they’re feeling or why they’re feeling it. To help you understand in the smallest way of what it might look like for some.

And to those who’ve dealt with or are dealing with any form of mental illness, or maybe you’re just in a season of processing trauma, if I could reach through this screen and give you a hug, I’d hold you, you wouldn’t have to say anything and we could just sit in the silence. I’d also tell you about my best friend, I knew Him before Andy died, but He stepped in like no other friend did after the 4th of December 2016. His name is Jesus and He would sit with me and do Sudoku, we would walk on the promenade together, make Instagram stories and laugh together, He got me through the darkest season of my life and I know He can do it for you’.

Emma Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 10th July 2018

Have you ever hosted a social event at your home, only to find out late into the evening that you had just one guest remaining? Unlike everyone else, they hadn’t figured out that it was time to leave.

You’ve started to put away the food. The music has been turned off and the washing up completed. Even the timer on the lamps has called it a day.

You try to be polite as you hint at how busy you are the next day and need a good night sleep…all to no avail.

Your hints about being sleepy and needing to go to bed get more forceful, but the person remains oblivious to your subtle comments.

You now start to even think of excusing yourself so that you can get your pyjamas on, but fear that they still may be standing there when you come back down.

When they eventually do go, you’ve already made up your mind that they won’t be invited back again for quite some time, if ever!

Just like that person wasn’t meant to outstay their welcome, so it is with the current situation that you’re in; it’s not meant to stay, so you need to prepare some more than subtle hints that it’s time to go.

Maybe you’ve been relying too heavily on the comfort of your current life, not realising that it’s time to move on and trust God for the next part of your journey.

Letting go is especially hard for some people, particularly fearful people.

Holding onto stuff and staying too long where you don’t belong will eventually block you from going to the next level in your life.

We all hang onto things – people, relationships, jobs, houses – because we are afraid that nothing else will come along.

Don’t limit your life with tunnel vision; it’s making you outstay your welcome in that safe place, instead, be prepared to fully trust God for the next part of your journey, knowing that He has greater things for you ahead.

Hebrews 11:8 By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 9th July 2018

The presence of a storm in your life does not indicate the absence of God, neither does the absence of a storm indicate the presence of God.

Storms are a part of life.

Anyone that’s ever flown a few times will have probably encountered some pretty strong turbulence along the way. For some it will feel pretty scary, however, the pilot just takes it all in his stride – for him, it’s just a normal day at the office.

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

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

Your storm may well be your own doing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Think about the words of one of my favourite songs taken from Psalm 46 and sense Jesus’ presence in your storm right now…

When the mountains fall
And the tempest roars You are with me
When creation folds
Still my soul will soar on Your mercy

I’ll walk through the fire
With my head lifted high
And my spirit revived in Your story
And I’ll look to the cross
As my failure is lost
In the light of Your glorious grace

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 7th July 2018

Redwood trees are known to be amongst some of the oldest trees in the world – some have lived for as long as 2000 years.

Redwoods can grow over 100m tall with a diameter reaching as much as 7m, yet astonishingly their roots only go down to a depth of around 1m.

These trees beg the question: how is it possible to grow so tall and yet have such shallow roots?

Many lesser trees have root systems that are equal in depth to their height, so why is the great Redwood unique?

The answer lies in the way it takes strength from the other trees that grow around it, thus enabling them to withstand the fiercest of storms.

Instead of its roots going downhill, it intertwines its root system around those of the other trees in order to strengthen itself.

The lesson of the Redwood tree, is that of understanding the power of drawing on the strength of those that stand around you.

Being part of a great church is one such example of how to stand strong in times of adversity. Having people around you that can support you not only helps you through the storms of life, but can actually help you to grow tall in your faith.

Ask yourself a vital question today: who do I have in my life that is vital to my strength and growth?

Have I told any of those people lately how much they mean to me?

Have I understood that if I attempt to do life on my own, then it’s possible that I’m going to get taken down when the winds of adversity blow?

God has placed great people around you to help you be the best that you can be; don’t be afraid to embrace and appreciate them once again today.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: 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.

Make a great decision to be in church tomorrow at one of our morning services.
9.30/11.30am with special guest Pastor Jurgen Matthesius

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 6th July 2018

Meg Carrie and I met a few years ago in South Africa. I had known Meg’s brother Andy for a few years before I met her. Andy was the most full-of-life person you could have ever met. He was full of so much humour, colour and energy. You could not box him in. His zest for life was uncontainable. Thousands of people (that’s the kind of influence he had) were totally heartbroken when they received news that Andy had been killed by a drunk driver. I was not only broken that someone who loved life so much had passed, but also that my friend Meg now had to grieve the loss of her 20-something year old brother.  Andy and Meg had a very close sibling relationship and I have been so proud to have watched the way she has since grieved and processed the loss of her brother in the most forgiving, grace-filled, real and healthy way. Below is some of her story, which I’m sure you will gain much from.

The accident scene was a cloud of strangers and lights and anger.

I remember seeing a woman screaming at the back of the police van, spewing out a host of words that I won’t repeat. Rage making itself known with every phrase that pushed out of her mouth and landed on the van with a cold, hard punch. I remember thinking at that exact moment “there’s no time for that, and there will never be time for that.” 

This my friends, is a moment where I’m going to grab my remote and press pause. I’m going to shift over to the side of my couch and invite you to come sit next to me so that I can look you in the eye and explain to you what really happened in those 10 seemingly menial seconds. It is a moment that I never want to forget. And a moment that I will reflect on always, and thank God for extending His forgiveness to me and through me. It was in that small 10-second interaction that blame, anger, rage and unforgiveness were laid at the foot of the Cross. In a single moment, God untangled my head and my heart from what could’ve been 50 plus years of a painful mess. I want to tell you that in that moment, I forgave that man. I forgave him for drinking too much and making the decision to get behind the wheel. I forgave him for killing Andrew. I forgave him for running away when my brother was lying on the side of the road alone. I forgave him for making a mistake, because he never went out looking to bring death. I forgave him because He forgave me first.

You see the thing is that unforgiveness sneaks in like a wolf dressed in sheep’s skin. It tells you that it will hurt the other, it whispers in your ear that “they deserve to feel the pain”, it reminds you everyday that they are not worthy to be released by your forgiveness and that the trap you have them in is “justice being served.” But the opposite is to be true, the damage that you are attempting to inflict on them is rotting inside of you. It will sit at the bottom of YOUR heart, it will weigh down YOUR shoulders, it will consume YOUR thoughts and skew YOUR vision. The damage is more internal than external and the longer you listen to those whispers the less you are able to decipher the truth from reality.

As a family, we have always openly communicated with each other from day one. We had the hard conversations, we thrashed things out – all of us together and one on one. This I am so grateful for. It meant that my brothers, Steve and Andrew, who didn’t always see eye to eye sat across from each other 2 months before the accident and forgave each other, they exchanged “I love you’s” and made right when everything in them was shouting “but I’m right and you’re wrong.” I’m going to say that again so that it sinks in a little deeper: they made right with each other, when EVERYTHING in them was shouting “BUT I’M RIGHT AND YOU’RE WRONG!”

Friends, this is a challenge. My brother knew how to forgive, and he also knew how to say sorry. He humbled himself countless times in front of me for mistakes he’d made, and equally sat in front of people who had hurt him, and outright forgave them. Today is a good day to take a look at your heart and analyse it to the depths. Ask the hard questions. The ones that you ignore. Is there someone you need to forgive? It might mean sitting across from them at a table and chatting it through. Is there someone you need to make right with? It may mean laying your pride aside and humbling yourself before them with a painful “I’m sorry.” Is everything in your human-ness pushing back at the thought of forgiveness? Take it to the ultimate Forgiver, let Him work in you and through you because the freedom you didn’t know you needed is on the other side. Maybe it’s you who needs to forgive yourself, you who has ensnared yourself in the trap of unforgiveness and you who needs to unlatch the grip. 

Sometimes forgiveness looks like a practical step: make a phone call, write a letter, send them a message and ask for their time. Don’t let it rob you, deal with it today, deal with it now. There is freedom in forgiveness’.

Emma Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 5th July 2018

A couple of years ago, I decided to take my now husband for an interesting dining experience in the heart of London. We went to a restaurant that I had seen in a movie. It was a ‘blind restaurant’. The entire meal was set to be in pitch-black darkness. All the staff serving at the restaurant were blind. Upon arrival, we were asked to put our hand on a blind man’s shoulder (the waiter) and then be led into the dining room. At first you almost feel claustrophobic. You feel out of control. But then your other senses begin to heighten, and you adapt to the darkness. Because you couldn’t see, you began forming a picture in your mind of what the room looks like. From what I was hearing and smelling and feeling, I imagined the room to be large and full of fellow diners. I felt textures of wood and assumed it was quite a plush room, decorated with careful thought and luxurious materials. The food smelt delicious and full of flavour. We were left guessing what delicious food we had been served and the only way to feel it on our plate and get it on our mouth was to surrender the knife and fork and succumb to using our bare heads to eat the mystery meat.

Then suddenly, the lights of the room burst on. This wasn’t supposed to be part of the experience. Someone had accidently hit the emergency button. All the guests looked around at each other. The blind staff continued to navigate their way around the room. As my eyes adjusted and I found my bearings in the room, I couldn’t believe how different the room I was in, was compared to the picture I had formulated in my head. It wasn’t a large room. There weren’t many guests like I had envisioned. The decorating certainly wasn’t luxurious, and the food tasted far better than it looked. The room was office like – stark, with no effort put into aesthetics. Tables were grouped together like a classroom seating arrangement. The experience truly proved the power of sight.

Have you ever had a ‘light on’ experience in your own life? Not the kind where you are eating at a restaurant in the dark, but the kind where you don’t understand something, but then God sheds light on it, and you have a whole new perspective. The Bible calls this ‘revelation’. Revelation is ‘an uncovering, a bringing to light of that which had been previously wholly hidden or only obscurely seen’. The purpose of scripture is to bring revelation about who we are and who God is. That is why the Bible is referred to as being a ‘light’….Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path’ (Psalm 119:105).

When we try to find our way through life without the Bible/word of God, we are trying to find our way through life in the dark. We form ideas in our minds that aren’t actually truth. It is only as the word of God ‘turns the light on’ that we see things for what they are, not for what we perceive them to be.

Many of us are sitting in the dark with ideas about ourselves, about others, and about God. We have adapted to the darkness, but it doesn’t mean it is truth. The light needs to be turned on – so we can see things for what they are. As we read the word of God, we can recognise the lies or the untruths that we can so easily sit in. Clarity is brought to our lives like a burst of light.

In turn, we as people are called to be a light to the world. We ourselves are called to ‘turn the light on’ for others – to open their eyes. We are called to be the light in the dark, so that they can see truth, and not capitulate to the darkness as their standard of ‘normal’.

Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven’ (Matthew 5:14-16).

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden’ (Matthew 5:14)

Let the light of God’s word navigate you through life, and shed light on the lies. In turn, you will be a light to the world.

Emma Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 4th July 2018

Some Christians will travel great distances – hundreds of miles- to go to a special service to receive a word or a miracle from God, but they are unwilling to deal with the anger, unforgiveness or bitterness in their own hearts. This is often evidence that power is seen to be more important than character. It never is.

Character trumps everything, every time. It’s wonderful that people are so hungry for the power of God, but let’s not neglect what is going on deep down in our hearts that no one but God can see.

I used to pray everyday… “God, please use me.” It’s a great prayer to pray and a very necessary one. However, I’ve come to appreciate that there is a much higher prayer to pray than that, and it’s this one: “God, make me usable.” At first glance, it almost sounds the same thing but it’s far from that. One says ‘use me no matter what I’m like’ – which of course God can do, but the other says, ‘I’m dealing with stuff so that I can be more readily used.’

Take a surgeon for instance. In the operating theatre, he is reliant on his skill and experience, but he needs instruments in order to carry out his work. Just imagine that halfway through an operation, he glances down to find a scalpel that’s not been carefully prepared and sanitised. No matter how skilful he is, the whole thing is going to result in disaster if he uses the instrument that’s sitting there ready, but unprepared.

Maybe today you are asking God desperately to use you, and yet you know you are compromising in certain areas of your life. Maybe integrity isn’t high on your priority list. God still wants to use you, but He is limited. You’re not yet fully usable. Clean up your life today by the help of the Holy Spirit.

Psalm 139:23-24 Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

Lord, make me usable.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 3rd July 2018

The first miracle in the New Testament is that of Jesus turning water into wine. When you think about it, it’s pretty unusual!

Not only did Jesus accept the invitation to go to the wedding of an unknown and nameless couple, He chose to get them out of a spot of bother; they were embarrassed to find that they had run out of wine early on in the proceedings at their special day.

When you think about it, in the grand scheme of things, this was a pretty insignificant problem for Jesus to deal with when you put it into the context of world’s needs, even in those days.

You can learn so much about Jesus from this one miracle, not least of all that He cares about the smallest of details. He definitely cares about things that would have been classed then and now as ‘non-religious’ problems. After all, why would Jesus even care that they had run out of wine, surely he could have just told them to drink water for the rest of the evening? But no. He’s the God that is obsessed with providing for your every need.

If you are to attract miracles to your life too, then you need to understand what magnetises them to you.

Here are some very simple pointers as to what went on that day in order for Jesus to do what he did…

  1. A problem. Every miracle starts with the same thing: a problem.
  2. A little faith in the power of God to do something.
  3. Invite Jesus.
  4. Give Him something to work with.They bought him the empty water jars and then filled them at his instruction with water!
  5. Live in the belief that a miracle is on its way. Jesus told them to pour out the ‘water’ into the first glass…it had become the finest of wine.

Maybe your need is more significant than this couple’s was or maybe it’s minute compared to theirs, but whichever it is, Jesus is there for you right now. He’s interested in even the smallest and the seemingly most insignificant details in your life.

If it matters to you, it matters to God.

Matthew 10:29-31 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 2nd July 2018

“There is an eagle in me that wants to soar, and there is a hippopotamus in me that wants to wallow in the mud.” — Carl Sandburg

I came across this quote and found it quite funny to imagine and true at the same time.  It made me think of the internal push/pull factors that we go through in our lives.  As in the above quote, perhaps you want to soar, but find yourself stuck in the mud, or have you ever wanted to make a change in your life, but found yourself unable to get going? Perhaps the main thing that keeps most of us where we are is fear of the unknown – so we end up trapped in our “comfort zone”.

Our comfort zone is made up of the people, places, things, and habits that are familiar to us. Many of us get scared when we even think about moving outside of our comfort zone. We cling tenaciously to the known, and choose familiarity over risk. The problem with choosing to stay in our comfort zones is that we do not grow. We never get the chance to experience other things that are greater than where we are because we are too afraid.

There’s actually a lot of science that explains why it’s so hard to break out of your comfort zone, and why it’s good for you when you do it. With a little understanding and a few adjustments, each of us can break away from our routine and do great things. Whatever it is that is a stretch for you, make a bold move towards your goal, do that workout routine consistently, draft that business plan, send out that job application, play that musical instrument, have that tough conversation or perhaps it could be talking to new people.  All of us have that one thing that comes to mind. It might not be instant success and be very uncomfortable and frightening at first, but God tells us in Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go”. Often times, the very thing you think is working against you is really going to work out for you.

Each time we blockade ourselves further within our comfort zone, it becomes more difficult even to hear God’s callings in our lives. Responding to God’s call to fulfil your mission in life will undoubtedly require you to go beyond the boundaries of your comfort zone. When God calls us, we should not start to offer every excuse why we aren’t able to do it like Moses did in Exodus 3.  Thankfully, Moses overcame this and was obedient to God’s calling and went on to be one of the greatest men in the Bible who led the Jews out of slavery in Egypt and led them to the Promised Land.

God knows full well that we aren’t able to do it alone. We should not for one moment think the goal can be achieved in our own strength or by trusting our own abilities.  Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”

It’s important to push the boundaries of your comfort zone, and when you do, it’s a big deal.  God always has something new and better for you.  It’s not always comfortable, and it may not be the easiest way but if you will step out, embrace it and keep an attitude of faith and expectancy, then He will open the right doors for you.

Christine Mudenha

A daily devotion for a better way of living.