Fresh Hope – 30th March 2019

What is the most attractive, a dirty rock or a shining diamond?  A diamond of course.  But you’re probably aware that a diamond started out as a dirty rock!
Not every rock you see will become a diamond (otherwise we would all be very rich) but a specialist comes along and with his trained eye, he can spot the potential.
There is diamond potential in all of us, because God made us that way.

It’s intense pressure and great heat that turn that rock into the diamond and it’s when we go through the same that we actually have the ability to shine.

Maybe some of us need a little pressure, because we’ve been a dirty lump of rock for too long now. We all have the ability to shine, and when the darkness around us is strong, the light from within us can actually shine brighter.

Diamonds are formed about 100 miles below the earth and are brought to the surface by volcanic eruptions. If you’re going through something similar, ask God to reveal the diamond in you.
Instead of despising the eruption, ask God to bring something beautiful out of it. Stand back and ask God what He is wanting to do with you at this time… you have diamond potential!
The word ‘diamond’ comes from the Greek word ‘adamas’ – which means invincible and indestructible.  Though you may be under that same pressure, you can also be invincible as God is with you.  You have the ability to come out of your situation even stronger. Nothing will touch you or harm you. No fire or test will take you out.

Fake diamonds (like fake people) won’t last or stand the test of time and hardship, but real diamonds will.

We used to sing a sing with these words, “ make me like a precious stone, crystal clear and finely honed. Life of Jesus shining through, giving glory back to you.”

May that be your prayer today.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 29th March 2019

There is an advert for hotels.com where a lady (Sally) has earned a free night stay in a hotel as a reward for booking through their platform. In the commercial, even though bad things happen, (she walks into a door and falls down an open drain cover), she still has a smile on her face and is winning!

2 Corinthians 2.14 (The Message) ‘In the Messiah, in Christ, God leads us from place to place in one perpetual victory parade. Through us, he brings knowledge of Christ. Everywhere we go, people breathe in the exquisite fragrance.’

This is a great picture of how we should live as a follower of Jesus. A continual victory parade, always winning regardless of what we face! And when we live like this, we cause people around us to take in the knowledge (awareness) of God like a fragrance.

If for example, you won £7m on the lottery and the same day you got a parking fine, I doubt the parking fine is going to affect your day because it’s not worth comparing with £7m! It would take something pretty life changing to pull you down off cloud nine, after winning that kind of money. And yet as Christians, we can often allow the parking ticket to rob us of the enormity of what Jesus has won for us, as shown in this parable:

Matthew 18:23-27 NIV “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants.  As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. “At this, the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’  The servant’s master took pity on him, cancelled the debt and let him go.

The ‘ten thousand bags of gold’ owed would be equivalent to billions! Just the interest on a weekly basis would be millions! A truly un-repayable debt! How would that man have felt having been let off a life sentence? He would have been on top of the world. Unfortunately, if you read on, he loses sight of what he had won and ends up resenting a truly incomparably small (parking ticket) debt owed to him.

We have all, through faith in Jesus, been forgiven for all the wrongs we have done (a truly un-repayable debt) and so can with confidence enter into a life-changing relationship with God. Yet too often like the man in the parable, we lose sight of what we have, and allow the small incomparable events of life to rob us!

I encourage you today to stop, take stock and make sure you’re living as a winner!

Luke Cartwright

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 28th March 2019

Just before Jesus was crucified he had a long conversation with his disciples (John 14-16) that he was leaving physically, but not spiritually. Although the disciples were a little confused and worried, Jesus assured them that this was better. Rather than God residing as one man, God could now reside in ALL men who believed – constantly and permanently. He would leave the Holy Spirit. What a gift to US. A permanent helper for us- God with us. These were the days that were once dreamed about by those before us. No longer do we need go to a temple and have an appointed high priest stand on our behalf and present out requests to God. Instead WE ARE the temple of the Holy Spirit.The power of God is residing within us!

The Greek word used to reference the Holy Spirit is Parakletos, which means ‘one who is called to one’s side especially to help’.

It is easy to think that the next brilliant book, encouraging friend, or powerful preach is the only source of comfort and help available to us as Christians. While these things can absolutely build us up and are vital, our growth and encouragement doesn’t depend solely on those things alone. In addition to these things, and above those things, we have the beautiful Holy Spirit which we can and need to partner with at any given moment.

Last night I partnered up with a friend and we did a workout at the gym together. There is a particular set of weights that I will only use when this friend is there with me. She stands by my side, tells me how to use it, watches me closely, and pushes me way further than I would on my own. She encourages me when I start flagging, and literally helps me carry the weight when it gets too much.

True to his name, the purpose of the Holy Spirit is to also come by your side, like a friend. He stands by your side and coaches you through. He challenges you, and strengthens you. He takes you way further than you could on your own. He literally helps you carry the weight, and encourages you when you need it. Do not underestimate the limitless, loving power of the Holy Spirit in your life.

Invite the Holy Spirit to work in you. Acknowledge His presence throughout the day. Welcome His friendship. Grow that friendship. Embrace his inner workings in you, because He will bring life and health like nothing else can!

Emma Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 27th March 2019

Jesus is the single-most influential person who ever lived…and his influence doesn’t just rest in the past. Today a greater population of the world is Christian…more than ever before – just under 19 million new people decide to follow Jesus every year.

When we read about the person of Jesus, we never read of his appearance. Living in a day and age rather obsessed with looks and appearance, it seems bizarre that there would not be a description in the scriptures of how he looked. We can therefore conclude that Jesus was not remembered for what he wore, or what he looked like, but rather for whom he was! His character outshone it all.

Let Jesus remind us that we also will not be remembered for how we looked. What will go down in history is not our appearances, but rather our character. In a world that can emphasize the superficial qualities of a person, let us be sure to tend to the inner workings of who we are – for this is what will count.

I love Tim Keller’s description of the beauty of Jesus, ‘Jesus combines high majesty with the greatest humility, he joins the strongest commitment to justice with astonishing mercy and grace, and he reveals a transcendent self-sufficiency and yet entire trust and reliance upon his heavenly Father. We are surprised to see tenderness without any weakness, boldness without harshness. Readers can discover for themselves his unbending convictions but complete approachability, his insistence on truth but always bathed in love, his power without insensitivity, integrity without rigidity, passion without prejudice’.

Wow! My desire is to pursue a character like that of the above, for this is beauty that will leave a legacy!

In the words of 2 Corinthians 4:16, ‘Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day’. Ironically the part of us that the world emphasises, is the part that is wearing out, it is our inner being that is becoming more and more beautiful as we walk with Jesus. Follow Jesus’ example and focus your energies on what will really count – the parts of us that perhaps people don`t see.

Emma Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – 26th March 2019

One of the things I love to treat myself with is a popular brand of fizzy drink. I don’t have it often, but when I do, I want to experience it as the original creator intended it to taste, as that is what made it so popular. Unfortunately, the original recipe has had to be changed as some people loved it so much, they were having too much of it which caused them to start putting on weight.

The substitute looks like the original, and to most people, tastes like the real thing, but I’ve found the substitute for sugar leaves me with a bitter after-taste. The reason behind this, for me at least, is substituting sugar which took 18 months to cultivate, tend, harvest and process, with a chemical produced in seconds in a factory.

It’s easy to find substitutes for things in our lives that aren’t working out the way we had planned out, and we settle for whatever is the easier option.

Over the epic weekends, Pastor Andre Olivier spoke about the Will of God in our lives, how it is for us to win in life through creating solutions for problems, because when we win, God wins. This can only happen when we act; determined to see and receive God’s power, because just as God loved the Israelite army that was taunted by Goliath, it took David to act for God to work through him. In the same vein, Pastor Phil Pringle spoke about how God’s blessing falls on what He has gifted you to do, not the things you want to do.

What dreams for your life have been forgotten because of procrastinating about simply starting it, because the effort in the preparation was too cumbersome?

What jobs or businesses have you abandoned in the field because it was taking too long to grow or for you to get anything from it?

How many relationships have you neglected or broken because the effort to cultivate it was too taxing?

God wants the best for you. Dinner at His table is a slow cooked pot roast, not a microwave meal. A beautiful modern auditorium to worship in, and not a portable cabin.
Like the sugar cane that took a lot of effort to prepare the ground, plant it, water it, weed it, harvest it, press it, then dry it, you will experience different seasons where what will be required of you is going to change.

Don’t give up! Little by little, after you’ve done what you can do in each season, the full richness of His promises in your life will show up, fizzy and bubbling over, and there won’t be an after-taste.

Noble Mudenha

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 25th March 2019

Yesterday, Gillian and myself celebrated our 30th anniversary of being the Pastors of Champions Church!

What a day as we looked back, but more so looked forward to all that God is going to do in the future. The truth is, we feel like we are just starting out!

Today, I reflect on what has kept us going for three decades whilst still holding to the belief that our best days are still ahead of us! My sentiment and thoughts are perhaps best captured in the story of Nehemiah in the Old Testament.

Centuries ago, Jerusalem lay in ruins. Nehemiah felt called to do something about it and so he rallied, motivated and organised the people. Fifty two days later, they had finished the job. They had entirely rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem in less than two months. How did he do it?

1. He had passion! He could hardly sleep at night for picturing the problem and seeing himself solving it.

2. He motivated others. What good is your leadership if you can’t move and influence other people to action?

3. He had confidence in God. He may have doubted his own ability, but he never doubted God’s. His book is full of prayers – silent ones, short ones, specific ones.

4. He refused to give up. From the time he started mixing the mortar until the day he laid the last brick, his critics never let up. But he took it – sarcasm, suspicion, gossip, threats, false accusations…you name it. Nothing could move him.


5. He was realistic. He had some of the workers build a wall, while others stood guard against attack. He acted without overreacting; he was gracious but unbending. Good leaders may seemingly have their head in the clouds, but they’ve also got their feet on the ground.

6. He had the discipline to finish the job. Good leaders are finishers. When the job loses its lustre, they don’t go somewhere else, they stay at it through thick and thin.

Over the years, (and it usually takes years and not 52 days) I’ve grown to appreciate more and more that leaders don’t look for badges and titles, they simply look for a job that needs doing and then get on and do it. When you can do that time and time again without any fuss or bother, you are going to succeed at the job in hand.

Nehemiah 6:3-4 ‘….I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down: why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you? Yet they sent unto me four times after this sort; and I answered them after the same manner.


Pastor Mark 

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 23rd March 2019

There is no doubt that God loves us. It doesn’t matter who you are, what you’ve done and where you’ve been…God has unconditional love for us.
As an earthly parent there are times when I may not always like what my children do, but it doesn’t mean I love them any less. How much more then does God give us that unconditional love?

So we need to agree that He loves us, but I wonder what He thinks about us?

You see, I love all of my three children the same, yet I think differently about them.
For instance as a parent , you may think of one child as untidy or cheeky, or maybe one is rebellious or lazy. Maybe you think they are kind and loving, maybe one is bright and always cheerful.

Have you ever stopped and wondered what God thinks about you?

In the Bible it says this
Acts 13 v 22
‘After removing Saul, he made David their king. God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’

Wow. That’s what God thought about David. A ‘man after His own heart’ and an obedient one at that.

You see, you and I will confess God… “God you are faithful, you are loving, you never let me down, you are my friend, you’re always with me” etc
Yet here, God is confessing David!

What’s your reputation like with God? What is He saying and thinking about you?

Even if you think it can’t be good, He still loves you.
However, desire to have a good reputation with God. Desire to not only be loved by an Almighty God, but have a great reputation with Him also. I want God to think good of me. I want Him to know He can trust me.

When Jesus was baptised, His Father (God) said “ this is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.”

God testified that David was a good man and followed Him with all His heart.

What is He saying about you?

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 22nd March 2019

Clark’s Botanicals is a high end skincare cream which features in Vogue, Vanity Fair, Harper’s Bazaar, and other publications and has made its creator Francesco Clark an incredibly successful  multi millionaire businessman!

He started to create the skincare products after a crippling spinal cord injury from a swimming pool diving accident had left him a paraplegic. With his spinal cord severed not only was he unable to ever walk again, but unable to sweat, causing severe skin issues. After working with his father, a doctor, to create a naturally formulated cream that finally cleared up his complaint, his mother and sister soon started to use the cream and the idea to start selling it online began.

Sometimes, it can be difficult to understand verses in the bible such as James 1:2 ‘Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds’ that seem to suggest some kind of benefit in hardship!

The very meaning of life to most people is  avoiding negative situations, while trying to steer towards positive situations. But if we’re honest, as Christians, we have the same meaning of life, only we look to Jesus to help us mitigate the negative whilst blessing us with the positive. The problem with this is that Jesus didn’t come so we could have an easy life but a full life!

I truly believe we would enjoy the ride that is ‘this life’ a lot more if only we embraced difficult circumstances and looked for the opportunities that come by them, rather fighting against them all the time.

Whatever you may be struggling with today, relationships, finance or health problems, just like Francesco Clark there is an opportunity if we change the way we think about the situation to actually make the most out of it.

2 Corinthians 4:17-18 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Fix your eyes on Him today and give thanks in all circumstances!


Luke Cartwright

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 21st March 2019

On the 25th of October 1881, Pablo Picasso was born. He would become the artist of 1,885 paintings, 1,228 sculptures, 2,880 ceramics, 2,000 drawings, many thousands of prints and numerous tapestries and rugs. Out of the world’s 50 most expensive paintings, seven of them are his. His most expensive selling for 179.4 million dollars. 

The day Picasso was born it was believed that he was a stillborn. The birth was long and difficult. He came out not breathing. The midwife declared he was dead. It wasn’t until his uncle, a doctor, believed there was more life in him, blew some smoke in his face that he then woke up to life, coughing and screaming!

Had people accepted the midwife’s declaration that he was dead, we would not know of a Picasso today. All his works would not exist. The creativity, colour and life that he embodied would have never been birthed. It would never have had a chance. 

What in our lives do we declare dead when God says otherwise? There may be gifts, abilities, relationships, health, hopes, dreams that we have concluded are dead, and gone. But God doesn’t.

The heart of God is always restoration, redemption and resurrection! He told us that he came to give us LIFE and full-life! (John 10:10). Jesus in his death on the cross could have appeared in his finality. It could have looked like death had overcome him, but in fact the story was not over. There was more. Jesus would overcome death itself and rise to life!

Are we shortcutting the work of God by concluding that things are finished, when they are not?  There is more life than we can imagine waiting in the things we have deemed dead.

Who are we to contradict the voice of God? Today, ask yourself which voice are you listening to? The voice of midwife? or the voice of the doctor?

Emma Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 20th March 2019

‘Early in the morning as he was on his way back to the city, he was hungry. Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” Immediately the tree withered (Matthew 21:18-19). 

 Jesus hated things that bore no fruit. Jesus has called us to live fruitful lives. Fruit in our lives is a product of a life rooted and established in Him. A dead tree is a sign of no connection to the life source.  

 What areas of our lives are bearing no fruit? What are the parts of us that aren’t connected to the life source? It could be false appearances, our conversations, certain relationships, or our use of time.  

 Jesus often used metaphors and everyday imagery to convey profound kingdom principles. In John 15:1-27, Jesus says that he is the true vine. ‘As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing’. The powerful point is that the branches of our lives are fruitless without the source being in God.  

Cut off the branches that are bearing no fruit. Those things that are not rooted in God and demanding your resources, time, energy, thought patterns – they will never create lasting fruit. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the root of why it is that you are investing into something bearing no fruit, and let him shift your priorities into something life-giving and fruit bearing.  

 Emma Burchell 

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 19th March 2019

Living the Christian life is not difficult …it’s impossible! That is unless you know Jesus.

For many people their understanding about Jesus is really a mis-understanding.

The idea of living in a ‘Christian’ country or being a good and kind person means that you may consider yourself to already be a Christian and yet there is nothing to show for it.

Trying your best to live out that kind of a ‘good’ life is frustrating to say the least and lacks the power to do so at the best of times; not only that, but where is the peace and joy that you so desire but never experience by just tinkering with religion?

There are 3 ‘types’ of Christian…with only one of them being the real thing.

Nominal Christian – Meaning by name only, or ‘supposed’ to be a Christian. You may broadly say you are Christian because you or your parents went or go to church.


Religious Christian – When you go to hospital and they ask you to fill out a form, one of the questions will be ‘what religion are you?’ What answer do you give? For many people the answer will be ‘Christian’…even though you may not even believe in God! This is also a person that believes that being good is all that it takes – not so.


Real Christian – this is someone who has understood that the Gospel is not about good works or trying your best or being born in a Christian country but about placing your faith in all that Jesus has already done when He died on the cross for your sins and then rose from the dead. Christianity is not spelt DO but is spelt DONE. It’s not about TRYING it’s about TRUSTING. Real Christianity is knowing God in a personal way.

If you’ve ever wondered why there’s still a missing peace in your life even though you have everything in place to satisfy you, then it’s because you need to become a ‘real Christian’ by inviting Jesus into your life as leader and Lord.

If this sounds pretty foreign to what you’ve always believed, then take time to read these amazing verses and experience the real deal.

Titus 3:4-5 “But when the kindness and love of God our Saviour appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy…”

Ephesians 2:8-9 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.

Why not pray a very simple and sincere prayer right now and ask Jesus to reveal himself to you in a real and personal way? You may have never ever prayed a real heartfelt prayer before but that’s okay- Jesus is wanting to hear from you with exactly that level of honesty and simplicity. Don’t try to formulate religious words, there’s no need, instead pray right from your heart.


Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 18th March 2019

One thing I have found to be true is there’s never enough ice cream! Even after a whole tub of Ben and Jerry’s and feeling sick, I still want more. It doesn’t satisfy that ice cream hole in my sole.

This is true in life. Over the last six years, my family and I have lived in a number of rental properties before we were able to buy a property. I remember one house, a big spacious Victorian character property that we fell in love with straight away. It was the perfect house, I even spoke to the landlord to ask if he’d sell it.

We loved everything about the house from  the high ceilings to the long corridors and original features.

Then winter came and I hated the house. I spent weeks insulating the rooms and even wrote off money to put carpet down in the living room. I never wanted to live in this type of house ever again.

Eventually, God blessed us and we bought a truly fantastic house, and it was warm! But what I’ve found is, despite being more blessed than I could have foreseen, when I’m out and about and I pass an old character property, I find myself fantasising about owning and living in such a property.

Just as I’m never truly satisfied with ice cream, neither am I ever truly satisfied with circumstances!

God created us to never truly be satisfied with any set of circumstances but only in a relationship with Him. God wants to bless us with great circumstances but never for that to replace Him – that’s idolatry. I truly believe that there isn’t a set of circumstances in all of creation that could ever make us truly happy and satisfied outside of God.

This I believe is where the actor Jim Carrey was coming from when he stated “I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.”

You can read this today and think ‘oh dear, what’s even the point then?’ Or you can read this and think ‘phew, I don’t have to compete, achieve and acquire in order to reach some purpose and meaning.’

It doesn’t mean that ‘life is meaningless’ so we may as well just ‘drink and be merry’, but as a Christian we can recognise we don’t need more meaning than who we are in Him. This takes the pressure off so we can really start enjoying the ice cream we do have and start enjoying where we are living! Then we’re in a better place to continue to reach for the stars with a risk taking freedom!


1 Timothy 6:17 Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.

Luke Cartwright

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 16th March 2019

What are you wearing today?  Heaviness by any chance?

Heaviness can often start out as a little care or concern. What begins as a small burden can grow and grow. You can start taking on burdens that aren’t even yours, you start thinking about issues that shouldn’t be issues, or you start worrying about things in the future. Some of those things we worry about, will never actually come to anything.

All of this piled up can become very heavy on your heart and mind. It’s like as if we are putting on layers and layers of heavy clothing. The more you worry and feel down, the more layers you are piling on.
The Bible says that heaviness is actually a spirit.
The goal of heaviness is to distract you and get you off track and to even render you useless.
Heaviness tries to keep your head down so that you can’t even look up to the Heavens—the place where your help comes from.
Heaviness tries to wear you out and take the place of God’s spirit, it robs you of peace and joy…but do you know what chases that spirit of heaviness away? Praise and thanksgiving.
The Bible says that God inhabits the praises of His people. He literally comes into our praise and works there.

When you start praising, God shows up in your midst and every negative spirit has to flee!
If you have heaviness on you today, if you feel trapped, overwhelmed, discouraged, frustrated or anxious, there is only one thing you need to do, and that is to open your mouth and praise Almighty God! Even if it’s difficult, even if you don’t feel like it, just open your mouth and begin to declare His goodness.
Sometimes we have to stir ourselves up in the things of God. Sometimes we have to get our flesh to obey the Word of God, sometimes we have to take hold of ourselves and tell ourselves to worship, in order to see the breakthrough in the supernatural realm.
If the enemy can stop you praising, he will.
Isaiah 61 vs 3 tells us for a spirit of heaviness, we are to PUT on the garment of praise. That means you have to actually do something, it won’t just happen. PUT IT ON.
We are good at wearing the right clothes for the right occasion , so make sure you’re wearing the right outfit, when heaviness hits.
Instead of focusing on your problems, focus on your God. Colossians 3 vs 2 says “Set your mind on things above, not on earthly things.” SET is quite a strong word.  SET like PUT are verbs, they are ‘doing words’ – which means, we have to do something!

Enter His gates with thanksgiving, shake off , push away and lay down that heaviness and embrace the peace, joy and victory God has prepared for you today.
Get rid of the wrong clothing, and replace it with the right outfit.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 15th March 2019

Noise is trendy…solitude isn’t!

Spending time alone is now one of the biggest single threats that most Christians face. It’s not because we are consumed with being around people all day, but it’s more so that we have lost the art of being quiet.

You can be all alone and still not have solitude, even though there are no real life humans present. We have developed a lifestyle whereby we are constantly surrounded by the noise and influence of people on social media. It’s almost guaranteed that the average person cannot resist even more than a few minutes where there isn’t a device in their hands or earphones connecting them to some form of noise. If you really want to grow as a person and as a leader, and grow in your relationship with God, get comfortable with solitude.

Here are 5 thoughts that may help you to get your solitude back

1. Get up earlier. Even if it’s just 15 minutes earlier than you get up now, starting your day earlier allows you stillness that will otherwise elude you for the rest of the day. I personally aim to be ready and alone by no later than 7.15 am each day. Much earlier on some and a little later on others.

2. Plan solitude. When you book yourself some solitude, start with just a few minutes and work up to more over time. You will give yourself time to pray, think, reflect, imagine, dream, and rethink.

3. Find a hobby you do alone. I’ve found that going to the gym is a much-needed hobby at my age, or even taking a 30 minute walk whereby you just spend time with your own thoughts. Even if you start something for an hour a week, it will clear your mind.

4. Take a few hours to get away from town. More than ever before do I take my Bible and a notepad and drive several miles to grab a coffee on my own. There are plenty of places locally, but I find that it helps to get away from the familiar, even for a few hours undisturbed once a month. It can do wonders in helping to re-set your life.

5. Take a mid-day break. Turn the music off, turn off your phone and go sit somewhere. Even for ten minutes. Find a park bench. Sit by yourself. Sit in your car. When you are still, you will know that God is God.

Mark 1:35-37 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!”



Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 14th March 2019

Many of you are familiar with the Luke 15 story of the lost son who squanders his father’s wealth and then returns to him after hitting rock bottom. This story is a parable. A metaphorical tale told by Jesus as a picture of the unconditional love and grace of our heavenly father.

I have heard this story many times, but the other day I heard it again and a line stuck out to me that had never before. After the son found himself amongst pigs, unsatisfied and empty with all the world afforded him, he makes the humble decision to return to his father. He wasn’t exactly expecting to be welcomed back with open-arms. He would be grateful to have a mere servant’s job in his father’s household after his behaviour. ‘So he got up and went to his father’ (Verse 20). This is the part I saw in a new light – ‘But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him’.

WHILE HE WAS STILL A LONG WAY OFF – Sometimes we really do fail to fully understand the nature of God. Like the Prodigal son, we can think that we need to have it all together, before we are worthy of receiving the Father’s love, welcome and reward. We can feel like we are still a long way off from where we should be, and still a long way off from who we want to be… but God in his compassion, looks at us WHILE WE ARE STILL A LONG WAY OFF… and HE RUNS towards us!  

You may have just come out of the pig slop of life. Your situation may look a long way off from what you know it should be, but the good news is that as your heart turns toward Jesus, he runs to meet you where you are at. You don’t need to go the whole distance to find him. You don’t need to climb your way from salve to son.

You don’t work towards Jesus, Jesus already has his arms around you and is kissing your cheeks, pig-smell and all! Then in true Jesus style, he brings out the robe, ring, and sandals for you (symbolic of sonship, inheritance, and kingdom authority).

What parts of your life do you feel ‘still a long way off’? Meditate on the reality that even in that, Jesus has his arms around you, celebrates you, and rewards you.

Emma Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 13th March 2019

Be generous when you have no money!

Be careful in life that you don’t fall for the lie that you will be generous one day when you have money. If you’re not generous now, you won’t be generous then.

Generosity is so much more than being liberal with your money; generosity is a way of life. It’s an attitude that flows like blood through the veins of your daily existence, and touches everything you do and everyone you know.


It’s possible that you have never been a generous person and have therefore written yourself off as ‘not being that type’ of person. If that’s you, then come to a fresh understanding today that even though you may have grown up stingy, you can actually change that by training yourself to be generous.


As a young man, I would be fascinated by cars and even though at that time I never owned one that was anything but a rust heap on wheels, I took great pride in my little old car and was forever treating it like a mobile god.


The day came when I left for college on the south coast of England. My car was the only thing I had to my name and no one was going to touch that, or so I thought.



One evening, a student asked if he could borrow my car. ‘No way’, I reasoned in my head, ‘this is my only possession in life.’ I had no money to my name and I was not going to share the only thing that I had left. But instead of saying no to him, I heard the word YES coming out of my mouth. Not only did I say yes, I said it with such positivity that I actually believed myself. I handed him the keys and as he walked away I felt such a peace and joy that I had now given over freely what was the only thing I had to offer. From that night on, I realised what a blessing it was to be generous and kind with what we have in life.



That one loan of my car turned into yet another and another and another until every single day my car was passed from one student to the next. I rarely drove that car myself and even though at times it would come back with its exhaust dropping off, I never resented being generous with all that I owned.


Something happened on the inside of me when I demonstrated a level of generosity on the outside. Once you do it, you will never go back.


Many times since then I have faced the inner battle of letting things go in an act of generosity, but I’ve always made sure that doing the right thing wins every time.

Practice generosity with everything you receive and everything you have, then if you ever have money or possessions, they won’t own you. You will have released their grip from your life long ago. And you will look behind you and already see you’ve been able to make more of a difference than you imagined.


Don’t wait to have money before you become generous, it doesn’t happen that way. Take a look at what you have right now and start to give it away.


Remember, generosity is more than money, it’s a lifestyle.

2 Kings 4:1-7 The wife of a man from the company of the prophets cried out to Elisha, “Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that he revered the Lord. But now his creditor is coming to take my two boys as his slaves.” Elisha replied to her, “How can I help you? Tell me, what do you have in your house?” “Your servant has nothing there at all,” she said, “except a small jar of olive oil.” Elisha said, “Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don’t ask for just a few. Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side.” She left him and shut the door behind her and her sons. They brought the jars to her and she kept pouring. When all the jars were full, she said to her son, “Bring me another one.” But he replied, “There is not a jar left.” Then the oil stopped flowing. She went and told the man of God, and he said, “Go, sell the oil and pay your debts. You and your sons can live on what is left.”


Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 12th March 2019

Do you feel like you are in a hopeless situation today?

Is there no sign of change in the natural?

Remember, we serve a supernatural God.

What looks impossible with man is possible with God.

In the Bible, God told Abraham that he would be the father of many nations, but in the natural this looked impossible. Both he and his wife were behind child-bearing years. They had no reason to hope or believe that it would happen. They had nothing to go on in the natural, but one translation of this account says “hoping in spite of hopeless circumstances, he believed”.

…And the rest is history as we say.

Abraham finally had a son, Isaac, and his descendants outnumbered the grains of sand on the sea shore.

Today I encourage you to do what Abraham did, and believe God against all the odds.

Keep believing.

Keep praying.

Keep moving forward.

Don’t focus on the impossible circumstances, but focus on the God who makes the impossible possible.

Romans 4:18-21 Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’ Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead – since he was about a hundred years old – and that Sarah’s womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 11th March 2019

Has life ever left you puzzled? Welcome to the Psalmist club! Asaph was a singer. In Psalm 73:16 he sings, ‘When I tried to understand it all, I just couldn’t. It was too puzzling – too much of a riddle to me’.

While life’s puzzling circumstances don’t just vanish, the Bible says that our present perspective can, and a perspective can change everything.

Asaph continued to sing, ‘but then one day I was brought into the sanctuaries of God, and in the light of glory, my distorted perspective vanished. Then I understood…’ (Psalm 73:17).

I am not saying present troubles are an illusion or state of mind. In fact, unlike many religious beliefs, Christianity teaches the opposite. It teaches that suffering is a reality, but can be meaningful – it can make you something great. It simply requires fixing our eyes on Jesus… who likes us, endured pain for a joy he could see beyond the present. His present perspective vanished in light of what he could see before him! (Hebrews 12:2).

Like Asaph, we may not need our problems to vanish, but our perspective to shift. The best place for a perspective shift is the presence of God. Get into the presence of God until you understand in a new way!

Emma Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 9th March 2019

Sociological studies show that many people form their sense of worth and identity through the ‘exclusion of other’.  In other words, people can shape their identity and self-worth from looking at a contrasting group of people and quickly labeling them in order to feel better about themselves. You look at others in a negative light, as not being as good as you in some wayand this makes you feel better about yourself, because “you’re not one of them”. The reason the human brain operates like this is because it gives us the illusion of sinlessness and strength.

Do you feel good about yourself by thinking less of others? Where is the source of your self-worth?

We should not have a self-image that draws on the comparison of others in order to feel good about ourselves.

In the kingdom of God there is no such thing as “us” and “them”. Rather than looking at the differences, the focus should be the shared common – that we were all saved by grace. ‘For ALL for short and ALL are justified freely by his grace’ (Romans 3:23-24).

To embrace people different to us requires humility, and humility, requires a deep sense of security and sense of self-worth. Confidence and humility therefore go hand-in-hand.

The picture we carry of Jesus dying on the cross for us, should both humble us, and also build a deep sense of security and confidence in us – one where we don’t need to find the faults in others to feel better about ourselves. The cross humbles us because we understand that ALL mankind needs the saving grace of God, and it also builds our self-worth because we understand how deeply we are loved by the father, to the extent that He would die for us – thus we find our security, identity, and the humility to embrace others, just as we were!

Naturally we look to the people that matter to us to define us. We want the people whose opinions matter most, to think the most of us. This is how the human soul feels good about itself. How wonderful that the opinion that matters the most, the opinion of God himself, is an opinion of unshakable love and acceptance toward us. How freeing that your identity and value doesn’t need to be determined by the people around you, but can instead be drawn from the infallibly secure source of Jesus Christ!  

Emma Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 8th March 2019

Grace. Grace is the unmerited favour of God. It is not only being freed from a conviction, it is blessing IN ADDITION to your freedom! 

 Law. Law is the standard by which you must live up to, in order to have right standing with God.  

 We are saved by grace. Jesus met the standard of the law on our behalf, so we no longer have to.  

 The message of grace isn’t just for people seeking salvation, many Christians need to be reminded of the price that was paid for them to be freed from the law (the need to EARN anything from God). You can be saved by grace, but still live with a law mentality. You can be a Christian, but still believe that you need to work for righteousness.  

 Grace is offensive. It offends our minds. It offends us because we grow up trained that when you do something good, there are due rewards. You are taught that when you do something wrong, you get punished. The thing with the kingdom of God is that it is an upside down kingdom. Grace is unfair. It frees a sinner. It contradicts our training of “if you work hard enough, prove yourself enough, do enough good things, then God will love you more” mentality.  

 In a world that celebrates busyness, stress, the hustle, and grid, grace demands that we rest. When Jesus said on the cross ‘It is finished’, he was saying that our need to earn favour and right standing with God through works was finished! The hustle was over! ‘We can ENJOY lasting peace’ (Romans 5:1), because ‘he has given us perfect relationship (Romans 5:2). We will never experience the wrath of God’ (Romans 5:9).  

 Does rest mean laziness? NO! The opposite! Grace actually empowers us, from the inside out! And yes, there are still godly principles by which we guide our lives, even when we don’t feel like it (e.g. giving!), but it is important that we understand that we don’t do those things to have right standing with God, we do those things BECAUSE WE HAVE right standing with God. We are now his son/daughter, freed by grace, and ‘empowered to walk in the freshness of new life’ (Romans 6:4).  

 Be careful not to live life trying to earn what you already have. Jesus has paid for it all. Jesus’ death purchased something for us – freedom from the law. Freedom from having to earn! Stop exhausting yourself making repayments on a debt Jesus has already cleared!  

Emma Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 7th March 2019

Don’t go backwards!

If you’ve joined us on our ten day corporate fast then you will know what it feels like to wake today and be looking forward with excitement to eating again.

Some of you will be happy with the amount of weight that you have lost! Others will be amazed at how your taste buds have been sensitised once again, whilst some will be dancing for joy at the answers to prayer and even more at the changes you have seen in your own life over these past ten days.

It is so easy right now to dip straight back into living the way you did before, and within a day or two to lose that sense of peace and of God’s presence that you have felt and known during this time.

Make a decision today to not go back to the old way of bingeing on everything you see and smell. Set yourself some positive boundaries so that you don’t just ‘pig out’ again at every opportunity. You’ll not only look and feel better, you’ll also see much clearer. Remember…dieting changes the way you look but fasting changes the way that you see.

Don’t just have an attitude today that says…’I’m so glad we’ve got that fast out of the way for another year’, but see it as part of your future weekly lifestyle. Even the whole world has eventually caught up with the Bible in telling us that a weekly fast is good for you in so many ways.

Whatever you do today, make an agreement with yourself never to go back to the same old way of living again.

Here’s a thought for today as we move forward…

Jesus didn’t fast for things. Jesus didn’t fast to get His prayers answered. Jesus didn’t fast in order to get a breakthrough that was causing him concern. No, Jesus fasted in order to maintain a lifestyle of READINESS. Fasting positions you for whatever may be coming your way this week.

If you feel like nothing has happened to you, with or through in this last ten days, you are mistaken. Fasting and prayer have positioned you for a greater level of faith and your reward will come.

Be blessed as you eat and celebrate all that God has in store for you.


Pastor Mark
A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 6th March 2019

Final day – Prayer and Fasting.

God loves doing new things in our lives, yet too often we only ever view our future through the lenses of our past.

It is true that wise people learn from mistakes, but there is a fine line between learning from our failures and allowing our past disappointments to shape how we see God’s promises.

Maybe you have been fasting and praying for God to move in your situation. You may believe God’s promises are possible, but just not possible for you. If that’s where you’re at, here’s some really good news – God’s promises are for you!

God wants to do something new in your life. He wants to bring growth, beauty, and vitality to the wilderness you have been living in.

Listen to the words of Isaiah 43:19, “Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”

This ten days of fasting and prayer will lead to new things being done in you, through you, and around you as God honours your fast. Watch expectantly, anticipate His breakthrough; you may not see it yet, but it’s impossible to fast without seeing God work in response to us drawing closer to Him through prayer and fasting.

Please join us tonight as we end this ten day fast with a ‘BREAKTHROUGH prayer service’. Champions Church – 7-8pm.

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

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.



 

Fresh Hope – 5th March 2019

Day 9 – Prayer and Fasting

If there was one thing that I could pass on regarding prayer and fasting it would be this…there is nothing fast about fasting!

You could well be thinking by now that after fasting for well over a week that you should be seeing some amazing answers to prayer in your life, but the question remains: where are those answers? In fact, the only thing I feel right now is downright hungry!

The reason we think like that is because we have a wrong view of fasting; one that says, ‘if I fast and pray, then God will answer me much quicker than if I just pray’. Not necessarily so. Fasting doesn’t give us fast answers, but rather it prepares ME and positions ME to be able to handle the answers when they do come.

There have been many times in my own life that I saw no answers to prayer at all during a fast, but there has never been a fast that I haven’t changed in the process. When the answer did come, in some cases, months or even years later, I was in the right place to receive them.

Think of a small child that continually asks their parent if they could have that very special toy NOW. I want it NOW! The parent is not deaf to the request, however the parent waits until the right time to get what the child asked for. God always hears your heartfelt cry, however He never guarantees the answer right away. God doesn’t change during your fast – God changes you during your fast.

Take encouragement today from one of the Bibles most well known characters – Daniel. Daniel fasted for twenty-one days and, humanly speaking, it appeared nothing had happened! Daniel didn’t see or hear anything in fact for twenty-four days, but Heaven heard, and his answer was on its way from the very first day.

(Daniel 10:12 NIV)

…Then he (the Angel) continued, ‘Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them’.

When you fast and pray, Heaven takes note. It may not seem like anything is happening, but the truth is that from the moment your fast began, God has been working. Don’t quit praying. Don’t stop seeking. Continue in this ten day journey with the expectation that you will see God do extraordinary things in your life.

Luke 18:1-8 Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’ “For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’” And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 4th March 2019

Day 8 – Prayer and Fasting

Fasting is about decrease. We must decrease in order to increase. Biblical fasting is cutting out something in your life as an act of humbling yourself before God.

What fasting is not:
– Enduring discomfort in order to gain favour with God.
– Denying ourselves to feel like a more holy Christian.

What fasting is:
– The sacrifice of stuff, in order to surrender our souls.
– Thinning our lives in order to increase our communion with God. As you decrease in an area, it creates a space for God to speak. We are freed from a ‘self’ focused mind, and instead lean into something beyond us – God.

In the words of John H. Coe, ‘Spiritual disciplines do not transform, they only become relational opportunities to open the heart to the Spirit who transforms’.  In other words, it is not the act of fasting that transforms us, rather it is the opportunity that fasting creates, allowing us to connect with a God who then transforms us!

Eugene Peterson, translator of the Bible into everyday street language, once said, ‘Christian spirituality, is not about us. It is about God. The great weakness of modern spirituality is that it is all about us: fulfilling OUR potential, getting blessings off God, expanding OUR influence, finding OUR gifts, getting a handle on principles by which we can get an edge over the competition. The more there is of us, the less there is of God’.

Fasting is an opportunity to get the much-needed readjustment we need. In an era where we are obsessed with self-increase, by self-efforts, fasting is spiritually speaking, “getting on our knees” before God. It reminds us that we need God and God alone and self cannot satisfy self.

Fasting is worship and worship always demands sacrifice. It must cost you something – your time, your ego, your comfort. Worship and surrender go hand in hand.

Consider what you might like to cut out in order to make room for God to do something in your heart and life. It may be food, it may be the time you usually waste on something fruitless, it may be certain thought patterns that you need to fast, it may be habits. Ask the Holy Spirit, what you can decrease in order to make space for Him to do something deep and wonderful in your life!

Emma Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 2nd March 2019

Yesterday, we were given the three verses to read from Ezra ch 8 v 21-23 (from the Old Testament) ‘There, by the Ahava Canal, I proclaimed a fast, so that we might humble ourselves before our God and ask him for a safe journey for us and our children, with all our possessions. I was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers and horsemen to protect us from enemies on the road, because we had told the king, “The gracious hand of our God is on everyone who looks to him, but his great anger is against all who forsake him.” So we fasted and petitioned our God about this, and he answered our prayer.

As we are half way through our time of prayer and fasting, I’d like to encourage you with five thoughts from these three verses. 

1. I proclaimed a fast. Corporate fasting is powerful and although fasting should be part of our normal lives, there’s nothing like a group of like-minded people, joining together and doing it together. When we come together with one aim and mind and heart, that’s powerful.  If you haven’t joined in yet, it’s not too late.

2. Humble ourselves   Fasting can sometimes make you feel ‘yak’, especially in those first few days, however, one thing it does do is …it strips us of ‘us’ and makes us humble before an Almighty God. It is good to be humbled and to come humbly before a God who is able to do whatever He wants to do, whenever He wants to do it and with whoever He wants to do it with.

3. Ask Him.  You can see from the verses that they asked God for specific things…safe journey, children, possessions, protection etc . Prayer and fasting is a time to come before God with specific requests.  If we don’t get specific, we won’t get specific answers.

4. I was ashamed to ask the King.  He didn’t want to ask the King, because He had told Him that God would provide.  You don’t need to look for your answers from anywhere, except from God. You don’t need to rely on anyone, other than God Himself.  Go straight to Him. He is waiting to hear from you!

5. He answered our prayer. Yes, that’s what God does when we pray and fast. He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.

Be blessed today as you continue strong

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – 1st March 2019

As you continue fasting, it is important to understand that you have entered into a spiritual battle. Part of the spiritual battle is fought as the body adjusts to the rigors of fasting. For most people, there is more than just a little detoxing happening in our bodies. But the battle is more than physiological; as we fast, a spiritual battle is being waged. Things are happening in the spiritual realm that we neither perceive nor understand outside of God revealing them to us.

Fasting is more than just missing a meal. Powerful seasons of fasting are experienced when we purpose to spend additional time in God’s presence during the fast. As well, every hunger pang, every feeling of fatigue, and every caffeine headache will be a reminder to call on God in that moment and to cry out for those things you are seeking Him to do in your life.

David Mathis writes, “Fasting is a desperate measure, for desperate times, among those who know themselves desperate for God.”

But don’t just focus on the battle or the pain – focus on the reward that comes through fasting.

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

Ezra 8:21-23 There, by the Ahava Canal, I proclaimed a fast, so that we might humble ourselves before our God and ask him for a safe journey for us and our children, with all our possessions. I was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers and horsemen to protect us from enemies on the road, because we had told the king, “The gracious hand of our God is on everyone who looks to him, but his great anger is against all who forsake him.” So we fasted and petitioned our God about this, and he answered our prayer.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.