All posts by Champions Church

Mark & Gillian Burchell are the Senior Pastors of Champions Church, Dudley, England. With over 25 years in leadership and church ministry, Mark & Gillian are experienced and influential in their role as pastors. Their teaching is both inspirational and practical as they are committed to seeing ordinary people connect with an extra-ordinary God and become champions in life. With a contagious zeal for life, Pastors Mark & Gillian passionately believe in the potential of all people and are devoted to the cause of Christ and building His Church. Mark & Gillian have 3 children, Esther, Joshua & Caleb and reside in Dudley.

Fresh Hope – 14th December 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 13th December 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – 12th December 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Emma Montesi

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 11th December 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be a bold asker…be a bold follower.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 9th December 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 8th December 2017

Today, Fresh Hope turns to fresh Christmas chocolate brownie.

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

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

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

125g butter at room temp

250g caster sugar

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

Pinch of salt

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

125g plain dark chocolate.

125g plain flour

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

Pre-heat the oven to 350°F or 180° C

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

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

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

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

Pour into cake tin and smooth

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

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

Dust with icing sugar and serve warm.

A wonderful family fireside treat for Christmas.

Enjoy.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 7th December 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some good questions to ask yourself are:

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

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

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

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 6th December 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 5th December 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

Genesis 5:21-24

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

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 4th December 2017

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

I wonder what impossibility you have woken up to today?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 2nd December 2017

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

What a great example.

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

What is servanthood?

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

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

J = Jesus
O = others
Y = yourself.

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

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 1st December 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Smile when you walk into a room.

Speak words of life and encouragement.

Always give people hope.

Shine with the love of Jesus.

Have a joyful heart.

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

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 30th November 2017

Gratitude develops your faith when times are tough — when things don’t make sense, when you can’t figure it out, when your prayers are unanswered, when life stinks, when everything is going the way you didn’t want it to go. Anybody can thank God for good things. But when you can thank God even in the bad things, your faith grows and your spiritual roots go deeper.

In the Bible, the prophet Habakkuk was going through tough times. He said, “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior” (Habakkuk 3:17-18 NIV).
Habakkuk wasn’t thanking God for all the things that had gone wrong in his life. What was his cause of gratitude? “I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.”
Habakkuk could say, “Everything else stinks in life, but I can be grateful, because the Lord is my Savior. He will pull me out. He’ll bring me through this. I’m not on my own. He hasn’t abandoned me. I will still give thanks to God.”
This is the ultimate test of faith: Can you thank God when life stinks? That’s the test of how deep your spiritual roots go.

When you’re going through tough times, you need to look at what’s left, not what’s lost, and be grateful for it. No matter how bad things are, there are always thousands of things you can be grateful for. And no matter how bad things are, there is always the fact that you can be thankful to God just for being God. He has promised to see you through, to help you out, to strengthen you, to care for you, to do miracles, to answer your prayers. He’s promised that even when things don’t go your way, he can work it for good in your life.

Rick Warren

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 29th November 2017

Do you have a boss that treats you unfairly? Parents who you regularly disagree with? Leaders who don’t operate the way you believe they should?

It is easy to honour people when we agree with them, or they treat us the right way – but what do we do if they don’t? How do we respect those in authority even when they aren’t operating like you believe they should?

Let’s look at the story of Joseph in Genesis. Joseph was deeply loved by his father. So much so that his own brothers grew jealous of Joseph’s favour and sold him to slave traders. The cruel journey of walking through the wilderness in chains wouldn’t have compared to the emotional pain of rejection from his own flesh and blood.
The slave traders then sold Joseph to Potiphar in Egypt, where he would serve Pharaoh. Still dealing with the injustice from his family, he had to quickly adapt to a whole different culture. From farm boy to palace slave, this was a true test of his character.

Despite unfair circumstances, Joseph faithfully did his job. He never tried to prove himself, he just remained honouring, and in turn, God honoured him. So how did Joseph survive? The answer is that he was really serving God, not man. His identity was immersed in his relationship with God, not the treatment served to him. This is where he found his strength.

At request, Joseph was asked to use his God-given talent of dream interpretation, which he faithfully did. Eventually this gift would unlock the destiny of a country. In his faithfulness ‘Joseph found favour in his master’s eyes’ (Genesis 39:4). As Proverbs 18:16 says, ‘A gift opens the way and ushers the giver into the presence of the great’. Pharaoh was a pagan loving man, yet his life was greatly moved by the humble service of Joseph. God used Joseph’s spiritual gift and character to rock Pharaoh to the core! From his honouring heart, Joseph would soon be recognised as a powerful leader.

The story doesn’t end there. The injustice towards Joseph continued and the testing of his character tried yet again. After refusing Potiphar’s wife’s attempts to entice him to bed with her, she falsely accused him of sexual harassment and destroyed his reputation. Now talk about unfair!

Yet the favour of God continued to rest on Joseph as he again chose to honour despite circumstance. Even in prison he remained faithful to God and man. Genesis 29:1 tells us that, ‘The Lord was with him; He showed kindness and granted him favour in the eyes of the prison warden. So the warden put Joseph in charge of all those held in prison.’

Joseph was eventually reunited with his brothers years later. Only now, Joseph was a powerful man – he had gone from prisoner to prime minister. Despite his position, he remained true to his heart of honour and was still gracious, humble and forgiving towards those who wronged him, and in-turn the favour of God on his life grew.

God certainly didn’t condone the Pagan leadership of Pharaoh, or the unjust treatment of Joseph from various characters in the story, yet Joseph was blessed for his ability to honour despite the behaviour of those in authority. Let this be the point for today – it isn’t our job to manage our leaders/parents/boss – that is for God to handle. Our job is to steward our own heart and honour the person, despite their actions – for there is blessing in honour.

‘Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters’ (Colossians 3:23).

Genesis 39:5
“From the time he put him in charge of his household and of all that he owned, the Lord blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph. The blessing of the Lord was on everything Potiphar had, both in the house and in the field.”
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Emma Montesi

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 28th November 2017

In the words of C.S Lewis, ‘Hardships often prepare an ordinary person for an extra ordinary destiny’.

There is something to be said for people that embrace life’s challenges as an opportunity for growth, a time to develop character, and ultimately glorify God. Submitting to the process of the potter’s wheel may rarely be comfortable, but the finished product is beautiful. Like a mess of clay in a potter’s hand is the beginning of something wonderful, so a submitted mess of a life is of more value to God than a polished pieace of perfection.

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

The hard fact is that it is not reality to embrace a promise for your life and expect there to be no process involved.
When you exercise your body properly and have muscle pain the following day, that pain is actually a product of ripped muscle fibres that then repair, building muscle stronger than ever, thus giving you more strength and definition. After a deep cut, the scar that then forms in repairing the wound, is actually far stronger skin than the skin that was originally there. A bone when it breaks and reforms is stronger than ever after the healing process. Likewise, when we undergo the pain of process, we are becoming stronger, wiser, sharper and more powerful than before.

Difficulties and obstacles are God’s challenges to faith. You may feel like God has moved you to a road that you didn’t see yourself on, but just wait and let patience do its’ work. It is often the difficult road that leads to a beautiful destination. Keep on moving and trust the potter!

2 Corinthians 1:8

“We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself.”
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Emma Montesi

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – 27 November 2017

Do you have a dream in your heart? Are you in need of a miracle? Do you find yourself in a situation that you need to see turned around?
Be encouraged today knowing that God is more eager to perform miracles than you are to see them.

If you and I want to see the miraculous in our lives, we must first understand that we have a part to play in our breakthrough as much as God does…

When we establish what we’re supposed to do, and then trust God to do what only He can do, you can be confident of seeing God do something incredible in and through your life.

Consider the role of a farmer… He sows the seeds, he then waits for growth, and then he goes back to work when the harvest has come.

That right there gives us a picture of how we’re supposed to work with God in order to see the supernatural in our lives.

We’re responsible for sowing seeds. We’re responsible for doing the legwork. We’re responsible for creating an environment that is conducive to growth. And once we’ve done what we’re capable of doing, we can then rest and allow God to do what we’re incapable of doing, which is bringing about the growth and change.

But also note that your work doesn’t end there… You must then make preparations for the harvest.

You see, many people only take care of one area. They either sow seeds that they aren’t prepared to handle once they’ve sprouted, while others are waiting on a harvest that they haven’t sown seeds for.

If today, we can recognise that God is looking for us to take care of the before and after, we then give Him something to work with in the middle.

You will be amazed at what happens in your life when you do your best and watch how God takes care of the rest.

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – 25th November 2017

We should never dwell on disappointment, because if we do, we will never get to where we are going.

We will always get disappointed in life, that’s a fact, but choosing to stay in that disappointment is up to us.

God has a great future for each of us, but life’s journey will always throw things at us and the enemy of our souls, the Devil himself, will always try to convince us it’s not worth moving on.

In Genesis chapter 11, we read that God asked Terah (Abraham’s Father) to take his whole family to Canaan (the promised land) and they set out, but on the way it says they settled in Haran and Terah died there, not reaching his destiny.

In verse 28 we read that Haran, Terah’s other son, died.
When Terah got to the place called Haran and settled there, maybe it was because all the old memories of his son, Haran, came flooding back.
Maybe, just maybe, the disappointments of the past caused him to stop short of his destination.

Today, beware of disappointments. They will come.
But choose to learn from them and get over them quickly… and then move on.
Do not stay in disappointment.
Do not pause where you aren’t supposed to.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 24th November 2017

Once, a young guy observed a man in his eighties planting an apple orchard. The old man lovingly and painstakingly prepared the soil, planted the tiny saplings and watered them. After watching for a while, the young man said, “you don’t expect to eat apples from those trees do you?” “No”, the old man replied, “but somebody will”.

As I get older, the more I realise that my actions today will either help or hinder all those that are following on behind me. How often do we have an attitude that just wants to please ourselves? We live in a day whereby it seems like for most people that as long as it’s not hurting anyone else then ‘it’s ok for me to do it.’ When you think about it, it’s a totally backwards way of living. What we should be saying is: “how can I ensure that what I’m doing today is going to help everyone else around me and behind me?”

The decisions, plans and even the culture you are building into your life and that of your family can literally shape the generations to come.

Living a life of integrity may seem old fashioned nowadays, but anything less will always come back to bite you.

When you serve people and influence them positively, you literally create a chain of impact that can outlive you.

Some people want to put restrictions on themselves according to their talent, intelligence, or experience. Others worry about their age. But with God, one person can always make a difference, regardless of circumstances or situation.

When Jesus fed the five thousand, a little boy provided the food for the miracle. When Noah was six hundred years old, he provided a boat for the miracle.

You’re never too old or too young to make a difference, and it’s never too late to start.

Make a difference today and change a generation tomorrow.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 23rd November 2017

There is power in praise. Praise means ‘to commend, to applaud or magnify’. It is expressing who God is, what He is done, and what He can do.

Isaiah 61:3 speaks of the goodness of Jesus and that He would come ‘…to give you a garment of praise instead of a faint spirit.’ ‘Garment of praise’ suggests that like clothing, praise is something that you put on. Praise isn`t always a feeling, it isn’t always just there, It’s a choice to remember the truth of God and speak it out.

Praise shouldn’t be reserved for just Sunday – it should be a lifestyle. Our declaration of the goodness of God cannot be determined by our mood or circumstance. In fact, it is in times of trial, that we should declare the goodness of God all the more! In Acts 16 Paul and Silas were in prison and began praising God. The doors of the prison they were in were opened, their chains fell off, the jailer and his family were saved, and they were released! This is a physical picture of the power praise. Likewise, when we are in an internal prison, praise lifts us out of the oppression, and helps us out. Praise is a powerful weapon against the strategy of the enemy to let our circumstances overwhelm us and question the goodness of God.

Even if we lost everything, we would still have reason to praise God. The price He paid for us is alone enough.
Habakkuk understood this when he said, ‘Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Saviour (Habakkuk 3:17-18).

The Bible says that God inhabits in the praises of His people (Psalms 22:3). Since praise manifests God’s presence nothing grates on the Devil more than rising above our feelings and choosing praise, declaring our victory, and speaking out the goodness of God.

Emma Montesi

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 22nd November 2017

God always does the right thing , even if it takes a long time.

When much time passes between when God promises something and when He eventually fulfils it, we often behave like small children who can’t wait for Christmas. We don’t like waiting, and we fear we have been forgotten.

It’s easy to see why Abraham in the Bible became impatient. When God sent him out from the area where he lived, he promised him that he would possess the land of Canaan, have many descendants, and his offspring would become a great nation. The fulfilment of that promise would bring him great joy, but after ten years, God had still not delivered on His promise.

Let’s take a look at what that decade looked like for Abraham:

-he left his family and his country, even though he didn’t know where he was going.
-he lived through a famine.
-he feared Pharaoh and lied to him.
-he experienced family conflict.

And after all of this he still had no son, and so he wanted to know if the deal was still on, or had God forgotten what He had promised.

God then spoke to him again…

Genesis 15:1, 5 After this, the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision: ‘Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.’ He took him outside and said, ‘Look up at the sky and count the stars – if indeed you can count them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’

Even after this reassurance, he started to take things into his own hands by sleeping with his maidservant and producing their ‘own’ version of what God wanted to do supernaturally. Big mistake.

God’s ways, and his sense of timing, are not like ours even though it may seem like a long time to us. God always does what is right, and He always does it at the right time. He always comes through.

The promise came to pass when Abraham was in his nineties.

As a young man of nineteen, I experienced what I can only describe as the audible voice of God. My encounter with God informed me that I was to be the Pastor of the Church that I had been taken to as a child and was still attending.

This came as a complete shock and surprise, so I decided to keep it to myself. I told no one for fear of seeming to take the matter into my own hands. As I waited for the promise to come to pass, there was absolutely no sign that it could be possible. After a few years I questioned God as to why he had forgotten what He had said, and while He still wanted me in my career at that time. His simple answer came back and told me ‘it’s all good preparation!’

God was preparing me and eventually I was asked eight years later to become what God had told me that I would. I was appointed as the Pastor of the church and the rest is history.

God’s promise to you is real. He may even be ready right now for you to receive it, but is unlikely that you are…and so He waits.

Don’t lose heart today. God never forgets.

My prayer for you today…

Lord, I ask that you help my friends have patience when it seems like a long time since they have heard from you. Help them to be obedient when your leading seems so strange, to ask questions when they do not understand, to trust you when they do not find answers, because you always do the right thing. Amen.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 21st November 2017

The Devil will do whatever it takes to stop you from walking into all that God has for you. Pride is one of the subtle strategies of the enemy to delay your growth, shift your focus, slow you down, and hold you back from receiving and producing fruit!

Pride is dangerous! Some of the greatest men and women of God throughout history, with once powerful ministries, have quickly come to the end of fruitfulness, because of their pride. Even if you are doing a good thing, it is important to have regular heart checks. Pride comes right before destruction (Proverbs 16:18). Don’t treat pride lightly!

Pride is actually a characteristic of the enemy and not a trait in our God-given design. Look at Lucifer, the Devil himself. He was an angel made for worship. His purpose was to magnify God, but his desire shifted to himself. He then wanted to become the one being worshipped! Pride was the very thing to rock heaven (Ezekial 28).

God would be foolish to entrust a prideful heart with more. God knows that such character cannot sustain a greater gift, more blessing, and produce fruit. On the contrary, God can do amazing things with a humble heart. With humility comes honour (Proverbs 18:12), wisdom and grace (the ability to do what you have to). In a position of humility, you will always be fruitful, growing, and moving into greater things. As Proverbs 11:2 says, ‘when pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom’. Why do we become wise when we are humble? Because we have positioned ourselves to learn, we are teachable, and soft-hearted toward the voice of the Lord.

Quick heart check: Am I open to correction? Am I teachable? Do I judge others, often thinking I am better than them? Am I self-focused most of the time? Do I honour authority (even if I don`t agree with them)? Do I struggle to say sorry? Do I struggle to associate with people of low position?

If you have an area of pride, then you are sadly missing out on the more that God has for you. But there is hope in surrender! James 4:10 says, ‘Humble yourselves before the Lord, and He will lift you up’.

Jesus is the ultimate picture of humility and whom we are called to imitate:

‘…Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name (Phillipians 2:6-9).

Emma Montesi

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 20th November 2017

Do you ever get frustrated that your prayers seem to go unheard? Do you wish you could see even just a small breakthrough in your prayer life?
I believe that the answer lies here, in that there’s only one kind of prayer that God answers…the prayer that’s prayed in faith.

Could it be that the reason we see so little in our lives, is because we expect so little in our prayers?

What is faith?

You may say, “I believe God can do it!” But that’s not faith; that’s just a fact. God can do it whether you believe it or not.

“I believe God might do it” is not faith either. That’s hope.

“I believe God will do it” — that’s faith.

Some people are praying, and they think because they’re asking for good things that they want, God will answer their prayer. But desire is not faith. It can lead to faith, but it’s not faith.

If I take a seed and plant it in the ground and in a few months, it sprouts and I get a tomato plant from it, is that a miracle? No. I simply cooperated with the laws of God’s universe, and it happened. When I pray, believing and following the conditions laid out in the Bible and God answers, is that a miracle? No. It is simply in line with the universal laws of life that God has ordained.
The Bible says, “according to your faith,” not according to your ability, your education, or how good a person you are. If you have an honest relationship with God, have forgiven others, and you’re asking God in faith — you have every right to expect God to answer your prayers.

Ask and you will receive.

Mark 11:24-25 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.’

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 18th November 2017

You often hear the phrase “in the meantime”. What exactly does that mean?
The meantime is a place between two places,
Often when one thing has finished and before another starts.

Sometimes we can have a ‘meantime’ in our lives and here are a few things that happen….

– We get a lack of decision, we cannot decide

– We suffer from procrastination, we keep putting things off

– We compromise, we go with the flow instead of waiting

– We settle for a quick fix, a quick answer instead of the real thing

– We get involves in wrong things , we try to find fulfilment in lots of different areas.

– We get anxious about our waiting.

Use the meantime wisely. Let God use it as a time to teach you and for you to grow.

Maybe, you are having a ‘meantime’ because you are not quite ready for the next phase or maybe God wants to bring something out of you and work something through you.

God promised Abraham that he would be a Father of many, yet he couldn’t quite wait for God’s promise. It was during that ‘meantime’ that he took matters into his own hands and made quite a mess of things because he couldn’t wait.

Make sure that during your ‘meantime’ you do the following
– Stay focused
– Shut out all the negatives
– Know that He has a purpose for you
– Keep trusting
-Keep your channels open by praying and reading God’s word – that way you will be open to His encouragement
– Learn quickly – the quicker you do, the sooner your meantime will end and you will be on to the next season of your life.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 17th November 2017

If I asked you where the richest place in the world was, I wonder what you’d say?

For some, our minds would immediately think of some of the cities that we’ve seen on TV or even been to ourselves. New York, Los Angeles or even London would probably be high on the list, but they would all be wrong. The richest place in the world is in fact…the cemetery!

It’s not because people are buried with their earthly valuables, but because they die with their greatest treasure, which is their unfulfilled dreams.

In the graveyard, there are songs that were never written, cures that were never developed, buildings that were never built and lives that were never changed, all because of the fear of failure. So many dreams are taken to the grave unrealised. Just imagine how different the world could be today if we were able to dig up all of the dreams buried in every cemetery and bring them to life.

We know of course that we can’t do that, but one thing that we can all do is to be determined to live out the dreams that we have while we are alive.

Let’s not make the graveyards any richer by being afraid to ever fulfil the reason that God placed us on this planet.

You are alive today to make a difference, so be determined from this day forward, to live FULL and die EMPTY.

Proverbs 24:30-34 One day I walked by the field of an old lazybones, and then passed the vineyard of a lout; They were overgrown with weeds, thick with thistles, all the fences broken down. I took a long look and pondered what I saw; the fields preached me a sermon and I listened: “A nap here, a nap there, a day off here, a day off there, sit back, take it easy—do you know what comes next? Just this: You can look forward to a dirt-poor life, with poverty as your permanent houseguest!”

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 16th November 2017

On a recent four-day canoe expedition, I noticed massive trees that obviously once stood strong on the side of the river, now with exposed root systems, collapsed in the river. Upon questioning the tour guide as to what happened to the trees, he explained that the constant flow of the river water on the trees’ root system, compromised the strength of roots, and eventually caused the tree fall. This is a picture of the power of consistency. A once well-established tree is totally undermined by the subtle, but steady flow of the water, that then falls dead in the river.

Doing the same thing over and over can be exhausting and sometimes disheartening. We can be waiting and waiting for results. Praying day in and day out. Hoping and seeing nothing. Serving with no apparent fruit. Doing the right thing, with no evident reward. The fact is though, that consistency does eventually pay off. That is a promise from God. In Galatians 6:9, ‘And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up’.

God honours a perseverant spirit and obedient heart. Just because people may not be paying attention to what you are doing, it doesn’t mean it is not what God asked you to do. Just because there hasn’t been breakthrough, it doesn’t mean God isn’t at work. Just because you are still waiting, it doesn’t mean it isn’t coming. Sometimes we just need to do what God has asked of us, and trust that there is fruit in following His kingdom principle.

Have you ever noticed that Jesus never taught us how to deal with unanswered prayer? That is because Jesus never thought about prayer going unanswered! He knew that the answer would come, but consistency was required of our character. Character means you remain consistent in seasons when you aren’t seen, you can’t see, and you don’t feel like it, so you can reap in the season to come. In the words of Paul, ‘Be patient in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer’ (Romans 12:1).

When we demonstrate consistency, we actually display the nature of God. Hebrews 6:19-20, describes the faithfulness of God as a ‘steadfast anchor for the soul’.

Don’t give up! Those giant trees of your life will eventually fall, keep your steady stream of consistency going.

1 Corinthians 15:58

Emma Montesi

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 15th November 2017

Psalm 27:4 – ‘One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek Him in his temple’.

David’s heart and affection was fixed solely on God. After removing Saul, God made David king. He testified concerning David saying, ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do’” (Acts 13:22).

What an amazing thing for God to say of you! The heart of David should be the pursuit of our lives. God is looking for people who are after His heart. Whose affections are fixed on “one thing” – wholly seeking Him.

A mind and heart that is not on one thing is divided. Division of mind and heart is a life of confusion, delayed growth and unstable ground. Philippians 1:8 says, “A double minded man is unstable in all his ways”.

Racehorses are often given blinders – for the purpose of keeping them focused when racing round a racecourse.
Blinders keep the horse’s eye focused on what is ahead, rather than what is at the side or behind. Likewise, as we run our race we need to put blinders on our heart and “fix our eyes on Jesus” (Hebrews 12:2). We cannot have a fixed focus on multiple things if we are running for the win. Matthew 6:24 says, “…no one can have two masters”.

When we are confused as to where to fix our affection and focus, God simplifies things – ‘…seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you’ Matthew 6:33.

Mark 3:25 “If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.”
‭‭

Emma Montesi

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – 14th November 2017

I was a typical teenager when I constantly pestered my Mom and Dad for my first moped. They were pretty much against it from the start, but I can only presume that my argument about all my mates having been allowed to have one had suitably worn them down.

I was amazed when they both came home together one day and announced that they had been to a motorbike shop and put a deposit on a second hand 50cc bike.

The day to go and collect it couldn’t come quick enough as far as I was concerned, however, the look of concern on my parents’ faces meant they had very different feelings.

It wasn’t the most handsome of bikes; It was bright yellow, had only three gears and struggled to get over 35 mph.

I’ll never forget the very first night that I officially took it on the road. A new helmet, jacket and leather gloves were part of my new life as a biker and off I went to meet a friend that had also been allowed to get such a piece of equipment.

As we teamed up, I informed him that I’d lead the way and he should stay close behind. We’d hardly gone down the road, when I couldn’t see him through my rear view mirrors, so I decided to start to look over my shoulder to see where he was. Without knowing it, the more I looked behind the more I was steering of course, and without any warning the next thing I know was that I was flying through the air, landing on the pavement with my bike beside me. I couldn’t believe it; I’d been a motorcyclist for all of 10 minutes and my parents worst nightmare had come to pass.

Thankfully, myself and the bike had just a few scrapes. With a great sense of embarrassment I quickly brushed myself down, straightened the bent mudguard and mirrors and pretended like nothing had happened. Safe to say that I never repeated that incident ever again, even though I rode much bigger bikes as the years went on. I always told myself…never look behind you for too long.

That story is a powerful life lesson in how to stay focused on the course that God has got for your life. Having a preoccupation with those behind can often end in disaster.

Are you on a collision course today, simply because you keep concerning yourself with everyone else’s business? Yes, we should be concerned for others, that’s what we do, but when you feel the need to keep your eyes on them, rather than on the road that you are supposed to be on, you will never have a great future.

God has got a very specific course for your life and will differ to everyone else’s. You’re unique in who you are and in what you will be asked to do. Don’t spend your time worrying as to whether everyone else’s is staying on course, you could well be losing your own life in the process.

Make a fresh decision today to stay focused on the road ahead, so that you will get the destination that God has especially called you to.

Feel like you’ve gone off course?

Lying in a heap right now because you’ve been paying too much attention to what’s behind you?

Preoccupied with everyone else’s journey?

Don’t give up…pick yourself up, dust yourself down and get back on track.

Proverbs 24:16 for though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again, but the wicked stumble when calamity strikes.

I love that the Bible never hides from us the fact that we may fall, but then it assures us that we will be lifted up again.

Get back on track today!

Hebrews 12:1-3 …And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy that was set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 13th November 2017

I want to talk to you about your name.
In the Old Testament we read how God told Abram that He was going to change his name.
‘Abram’ was not who God intended him to be. So God changed his name to Abraham. (Which meant Father of many).
When his name got changed he wasn’t even the father of one!

God has a name for you that is where you are heading to, not where you are now.

God speaks over your life your future, not your present or your past, but what you WILL become.

We think our name is hopeless, no good, sick, depressed, broke, misfit, failure , loser. We base our names on our past and our past experiences and on our present situations.

Often we can be too consumed with others names, like ‘whose name’ I am wearing. Don’t place too much store in whose name you’re wearing, be more concerned with who you are becoming.

Change your thinking today to see your name as
Blessed.
Successful.
Healed.
Prosperous.
Preacher.
Champion.
Difference maker.
World changer.

Did you know you can change your name by deed poll many times if you’d like, for a few pounds on the internet? You can change it ten times if you want. But it won’t make any difference to you whatsoever.
You will still be the same.

The only one who can make a difference to your life is ‘The name that is above every name’ – Jesus.
He is the one who can change your name today.
He can change your name and your situation.

HE is the difference maker. HE can give you a name of where you are going and who you are going to be.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 11th November 2017

Today I received a message from my friend, telling me she was at the airport and that she’d see me in a few hours.
Now that was interesting, I thought, maybe she knows something I don’t?
Is she coming to see me from the other side of the world as a surprise?

Within a few short moments it all became clear, the message she’d sent to me, should have been for her husband. She was on her way home from an overseas trip and would see him shortly.

Sometimes, in fact often, we can send the wrong message to the wrong person. Maybe you have done just that, sent a text message to the wrong person. Oops! Sometimes that isn’t good.

But also, we can download our concerns, our worries, our complaining, and even too much information to people, when in fact, it’s God we should be bringing it to.

The Bible is very clear about some things, and one is this… “if your brother offends you, go and see HIM”. Don’t take your ‘gripe’ about someone to someone else, they are now affected by your words, when really you should have gone to the person concerned.

Or how often have you become burdened and concerned about someone else’s burdens and concerns, when they should have taken them FIRST to God?

My experience is this: when I get the message to the right person then it will always be dealt with correctly. When someone comes to me with a concern or burden, I will say “have you prayed about this?” Because I know that God has the power all on His own to deal with their request.

For a few moments, I was left confused by my friends message…you may be left affected by someone’s complaint…
BUT God can take it all. His shoulders are big enough to carry your burdens and your cares at any time of day.
The great thing about getting the message to Him is that He has the power to deal with the situation and with you.

Make sure your message gets delivered to the right person today.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 10th November 2017

I took my wife out for a meal last night, and after the main course we decided to share a dessert sitting in two nice comfy arm chairs by an open log fire. It had already been a full on few days and we had left the house at 7am that morning. I was ready to close my eyes for a few minutes while enjoyed the heat from the fire. It was the perfect moment to escape and spend time together doing nothing.

Within a few minutes the silence was broken as a couple sitting nearby obviously wanted to engage in conversation. If I’m honest I was trying to look disinterested, but then the guy addressed a question to me believing that he’d met me before. In trying to establish where he may have seen me, he asked if I worked at an engineering company that was just down the road from where he lived! Well, one thing led to another and before long they were playing a guessing game as to what we actually did do with our lives. As the gentleman was a salesman, he spoke with a loud voice (as did I) and before long another couple on an adjacent table joined in too.

Five minutes later I was up out of my chair and sitting with the first couple at the table. Their eyes were wide open as we described all that God was doing in our lives and those of the people that we reached each week. They asked me how I’d come to ditch my dream as a chef and end up pastoring a Church. I explained how I’d heard the voice of God calling me to give everything up to follow His dream for my life.

Within a matter of minutes this lovely couple both agreed that they wanted to come along to our Church and try it out, even if it was a 35 minute drive for them.

The last thing they expected last night was an encounter with two people that loved God and that wanted to point the way for them too. In fact the last thing we expected, and actually wanted, was to bump into anyone that needed a conversation with us.

We left the restaurant knowing that we were in the right place at the right time. I privately thought about how different their night would have been if we’d have refused to engage with them in simple conversation just because we just needed an hour or so to ourselves.

You never know whose life you are going to influence just by being available to have a natural and relaxed chat.

Opportunity is walking right by us all everyday, and in many cases just like this one, its sitting right next to you. The question is…are you ready to engage with that opportunity?

I am convinced that most of the boredom that people face in their very ordinary and mundane lives is due to not making the most of every opportunity.

Spice up your life…grab a hold of the next opportunity that comes your way.

Ephesians 5:15-16 Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 9th November 2017

If I told you that you would get £1000 if you held your breath for 10 seconds, you would do it without thinking twice.

If I told that you that after 9 months of pregnancy you would birth a child that would delight you well into your old age, you would endure the short-term pain (assuming you’re a woman).

If I told you that after 13 years of education you would be qualified to earn a salary for the rest of your life, you would commit to the task of study.

If you knew that after four years of gruelling training, you would win gold at the Olympics, you would keep your eyes on the prize through the pain.

Why then do we struggle to live for eternity?

Our time on earth may be about 80 years long, but that is literally a breath in comparison to our eternity. The investment we make on earth now, we reap for all eternity! Matthew 6:19 says, ‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven’.

This life is a short opportunity to make an investment for forever. David the Psalmist put it, ‘You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand. My entire lifetime is just a moment to you; each of us is but a breath’ (Psalm 39:5).

Eternity is a concept that our finite minds can struggle to fathom. Yet God says ‘He has set eternity in our hearts’ (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Every human has a desire for more, and that more is heaven! People who don’t know their true home, try to cover, fill, ignore and hide their longing with temporary, superficial things. But this doesn’t appease the inbuilt desire for more than this earth has to offer. Scripture says that our citizenship is in heaven (Philippians 3:10). That means our true identity and home is found in eternity. If we find ourselves deeply unsatisfied with the things of earth, this could be why – we weren’t made for it!

This life isn’t the show. It is the dress rehearsal. This isnt the main meal, it is the entrée, the warm up before the real game. Life is not the destination of our being – we are heaven bound.

Let eternity shift your perspective, and let me ask you, in light of forever, are the things you worry about worth robbing you of your joy today? Is that grudge you hold really worth robbing you of your ability to love when you have such a short time here? Is that relationship issue you have really worth the lack of peace? Is that which you really want going to count for eternity or just temporary gain? What am I doing today that is an investment for my eternal future? What am I doing today to help others find home? How can I change my use of time? How can I change my thinking?

Emma Montesi

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 8th November 2017

Emotions are not bad. God made us with emotions. They enhance our life, tell us what we need, and allow us to navigate the world around us. When we align our emotions with the heart and voice of God, we feel emotions like empathy, compassion, passion, righteous anger, and love, which God can powerfully use as tools to minister to others.

Kris Vallotton puts it like this, ‘emotions make excellent servants and terrible masters’. In other words, your feelings have a place in your life, but they cannot rule your life. What you should do isn’t always what you feel like doing. You don’t always feel like going to the gym, you don’t always feel like speaking with kindness, you don’t always feel like forgiving, but we do the right thing because we know what is good for us. I’m sure Jesus didn’t feel like dying on the cross, but he said, ‘…yet not my will, but yours be done’ (Luke 22:42).

Feelings aren’t always truthful. They aren’t always in touch with God’s reality. Thankfully, God also made us with a will to manage our emotions – this is the ability to choose our behaviour, despite how we feel. Don’t let your feelings manage your life, let the word of God manage your life. Ask God to strengthen your will. Managing your emotions means recognizing why you feel what you feel, and bringing it to God for processing.

King David was a very emotional man. He was a musician, so I assume that God made his temperament more of a “feeler” than a “thinker”. You just have to skim through the Psalms to notice his rollercoaster of emotions. I believe God left everything from David’s praises, to his complaints, in scripture so we could see that even as ‘a man after God’s own heart’, he still experienced the weight of heavy feelings.

Becoming emotionally healthy is a God journey. It is a process, and it is a skill. In 1 Samuel 30:6, scripture says, ‘David was greatly distressed because men were talking of stoning him…BUT David found strength in the Lord his God’. This emotional man also leant how to encourage himself in God.

Jesus said, ‘Love the Lord you God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind’ (Matthew 22:37). The soul of your personhood includes your feelings and emotions. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you to love God through your emotions today.

Ephesians 6:11-17

“Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”
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Emma Montesi

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – 7th November 2017

I was at the gym recently and was about to work out on one of the machines. As I was choosing what weight I wanted to use, I noticed something about that stack of weights…
All of the lower numbers, indicating how heavy the weights were, had been worn off, however, the higher the weight got, the clearer they became to read.

The reason for this was that the lighter weights were more commonly used, but the heavier weights weren’t used so often, meaning that they had received less wear and tear.

The same illustration can be applied to life… The choice is yours as to how high you climb, but there are a couple of things you may want to consider before making your ascent.

The higher you go in life, the lonelier it becomes. Things become harder, struggles become more difficult, and the route to get there is anything but easy. If you want your life to soar, you’re going to have to lose some people along the way. Not everybody will be able to cope with where you’re heading.

Now, if moving upwards in life seems less attractive, allow me to remind you of the views that await you there – the higher you climb, the clearer the view becomes. It’s less polluted, because much fewer people have managed to reach such heights.

If you find yourself making the decision as to whether the climb is worth it, know that what awaits you when you get there will have made the process every bit worth it… Keep on going!

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – 6th November 2017

2 Timothy 1:6-7 For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.

Friday night in our house is usually date night!

It’s a practice that we have held onto for the 33 years of our married life together and it works. Spending one night a week together over a romantic meal, usually at home, means that we get to stay connected and that our love for each other is kept alive.

As the winter draws on, so does the need for the wood burner to be lit, and although Gillian is okay at lighting it, there are a few things in life that make a man feel more manly, one of which is lighting a fire. I know what you’re thinking, but apparently it’s the ‘hunter’ instinct that we possess!

On Friday night, I lit the fire and retreated to the kitchen to conjure up something special for our meal, leaving Gillian to enjoy TV in the lounge.

Admittedly I was gone quite a time, but when I eventually went back in to inform her that the meal was almost ready, I found her surrounded with smoke as she was desperately trying to relight the fire that was now just a pile of smouldering ashes.

After a few choice words with her about my man fire, I couldn’t help but mention the fact that she had only one thing to do, alongside watching TV, and that was to keep an eye on the fire. She made several excuses but none of them valid. She had got so engrossed and focused on her relaxation that she had overlooked the fact that you have to tend to a fire to keep it going. I asked her why she hadn’t noticed it, but she seemed to be totally oblivious.

That episode between us, helps us all to gain perspective on our lives, when it comes to keeping alive the gift that God has given you. How many of us have become so consumed with our own agendas, that we fail to see a once burning fire now just giving off a load of smoke, something that neither gives heat or light and leaves you with a dirty pile of ash?

As we start this week, I wonder if I can challenge you as I challenge myself to ask, where has that fire and passion within you gone?

As Paul in the Bible wrote those words above, he recognised how easy it was to allow the passion for the things of God to start to grow cold; but he also gave us that age old practice of how to get it going again, and that is to ‘fan it into flame’.

All I had to do on Friday, in order to rescue the fire, was to open the door on the log burner and allow more air to get it going again.

Just because things have been burning low of late, don’t let that be the end of it. Simply open the door of your heart and allow the presence of the Holy Spirit to breathe on you once more. Be open to what God wants to do with your life today and instead of being so preoccupied with your own pleasure, start to delight in giving God His rightful place once more.

The gift of God is in you.

Don’t let it go dormant because you couldn’t be bothered to take care of it.

There’s a fire and passion on the inside of every follower of Jesus… if only you’d recognise it.

Be careful not to lose it, just because you weren’t careful to use it.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 4th November 2017

In the New Testament, we read the account of the feeding of the 5000. Jesus did a miracle and fed thousands of people with just 5 loaves and 2 small fish.
There was a need and they needed provision!
It didn’t just go from need to provision, there was a seed sown in between. It was the seed from the young boy of his lunch, he was willing to give it up and let it go.

In the Old Testament, we read the story of a widow who was in need during a famine. She had enough oil and water for one last meal before she would die. The man of God saw her need and that she needed provision and he asked her to sow a seed.
She was to give her last to him by making him something first.
Her need plus her seed resulted in her provision.
For the Bible tells us she received a miracle and her supply did not stop.

Too often for us it looks like this
Need + worry = Need
Need + complaining = Need
Need + crying about our need = Need

God wants us to see this principle.
Need + Seed = PROVISION

Ask the farmer. He has a need of provision for the coming year, it won’t help him to worry or complain about it, or even just pray about it, he needs to sow his seed.

Remember for your need to get to your provision, there has to be the sowing of seed.
It’s the law in the natural and it’s the law in the spiritual.

Watch it work in your life today.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 3rd November 2017

I was so moved by a testimony a friend of mine shared over the weekend. He was filling up his car with petrol on his way to church on Sunday. As he went to pay at the counter and elderly lady with a walking frame approached him asking for 50 cents towards a bus ticket. “Of course!” he said and asked where she needed to be. She mentioned her destination and my friend kindly offered to drive her there. So he packed up her walking frame, helped her into her car and began the journey. He was going to be late for church, but this was no doubt a God-ordained appointment. As they sat in the car together he began asking this woman about her life. He quickly learnt that she was not only poor in money, but in love. After listening for a while he said quite directly, “you need God!” They reached the destination and this woman, who he had only just met minutes earlier, accepted Jesus with tears rolling down her checks. He then left her with far more than 50 cents cash and an invitation to church the following week.

There is so much about this story that I love. I love that it was in the ordinary and mundane events of my friend’s day, that God used him. I love that he was willing to put aside his schedule for God’s agenda. I love that Jesus was shown in his act of service, listening ear and generous hand. I love that this woman is forever changed because someone stepped out to love. I am challenged by this story too. I am reminded to not get so caught up in the structures and routines of my life, that I miss the whole point – which is to LOVE.

There are three different versions of the same story of Jesus healing the blind man – Matthew 20:32, Mark 10:51 and Luke 18:41. Jesus had crowds following him, and the blind beggar was shouting for his attention. People shunned the beggar. Despite the three varying accounts of this encounter, there are two things that remain the same in all three accounts. It is noted that “Jesus stopped” and that Jesus said, “What do you want me to do for you?”. I believe that these details are mentioned by each of the authors, because it matters that Jesus stopped. He stopped His agenda and He stopped for the one to help and the blind man was healed.

There are many other stories of Jesus stopping for the one. The world today promotes the crowds, chases the thousands of followers, listeners and friends, but let’s just take a minute to stop, and ask, “What can we do to help?”

Luke 15:4-7 “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”
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Emma Montesi

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – 2nd November 2017

Proverbs 13:20…’Become wise by walking with the wise; hang out with fools and watch your life fall to pieces.’

You and I can never be the kind of person we were intended to be by doing life on our own. Some of the craziest and most dangerous people on the planet are loners. Having various ‘layers’ of relationships in our lives keeps us from going off the rails.

Last weekend we all had to change our watches and clocks to fall in line with daylight savings. So many people got it the wrong way round and instead of putting the clocks back, put them forwards, with some forgetting altogether!

As you woke on Sunday morning, how did you know that the time you had on your watch and phone was the correct one? What if you believed the time you had was right, but in actual fact you were wrong? Everything from thereon would be wrong. You’d either be early or late for everything. It’s almost guaranteed that you relied on someone else close to you to make sure that you had the right time.

In the same way, we all need people who are teaching us, sharing their lives with us, investing in us, and encouraging us, otherwise we could easily be going off on a tangent, believing that we were right when actually we were completely wrong. In fact, to be all that God calls you to be, you need to learn from at least four different kinds of people.

Mentors – These are your coaches. You can have more than one. No one can teach you everything you need to know. One person will teach you in one area. Another person will teach you about something else.

Role models – These are people who are already doing or have already done what you want to do. Many of the skills you’ve learned in your life, you’ve learned by watching others.

Partners – You need co-workers and colleagues who are in your profession, people to support and challenge you to stay on track through your life.

Friends – Friends don’t necessarily help you with your goals. They’re just friends. They love you no matter what you do. You can mess up, and they still love you. A friend walks into your life when everyone else walks out. That’s when you know who your friends are.

Trying to live life solo isn’t just lonely. It works against God’s design for us. On the first pages of the Bible, we read that after God created man, He said…’it is not good for man to be alone’.

Loneliness is not just something that you experience because you don’t like your own company, but is a sign that being alone is not right for you. You weren’t created to do life alone.

The craving you have for others in your life is there for a reason, but many people make the mistake of waiting for people to come into their lives, and although that does happen, relationships at each level are there to be pursued. I pursued my wife!!

For example, invite someone that you respect to be your mentor. When you find that person, buy them a coffee, respect the hour that they give you occasionally, and then ask questions. Don’t fall into the trap whereby you feel it’s your chance to talk to them about you for a full 60 minutes. A mentor doesn’t need to hear about you so much as you need to hear from them. In the main, keep quiet, make notes and learn.

Make your goal in life to have ‘layers of relationships’.

Who do you need right now in your life? Pursue that relationship and allow God to bring about some amazing connections to take you to another level. It may take time, and not everyone is the right ‘fit’ for you, but God knows who you need, and when you need them, just be open and He will make sure that the right people come your way.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 1st November 2017

Are there certain people in your life who bring up feelings of anger in you when you see them? Do negative feelings toward them arise when you so much as think of them? If your answer is yes, then chances are forgiveness might be in order! If you think holding a hidden grudge or attitude doesn’t affect you, you are wrong.

The King Brown Snake is native to Australia and ranks as the world’s second deadliest snake. I’ve encountered several in my lifetime. I saw one on a walk just this weekend been. Once, I found a baby Brown under a towel in my bathroom! Baby snakes are more poisonous than an adult, unable to control their venom, they can kill up to 20 men! That is a pretty potent poison! Were you to get bitten by a snake, you would need to lie as still as possible, minimizing blood flow and therefore the poison getting into your glands. You would also tightly bandage the bite with any clothing available, again restricting the flow of poison throughout the body until you could get some anti-venom into your system.

Like the poison of a snake, unforgiveness starts with a small bite of offense. Left untreated, the venom of bitterness is all consuming and destroys the person.

Forgiving someone who has wronged you is rarely what we feel like doing. Rarely is forgiveness a one off decision, sometimes it is a daily choice, maybe even an hourly choice until we find freedom!
Forgiveness doesn’t make what they did right. What it does do, is free you. It frees you to love, frees you to enjoy life, and frees you to live in peace and wholeness.
If unforgiveness is the venom, then it is Jesus that is the anti-venom. For it is He who gives us the ability to forgive. It is He who forgave us, and therefore empowers us to do the same for those who have robbed from us, slandered against us, and knowingly or unknowingly bought us pain.

Forgiveness involves letting go. It means we trust God to serve justice, and take care of the perpetrator of our pain.

Jesus then takes it up a notch by not only asking us to forgive, but to ‘bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you’ (Luke 6:28). Why on earth would Jesus ask us to not only forgive, but to BLESS those who have wronged us?! The answer is because in the process of prayer you are healed, and your heart is positioned for freedom. When we are praying for blessing on someone who has hurt us, we don’t have time to harbour offensive, and we then move forward free and powerful, no longer enslaved.

Matthew 18:21-35

Emma Montesi

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 31st October 2017

I’ve only been sailing once, and like camping…once was enough.

We set sail on an old fashioned wooden schooner around the Greek islands and although the sun shone and there were moments of enjoyment with the rest of the group, the hard work to keep that thing going both day and night took its toll on everyone.

After a few hours of sleep each night, we would be woken from the bow of the ship in order to take our turn to be on night watch up on the deck. I had no idea what I was doing and although I could see the dim lights of the shoreline and hear the engines churning through the waves at the dead of night, there was no sense of moving forwards as progress was so slow.

There’s something quite eerie about being out at sea in the pitch black, and no matter how inexperienced I was as the waves crashed onto the deck, I just held one piece of simple information upper most in my mind while the others slept; I just knew that I had to make sure that there was more water outside of the boat then there was inside of it! With that being the case, we survived!

Often in life, we will find ourselves in stormy waters. Waters that feel like they are going take us under, and yet we just have to adopt that very same principle…keep the water outside of the boat.

You can’t sink a ship, no matter how fierce the storm, unless you allow the waters from the outside to get on the inside. If the storm keeps coming, the lightning keeps flashing and the thunder keeps thumping all through the night, what matters is that you keep all of what is going on around you, out of you.

The disciples were caught in a raging storm on the lake one night and Jesus was fast asleep down below. They were sure that they were going to drown, that was until they woke Jesus; He simply addressed the storm and said ‘peace, be still’.

Today, Jesus wants you to know that He’s right there with you and no matter how bad it is right now outside of the boat, he says to you…be at peace. Be still.

No one can promise you that life is going to be plain sailing, however if you will simply allow Jesus into the boat of your life he will keep you in perfect peace.

Why not call on him right now?

Isaiah 26:3 You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 30th October 2017

When God prompts us to surrender, it isn’t always what we feel like doing. We might even find ourselves ignoring His whisper to “lay it down”, and carry on despite a lack of peace. Yet the sense of freedom and release that comes when we give up what we know we should, and submit to the authority of God, is like no other.

In Romans 12:1 Paul appeals to us in saying, ‘…present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship’. The words “living” and “sacrifice” don’t really go together – in fact they have almost opposite meanings. “Living” means, “to be alive” and the word “sacrifice” means to “give up” or “kill”. How can you be alive and killed at the same time?

When sacrificing an animal according to God’s law, a priest would kill the animal, cut it in pieces and place it on the alter. Sacrifice was important, but even in the Old Testament, God made it clear that sacrifice and surrender from the heart was much more important (1 Samuel 15:22, Psalm 40:6, Amos 5:21-24).

God wants us to be fully alive, but fully surrendered. Living, but choosing to daily let go of those things we hold tight and put to death that which we know we should.

Don’t simply incorporate Jesus into your life, rather than fully submit. When you aren’t submitted you are open to influence of other things that want to distract your mind and heart, and rob your peace and inheritance.
Will God love us any less if we don’t surrender that thing we know we should? Of course He won’t love us less! But will we walk into all that God has for us if we surrender? Yes! Will we find peace in surrender? Yes!

Whatever heavy weight you are carrying, precious thing you are holding tight, or burden you keep pulling, find true peace and freedom in surrender.

Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”

Emma Montesi

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 28th October 2017

David was faced with a giant and a giant decision…

Did he go back the way he came and ignore the taunts of the enemy? Or did he do something about it?

What could he do? He was only a young teenager and Goliath was a GIANT.

Thankfully, he decided to do something about it…and with what he had, and what he knew…a sling shot and a few stones, he took down the mighty Goliath and the rest is history.

You see, David slew Goliath because he saw injustice and something that wasn’t right.

When you and I get passionate about something that’s not right, then we are in the right place for God to use us.

How many times are we faced with situations of injustice and things that aren’t right – but we choose to walk away, bury our heads, decide it’s too much trouble, and certainly not wanting to lose our popularity we choose the easiest option, which is do or say nothing?

David took on a mighty force with God on his side and defeated the enemy. You can make a difference today wherever you are and whatever you face.

If you can’t be bothered, you won’t get your David versus Goliath moment and the injustice will continue.

Stand up today and be strong. Take courage. For God is surely with you.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 27th October 2017

Galatians 6:7 Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows.

You may not reap WHEN you sow, but you will definitely reap WHAT you sow.

Pick up an apple and take a bite; now eat the whole thing. I can guarantee that there is still some remaining. The part that’s left is of course known as the core. Have you ever wondered why that even an apple has a protection system built around its seed? It’s there to stop you eating it. The core of the apple is shouting out to you as you eat it….’don’t eat my seed…sow it’.

By eating the seed you not only realise that it’s not that tasty, but you actually take away its future by doing so. Eating any kind of seed means that it’s very life has now been extinguished, whereas keeping that seed in order to sow it means that it has the ability to multiply.

For most of us reading this today, it comes as no real revelation, but what amazes me is how little do we practice what even the fruit and vegetable kingdom teach us, let alone the Bible.

You can always tell what a person will be growing in their life by looking at what they’re sowing in their life. You don’t get oranges by sowing apples and you don’t get something by sowing nothing. The law of sowing can never ever be erased or bypassed in any area of your life.

That seed holds for that one apple the promise of multiplication.

To receive love you first have to give away love.

If you want to have lots of friends then you first must sow friendship seeds.

Even money is multiplied by giving it away and is spoken of more in the Bible than even Heaven!

Whenever you hang on to stuff hoping that you will be better off by doing so, you will always fall flat on your face, simply because you tried to keep your seed rather than sowing your seed.

Recently a earthenware pot was found and was dated back to being around 2000 years old. Inside the pot they discovered a handful of seeds. Those seeds had sat there from the time of Jesus. They had never amounted to anything, yet someone decided to sow them in the right conditions and within weeks they had started to sprout and turn into what they always been intended for. The problem was never with the seed, only with the sower.

What is that you are lacking today? What’s stopped growing in your life? What harvest are you waiting for? Then my question is simple: what are you sowing?

Start right away and then let that seed produce what it was always intended for.

You could carry a packet of seeds in your pocket for the rest of your life, but would never see them bloom into the picture on the front. You could show everyone your seeds and believe that your seeds have the power to grow into something beautiful, but they never will…until you sow them.

One thing is for sure: no farmer that knows anything about sowing and reaping would be foolish enough to keep looking over his fields every day unless he first sowed his seed.

Start to sow today and watch this space.

Galatians 6:9 Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 26th October 2017

One gorgeous summer I went surfing during a beach day out with some friends. I was using my Dad’s surfboard. I tied the leg rope around my ankle at the shore and paddled my way out to where the surf was breaking. I waited on the water. A good-looking wave came and I paddled my hardest until I caught a sense of the wave carrying me. As I stood up, I quickly fell off and plunged into the sea, but the wave was still pulling the heavy surfboard along! Being a lightweight youth, I quickly sped through the water by my ankle. There was no way I could come up for air. The underwater drag was so strong and the mass of water overwhelming. It was scary. Somehow in that moment, I knew the only way to survive this was to ride it out under the water. To hold my breath, and know that the wave wouldn’t last forever, and the calm was inevitable. Of course I lived to tell in the tale!

We can also feel that underwater, gasping for air – type drag in our in day-to-day life. Overwhelmed and pulled by our worries, and just waiting for a break! Even the mundane expectations of life can collate, build and become an all-consuming wave. The temptation to worry about all the “What ifs” and unknowns of tomorrow is real.

In Matthew 6:34, Jesus says, ‘Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.’

I love this scripture for three reasons:

1) God isn’t naïve to the fact that life has struggles that pull us under. He acknowledges them and tells us to let the wave of today’s troubles come and pass.

2) I love that Jesus frees us by commanding us to just be present and focus on today, despite our worries. He calls us to leave the future to Him. Focus on being present, using what you have today and being faithful with now! One step at a time, you will get where you need to.

3) God doesn’t want us to view tomorrow’s potential issues with today’s grace. Wait for the fresh grace and ability when you get to tomorrow! Of course you feel under-equipped for the circumstances of tomorrow, because you aren’t there yet and He has promised to give us all we need for today and will give us what we need for tomorrow, tomorrow. That isn’t a maybe, that is a promise!

Emma Montesi

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 25th October 2017

Right from the opening scene of day one on the planet, the Bible records for us the classic line when it comes to temptation…”did God really say”.

For anyone today that’s reading this and feeling pretty smug that you would never ever be caught out by temptation, then take heed, you are a prime candidate to slip and fall…

1 Corinthians 10:12 So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!

Being tempted is something that every person on the planet faces; Temptation, said Oscar Wilde, is like birds flying over head, but sin is when you allow them to nest in your hair.

Temptation isn’t sin, it’s just part of our every day experience, but you do have to recognise and deal with it, otherwise you could lose your life, job, family, future and your reputation.

Here are four statements for you to keep fixed in your mind, in order to help you stay strong and avoid being caught in its trap;

The PURPOSE of temptation is to get you to do what you vowed you never would. It will never come in an evil disguise but will always appear as sweetness and light.

The POWER of temptation is such, that you actually believe that what you counted as totally unacceptable, is now thoroughly acceptable.

The PREFERENCE of temptation is that you continue to serve God, but do so as an outright hypocrite.

The POISON of temptation is so strong, that those that challenge your lifestyle, who you once held dear, will now be treated as enemies rather than friends.

The greatest truth that you need to know today is that you can say NO to temptation.

Remember: there’s always free cheese on a mousetrap.

Don’t lose your whole life for one quick moment of pleasure.

Walk away..say no!

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 24th October 2017

Hebrews 13:2 Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.

Sitting in an airport is not something that anyone really likes doing, but it is a must if your are going to travel anywhere of any distance. The wait seems never ending, but I must admit on the occasions of rushing through customs and then running to the plane that’s just about to leave, and on one occasion did, is an option much less preferred.

Having gone through customs and secuirity, a couple of weeks back with my wife and son, we decided to find a seat, grab a bite to eat and at least pass the time away. No sooner had we settled down in an already crowded area, when we watched a meticulously dressed man drop his plastic bottle of Coke on the floor and see it explode and spray all over him. No one even moved as he sat there in sheer embarrassment all alone. I got up and told him to stay there while I found a member of the cleaning staff and at the same time Caleb ran and got some tissues, started to mop it up and help the guy get cleaned up. I felt so sorry for him.

As he was getting sorted, Caleb arrived with a new bottle of coke that he’d decided to buy from WHSmith.

The guy was so taken back by the gesture, that at first he refused to accept, but after realising our insistence, he gratefully received. That small gesture of kindness opened the door for us to chat further with him and I said that I would like to guess what he did for a job, being so smartly dressed. After the first guess of ‘businessman’, I quickly changed it to ‘Church Pastor’. He couldn’t believe that I’d guessed what he did and proceeded to ask how we even mention such a thing. I told him that we too were Pastors and that we could see it in his eyes that he too was a believer in Jesus. (When Jesus lives in you, then the light shines out of your eyes).

He told us how he was travelling from a conference all alone and was on his way back home several thousands of miles away. He was the pastor of an amazing church. He left me his email address and we parted company.

I have never since contacted him, but I couldn’t help but think out of all the thousands of people in the airport that day, that God allowed us to be a blessing to a man of God in need.

Friend, you never know who you may need to help today, but remember whoever it is, you are being sent to make someone’s day.

Ask yourself, if you were in need, wouldn’t you like someone to treat you with respect and kindness? Then do to others what you’d wish for them to do to you…and you never know…you could even be entertaining an angel and not know it.

Galatians 6:10 Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 23rd October 2017

Joseph was a dreamer, in fact God gave him some incredible dreams. Joseph also had people who tried to crush and decry his dream.
Joseph was his Dad’s favourite and his brothers weren’t impressed with that at all, especially when he told them that one day he was going to rule over them (not wise maybe). God told Joseph that he was going to be a great leader one day and Joseph went after his dream.
On the way to that dream, things didn’t turn out as Jospeh had thought or planned. He first found himself in a pit, sold into slavery and ended up in prison. But his dream, God’s dream for his life, was fulfilled and Joseph became a mighty leader and indeed he did rule over his family.

On the way to your dream, you will have people who will discourage you, laugh at you and even physically try and stop you…watch out for dream killers.

On the way to your dream, you will encounter circumstances that will be opposite to what you thought they would be… watch out for those too.

Make sure that you hold firm to the dream that God has placed in your heart. Go after it and don’t turn from it.

Great plans never happen without great sacrifices and great victories are never won without great battles.

Don’t let the negative deter you from what God has for your life. Be an overcomer.
And remember, just like Joseph, nothing great ever came easily.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 21st October 2017

In the Old Testament, in the book of 2 Kings, we read about Naaman the commander of the army who had leprosy.
He was told to see the man of God in a certain country who could help him and on the way he went to visit the King of that country and took gifts.

I love this story for various reasons, but here is a great thought: when you are about to receive something, take a gift with you in anticipation of what you are about to receive.
It may be a physical gift, like flowers etc when you go to someone’s house for a meal – it’s a wonderful way of saying “thank you for having me, I really appreciate it.”
Naaman took gifts to the King, which was a great custom, because he was about to receive something FROM the King.

When you go to Church, when you enter God’s presence, bring that same attitude of gratitude with you, that says “I am thankful for what I am about to receive.”

Never come with a selfish attitude or a ‘couldn’t care less’ attitude. But come humbly and gratefully.

When you go for a meal to someone’s home, they have lovingly prepared something (that has also cost them something) and so go gratefully. When you go to Church, someone has prepared something for you that has cost love and time, go gratefully.

A lot of us struggle with being grateful AFTER the event, let alone before.
“I’ll be thankful IF I’ve enjoyed the meal, I’ll be thankful IF I’ve enjoyed the service…”

Come on, let’s change that culture and be grateful ON THE WAY to receive.

When I sit down for a meal, whether it be a simple breakfast or a nice dinner I always thank God for what I am about to receive. Put that culture into your own heart and family. Teach children at a young age to be thankful for what they are about to receive.

It’s amazing how much better your experience of Church and all aspects of life will be, when you come with a grateful attitude.

By the way, Naaman received his miracle of healing…and God will surely always bless a thankful heart.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 20th October 2017

‘… In the desert prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it…’ Isaiah 40: 3 -5

Preparing a straight highway means removing obstacles and rolling out the red carpet for the coming of the Lord. The desert is a picture of life`s trials and sufferings. Isaiah told people to prepare to see God work.

Often as Christians we can be lazy in the wait for God to breakthrough. We can have an attitude of “I`ll have faith, when God shows up”, or “when the breakthrough happens, then I will make myself ready”. “When my non-Christian friend finds God, then I will talk to him about God”. “When I find out I`m pregnant, then I will prepare the baby’s room”. “When God provides the finances, then I will bless others”. “When I lose weight, then I will finally feel happy about myself”. “When they decide to be nice to me, then I will talk to them”. “When the leaders ask me to lead, then I will make myself ready”. “I`ll thank God when He brings my miracle”.

Stepping out in faith, means making a way in assurance that God will come through. I believe our breakthrough is often on the other side of showing God that we are prepared and ready for him to fill the space we have made. This could mean making space in our hearts, minds or quite literally, making a physical space in our lives.

Our mentality should instead be, “I will tell my friend about God, so he finds God”. “I will make a physical space in my life in expectation of a miracle”. “I will bless others in faith that God will provide for me”. “I will learn to love myself, so I look after myself”. “I will be kind to others, in faith that they will come to find friendship with me”. “I will prepare my heart and life for the call that God has in store for me, so when I am released, I am ready”. “I will praise God now for what I know is coming”.

What things are you anticipating God to do in your life and how you can practically make a way for their arrival?

Hebrews 11:1

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

Emma Montesi

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – 19th October 2017

Matthew 9:27-30 As Jesus went on from there, two blind men followed him, calling out, ‘Have mercy on us, Son of David!’ When he had gone indoors, the blind men came to him, and he asked them, ‘Do you believe that I am able to do this?’ ‘Yes, Lord,’ they replied. Then he touched their eyes and said, ‘According to your faith let it be done to you’; and their sight was restored.

I want you to see something here today that will help shape the rest of your life. If you don’t get this, you will somehow miss out on some of the greatest adventures that God has got lined up for your future.

Jesus didn’t say according to MY power; He said according to YOUR faith.

God’s power is always ready and available, and yet we find that we have to activate that very power with our faith. He wants you and I to participate with Him otherwise He would randomly give it out all day without anyone asking.

Charles Spurgeon called it the rule of God’s kingdom; If you believe God a little, He will bless you a little. If you believe Him for much, He will bless you with much.

All of God is everywhere all of the time, yet His unlimited power is restricted and released ‘according to your faith’.

When I first read the Bible as a new Christian, I was blown away by this verse and decided that if it were really true then it would stand up to any test that I put it through. That very first test was when I was a student and really wanting to go to a Christian concert. It was a ticket only event and I was pretty much broke.

I managed to scrape just enough money to purchase a ticket at the concert hall, but when I arrived, to my dismay, there was nowhere to park except on a pay and display car park at the arena. There were huge signs everywhere that threatened heavy fines and wheel clamping should you fail to purchase a car park ticket.

My dilemma was to pay for a ticket OR pay to get into the concert, but I couldn’t do both. Then it came to me, that if God’s word were true then I had to trust Him one way or another. I decided to use my money to buy a car park ticket and then figure it out from there.

Without any money left in my pocket, but faith rising in my heart, I went and stood in a long line to get into the concert. This was easy I began to think, as there were at least 50 people in front of me; but as the line grew shorter and I got nearer the entrance, my faith started to get tested.

I was now almost at the entrance with only three people in front of me waiting to pay, so I let up a quick nervous prayer asking God whether to bail or stand my ground, but whatever needed to happen needed to happen fast.

I was just about to face the inevitable, when the security doors in front of us flew open and a guy came out, waving a ticket whilst shouting, ‘does anyone need a ticket to get in?’ – I simply reached out and took the ticket and as I did so, I was next in line and walked straight through.

Phew…that was close or was it? It happened ‘according to my faith’. When God saw me standing in line without money, I was making a faith statement that was more powerful than any prayer, and said to God, ‘I’m fully expecting you to turn up for me.’

That night my heart exploded with gratitude at the faithfulness of God. I have ever since then tried to live a life of simple faith and trust that God would turn up according to my faith in any and every situation.

As you start this brand new day, I challenge you to believe God by placing your trust in Him in much the same way. What are you expecting God to do today?

Remember: your expectation is God’s invitation.

Mark 11:24-25 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.’

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 18th October 2017

What is manna? The Israelites asked the very same question when it started falling from the sky! On their way from Egypt to the Promised Land, the Israelites faced harsh conditions and were desperate for food. God then miraculously provided them with “bread from heaven”, called “manna”. The manna appeared fresh each morning.

It could be collected each day, but only for that day alone, and only as much as could be consumed in one day. Out of fear of lack, the Israelites began storing one day’s manna for their future needs. This strategy didn’t go as they planned however! The manna would grow wormy and foul if left for a single day!

Why would God provide manna, only to have it turn stale when people tried to collect and store it for later on? Why couldn’t they live off of yesterday’s manna? The answer is simple – God wanted them to be in a position where they had to seek daily dependence on Him, and source out fresh hope from Him. In the manna going off after a day, it was impossible for the Israelites to not seek total dependence on God. They had to relinquish their effort to become self-sufficient. They had to trust God daily.

In John 6:32-35, Jesus says, ‘Very truly I tell you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is the bread that comes down from heaven and gives life to the world…Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty”’.

The ultimate bread of life is Jesus. Like the manna from heaven, we cannot solely live off of our past experiences and encounters with Him. We need daily, fresh sustenance, grace and dependence. God wants us to be needy for Him. In a day and age where self-sufficiency and independence is celebrated, God requires us to desperately want Him. If you need God today, this is exactly where he wants you and you are where you should be!

Perhaps you are still living off of yesterday’s revelation of God, or last year’s miracle, or last Sunday’s connection with Him and you are waiting for the next church meeting before you collect the next lot of manna. Mature Christians know how to eat of the bread daily. They can cultivate intimacy with Christ throughout the week. They keep things fresh and don’t grow stagnant.

Be encouraged that God has all your needs for this very day. See what provisions and spiritual sustenance He has for you right now. Don’t live off of old bread!

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

Emma Montesi

A daily devotion for a better way of living.
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Fresh Hope – 17th October 2017

What got you here…won’t get you there.

My first 50cc moped just about got me to college every day. College was just three miles away.

My first ‘real’ motorcycle just about got me to my first real job in London every week. London was a 260 mile round trip once a week.

With my first car, I never knew if it would start or not, and would never trust it on a long journey. Today I never have to stop and think about pushing, bump starting or abandoning the car I have – it will get me to places that I would have never dreamed of travelling to before.

Even with having a reliable car, I still know it’s not a suitable form of transport to take me across the world. That’s going to take a whole different form of travel.

In much the same way, your primary school education got you only to your junior school. Your junior school then got you to your secondary school and then your secondary school got you into college, university or a job.

As absurd in their simplicity as all those things are, we do have a tendency to think differently when it comes to our lives. We feel that what got us to where we are today, is able to get us to the next level tomorrow.

Even the miracle that you experienced from God to get you here is not necessarily going to get you to where you need to be next week or next year.

Moving forwards in life requires this very basic understanding, otherwise we would all go straight from the nursery to the workplace.

In the Old Testament (1 Kings v 17), Elijah announces that there will be no more rain until he says so. He was a pretty amazing and accurate man of God.

When the drought kicked in, God told him that he would be fed meat by ravens every day and then he would wash it down with water from the brook.

One day the brook dried up and the ravens stopped coming, so God gave him a further instruction. This time, his provision would come from a different source – that of a poor widow in a small village a few miles away.

Elijah had a choice to make. He could either stay and keep believing that what supplied his need to that point would continue to sustain him, or he could heed God’s further instruction and set off for the next level of provision.

One would see him die and the other would see him live.

Could it be today that you have mistaken the initial instruction from God in your life as one of permanence rather than one of short term provision to get you to the next part of life’s journey?

So often we make the mistake of staying where we were sustained only to find that we are dying there, simply because we believed that that was the only way God could and would provide for us.

Ask yourself at the start of this brand new day…’have I stayed here too long, when I should have moved on to my next level miracle?’

Don’t get too cozy, complacent and comfortable with where you are right now. Just because God did it that way before He may not do it that way ever again.

How many times do you read in the Bible about Jesus spitting in the eyes of the blind so that they could see? The answer is twice. He never repeated that miracle ever again as far as we know.

Maybe God moved powerfully in your life some time back and you are waiting for the exact same thing again. God rarely does repeats, instead He prepares fresh miracles everyday.

There’s one waiting for you right now if you’ll just open your heart to what he wants to say.

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

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 16th October 2017

Many times we are in need of an answer to prayer and even a miracle. At those times, it’s important to remember the goodness and faithfulness of God. “If He’s done it before, He will do it again.”

In Matthew chapter 14 there is a big need. 5000 men plus women and children need food and Jesus feeds them with just 5 loaves and 2 fish.
Just one chapter later there’s a similar situation, 4000 plus people and a little more food this time, seven loaves of bread.. and Jesus performs another miracle.

Yet in verse 33 of this chapter the disciples are asking “where can we find enough food to feed all these people?” Hello! Haven’t they just witnessed a similar miracle, one with more people and less food? Why are they doubting and asking how it can possibly be done?

Whatever your need today, don’t focus on it – focus instead on the faithfulness of God.
Whatever miracle you need, don’t focus on that need, focus on the miracle working power of God.
Whatever your problem today, don’t focus on the problem, instead focus on the Almighty power of God.

You see, we would think the disciples were stupid here, they’re actually with Jesus and witnessing His miraculous power first hand, yet they’re still doubting!
We are so like that at times.

Failure to see God’s past goodness will limit your faith for your future miracle.

Remember – if He’s done it before, He can do it again!

Rise up in faith today and get ready for your miracle.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 14th October 2017

I read this quote recently… “If you ignore the urgent it will kill you today, but if you ignore the important it will kill you tomorrow.”

Unfortunately too many people live for what’s urgent and not what’s important .
Busy people can sometimes just deal with urgent stuff, stuff they have to deal with, because it’s ‘urgent’ and therefore they seem to go from one crisis to another.

Some of us wait for something urgent to happen before we pray or before we give or act or love.
Yet, we shouldn’t be urgent people.
We should live and build into our lives good and godly principles that deal with the important things.

Here’s the better way…
Don’t live for what’s urgent. Live for what’s important.

Prayer. Make it a daily part of your life. Make time for prayer. Take time for prayer. Pray consistently. Talk to God often.
Don’t just pray in a crisis, make it part of your daily life.

Give. Don’t wait to be in need, to sow a seed. Make giving part of your lifestyle. Be generous on all occasions and see God’s blessings flow into your life.

Act. Acts of kindness and serving God should be big parts of our day. Don’t live for self, live for God first and others next. Be a person of action not just of words.

Love. Don’t just love when it’s urgent. Love daily. Give yourself in loving ways and see the love flow back to you. What you sow you will reap applies to love also. Be a lover of God and of people.

So today, I urge you to live for what’s IMPORTANT, not what is urgent.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 13th October 2017

If you’ve ever been to the gym before, you’ll know what I mean when I say it can be one of the most discouraging places to visit. The reason being is that you only have to walk through the front door to be met by someone whose right bicep is the size of your right thigh.

Typically, our first reaction is then to want to walk back out the door saying, ‘what’s the point?!’

I’ll be the first to say that I often allow other people’s journey to discourage my own. I see where they’re at, whether it be on their journey of fitness, or even on their journey of faith, and I become intimidated by where they find themselves in comparison to where I find myself.

But instead of allowing other people’s journey to intimidate us, why don’t we allow it to inspire us?

Let’s realise that they were once that person walking through the front door for the first time, overwhelmed by what they saw, but instead of turning around, they kept on coming back…
They decided to get around those who were further down the road than they, ask questions, learn from them, and believe that one day, they too could get to where they want to be.

Today, don’t resent nor covet what stage of the journey somebody else finds themselves at, but with a righteous contentment, be grateful for where you are, and also possess an eager desire to keep moving forward to be where God wants you to be.

Life was not designed to be a journey that we race in against one another, but one that we embark on together.

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – 12th October 2017

We don’t have to be a CEO, celebrity, or even a church leader to be a person of significant influence and leadership. It is a lie to believe that we need to have high profile roles in order to change the world.

God has a history of often using unassuming and unlikely individuals to do the greatest things on earth. Take Peter for example. Peter had a bad reputation. Yet Jesus said, Peter will be the one on whom the Church is built. Noah was a drunkard and God used him to repopulate the earth. Abraham was an old man who became the father of Israel and ultimately, the modern Jewish nation. It was through his lineage that many other great heroes came, including Jesus. Moses was a stutterer and God used him to bring his people freedom. Rahab was a prostitute, but would be part of the bloodline to Christ. David was just a shepherd boy, who murdered and committed adultery, but he conquered Goliath, and was made king. Jonah ran from God, and then eventually led the people of Nineveh to repentance. Matthew was a despised tax collector, who left his work behind, followed Jesus, and wrote one of the four gospels. Saul persecuted Christians, and was transformed to write much of scripture encouraging Christians! And then there is Jesus himself – born in an animal feeding trough, to unassuming parents. God sent the king of kings, the saviour of all, in the most humble of ways. The list goes on and on, from the past to the present, of impossible people God has used to change the course of history!

We all have a degree of influence and leadership in our personal world. Every person we connect with is an opportunity for influence. The Devil can’t take away our given call to influence, so his only weapon is to get us to doubt we have the ability, strip our confidence, and get us to question our identity.

Let me encourage you in perhaps your sense of inferiority and insignificance. If we want to be the history makers we are called to be, let us not chase the fame, power and wealth with think we need in order to have influence. Let us first steward well the one or two people we have already been given. God is simply looking for humble people, who own their story. People who acknowledge their weaknesses and find strength in God. People who ‘seek first His kingdom’ (Matthew 6:33) and ‘delight themselves in the Lord’ (Psalm 37:4).

2 Corinthians 12:10

Emma Montesi

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 11th October 2017

I was invited to MC a large event a few years ago. I’d received a phone call from the organiser of the event and was told that they thought I was the man for the job. I tried to reason with them that they should choose someone else but they were having none of it.

The event was to be held on a Saturday evening in a local town hall that seated 800 people and was going to be filled with Christians from all over the area; they were coming to hear a high profile speaker from across the world and it was to be an incredible night of worship, prayer and teaching.

I was to lead the service, welcome the people and then introduce and welcome the speaker.

When the night arrived the place was buzzing and even though I would not normally go out late on a Saturday night because of getting totally prepared for services in my own church the next day, I’d made an exception.

There wasn’t a spare seat in the place as I stood to welcome people from all over the area and then lead them into a time of worship. I was seated on the front row with my brother in law and several other church leaders, as we listened to the well seasoned and much loved speaker. Expecting the event to finish at around 9.30 at the latest, I was getting agitated as it was now approaching ten o’clock with no sign of ending soon. At around 10.15, the speaker started to wrap things up and then announced he would like to pray for people at the front. Time just kept rolling by and so I turned to my brother in law and said that I wanted to make a quick exit when people started to come to the front, as it would be less inconspicuous.

The plan worked a dream and we darted out a fire exit with no one knowing that we had even left.

It wasn’t until the next day that I received a phone call from a friend to let me know what had happened after we had left. Apparently the service was almost at the end when the speaker asked me come back to the stage to pray and conclude the night. As I didn’t appear after an embarrassing silence, someone shouted out…’he’s gone home!’

All 800 people now knew that I had rudely taken off for bed. I felt humiliated to say the least.

It’s a funny story now, but I can assure you that it took me quite a time to get over it.

My story is a painful reminder to each of us of what it feels like when you exit something prematurely.

Sometimes we exit relationships too early and sometimes with more serious consequences, we exit our dreams too early. Quitting never happens when things are going great, but the temptation is always there to quit when we don’t like the season we are in.

I’ve wanted to quit a number of times over the years when things got difficult, but I never have and I never will. That event from all those years ago helped to teach me that the dishonour of quitting early is far more costly than going through the temporary pain of staying the course.

Whatever pain you may be facing right now, I implore you not to quit.

Don’t quit on your marriage, your church, your team, your family and especially don’t quit on your dreams.

God has placed a dream within so that you can be a world changer. He is relying on you today to hold fast to the course and see your dream fulfilled; not only that, there are people waiting for your dream to be fulfilled, so that their lives can be changed too.

Don’t be a quitter…be a conqueror.

Habakkuk 2:3 For the revelation awaits an appointed time; it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 10th October 2017

There’s a phrase used in the world of fitness, ‘don’t skip leg day’, that speaks to the idea that there are many people who work out, but have a tendency to want to avoid any exercise that involves their legs.

Why, you ask? Because it’s painful.

Exercising your lower body can be quite a painful process. But, speak to any personal trainer and they will tell you that leg exercises are some of the best exercises you can do.

It’s true in the world of fitness and it’s true of life in general, that some of your most painful experiences can also be some of your most beneficial experiences.

Our human tendency is to skip what’s painful, and I’ll be the first to say that that includes me too. But allow me to encourage both you and I by saying, don’t skip what’s painful, because often what’s most painful is most fruitful.

You see, pain is often the thing that produces the greatest purpose in our lives. We don’t often believe that pain and purpose can be present both at the same time, however the presence of pain does not equal the absence of purpose. In fact, the two may be a lot more closely connected than you think.

So today, don’t run from pain, embrace it. Because chances are, if it’s hurtin’, it’s helpin’.

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – 9th October 2017

Living in a very natural world, with demanding realities like our jobs, families, friends, finances, and limited bodies, we can very much feel like we are only human.
Reality is that we are in fact spiritual beings having a human experience here on earth.

In fear of “being over spiritual” or “spiritualising everything”, we can disregard, the fact that there is another greater realm always operating. ‘…Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms’ (Ephesians 6:12).
In short, this scripture tells us that our difficulties aren’t always as natural and “normal” as they appear to be. There are often spiritual dynamics at play in our relationships, workplaces, and heart.

The Bible and experience testifies to the fact that the spiritual world holds a greater reality than our natural world and what we simply see on the surface.
This does not mean that we live life on constant look out for demons and the Devil. In fact, it means that the reality of heaven is greater than the reality of the natural. It means that the reality of our supernatural God, surpasses the natural realities or problems of our day to day.
A person is healed from back pain. In reality the person had back pain, but the GREATER REALITY is that Jesus heals.

The reality is that you have bills to pay, but the GREATER REALITY is that God is the ultimate provider with unlimited resources.

The reality is that we may have relationships that are damaged, but the GREATER REALITY is that God is the master of reconciliation and can heal all relational rifts.

As Christians we have to be the first to live in a world of GREATER REALITY, not just reality.

Last night, I spoke to a friend who has had ongoing problems with another mom at her daughter`s school. The rift in the relationship was weighing heavy on my friend and she spent a lot of time asking God for the restoration of their friendship. She felt that she needed to ask the Holy Spirit to restore their connection, rather than intervene in her own effort. Just this week she finally received a text message from the other mom asking if they could meet up for coffee because she wanted to apologise and just couldn’t shake the constant feeling of wanting to restore things between them! Had my friend approached the issue from a ‘natural’ perspective, their rift would have become wider and wider, but in dealing with the issue by the Spirit and not the flesh, breakthrough was made!

Let’s not be ignorant or passive in our faith. It is amazing how your perspective on problems shift when you approach issues with “spiritual eyes”.

Rather than seeing things just on surface level, and how they appear in the natural, consider what is going on at a deeper level, at a spiritual level. Look at the greater reality!

Romans 12:2

Emma Montesi

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 7th October 2017

In Luke chapter 8 we read that Jesus instructed His disciples to take a boat journey.

Please note that HE took them that way and it was straight into a storm.
Sometimes God leads us that way.
We may not think God can possibly be with us during those times and although He isn’t the author of bad things, He can often allow us to go through them.
He knows what is going to happen. He’s the author of my faith. He wrote my life. He leads me…”Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, You are with me.” (Psalm 23)

Here’s three things to remember

1. The presence of problems, doesn’t mean the absence of God.

2. God can lead you into a difficult time. He’s trusting you with it. They were in the boat probably thinking Jesus was testing them. No, He was trusting them. Whenever God leads us into something, He’s obviously trusting you with that situation. Watch your attitude, your heart, your speech, your actions, watch your serve.
The disciples were in the boat with Jesus and there was a storm. He was asleep and they got scared. They didn’t think about Him.
They said “WE are going to drown.”

3. Sometimes when things aren’t good we can forget about Jesus. We can be so consumed with ourselves and our worries and with the situation and the outcome that we forget WHO is actually in the boat with us.

Today remember, He is with you, He’s watching you and He wants to help you.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 6th October 2017

Galatians 5:22-23, ‘But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control…’

I used to always think this scripture was just sweet and lovely. I have recently come to understand that the fruits of the Spirit aren’t just these pleasant things we try and produce as Christians. The fruits of the Spirit are POWERFUL.

One thing is for sure, fruit cannot be forced out. So often we can find ourselves stressing over producing the fruit. Question: have you ever seen a tree forcing fruit out? I think not! Fruit is an effortless product of a tree that is grounded in the right conditions. When the source of the tree is well nurtured, the product is naturally fruit!

How are we as Christians any different? We can’t beat ourselves up until we manifest joy or guilt ourselves into being more self-controlled. Sure, it may work for a bit, but it isn’t sustainable. The fruit of God is a product of the Holy Spirit, not a fruit of me! As I submit to Holy Spirit, the fruit is a natural occurrence.

Too many of us, try too hard, too often, to become righteous FOR God, but it is actually Jesus who made us righteous and the Holy Spirit that brings it into fruition. He is at work IN us.

The Holy Spirit is the ultimate counselor, refresher, strengthener, teacher and comforter – so what is the fruit of submitting to good counseling, guiding, teaching and comforting? A life of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness and self-control!

Christianity is far more than a self-improvement and self-behaviour modification program. Christianity is about heart transformation through the work of Holy Spirit, which then produces tasty fruit!

We live in a world that is CRAVING the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control and as these are produced in your life, people will come to taste!

Emma Montesi

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 5th October 2017

The Sustain pedal on a piano is a wonderful creation, it helps to create a beautifully smooth sound. When pressed, the sustain pedal works by moving all dampers away from the strings and allowing them to vibrate freely.

Psalm 55vs22 says to ‘cast all your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you’. The idea that God wants to remove the dampers on our life is such an amazing thought.

Let me ask you, what ‘cares’ are you carrying around with you, or what are you holding on to that you need to ‘cast upon God’?
Just like a great-sounding piano, God wants our life to be free and resound – sounding out the notes of His Love, joy and peace.

Psalm 55 goes onto say that God will never let you down, so today make the choice to give your troubles to God and allow him to sustain you and your life can sound amazing!

Adam Nash

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 4th October 2017

Much to the surprise of many…God uses unclean things.

Just think of how many of us would ever be able to come to faith in Jesus if we had to clean up our act first; and yet so many people desperately try to get better before they feel worthy enough to reach out to Him. That kind of thinking is the furthest thing from the Gospel; even on our best day we never can make the mark.

Listen to what the Bible says…

Isaiah 64:6 All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags;

One of the most prominent women mentioned in the Bible was Rahab the prostitute. She was rewarded for helping hide some men of God in her home from certain death and as a result is mentioned in the ‘halls of faith’ in the New Testament, alongside some of the Bible greats. All of this happened before she cleaned up her act.

The grace of God does not ask that we change and then come to God, but it enables us to reach out to Him first, just as we are, and then allow Him to change us.

If you could change yourself then why not do it right now?

Zacheus was frowned upon as a tax collector and was hated by society for ripping people off, and yet out of all the crowds that were following Jesus that day, Jesus singled him out and told him that He wanted to come and stay at his house. That day Zacheus changed, not before, but after allowing Jesus into his home.

Today, that story is also a picture of our hearts. Jesus wants to come to live within us and if we welcome Him, salvation comes to us and radical change begins.

Have you ever thought why Jesus earned himself the reputation ‘friend of sinners’, and yet never was once called the friend of the self righteous or friend of nice people?

Don’t wait until you become a better version of who you are right now, as that day will never come, instead come to him just as you are.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 3rd October 2017

A couple of years ago, I bought a fascinating book on the life of Walt Disney.

He was one of the great dreamers of the 20th century.

Anyone that could create the first sound cartoon, the first all-colour cartoon and the first animated feature length motion picture is definitely someone with vision.

His two great masterpieces of vision were Disneyland and Walt Disney World.

Both Disneyland and Disney World started with just a seed – a seed that was sown when he used to take his young daughters to the amusement park on Saturday mornings.

His girls loved it and so did he… but when the bright lights faded and the carousel stopped, he just saw shabby horses with cracked and chipped paint.

His disappointment inspired him with a grand vision for an amusement park where the illusion didn’t evaporate.

His dream became Disneyland.

The seed for most people’s dreams naturally springs from their everyday experiences, but ultimately all dreams flow from God’s creative heart that flows through a man or a woman.

If you have not yet identified your dream, just keep your eyes and ears open, listen to your heart and be open to every possibility and even every impossibility.

‘If you can dream it, you can do it’ – Walt Disney.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 2nd October 2017

One of my favourite parables in the Bible is that of ‘The Prodigal Son’. It is the story of a loving father, who has two sons.

I have always thought that this parable should actually be called ‘The Extravagant Father’. Jesus uses the father in this story as a metaphor for God our father.

To summarise the parable, the younger son, rudely asks for his inheritance early. This was basically like saying, ‘You are dead to me, Dad!’. The son then left the protection of his father’s house, and, wasted his wealth on wild living. He soon found himself with the pigs where he then had a revelation that even his father’s servants were in a better position than he now was. Feeling worthless, he returned to the father in the hopes that he just might, maybe get a position back in the house hold even as a mere servant for his Father.

And this is my favourite part!… ‘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.’

In the culture of that time, to run as an older man was quite the undignified thing to do. It would require you lifting up your long tunic, to reveal your ankles, which was seen as being inappropriate. What a beautiful picture of the love of God for US! God doesn’t care about etiquette, when it comes to loving us. Even when we are far off, He is undignified, uninhibited and wholehearted in His affection toward us. Before we even get to Him, He has run to meet us!

Understandably the son felt unworthy, and struggled to accept the love of the father. Yet the father didn’t stop. He put a robe, a ring and sandals on His son. These seem like lovely gifts, but do you know what they actually represent? These presents had a powerful message.

The robe represented restoration of the son to his original position, the ring a sign of both affection and authority – allowing the son to make continued financial transactions in his father’s name (what a gift of grace after the son had only just wasted everything!), and finally, the sandals a picture of sonship. Only slaves and servants were barefoot and this son needed to be reminded of who he really was. He wasn’t to think like a slave, he was to think like a son!

What an overwhelming picture of the love of Father God for us. When we fall short, we feel worthless and find ourselves trying to claw our way back to God, full of timidity and shame. Jesus shows us that in fact the Father only restores. When we step away, He reaffirms our sonship and our place in Him as we repent. He celebrates our reconciliation. He meets us! And He doesn’t walk to us, He runs! God reminds us that we aren’t slaves trying to regain approval, but we are given authority again, and the beautiful affection of the Father.

Luke 15:11-32.

Emma Montesi

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 30th September 2017

I’m writing today stranded in Amsterdam airport, due to heavy fog on the return journey from Rwanda.

Throughout the week, we have visited some of the poorest homes I’ve ever seen. A whole family are often found living in one room the size of most people’s bathrooms here in the UK.

The ‘home’ of a young lady and her baby, was one such visit we made. She told us that she had one meal a day but often there was not even that.

We chatted to her through an interpreter and enquired about her life. She was an orphan and her baby came as the result of being taken advantage of by someone she trusted. We prayed for her before we left, but then felt that we couldn’t leave without putting into action what we had prayed for.

There was an appalling looking shop nearby, from which we were able to purchase a whole sack of rice and a few other provisions for £19.

It struck me that one man’s means is another man’s miracle.

We worked it out that our small contribution from our means, will actually now feed her once every day for a whole year.

Praying for a person’s need is often the easy thing to do, as it means we can walk away without any personal responsibility or cost.

She was praying with us for God to meet her need and yet the answer wasn’t found in Heaven, but in our pockets.

There comes a time when we have to see that it’s time to stop praying about things and start to act on things.

What ‘means’ do you have today that may be someone else’s ‘miracle’?

Make it your goal in life to find a need and fill it! You may be the answer to their prayers.

James 2 v 14 -17.

What does it profit, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? So faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 29th September 2017

Last night I went to bed and ate two packets of Malteser. One wasn’t enough at the time, and yet two turned out to be too much.
Then I got up this morning and ate two croissants for my breakfast… now I am going to the gym to try and rectify the situation.

You may laugh at me, or even ‘tut’ at me, but I bet we have all done something similar. We think, tomorrow I’ll put it right, tomorrow I’ll start my diet, tomorrow I’ll make a change.

You know what the best thing to do is? To make the right choices in the first place, then you don’t have to correct what you’ve just done wrong.

Life can be like that, we blatantly make wrong choices and we think it’s okay because tomorrow we can sort it. Surely it’s far better that you listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit at the time (who is your guide) or even your conscience and don’t make the wrong choice in the first place?

Yes, God’s grace is amazing, yes God’s forgiveness is total and yes tomorrow I can put things right because of HIS mercy.
But usually people who continue to make wrong choices, will never get very far in life. It’s almost like a circle that goes round and round and round. And then we wonder why we are not where we should be.

Often the easiest choice is the wrong choice (like the Maltesers) and right choices take strength and determination.

Today, make a fresh decision to make some good choices So that your life will head in the right direction and you will take new ground and I guarantee you will feel great.

Now…off to the gym…

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 28th September 2017

In the book of Matthew, found in the New Testament of the Bible, we see Jesus asking His disciples a question… ‘Who do people say that I am?’

His disciples respond by saying, ‘Some say you’re John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and still others, one of the prophets.’

Then Jesus poses an all-important further question. ‘But what about you?’ He asks. ‘Who do you say that I am?’ At this, Peter, one of the disciples steps forward and says, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’

I then want us to see what happens next… Jesus responds to Peter and says, ‘And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church…’

What’s amazing to me about this story is that we find Peter confessing with his mouth exactly who Jesus is. Then two verses later, we see Jesus confess with His mouth exactly who Peter is.

You see, whenever you verbalise who Jesus is, you get a revelation of who you are.

When you begin to confess that He is your saviour, when you begin to confess that He is your healer and that He is your provider, you realise that your identity is not found in your circumstance, or in what people say about you, it’s found in what God says about you!

Never again do you have to experience an identity crisis, but you can know today who you truly are – a son or a daughter of the most high God.

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – 27th September 2017

Romans 4:19-21 Without weakening in his faith, Abraham 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.

God has the power to pull off whatever He has promised you and a whole lot more. No sweat.

The question is: are you living a fully persuaded life or a fully defeated one?

Are you waking to the news flash, playing inside of your head, that this is never going to happen for me or are you waking up to live fully persuaded that God has the power to do it?

I love the story of this old couple Abraham and Sarah, who still believed the promise of God for their lives way into their nineties; the thing that impresses me about Abraham is that it says ‘he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead, YET, he did not waver through unbelief.’

Many peoples faith is actually not real faith, it’s just a denial that anything is wrong.

There is a difference.

God cannot fix what you cannot face.

Denial is a game of pretence. It pretends that you are well when you are actually dying, but faith says, ‘I’m actually dying, therefore I need God to make me well.’

God is not going to be surprised by your admittance that things aren’t good…He knew it long before you did.

Is it time for you to get honest with yourself and God today? When you do, it will put you on the road to the very breakthrough that you need.

Be honest about the way things are for you today.

Now…be fully persuaded that God can change them.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 26th September 2017

‘One would think that the opposite of love is hate, but the Bible says otherwise. The opposite of love is actually fear!

Fear’s number one objective is to compete with the truth that God loves us, is for us and with us. Fear and love are enemies. They come from two opposing kingdoms. They have different strategies and agendas. Not only are they not on the same team, fear’s number one mission is to compete with the truth of God’s love for us.

Fear isn’t always just a random thought – it is a pattern of thinking that can hang around for years. It can be carried from one experience to the next. It can even go from generation to the next!

Fear comes in many forms. Usually people’s biggest fears involve; fear of losing freedom, fear of the unknown, fear of physical pain, fear of disappointment, fear of misery, fear of loneliness, fear of ridicule or rejection, fear of death or fear of failure.

Fear is false evidence appearing real. Reality is the love of God and the power of the cross! When you live in the reality of the cross, you don’t need to be fearful of losing your freedom – you’ve found ultimate freedom at the cross. You don’t need to worry about the unknown – Jesus knows, and he is in control. Physical pain is finished with the healing power of the cross. Disappointment is gone – you found hope at the cross. Misery is replaced with joy – you know He loves you. You don’t need to feel lonely – you are in perfect union with Jesus and He loves you with a perfect love. You need not feel ridiculed – Jesus took all that ridicule at the cross, and your identity is in the fact that He loves you. You need not fear rejection – the perfect love of God sees all of you and accepts you fully. You need not fear death – at the cross you found eternal life. You need not fear failure – your victory is found at the cross!

There really is no competition. Fear only has the authority you give it.
Scripture says, ‘We are more than conquerors through Jesus’!

Fear only causes you to shrink and retreat. Love actually creates open spaces in our lives! When you know you are loved, you are empowered to be you, you feel powerful, and you are bold. Like WIFI, when we are fully connected to the love of God, we are fully functioning our best!

Romans 8:35-38

Emma Montesi

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 25th September 2017

Often we can find ourselves in life in a difficult situation and say or think that God is testing us.
Maybe our marriage isn’t what it should be, or our finances are very tight. Maybe our children are away from God or our Manager at work is making life very difficult. Maybe even a serious illness like cancer has come into our world, and we find ourselves saying “God must be testing me.”

Maybe you are waiting for an answer to prayer and you are feeling like you can’t be patient any longer, or you feel like giving up.

The Bible teaches us that God never allows anything to come into our lives that we cannot bear. God is never the author of bad things, but He does allow things into our lives to help us grow and develop and trust Him more.

When you experience difficulty, don’t say “God is testing me”, No, He’s not testing you, He’s TRUSTING you.

He’s trusting you with a situation that He has allowed into your life for a reason.
He’s watching for your attitude, your heart response, your actions, your words and He’s looking for your hope to be planted firmly on Him.

So thank God in every circumstance, that He is trusting you with.
Thank Him that He is trusting you in the waiting, in the being patient.
Thank Him that you can come out better and stronger than before and those around you will see God at work in and through you.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 23rd September 2017

Having a power cut is very inconvenient. Recently, I was cooking soup and I was halfway through blending it when we had a power cut. So I was left with half blended and half lumpy.

We don’t realise how much we rely on power until it’s gone. Ladies, how much do we rely on our hairstyling appliances like straighteners and dryers? Imagine going out the house with unstyled hair. For some of you, that would be a crisis. For some, we wouldn’t know any difference!

Praying gives us power.
Every time you leave the house not fully charged, you’re leaving short of power. There’s an old saying that says, “Seven days without prayer makes one weak.” Think about it for a moment…prayer charges you up.

I wouldn’t leave the house without ‘doing’ my hair. So why do I think it’s okay to leave without praying?

Prayer IS a luxury. God gives us a fantastic opportunity to connect to the greatest power source ever. And unlike other luxuries, this one, we can ALL afford.

Being without the electricity affected my day and I didn’t like it.
Don’t take His power for granted.
Get plugged in today.
You’ll be glad you did.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 22nd September 2017

A few years ago, I felt to have a journal dedicated to thankfulness. At the end of the day I would write down all the things I was grateful for in that day. I did this every day for an entire year. As you can imagine, by the end of the year I had thousands of things – big and small to be grateful for.

Something happened in the process of writing down all the things I was grateful for. It became a habit to be extra aware in my day to day, of things that were good in my life. I didn’t focus on what I lacked anymore, my attention was on the small gifts in the every day.

Did I have things during that time that I was contending for and trusting God with? Of course! But I trained my perspective to focus on the goodness of God amidst the things I was waiting on.

There is always something to be thankful for. Scripture says, ‘Give thanks in ALL circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you’ (1 Thessalonians 5:18). ‘Give thanks ALWAYS for everything …’ (Ephesians 5:20).
Do not be anxious about anything, but IN EVERYTHING by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God’ (Philippians 4:6).

Scripture is quite clear that difficult circumstances do not excuse us from the need to cultivate a grateful heart. In fact often the encouragement to be thankful is married with the acknowledgement that you are having a difficult time.

Thankfulness is a gateway for the goodness in your life. God is attracted to a thankful heart. It tells him that you aren’t ruled by external circumstance, and you trust His nature. Ask Him to show you what the gift is in it the midst of pain and disappointment.

If you have absolutely nothing in your life, but have Jesus, you have everything you need!
Look at the Apostle Paul, chained in prison for the gospel and still he says, ‘everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord’ (Philippians 3:8).

What can you thank God for right now?

Emma Montesi

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 21st September 2017

As I’ve got older, I’ve noticed that I pay far more attention to what ingredients, additives, carbs and saturated fats are present in a food product. Why I didn’t do this years ago when I could actually read the label without my glasses on I’ll never know.

I’m sure you’ll agree, that it has become far more of a trend to know what’s in something than ever before. You only have to spend a little time around the supermarket to see people trying to decipher what’s actually in their favourite ‘healthy’ snack bar.

Amongst some of the most amusing small print found on food packaging, has got to be that found on a packet of salted peanuts…’warning – contains nuts.’

What about the sleeping aid capsules – ‘may cause drowsiness.’

Reading labels has led to a far more positive move towards food manufacturers being vigilant with their products, knowing that the public are now casting a health conscious watchful eye over everything they now consume.

Growing up, I never ever remember one time my parents reading the back of the box of ‘Cadbury’s Smash’ (dehydrated potato flakes) that we would be served for tea, after adding boiling water.

In much the same way, people have failed to read the ‘small print’ of the Bible and have assumed that to be a Christian meant to have a problem free and cosy life, not realising that was far from the truth if you’d only take time to read what’s on the packet.

Many people have backed away from following Christ when hard times have hit, or when God hasn’t seemingly got them out of a tough spot, often because they never bothered to read the contents of what it meant to be a true Christian.

The verses below have long since been buried under our convenient Christianity, but now there is a new move in the Church where people actually want to know the truth..

1 Peter 4:12-16 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name.

Reading that makes you realise that trouble is part and parcel, and not foreign to, following Jesus.

God never promised us a pain free, problem free easy ride, in fact He promised us trouble…

John 16:33 ‘I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.’

…this reassures us that He is bigger than any temporary trouble you may be facing. What better way to start your day with these words which literally mean…CHEER UP!

Often I’ve found that God doesn’t take away my problems, but He takes me through them. That way I learn to battle through, learn from it, and then see victory.

Are you going through a dark time right now and didn’t think you would have to when you signed up to follow Jesus? Then here’s His promise to you today…

Psalm 112:4-8 Even in darkness light dawns for the upright, for those who are gracious and compassionate and righteous. Good will come to those who are generous and lend freely, who conduct their affairs with justice. Surely the righteous will never be shaken; they will be remembered for ever. They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord. Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear; in the end they will look in triumph on their foes.

Yes…’even in dark times’.

Remember: you are meant to shine. The darker it is, the more you’ll stand out.

Philippians 2:14-16 ‘Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, ‘children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.’ Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life’.
Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 20th September 2017

1 Thessalonians 4:11 says, ‘…make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you’.

Contrary to modern day, western culture, scripture actually tells us that we need to be intentional about seeking peace and space in our life.

Constantly generating and celebrating a busy lifestyle is not God’s way. Often a busy life can be created in an effort to appease something in us. Maybe it is trying to prove something? Or keep people happy? You can even be busy with really good things!

Jesus made rest and time alone a priority. He understood that you cannot generate anything in your public life that you aren’t cultivating in your private life.

Just a few examples of Jesus making space in scripture are:

‘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’ (Mark 1:35).

‘But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed’ (Luke 5:15-16; see also Mark 1:45).

‘Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the lake, and a large crowd from Galilee followed’ (Mark 3:7).

‘Jesus went out of the house and sat by the lake’ (Matthew 13:1-3. See also Mark 4:1).

‘When Jesus heard (that John the Baptist had been beheaded), he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place” (Matthew 14:13).

‘Because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, (Jesus) said to (his disciples), ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’ So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place’ (Mark 6:31-32).

‘After (Jesus) had dismissed (the crowds), he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was (still) there’ (Matthew 14:23).

There was always a demand on Jesus. There were always people after Him. He could have easily burnt out trying to please people, but He knew the value of tending to His own soul, before he would tend to others.

If the son of God made getting alone to recharge a priority, how much more do we, in an age where being busy is glorified, need to be okay with cultivating rest? Become comfortable with drawing away to make space in your life without feeling guilt. To unplug and refuel is a Godly principle.

Just incase you are still thinking you are beyond rest, don’t forget that God Himself of the seventh day of creation rested!

Referring back to the verse I started with, when we are encouraged to ‘mind our own business’, it is an encouragement to focus on what is yours for this season. Don’t get caught up in everything you could be doing, involving yourself in all sorts of business. Rather, steward what is yours to do for now and do it well!

Emma Montesi

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 19th September 2017

On our recent family holiday, everyone was complaining about how thirsty they were in the hot weather, especially as any drinks that they had packed for a day out had become luke warm within an hour or so. After a couple of days, I decided to freeze a few small plastic bottles of water over night and then fill my back pack with them the next morning along with enough drinks for everyone…problem solved!

Not only did everything in my back pack keep ice cool, but the water itself lasted all day as it began to defrost and become everyone’s best friend.

Not an new idea I know, but it certainly is a good one and into the bargain a great life lesson in the power of association.

Anything that was placed alongside the freezing water was effected in just the same way. Snuggled up together in the back pack for a few hours guaranteed that everyone’s  previously luke warm drinks would now come out ice cold.

Have you ever wondered why your life is playing out like it is? The answer lies inside that back pack. Who you hang around with, you become like. Sadly for many, their lives have become ice cold with apathy, but you don’t have to look too far as to why…simply look at who they are mixing with.

The opposite is also true. People who have great faith and have ‘red hot’ lives are usually found to be mixing with really great passionate and positive, faith filled people.

Solomon has been known throughout history as one of the wisest guys that ever lived. He wrote many of the saying in the book of Proverbs. Here’s his simple take on it…

Proverbs 13:20 Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.

Whoever you associate with you eventually become like, so if you want to change the way your life is panning out, you probably need to look at changing your friends.

Don’t keep complaining that you have to keep dealing with so many issues in the circles that you mix with when you have the power to get out.

Not everyone in your life is there for the duration, in fact one of the greatest signs that you are moving in the right direction is that you will start leaving people behind.

Think about all of your peers at your first school that you pledged allegiance to for the rest of your life. How many of those are still in your life today? The reason that you each went your separate ways was mainly because you each grew up!

Now we all have to work through relational difficulties and many times it will be right to keep those relationships in tact, but never lose sight of the fact that moving on is often a necessary and natural part of life and maturity. Emotional attachments are not a good enough reason to hold onto everyone in your life.

Ask yourself today, ‘who am I influencing for good?’

Now ask yourself, ‘who is influencing me for bad?’

Change is here to stay.

Move on.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 18th September 2017

Several years ago, I was invited to sail on a Schooner in Greece.

A Schooner is a sailing ship with two masts, and needs a lot of team work and skill to sail it accurately.

Please understand…I had never sailed before or had any knowledge of how to do so, so to find myself on the third night of the trip, steering the ship at 2am, in pitch black waters, was pretty scary.

The sleeping quarters for the 15 or so of us were below deck and consisted of wooden racks which were mounted half way up the side of the boat.

As the waters got pretty choppy from time to time, some of the team started to get sea sick, so the Captain taught us the way to trick the body in order to overcome it.

He would say…’look to the horizon and fix your eyes on something unmovable and keep looking that way.’

As soon as the instruction was put into practice, the sickness subsided and all was good again.

That simple yet very effective piece of advice has been part of a sailor’s life for centuries: when in turbulent waters, fix your eyes on something that’s fixed.

In just the same way, the turbulent water of our lives and the circumstances that come our way need to be addressed in just the same way; if you want to stay on your feet and get through the storm, then fix your gaze on what’s permanent.

For many, there is no known focal point and therefore life takes them down, but the centuries’ old truth in the Bible informs us that Jesus can be the unshakeable, unmovable and constant in our lives, if you’ll just look to Him.

We live in a world that tends to look down, never lifting our heads to crack even a smile nowadays, so I encourage you to be different and apply the remedy – look up to the one who can save and steady the most turbulent and windswept life reading this today.

Take courage my friend from the one that says ‘I’ll never leave you or forsake you.’

Take your focus of the waves right now and look to Him.

Mark 4:35-41 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, ‘Let us go over to the other side.’ Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?’ He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, ‘Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?’ They were terrified and asked each other, ‘Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!’

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 16th September 2017

How many times do we let trials and hardships take us down?

Do you ever throw yourself a pity party?

Do you ever feel sorry for yourself and hibernate because ‘Life is too hard’?

Today I want to challenge you to not let circumstances take you down.

You see, trials do not mean that God has left us and they do not mean that He doesn’t have a plan for us, or that He has forgotten us.

I love the story of Ruth in the Old Testament.
In a nutshell…her husband died, this alone was tragic.
Then her father-in-law died and so did her brother-in-law – what a difficult, devastating time.

Then she went through a time of famine to go hand in hand with the hardship and devastation.

BUT God was with her! And hers is one of the greatest stories ever recorded in scripture.

Her story and life turned out amazing.
Boaz was waiting for her and the rest is history.

So if you’re going through it today, learn from Ruth

1. Stay faithful
2. Have a great attitude
3. Trust God
4. Believe that your best is yet to come

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living

Fresh Hope – 15th September 2017

We all know people who have selective hearing, but did you know that most people have selective seeing too?

Selective seeing is more commonly referred to as ‘having a blind spot’, where you are blind to some of your own character traits.

If you’ve ever been surprised by someone’s critique about you, then you probably have a blind spot.

If you’ve found yourself justifying yourself with the words ‘I didn’t realise that I came across like that’, then you probably have a blind spot.

Blind spots enable you to see things clearly in other people’s lives, whilst seemingly causing you to be blind to your own.

There are any number of blind spots, but here are just a few of the most noticeable ones that you can check yourself by:

– Blind to your selfish side. If you admit it, you can deal with it

– Blind to your limitations. You are not as good at everything as you think. Ask others what you are hopeless at. Open rebuke is better than hidden love.

– Blind to your ego. (Ego is the latin word for I) The greatest fault is to not realise that you talk about yourself all of the time.

– Blind to your emotions. You don’t realise you are angry, jealous, insecure, aggressive. When you RECOGNISE an emotion, it’s the only time you can deal with it. ‘I’m just emotional’ is not good enough.

– Blind to your strengths. On a positive note we can also be positive to the very things that we are good at. Pretending that you’re not good at them when you know that you really are, is false humility and pride.

Gain respect and give respect by taking a look in the mirror more often and seeing the real you that others see.

THE TRUTH WILL SET YOU FREE.

There is one other blind spot that we should mention too; Relationship blind spots keep us from recognising good people that God wants to send into our lives; we will often trade them off for poor and damaging relationships that look good on the surface. Open your eyes to see who is really entering and exiting your life.

A friend of mine that was quite often speaking in front of a camera thought that he had a really happy and smiley face, that was until he decided to watch himself on TV one day. He suddenly realised that he didn’t come across anything like he thought he did.

Could it be that you think you come across as welcoming and friendly yet in reality you are actually driving people away from your life simply because you come across as judgemental and angry?

Give yourself a check up from the neck up today!

Matthew 7:3-5 ‘Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 14th September 2017

God wants to teach us how to be powerful and not powerless. We are designed to reign in life. In fact, we should be the most powerful people in the world because we have the power that raised Jesus and conquered death living in us!

The opposite of living like a powerful person is living like a victim. A victim mentality is feeling small, with the sense that everything in life has control over you.

David facing Goliath is an incredible picture of living with the internal conviction that you are powerful person and not a victim. David stood before his giant, with the mindset that it was smaller than him.

We cannot be powerful in our external world, until we have order in our internal world.

Some indicators that you are living in a powerless way of thinking are:

• Things easily take away your hope, peace, love and joy.
• You can’t say ‘no’ or set boundaries.
• You feel like life is driving you, rather than you driving life.
• You have a lot of anger. (Anger is counterfeit power).
• You feel stuck and hopeless.

Practically speaking, when you visualise things, your brain cannot tell the difference between a memory and a visualisation. When you picture things in your mind, you are actually setting truth into your heart. If you spend a lot of time visualising how big your problem is, your mind doesn’t recognise that it’s not reality and the problem actually gains power in your life.

Take your power back from the things that you have given it to. God has made us more than conquerors! He has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of POWER, love and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7).

In the story of C.W Lewis` ‘Narnia’, everything was dead in the kingdom until the rightful kings and queens came to their throne. Likewise, come to the throne of your life, and take your place as a powerful person made to reign with the authority of heaven backing you!

Romans 5:17

Emma Montesi

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 13th September 2017

Have I mentioned the fact that I recently signed up to my local gym? Yes, I thought so.

I’ve now been going there for around two months and have to say that I feel much better for doing so. I can now even get close to touching my toes – something that I’ve not done for around 25 years.

Left to my own devices, I’ve found myself using the equipment that I personally liked. Something not too strenuous and outside of my comfort zone. I would kind of walk round aimlessly and be guided to each piece of equipment that I fancied going on during my hour long visit. There was hardly any rhyme or reason for what I was doing, that was until my son suggested that we work together and that way it would be more productive. Now of course, he is much fitter and stronger than I am, and to my initial displeasure had me lifting weights and doing exercise that were well beyond my natural limits. No matter how much I told him I couldn’t do it, he insisted that instead of lowering the weights to make it easier, that we should actually higher them to make it more difficult. When I completed a round of successfully lifting heavier weights, I fully expected to stop, have a Mars bar and celebrate, but instead he suggested that I was lifting them without too much difficulty and so the weight was increased again until my face turned bright red.

I’ve soon realised that lifting and exercising in my comfort zone has very little positive effect on my muscles, but as soon as I lift beyond my comfort zone then I quickly start to see results.

How many reading this, identify in life, that you have successfully got stuck in your comfort zone and are therefore no longer making any progress? You walk around the gym of your life every day and yet have no purpose or goals and therefore nothing changes.

When was the last time you invited someone into your world that could stretch you and help lead you towards being a better you?

Maybe you’ve just got complacent with life and therefore really see no point in trying to get better. You just keep things ticking over in the hope that no new challenges come your way.

A mentor or coach is someone that gets you to do things that you don’t want to do in order to achieve the results that you’ve always wanted to get.

Who do you have in your world that pulls you up?

Who do you in your world that stretches you and makes you a bigger person?

Who do you have in your life that’s forcing you to face your failures and fears in order to move beyond them?

Remember: your mentor is not your friend, as they only tell you what you want to hear; Your mentor is someone that’s not afraid to tell you the truth for your own good.

Who do you have?

Find someone…invite someone…ask someone, but don’t except to like everything they say to you, but do expect to grow in ways like never before.

Finally, one of the best and quickest ways to grow is to find someone that is further down the road from you and is willing to tell you the truth; once you’ve found that person, ask that them every at least every six months….”is there anything you need to say to me?”

Keep the growing going !

Proverbs 27:17 As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 12th September 2017

We recently rented a house for our family holiday. Included in the package was the use of the family clubhouse which had an outdoor pool and lazy river complete with large rubber rings for you to float around on to your heart’s content. At the mouth of the lazy river was a children’s spiralling water flume that deposited you into a small pool.

Apparently, one dad had decided to spice things up a little and show his kids how he could go down the water flume on a rubber ring, not realising that as he approached the bottom, the tubular slide narrowed and he got well and truly stuck just two metres from the end.

With gallons of water gushing behind him, he became like a cork in a bottle. As I was paddling close by with my grandchildren, I was aware of people pointing at the water slide, laughing at the fact that a grown man had got stuck inside, and was frantically trying to get himself free. As much as I wanted to mind my own business, I somehow felt compelled that I should do something to help. I can only say that I felt an overwhelming urgency to pull myself up out of the water and climb into the end of the slide and then crawl the two metres up into the slide to where his feet could be seen poking through the rubber ring.

He was well and truly stuck. Fortunately there was a handle on the rubber tyre that was on my side and after a few moments of tugging, I managed to pull him free. What happened next must have been a sight to behold; as soon as he was released, he took me with him and as many as a dozen children all trapped behind him aswell. With the full force of the water built up behind us, we got spat out of the end of the flume, landing on top of each other in the pool.

I didn’t think too much of it as I picked myself up and carried on paddling. It wasn’t until I overheard one of the children that had been trapped, telling his dad that the water had come up to his neck and felt that he was about to drown inside the slide.
I then realised that my ‘compulsion’ to do something was actually a life saving mission prompted by God. The story that day could have been so different if I had ignored the feeling to act whilst others stood by and laughed.

Everyday of our lives, we are, to some greater or lesser degree, called upon by God to help save lives. We may feel that we should mind our own business or see the request as a non event, but be sure that if you feel ‘moved’ then you must obey. Not only is one person’s life at stake, the greater truth is that several other people’s lives are at stake too.

When I stand on the platform of our church each Sunday, I take very seriously the fact that I am about to help set people free, and not only that, I am about to save a whole host of other people in the process too.

No-one even knew that day that I had bothered to help, as they all thought that they had worked themselves free; but the truth is we can do so much to help people in this life, if we don’t mind who gets the credit.

The next time you sense that you should do something, say something or go somewhere, then simply obey…you never know how many lives you may be saving when you do. What others see as something to laugh at, you may need to take very seriously.

James 5:19-20 My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring that person back, remember this: whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 11th September 2017

The very beginning of scripture, in fact, the very beginning of time and all creation, started with ‘…and God said’. All life started with words being spoken.

The word of God carries creative power. Scripture reminds us many times, that as His people made in His image, our words also carry creative power. By creative power, I mean you can literally create with your words.

We can easily underestimate the power of our spoken word. When God urges us to monitor the language of our life, it is because we have the incredible ability to either build or destroy our lives and the lives of others, simply with our tongue. ‘A small part of the body, but like a tiny spark, it can set the forest of your life on fire’ (James 3:5). No one would ever feel intimidated by a match, but face a wall of raging fire that is threatening your home and life, and you wont question the potential of that first spark or lighter ever again. Likewise, don’t underestimate your conversations and declarations.

Jesus over and over again brought people into wholeness and freedom through his words. He spoke a deaf man into hearing, blind men into sight, and lame men into walking. He even commanded creation to stand still in the midst of a storm, and with words He casted out demons tormenting people. He also empowered people with His words of encouragement and conviction, so they left his presence totally transformed from the inside out.
I love it when science finally catches up to the truths that have always been in scripture.

Physiologists are well aware that new pathways in the brain are created through constant spoken words. Negative words create negative pathways that are reinforced every time you speak out words of negativity. Equally, you can rewire and renew your mind by speaking positive truths over and over.

Scientists have in fact discovered that our words carry either positive or negative sound frequencies and when other objects encounter these frequencies they react accordingly at a molecular level. Even science says our words influence our surroundings.

I have first hand witnessed deaf ears opening because of the declaration of Jesus. I have first hand seen people receive unexpected favour over finances as the truth of God has been spoken over their money. I have watched relationships restored as words of faith and hope have been spoken over and over, rather than words of criticism and bitterness.

This isn’t theory. This is reality. Let us operate in our God given authority and use our words to bring the order of God into our lives and the world around us!

Proverbs 18:21 says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.”

 

Emma Montesi

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 9th September 2017

Many people are feeling the catastrophic after-effects of a storm right now. Hurricane Harvey has hit Texas in a huge way and many homes and lives have been destroyed. Right now, hurricane Irma is wreaking havoc on a different part of that nation .

We were in Florida several years ago when Hurricane Katrina hit the US and we have just left Florida, where Irma is just about to.

Sometimes God lets you escape a storm and other times He allows you to go right through one.

Whether your storm today is a real hurricane or a personal storm in your life, know this: God is always with you and He can bring good out of a storm if we let Him.

I may not have been in a hurricane, but I have been in and experienced many storms in life. Over those years, I have noticed this, that although at those times, you can feel like your world is being rocked and even over, God can and will bring good out of them.

I was travelling in the car last week, through a very bad thunderstorm, the motorway had all but come to a standstill, it was so severe, yet through the window, I noticed a beautiful change in the sky. I took a poor photograph of what I saw. Beyond the rain and the thunder was something beautiful…a pink and colourful sky. It was in that moment that God reminded me, that if we stand firm and hold on to Him, something beautiful and new and fresh will ALWAYS come our way.

Storms are there for a purpose and even though they may not be nice, God will bring good out of them.

Whatever your storm today, wherever you are in the world, know this: God has you safe. Keep trusting. Keep believing for a better day.
He will never leave you and He will never forsake you.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 8th September 2017

Growing up, my brother and I were allowed to pick one big item that we wanted for Christmas from our parents.

I’ll never forget the one year, ripping off the gift-wrap to find THE Barbie car that I had been dreaming of! Finally it was mine! Only it was in a box, and all compartmentalised. It had to be put together. (This was obviously Dad’s favourite part of Christmas morning– spending hours agonizing over instructions on a how to assemble a Barbie car).

The hardest part for me was giving the gift back to Dad to sort out, but I did it because I knew it had to be done so he could give me back something better. There is only so much a girl can do with a deconstructed Barbie car. I needed to give it back to the giver, so I could use the car for its intended purpose – to drive Ken and Barbie around!

One of the best parts about being a Christian is learning what it means to be a son and daughter of God – not an orphan or a slave, but his CHILD! A child trusts their Dad. I gave my Dad my gift because I fully trusted that as I gave it back, I would get something better.

The same concept goes with our money, time, and talents for that matter. Everything good is from God, and we must live open handed, giving it back to Him, trusting Him that He knows best. This is true stewardship. When I give my money to God, it is because I am His child, not His slave. I’m not trying to impress my master or persuade him to be good to me. Rather, as his child, I know He knows what is best, and He will return the gift in an even better package than it was given!

One of the Bible’s most extravagant pictures of giving back to God was the woman who poured an alabaster jar of perfume on the feet of Jesus. Religious onlookers thought this act of worship was too much. It was excessive and ridiculous. After all, this wasn’t just a 200 pound bottle of Tom Ford, this was worth more than a year’s wages. Furthermore, this would have been this woman’s only chance of getting married. This would have been her dowry one day. In pouring it on the feet of Jesus, she was literally letting go of her dreams and future. It was the ultimate sacrifice. She gave everything back. Jesus in return celebrates this complete sacrifice and addresses the religious for assuming she was foolish!

Jesus isn’t interested in behaviour modification, He wants heart transformation. He doesn’t want us to give back to Him because it gives us peace of mind that we are in His good books. We give because we trust Him as our Dad. We are overwhelmed by His goodness to us, so we in turn extravagantly give it back without hesitation.

Luke 7:36-50

Emma Montesi

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 7th September 2017

A couple of months ago I was on my way to a friend’s house party. Late to the event, I pulled up at the front of the house, rushed up the driveway, opened the front door and walked through the house to the backyard where I assumed all the guests would be. I passed two people watching TV in the lounge room and waved. When I finally made it out to the back, I encountered only four people sitting around a table… and I didn’t recognise any of them! “Who are you?”, said one of the strangers looking at me in complete confusion. The penny had now dropped that I had in fact walked into the wrong house! There was no party going on here. I had just opened the front door to a random person’s home and walked right on inside.

One of my favourite qualities about Jesus was how counter cultural He was. He sliced through years of rabbinical law and cultural norms with extreme and outrageous expressions of love. He went where no Rabbi had gone before.

To those at the bottom of the social heap, Jesus met them where they were at. He didn’t just tolerate people, He celebrated people. He saw beyond surface appearance, discerned with precision, and pulled out the gold in people. He used his power, not to abuse, but to raise up those around him. Not to dominate, but to empower.

Jesus didn’t shy away from those in authority either. In fact, He intentionally ruffled the religious feathers of those who cared more about following the rulebook, than loving on people. He was often direct in approach, but people responded because they could sense that His motivation was always love and His truth ignited freedom.

Nothing has changed. Jesus’ approach to people is still counter-cultural today. Our natural tendency is to want to befriend those whom we feel comfortable with. We don’t look for uncomfortable relationships. Popular culture tells us to be around those who make us look good and feel good. To befriend for what we can get. To invest into people who will give something back in return. We are trained to be attracted to what looks appealing on the outside, and dismiss what could be going on inside. BUT this is where the church steps up and we powerfully, counter-culturally love people with the very same heart as Jesus!

Go where you have never gone before. Open doors to new encounters, venture beyond your comfort zone, walk right in to where you think you can’t go, and seek out ways to serve and radically love on ALL people. This is the heart of Jesus – to rule with the heart of a servant, and serve with the heart of a king!

Emma Montesi

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 6th September 2017

In the Bible, we see Jesus led into the wilderness to be tested by the devil over a period of 40 days and 40 nights. During this timeframe, we see Jesus tested on three separate occasions.

If you read this story in Matthew 4, you will notice how on all three occasions, Jesus uses the same thing to counteract the temptation He is up against… The Word of God.

Every time that Jesus is tested, His comeback is The Bible. He quotes Bible verses and eventually by doing so, causes the devil to flee.

You see, the Word of God is your weapon and the answers that you need to the struggles that you will face are all found in this same book – The Bible.

This story encourages me, as I see Jesus face then what I still face today, and that is, temptation. Not only am I encouraged to see that He faced it, but I’m more so encouraged to see that He conquered it. And the best part is that not only do we see that He conquered it, but we see how He conquered it too.

It’s very apparent to us that Jesus was prepared for this test… And how did He prepare? By spending time with God and familiarising Himself with what God said about Him.

Temptation’s goal is to get you to act in accordance with who you’re not, so it’s vital that you know who God says you are.

Make a commitment to spend time with God and His word, preparing for every season of life, so that when you face moments of testing and temptation, you are so full of God’s Word that you don’t have room for the devil’s lies.

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – 5th September 2017

About a year ago, I was looking after my brother and sister. We decided to head over to the park, and on our way back, a man was walking on the opposite side of the road. My brother (who is incredibly extroverted) began shouting ‘hello!’ ‘hello!’ ‘hello!’ across the road to this man, who was quite embarrassed about a small boy shouting at him.

Confused by the entire situation (my brother clearly thought this man should know who he is), I began to quiz my brother about what he was doing and why he’s heckling this poor man. I was ready to give him a lecture about not talking to strangers and the dangers that it involves when I asked him ‘Why are you talking to that man?’ His answer astounded me. ‘Lucy, if I don’t say hello to someone, how can we ever become friends?’ Whilst, yes a child shouldn’t talk to any random person, my brother actually spoke some truth on that day.

Every person that you know in your life, you know them because at one point or another, someone decided to say ‘hello’. As a result of that ‘hello’, you are now acquaintances/friends/family/maybe even husband or wife. Often, I think we can over complicate situations that are actually really simple. God wants to use your everyday conversations and situations to point people to Him. However, God can’t do that unless you begin the conversation.

Today, who can you talk to? What new relationships can you build that help point people to Jesus? Don’t overcomplicate things. God can take the most simple things and use them to change someone’s life.

Lucy Lawrence

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 4th September 2017

Today most people find themselves living for position, or maybe even fighting for it.

Our careers are usually built on what position we can obtain and life outside work can easily be built on looking for a greater position in life – be it a better car, bigger house or more stuff!

God has called us all with a plan and purpose, and it is here where we can find our true position in life.

Let us take encouragement from the life of King David, who on his journey through life always held onto God and found his position in Him.

Whether during his time as shepherd boy, watching his family’s sheep and protecting them from predators or as a boy who defeated a giant, a soldier serving his king or the king’s personal musician, he knew where to find his true position in life.

Many times David writes in Psalms that God was his helper, his protection, his shield, his father, his hope and refuge.

I believe it was this confession and understanding that gave David his position, which allowed him the ability to endure great trials and battles, knowing that whatever he faced, he knew that God was his strength and source as well as his place of security.

Today, let us remember that God wants to also be our shelter, our protector and our safe place. Once we accept this then our lives will be in a much greater position – firmly in God’s hands.
He will always set us on the right path in life.

Adam Nash

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 2nd September 2017

In 1 Samuel, we read about how Hannah was desperate for a baby…and I mean desperate.
Her husband, Elkannah had two wives, The one wife had children, Hannah didn’t.
But Hannah was his favourite and she cried out to God in total desperation and against all odds, God gave her a son, Samuel.

Now I could speak today about Samuel and how God had a great plan for his life (because he did), because even though Samuel was born, he should never have been, because Hannah was barren. God’s plan will always be fulfilled, no matter how strongly the odds are against you.

Here’s 3 things to learn from Hannah
1. She had to get desperate.
Get yourself to a place of crying out to God for your dream to become a reality. Because when you do, God hears. God heard her cry and He will hear yours.

2. She gave back to God.
Hannah was so thankful to God for blessing her with Samuel, that she offered him back to God to be mightily used ( and he was). When God blesses you, don’t forget to give back.

3. God blessed her more than before.
She was blessed eternally for what she had done. She actually gave birth to three sons and two daughters. Wow!

You may not see the future right now, but God does.
You may feel desperate like Hannah.
God has a plan and a purpose. Trust Him. Give yourself fully to Him and His plan will not only come to pass through you, but future generations.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 1st September 2017

“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” (1 Timothy 6:17 NIV).

The only thing in all of creation that worries is a human being. Plants don’t worry. Animals don’t worry. Only human beings act as if we don’t have a heavenly Father. When you worry about your finances, you’re basically saying, “I think God is a liar. I don’t really think he will meet my needs.” But God will, if you meet the conditions.

When I was a child, I’d go to my dad and say, “Dad, I need some money.” Not once when I was growing up did I ever wonder, “Where is he going to get it?” It’s kind of an unwritten rule about money: Dads and moms make it, and kids spend it. Kids never wonder, “Where are my parents going to get this money?” I never worried about it.

Worry is really a form of atheism. Every time you worry, you’re basically saying, “I don’t believe there’s a God who is going to take care of me.” If you’re a Christian and you worry, you’re acting like an orphan. You’re acting like you don’t have a heavenly Father who has already promised over and over again in Scripture, “I will meet your needs if you will obey me and do what I tell you to do.” Trust forces you to live by faith.

Worry is a warning light. Every time we worry about our finances, it’s a warning that we doubt God loves us and will take care of us. We always get into trouble when we doubt God’s love. Always.

Matthew 6:33 says, “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need” (NLT).

As long as you love anything more than God, that thing is going to be a source of anxiety. There was one thing meant for first place in your life, and it’s not your family. Anything you put first in your life besides God will create anxiety, because that thing can always be lost.

Your bank account is not your security, no matter how big it gets. The Bible says in 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” (NIV).

Put your hope in God, because he will assume responsibility for your needs if you’ll trust him.

By Rick Warren
A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 31st Aug 2017

Australia has salt water crocodiles that weigh well over one tonne, whose heads alone weigh over 30 stone. In India, over 100 people each year are killed by Bengal tigers that tip the scales at over 35 stone. While the grizzly bears of Canada when standing on their hind legs stand over 9 feet tall!

The largest carnivore in the UK?

The badger!
They can weigh as much as two and a half stone.  It’s never killed anyone but it can administer a nasty nip.

That sums up life in England – safe and comfortable!

Now forget tigers and bears, there is nothing more dangerous and life threatening than being comfortable.

Comfort single handedly destroys hopes and dreams whilst at the same time being the enemy of progress, achievement and success. We can easily think that doubt and fear is the enemy of faith, but not at all, doubt and fear are vital for faith, comfort on the other hand is all we need to stop us stepping out in faith.

Satan loves us to be comfortable, sedated and harmless.

In Philippians 2:12, Paul encourages the church to ‘continue to work out their salvation with fear and trembling!’

He doesn’t mean to live in fear of losing your salvation or having to earn it, but he’s saying if it’s true that Jesus is the ‘way the truth and the life’ then work out what that actually means in your life, in your family and in your finances.

Basically Paul is saying ‘don’t be comfortable’ in your approach to life as a Christian.

One problem we have is that the antidote to comfort is often the trials and challenges we face. The life saving treatment that can wake us from a deadly slumber is often what we tend to moan about and try to avoid at all costs. But God uses our circumstances to shape, wake and move us.

I encourage you today, evaluate your approach to your Christian life. Are you laid back and comfortable or do you live with the life and death in recognition of the significance of who you are in him and what you can achieve?

We live in a very physically blessed country that is in desperate need of the church to wake it up from its comfort to the amazing reality of Jesus Christ. Let’s wake up today and stir those around us, you are more significant than you know.

Luke Cartwright

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 30th August 2017

There’s a story in the Bible known as the parable of the talents where a master entrusts three of his servants with his wealth before he goes away for a certain period of time. To one servant, he entrusts five talents, to the second, he entrusts two and to the third, he gives one.

Upon the master’s return, he discovers that the first two servants have doubled his investment, but the third servant buried his in the ground and therefore saw no multiplication attached to it.

This story is a reflection of us and God. He is the master and we are His servants. I began to see that maybe the talents in this story are not simply a representation of money, but of people. After all, God’s greatest wealth is you and I…

You see, everyday we are entrusted with people. Some of us have influence over more than others, but whether it be one or 1000, God has made you responsible for somebody.

It’s so easy to be like the third servant and decide to bury people in the ground. The reason being is that we don’t see potential in them and don’t think they could ever grow beyond who they currently are.

But I want to encourage you today to be like the first two servants, who saw great potential in what they had been entrusted with.

Who has God placed in your world that you need to take care of, that you need to invest in, that you need to speak life over? Because when you do those things, watch how God will bring multiplication into their life and yours like never before.

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – 29th August 2017

‘Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.’
1 Thessalonians 5:18

We all have a bit of a crisis plan, don’t we? Have you prayed a panic prayer? I know I have. We know what to do when things go wrong. However, I’ve been thinking about what we do when we’re in seasons of abundance; work is amazing, your marriage is the best it’s ever been, you’re seeing a record number of breakthroughs etc.

I don’t know about you but when I feel as though everything is going right, I praise God for it and go on with what I’m doing.

Today, I’m challenging us to take a slightly different approach. I wonder how our circumstances would look, if we really opened them up to God. It’s easy to shut God out of areas of our lives where we feel that everything is just right and there’s nothing more He can do for us. We say things like “it just doesn’t get better than this.” Or “I don’t need God to bless that more than He has. I don’t want to be greedy.”
Let me remind you that God has a limitless supply of whatever it is you need. Don’t let contentment trick you out of seeing God do more in your life.

Ephesians‬ ‭3:20-21‬ ‭
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”
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See the word ‘generations’ in that verse? There’s always more to your blessings than just you. Let’s start to imagine and believe for greater today. God is able.

Melissa Reynolds-Lawrence

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 28th August 2017

In some parts of Mexico, hot and cold springs are found side-by-side. Local women often boil their clothes in the hot springs and then rinse them in the cold springs. Recently, a tourist said to her guide, “these people must think that nature is amazing to supply them with hot and cold water side by side, all free of charge.” The guide replied, ” not really, they grumble because it doesn’t provide the soap too; and not only that they have heard that there are machines that do this kind of work in other parts of the world!”

Contentment isn’t getting what you want, it’s enjoying what you’ve got.

If you want to be miserable, focus on what others have and forget what God’s given you. Comparing will always leave you feeling left out, rejected or short changed. If you don’t put the brakes on your negative emotions, you will become bitter and critical. Comparison is the biggest joy killer in anyone’s life. An entire generation died in the old Testament because they were complainers. They went round and round in circles and never entered the promised land, whereas those with an attitude of gratitude enjoyed every moment of it.

How has your attitude been these days?

Hasn’t God been good to you?

Where would you be today without him?

Before you go a step further today check your attitude, and then spend some time giving thanks to God.

Remember: attitude determines altitude.

1 Chronicles 16:34 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures for ever.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 26th August 2017

In the Old Testament, we read about Abraham.
The story of Abraham reminds me of how we should trust God.

We read how God called him to a new place. He called him to a brand new start and He called him into the unknown.
Maybe God is calling you to something new, maybe He is calling you to something that is unknown for you. Know this: if God is calling you, then you don’t need to worry or fear.
God has a great plan for you. TRUST HIM.

We read how God promised him a son.
Unfortunately, Abraham waited a long time and because it didn’t happen in his time frame, he took matters into his own hands. (This can be dangerous).
God will always turn up with His promise, even if it’s later than you expected. Be encouraged from Abraham’s life.
God always fulfils His promises. TRUST HIM.

We read how God then asked Abraham to give up his only son. Yes, the son that he had waited years for!
This was a great test. Huge.
Maybe God is testing you right now, maybe He’s asking you to do something that’s a sacrifice. Whenever God does, He always has a reward for obedience. He always has blessings in store.
God was just testing Abraham and sometimes He tests us. TRUST HIM.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living

Fresh Hope – 25th August 2017

One of the greatest desires of the human heart is to be part of a team. We want a squad of champions around us!

I’ve never met an emotionally healthy person who doesn’t want friends or that sense of family. I’ve never heard anyone say, “I’d really like to figure out this tough situation all on my own without love and support please.”

God designed us to crave community. As a teacher I once underwent some training on how to recognise if our students have been groomed for radicalisation. When you get to the essence of the radicalisation of young people, it is really a young person looking for a sense of belonging. They want to be a part of something, even if it is a distorted version of community. It is the same with gang culture. At our very essence, we are not designed to do life on our own – we crave being a part of something.

We need team mates, community, people encouraging us, leading us, showing us the way, and in turn, we are wired to want to invest into others, and make a difference for someone else.

A few years ago I was in church service in America. It was just a week before Christmas and the pastor asked any single mothers who wouldn’t be having Christmas unless God provides to stand up. All across the congregation single mothers stood up. Without any force from the pastor, more than half of the church (of about 1000 people), pulled out their wallets and went over to the standing single Moms, and handed them piles upon piles of cash. As the sobbing mothers took the offerings, I was overwhelmed with this powerful picture of community. It was such a profound moment for me. This was a true picture of family and community. Actively looking after each other, a heart to meet each other’s needs, and championing them in life. We are designed to figure out life with other people.

What is the opposite of teammates? Competitors.

Competition with those around us violates our God-given design. We aren’t made to ride solo and be in it for ourselves. We are made for family. We aren’t made to win and make ourselves look good so others feel bad, we are made to inspire, to lead and encourage others to win in life too!

There is life-changing power in a community where we look after one another’s needs instead of merely thinking about our own.

This is what we are made for.

Emma Montesi

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 24th August 2017

Proverbs 12:2 ‘Good people obtain favour from the Lord…’

Today God wants to give you great favour.

When was the last time you expected God to bless and favour you?

No matter where I go, I fully expect God to favour my life.

Being the forgetful person I can be at times, I got to the checkouts in the supermarket the other day and realised that not only had I forgotten my credit card but into the bargain I had no cash in my wallet either. All the items had already gone through the checkout and a long line of people were waiting behind me. For a few seconds, I was embarrassed and flustered as to what I should do, but then I reminded myself that I should trust God for His favour right there and then.

As I looked up, I recognised a lady walking through the shop and after a brief conversation about my dilemma, she not only came to my rescue with her credit card, but insisted on paying for my shopping in full and refused to have me give her the money back at a later date!

Here are some of the things that may prompt you to trust God in one or all of these areas:

– Doors to open supernaturally for me

– Promotion and success in my workplace

– Restoration of everything that the enemy has stolen from me

– Honour, in the midst of adversity

– Increase in land and mortgages paid off

– Greater victories in the midst of greater impossibilities

-Recogniton, even when you seem to be the most unlikely person to succeed.

– Prominence and preferential treatment

– Petitions granted to you even by ungodly civil authorities and councils

– Policies, rules and regulations to be overturned to your advantage

– Battles won in which you won’t even have to fight.

Stop speaking negative outcomes over your life and start today to believe that God is on your side and is about to give you favour.

Luke 4:18-19 The Spirit of the Lord is on me…He has sent me to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.’

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 23rd August 2017

With whatever you’re currently experiencing in your life, you need to know this – it is either God sent or God used.

God is a good God and everything that He does has to be in alignment with who He is. Therefore, whatever comes into your life that is good, you can trust it’s from God.

However, the reality is that not everything that we experience in life is good. But don’t think that that means it’s out of God’s control… He might not have sent it, but He can still use it!

Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
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You need to know that what was meant for your harm, God is going to work together for your good. Nothing you’re currently faced with is out of His control, and He will have the final say over it.

Today, you can live from a position of rest and confidence, knowing that everything in my life has either been sent by God or is going to be used by God, and therefore, all we do is win…

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 22nd August 2017

“It is better to be poor and honest than to be foolish and tell lies” (Proverbs 19:1 NCV).

God does not bless dishonesty. Proverbs 16:11a says, “The Lord demands fairness in every business deal” (TLB). That includes wages, salaries, and taxes. If you want God’s blessing on your finances, you must be honest about them. The Bible also says, “It is better to be poor and honest than to be foolish and tell lies” (Proverbs 19:1 NCV).

Why is this an important principle? When you’re going through a season of financial stress, the temptation is enormous to toss out your integrity and to cheat in order to make ends meet. It may mean you shade the truth on a sale or exaggerate or deflate the value of something. It may mean you claim a false deduction on your taxes. You always lose in the long run when you lose your integrity. And that’s what you are taking to Heaven — your character, not your money. You always lose when you give up your integrity.

The Bible says in Proverbs 10:22, “The blessing of the Lord brings wealth, without painful toil for it” (NIV). Profit that is made dishonestly brings trouble with it. Why? If you rip off people, other people are going to rip you off. If you cheat — including the government — you’re going to get cheated in life. What you sow, you will reap.

This decision to be honest in your finances is not something you make once for all. It’s a daily decision. You’re going to be tempted to lie. Sometimes honesty costs you. Have you learned that? Sometimes it costs to tell the truth on a form.

But God says that if you’re faithful to him in this, you’ll never have to worry about your financial needs.

By Rick Warren
A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 21st August 2017

When God asks you to do something extraordinary, it’s because He wants to do something extraordinary.

Several years ago, I was preparing to travel to a church on the south coast of England where I had been invited to speak at a midweek service. A day or so beforehand I heard the Holy spirit speak clearly to me these words…”whatever they give you when they take up an offering for you is not to be touched by you. It’s for that couple you know that has no money. Send it straight to them. Do not touch it yourself.”

It was very clear what I had to do, and if I’m honest I thought it was a very simple thing for me to do. After all, the church was pretty small and I knew that anything they gave me would probably just cover the fuel to get there and back.

“No big deal”… I kind of said back to God, inside my head.

The evening at the church went well and as I was leaving I was given an envelope with the largest amount of cash that I’d ever received for speaking. I looked down and saw a total written on the outside of the enevelope…£350! ‘Oh drat’, I thought as I was trying to sound grateful. I had needs myself back at home and now I’m about to send the whole amount to a couple I hardly know. Part of me was mildly annoyed, but every bit of me knew that this was a step of obedience that I had to take.

As I got in the car to leave, the pastor hurriedly handed me a further envelope and gave me strict orders from the person that had given it to him. “This must not be given away…it’s yours.”

It was just after midnight when I got home and in a cynical and tired manner I began to think about sending the largest gift ever in the post the next morning. I found myself musing over the other envelope and began to think about what was potentially in there. A gift of maybe £10 or even £20, but whatever it is, it’s probably not even going to be anywhere near what I’m just about to give away. I admit, I was completely down sizing God’s ability to meet my needs after taking such a chunk of money off me when I most needed it for my own family.

You can imagine my surprise, not to mention my remorse for thinking such thoughts, when I found myself staring at a cheque for £2000!

When God asks you to sow the seed you have, He’s setting you up for a harvest that’s on its way to you.

Don’t be afraid today to obey God, nor should you be afraid to give him everything you have. He knows exactly what He’s doing. Never doubt it – just do it.

Luke 6:38 Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.’

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 19th August 2017

I have always been an impatient person. I like things done now. But I also like things done right.

After being married to my wonderful husband (who happens to be a great chef) for 33 plus years, I know that good things take time. I know that if i want a great meal, or even a good one, I have to be patient and wait.
Microwave and instant are not favourites in our house when it comes to food or drinks. I don’t like microwaved food or pot noodles or instant coffee. I much prefer to wait (even though it’s hard at times) and get something worth waiting for.

So why is it, that it’s any different when it comes to God?

Good things take time. GREAT things take longer.
Breakthroughs don’t always happen overnight.
To get a break through, you have to ‘break through’. Yes, I do know that God can suddenly do something, but usually it takes time.

There will be a resistance to your breakthrough from the enemy of your soul. That’s why we have to be people of prayer, pushing through, being persistent AND patient.

So keep praying, keep believing and even make fasting a part of your life style and in doing so, see your life go from good to GREAT this year and see and experience God doing some amazing things in and through you.

The best my friends is yet to come.

Ephesians 3. 20-21
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 18th August 2017

The human heart – we don’t see it, but if it stopped, we would drop dead!

In the scriptures “the heart” is mentioned over a thousand times. This isn’t talking about the physical heart actually, it’s talking about the spiritual heart – the centre of emotional, intellectual and moral activity.

I’m guessing if God mentions our heart that often– it might be important in life. In fact scripture says, ‘…all life flows from the heart.’ That means that how I think, how I feel and all my values for living life start in the heart. That’s a big deal! So anything negative that gets into my heart will directly influence how my life looks! Equally, anything positive that I feed in, will directly influence how my life looks!

A few years ago I went to New York city around Christmas time and my parents gave me some money to purchase a piece from the jewellery shop, Tiffany and Co. on 5th Avenue. I treated myself to a necklace with a heart pendant. I wore this piece almost everyday for three years. I intended to pass it on to my daughter one day. It was precious to me and held sentimental value. Recently, I lost that heart necklace. I was using a changing room in a local shopping centre and it hasn’t been seen since! Naturally, I was so upset.

I felt God tell me something in the process of trying to find it. How much more should we value and protect our spiritual heart and be careful not to lose it?

Scripture says we have been given a new heart through God, but it still interacts with a world that tries to tell it how to think and feel and live. We need to be vigilant and intentional about protecting it. If I have something as precious as a heart in which all life flows from, I would want to guard it like a royal jewel! I would want to protect it, check it, only let the good stuff in, figure out what makes it sing and fight to make sure nothing taints it!

Proverbs 4:23 Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.

Emma Montesi

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 17th August 2017

Mark 11:24-25 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.’

I read these verses 40 years ago. At that exact moment I decided that if God were God and the Bible true, then I would dare to believe what was said.

I started out by taking tiny steps of faith. In fact it seems almost nothing now, but I well remember asking God to supply my need of £5! It was a seemingly small step, but it was a very real need to me then. I re-read the Bible verse again to check that I’d read it correctly and yes…I was to ask, believe and then receive.

That day, I simply brought my need to God and then thanked Him for providing my need. Within a day or so, I was holding my answer to prayer in my hand. An old couple that I visited that day called me back as I was leaving their house and insisted on giving me a £5 note. My faith grew stronger and I started to trust God for more. Faith is just like a muscle; it has to be used and stretched in order to grow stronger.

I didn’t realise that all those years ago that I would be called upon by God to trust Him for so much more. The next challenge was to trust Him for thousands, and then hundreds of thousands, and today as I write, I have been privileged to be able to trust Him for millions. Please understand, that none of this was to line my own pockets; I was simply to believe so that the finance could flow to me so that it could flow through me.

If you’ve never believed that God is able to provide for you and through you then make a decision to start right now.

I find that having specific prayer targets is the most helpful thing that I’ve ever done in helping me to pray. I write things in a prayer diary and will pray for them each week until I see the answer. On some occasions, I’ve prayed for more than four years for something before seeing an answer. The key is to never give up.

Right now I have a prayer list of more than 35 items on it. Each one is broughy to God in prayer on a regular basis. Sometimes daily and sometimes weekly.

The list contains people’s names, impossible situations, my children and grandchildren, my church and even myself. I pray about specific things and never leave things to just vague requests. Right now I’m trusting God (again) for a million pounds so that we can move forward in building the children’s annexe at the church.

I find that most people run out of things to say after they’ve prayed for a few minutes. That’s usually because they haven’t started to make lists of requests in order to bring them to God each day.

Always remember that the biggest reason for unanswered prayer is un-prayed prayer.

Start to make your list of requests today. You may only have one or two things to ask for right now, but that list will soon grow and before long you’ll be praying for 20 minutes and more.

Unsure as to whether you should ask?

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

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 16th August 2017

There’s rarely a day goes by, but that I start it with a good half hour in what I call my ‘quiet time’. I get up early, make a cup of tea and sit in the same seat. On one side of me I have my Bible and on the other I have my prayer list. That list is filled with requests for people and situations, as well as my own needs, that of our family and of course our church.

Some people would consider it a waste of time so early in the morning. They prefer to use it lying longer in bed and then racing around, getting themselves ready for work; but I know from more than 30 years of doing this that my life would not be the same if I didn’t spend my first moments with Jesus.

If you think of life like a merry -go -round, then you are not too far away from what each day feels like when it gets going. Taking a few moments with God, before the ride starts, sets you up properly for the day. You may well wake up some days frustrated, tired, bored, confused, annoyed, anxious, and even at odds with yourself, and yet in this few quber moments you can lay it all out before God and realign your life as to what really matters and find peace even in the midst of the worst storm.

I like to read the Bible as if it were a three course meal; It feeds me spiritually before the day starts. I read it through consecutively, so that I don’t just randomly stumble on something that takes my fancy each morning. I’ll read a little from the Old Testament as my starter; then a little from the New Testament as my main course; then a little from Psalms or Proverbs as my dessert, washed down with spending a few moments with God in prayer.

I find that diet to be tried and trusted; one that will help form a daily habit in keeping you not only well balanced, but well nourished too.

In just the same way that your physical and emotional health is important, then so is your spiritual health, in fact, it’s more important in that you are involving and including God in your every move. If anyone can help you…He can.

If your life is out of control from the moment you wake, then why not make a decision starting right now to plan for a ‘quiet time’ each day?

Set your alarm clock for tomorrow morning just 30 minutes earlier and start the day with Jesus.

Join me again tomorrow morning for more practical hints on how to pray and see answers everyday.

Psalm 46:10 He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God;…’

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 15th August 2017

You’ll never see an eagle mixing with a chicken. Why? Because they weren’t meant to. Chickens can’t get very far off the ground and yet eagles are the ones who fly the highest.

Yesterday, we talked about how God’s thoughts and ways are higher than ours.
Here are some positive steps that will help you to get higher in your life.

1. As an eagle and chicken weren’t meant to mix, there are possibly some people you need to let go of too. Certain relationships can keep us where we are not meant to be.
The right people will take you higher.

2. Jesus often went to high places to pray. Why? Because He needed to be alone and get away from the crowd. Take time to get alone and pray. Prayer will take you higher.

3. When you spend time alone with God, He will start to reveal His plan for your life. That will get exciting and maybe even scary at times. But His plans will aim us to reach higher.
Get some purpose in your life. Purpose will take us higher.

4. Don’t give up. Don’t settle for second rate living and a second rate experience. God has some awesome plans for you. His word tells me that he has an abundant life planned just for me. (John 10 v 10) Persistence will take you higher.
With prayer comes purpose.. with purpose you’ll need persistence … and with the right people in your life, you’re aiming HIGH.
GO FOR IT.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 14th August 2017

In Isaiah 55 vs 8&9, it tells me this: “God’s ways are higher than mine and His thoughts are higher than mine.”
Which means there must be a higher way of thinking than how I usually think and a higher way of doing things than how I usually do them.

The longer that I’ve been a Christian, the more I realise that where I am today in my life is actually up to me.
Thinking makes up a large part of your life.

“As a man thinks, so he is.” – Proverbs 23 v 7

“You are what you think” is a popular quote.
God’s thinking is higher and He wants yours to be too.
Start to understand that there is a higher way for you to reach for, believe for, attain to and experience.

You may not feel that you are reaching for higher things, because your life is way down low at the moment and it seems too hard to get anywhere higher. One small thought can make a BIG difference. Start to declare positive things over your life, even if you can’t see it happening right now. Start thinking and saying “It will and can be different.”

God doesn’t control our thinking – we all have free will, so choose to think differently today. And when you do, your life will start to change also.

You may be faced with a sick child, a huge bill you can’t pay, a difficult person in your life, no hope of a job, a problem you can’t seem to solve. Don’t think how you used to, how you always have, but think bigger and differently today.

Change your mind and change your life.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 12th August 2017

Everyone has a plan and purpose for their lives.. It’s a God given plan. Yet, we all have free will as to whether we choose to live it out or not.
God is the one who made us, whether you believe that or not, He did. He knows you better than you know yourself and HIS plan for you is IDEAL. He is your Maker.

You can buy a new car and totally ignore the manufacturer’s instructions if you’d like. You can try putting Coca Cola in the fuel tank, instead of petrol or diesel, but you won’t get very far. Because the maker knows best.
It’s like that, with the life God has planned for you.

Some time ago, I went to speak to a group of women who had in the world’s eyes ‘made a mess of their lives’. Some had made mistakes that had life altering effects on them. Yet, the beautiful thing was, they had all got one thing in common – they had realised their mistakes and returned to ‘The Maker’s Instructions’. Each one had devoted their lives to God and now it was as if their lives were brand new. They were living out purposeful and rich lives.

You see, God isn’t fazed by where you’ve been and what you’ve done. He welcomes your return with open arms.

The sooner you realise that God’s plan is actually perfect, the sooner you can live fulfilled and purposeful.

Refer to the Maker’s instructions.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 11th August 2017

Hebrews 10:35 So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.

There are two kinds of people that you will meet in life: confidence-makers, and confidence-shakers.

Which are you?

The story is told of a man who sold hot dogs on the road side. He was hard of hearing, so we had no radio. He had poor eyesight so he didn’t read the newspaper. But his hotdogs were great. He Put up signs on the side of the road advertising them everyday and people came from everywhere. Eventually he branched out, became prosperous and was able to send his son to College.
Unfortunately, his son came back with just enough education to make him dangerous. One day he said, “Dad, haven’t you heard the radio or read the newspaper? There’s is a big recession. The stock market is down, unemployment is up, things in Europe are terrible and it’s getting worse every day.”

Whereupon the man thought, “well, my son’s been to college. He reads the papers and listens to the radio-he ought to know. “So he cut down his meat and bread roll orders, took down the signs and no longer bothered to stand out on the roadside. Overnight his sales fell and within a month he was out of business. “You’re right,” he told his son, “we certainly are in the middle of a big recession. ”

Be careful! The words of confidence-shakers can become self-fulfilling prophecies if you buy into them.

So how do you overcome them?

Firstly, read the Bible and let it strengthen your faith and resolve for the things that God has asked you to do with your life, And second, remember that there will always be confidence – shakers, so make sure you surround yourself with confidence-makers.

Whether you believe you can or you can’t – you’re right!

Numbers 13:30 Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, ‘We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.’

 

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 10th August 2017

Hebrews 10:35-37 So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For, ‘In just a little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay.’

What are you believing God for today? Healing? Relationship? Promotion? Freedom from addiction? God has promised all these things to you in His word. He wants you to live in blessing and wholeness all the days of your life. But in order to experience his promises, we have to do our part. We have to keep believing and trusting in him. That’s what today’s verse is saying: if we will keep in faith, if we will keep believing and trusting in Him, if we will keep doing the right thing, Gods promises will be there as a reward. I like how one translation of the Bible puts it, “Don’t get discouraged. Pay day is coming.”

When you’re tempted to get down, when things aren’t going your way, just say to yourself, “this may be hard, it may be taking a long time, but I know God is a faithful God. I’m going to keep believing because my reward is coming.”

Today as you trust Him and stand in faith, and as you boldly declare His promises you are positioning yourself to receive his blessing. No matter what your circumstances look like, remember payday is on its way – and you will experience the blessing He’s promised all the days of your life!

2 Corinthians 1:20 ‘
For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ‘Yes’ in Christ…’

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 9th August 2017

There was a time not too long ago in which we enjoyed the more simple things of life.

I remember as a child going out to play for hours on end without any thought of having to report back home to let them know things were ok.

In my early teens, I would go out on my push bike on a Saturday and travel for miles with my mates and never think about the fact that we ought to be going home or at least finding a phone box, as someone may be worried about us. Nowadays, there’s hardly an hour that passes by between kids and parents when a text isn’t sent to find out where they are. Rightly so, in most cases.

Then there were the holiday photographs, which would remain in the camera for months on end until you’d finished the roll of film. You could hardly wait to get your full colour pictures back to show everyone what an amazing holiday you’d had six months earlier. Now it’s instantaneous and a minute by minute account of your daily life for all to see.

With the rise of social media, which can be an incredibly positive thing, we now can find out what many people had for dinner last night! This used to remain a private affair, but now the whole world can see exactly what you had, where you went, and who with.

As human beings, we are drawn into the fascination with other people’s lives, but sadly the power of comparison is the biggest joh killer on the planet.

Their family is better than mine…their figure is more toned than mine…their food is better than mine…their holiday was more exotic than mine, and before too long you have downgraded your own life to a miserable existence, simply because you are busy bodying yourself with everyone else’s life rather than focusing on the life that God gave to YOU.

Remember that most of what you see on social media is filtered and staged and is not so real as you think. Every great pouting pic is the very best shortlisted shot from a hundred awful ones.

Have you ever wondered why the Bible says this…

‘We hear that some among you are idle and disruptive. They are not busy; they are busybodies.’ 2 Thessalonians 3:11

How many people find themselves trapped in an existence of being a constant busybody, simply by trawling through endless Instagram and Facebook updates on an hour by hour basis?

Give yourself permission today to get off the band wagon and make a decision to either greatly reduce your social media intake or dare I say…stop it altogether. It’s making you lazy and the judge and jury over stuff that in the past you would have never known about anyway.

You will get back to living a far more productive life if you will simply set yourself free from being the ‘media police’, and get back the joy of doing what YOU were created for.

I have enough trouble managing my own life let alone trying to ‘manage’ thousands of other people’s lives across the world, most of whom couldn’t care less about what I think anyway, and quite rightly so.

God has not called you to give an opinion on anyone else’s life apart from your own. The only exceptions to that are those in your family, those who are closest to you, and those who you may have been given responsibility over to lead. These people value what you may have to say to them in a gracious and loving manner. Apart from that…keep your nose out of other people’s business.

It’s a modern day choice, but a very necessary one.

Get your joy back today.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 8th August 2017

In tennis, the time spent positioning yourself to serve can win or lose the match. Often when a player is winning on their serve, it can point to the fact that they could well win the match. If an opponent ‘breaks’ the other player’s serve, it’s a sign that things are now going the other way.

How you position yourself to serve in life, is also an indicator of whether you will be a winner or a loser.

For some people serving is beneath them. They say things like “I don’t feel cut out to serve”, which is really an excuse for being lazy or simply having a wrong view of what it means to serve.

Other people won’t serve because they feel called to much grander things and therefore don’t want to serve in small ways just in case they miss out on the big things. Again, a completely messed up view on what serving is all about.

Serving is not beneath us, but above us. It is a ‘high calling’ for every person on the planet. You have to step up, not down, to serve.

Take a look at the following passage of the Bible…

Acts 6:8 Now Stephen, a man full of God’s grace and power, performed great wonders and signs AMONG the people.

For many, that’s the very kind of thing that you would love to do. You only see yourself being recognised on the centre stage of life and so you would prefer to skip the serving stage and go straight for the ‘power for the hour’ stuff.

Let’s ask the question: How did he get there?

Just three verses earlier, we find that the leaders of the early church were looking for seven men that they could trust to ‘wait’ on tables. This was a role that was important for the daily distribution of bread to the poor and needy of the area. Anyone could have been chosen surely, but after a brief discussion they came up with a list of names and guess who was at the top of the list…

Acts 6:5 They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism.

Stephen, the guy that was mightily used by God was being asked to wait on tables, and he said YES.

When God looks for a person upon whom he can place His grace, power, great signs and wonders, He doesn’t look for platform person he looks for table person. Someone that is willing to serve.

Could it have been that very act of serving released him three verses later in the power of God?

Our serving today will win the match.

How good is your serve today?

Never think that serving is beneath you, as it’s the very doorway that all of us must walk through if we are to win in life.

Where are you serving this week?

Remember…find a need and fill it.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 7th August 2017

Each of us has a certain level of demand on our lives. Everyday, there are many different things wanting to pull on our time, our energy and our resources, leaving us to decide what to say yes to and what to say no to.

There is a tendency in many of us to be people pleasers, never wanting to turn down an opportunity, always trying to avoid saying ‘no’ at whatever the cost.

However, there comes a time in your life when you must decide if you are going to be managed by your opportunities or by your priorities.

There will be many good opportunities that will come your way in life that will prove very tempting. You can either chase after those or decide to give first place to what matters most.

Take some time today to establish what your priorities are and devote the majority of your time, energy and resources to these… and when you do so, I do believe that the quality of your life will go to another level.

Understand that your ‘yes’ is only as powerful as your ‘no’. If you find yourself saying yes to every opportunity and request, your yes loses value. But if you carry the ability to say no, when you do say yes, people will have a far greater appreciation for it.

Decide today, am I going to be a person dictated by opportunity or priority… the choice is yours.

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – 5th August 2017

You were created to serve. Jesus Himself gave the greatest example
Matthew 20 v 28 – Jesus came not to be served but to serve.

If it’s good enough for Jesus, then it’s good enough for me.

We should never think serving is too lowly, or that it’s not for us, or for those with nothing better to do. Serving is for everyone.
Serving is actually the highest calling. See Jesus the Son of God as the perfect example.

We should all see serving as part of our lives, we were never called to fill a seat, whilst everyone else serves us.
Get up, if you’re sitting down and make a difference!

What does serving bring? It brings honour. We humble ourselves as we serve and God promotes the humble. That’s honour. When God promotes me.. that’s a great place to be.

John 12 v 26. My Father will honour the one who serves me.
WOW. To be honoured by God is surely the best place to be.

Romans 14 v 18. Anyone who serves Christ, is pleasing God and receives human approval.
WOW. A double whammy. God is pleased and people will be pleased too.

No one likes a lazy person. Or one who thinks they are too important to serve. Or one who says “I’m too busy to serve.”

Let’s take on the example of Jesus today and be a blessing to those around us. Serve in our churches and communities. Serve in our home. Serve those around us who we are called to do life with.

Then see what an amazing difference that will bring to your life.
Purpose, peace and blessing to name just a few.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 4th August 2017

The story is told of a singing parakeet named Charlie. The bird’s problems began one day when the old lady who owned him decided to clean the dirt and feathers out of the bottom of his cage using a vacuum cleaner. Suddenly the phone rang and as she turned to pick it up, there was an awful sucking sound and and a WHOOSH …Charlie was gone!

In a panic, she turned off the vacuum cleaner, opened the dust bag and there was Charlie…stunned but still breathing. Seeing he was covered in thick black dust she rushed him to the bath where she turned on the cold water full blast and held him under it for a few seconds. At that point, she realised that she’d made things even worse, so she quickly cranked up the hairdryer and gave him a blast. Suffice to say…. Charlie doesn’t sing much any more.

How often do we allow circumstances to suck the very life out of us so that we don’t sing anymore?

Don’t let life steal your song!

Isaiah 54 gives us the secrets of what to do when nothing is happening and everything seems to be against us. Listen to the words it uses to help us get over ourselves…SING – BURST INTO SONG – ENLARGE – DO NOT HOLD BACK- LENGTHEN – STRENGTHEN – SPREAD OUT- THINK BIG!

When going through some of the darkest places and times in your life, the first thing that happens is that you lose your song. You stop thanking and praising and you stop believing for bigger and better things to come.

Take a hold of your self right now and start to worship God. Thank Him and praise Him, for though you can’t see a way forward, He is about to super size your life. He does it when you make a decision to sing and shout aloud. Praise opens your heart for all that God wants to bring to your life today. See it as a doorway through which your future has to travel.

The secret of your victory is found also in the words of David…’ His praise will continually be on my lips’. Psalm 34 v 1

Praise is not just a ‘Church thing’ – it’s a lifestyle.

It will change your approach to life…problems…your attitude towards people…your future…and the atmosphere around you.

Go ahead, start to schedule times of praise into your day and watch what happens!

Isaiah 54:1-5 ‘SING, barren woman, you who never bore a child; burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labour; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband,’ says the Lord. ‘Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes. For you will spread out to the right and to the left; your descendants will dispossess nations and settle in their desolate cities. ‘Do not be afraid; you will not be put to shame. Do not fear disgrace; you will not be humiliated. You will forget the shame of your youth and remember no more the reproach of your widowhood. For your Maker is your husband – the Lord Almighty is his name…’

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 3rd August 2017

At 18, George Frederick Handel was the harpsichordist at the Kaiser’s Opera house in Hamburg, Germany. By 21 he was a keyboard virtuoso and a celebrated composer by appointment to the king of England.

Yet despite all this, he faced terrible adversity. First, there was the fierce rivalry of the English composers. Next, there were the fickle audiences who often didn’t show up for his performances. Several times he was on the verge of bankruptcy. Finally, he suffered a stroke on his left side and temporarily lost the use of four fingers on his right hand. At 56, deeply discouraged, fearing he’d land in the debtors prison, he gave what he considered to be his farewell concert. To him, life had become one big rut and he didn’t know how to climb out of it.
Then something incredible happened. That same year, a wealthy friend visited him and gave him what was called a ‘libretto’, (the text to an opera or other musical piece) based on the life of Christ. It intrigued him and stirred his emotions, so he began writing. Immediately the floodgates of inspiration opened and for the next 21 days he wrote almost non-stop. During the following three days, he created the orchestrations. In just 25 days, George Frederick Handel, the man who had decided that his life is over, created the 260 page masterpiece known to us as Handel’s Messiah!

Royal protocol demands that all Kings and Queens stand for the playing of the Hallelujah Chorus.

Fearing that you may be too old and past it for God to use you in the same great way?
Take heart today and make a decision to…

  1.  Forget your past

2. Confront your fears

3. Seize your God-given opportunities as they come knocking on your door.

The best is yet to come!

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 2nd August 2017

If you’re making a difference, expect to be criticised!

If you’ve never been criticised, don’t take it as a compliment, but more as a sign that you are not doing anything.

Criticism is just proof that your influence is being felt. You are also in good company…Jesus was always coming under heavy fire from His critics.

When gospel singer Carmen held a concert at Mardi Gras he was severely criticised for mixing with unsavoury people. But he answered, “isn’t the darkness supposed to flee from the light, and not the light from darkness?” So he held his concert and 100’s came to faith in Jesus.

It’s impossible to keep every body happy all of the time, in fact don’t even waste your time trying. Just concentrate on pleasing God.

When a hawk is attacked by the crows, it never counter-attacks. No, it simply soars higher and higher, until the pests live it alone. Stop trying to please your critics, but rather circle above them on the wings of faith and don’t let them bring you down to their level.

Remember…you attitude and example will do more to change people’s minds about you than all the arguments you put up against them.

Romans 12:19-21 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 1st August 2017

Criticism will either crush you or energise you. The same wind that threatens the turkey on the ground, will lift the eagle above the storm. If you’re facing criticism today, consider these things carefully: First, what’s the source? Where it’s coming from is initially far more important than what’s being said. Second, is it destructive or constructive? Often we view critics like this…constructive criticism is when I criticise you, but destructive criticism is when you criticise me! You may smile, but we have to learn to detect the ‘spirit’ behind the words. Third, is it judgmental or gentle? If words are spoken in kindness, they’re probably meant to be constructive.

None of us like to be criticised, so we each have to be careful with our attitude towards the critic. You will usually find in even the worst criticism against you that there is a nugget of truth in what is being said somewhere, so always take it away and sift through it until you find it.

If you get bitter towards your critics, you will end up far worse than they ever knew how to be.

If you’re facing criticism today, take another look at how Jesus handled it, and ask Him to help you do it His way.

1 Peter 2:21-23
This is the kind of life you’ve been invited into, the kind of life Christ lived. He suffered everything that came his way so you would know that it could be done, and also know how to do it, step-by-step. He never did one thing wrong, Not once said anything amiss. They called him every name in the book and he said nothing back.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 31st July 2017

Here’s a fact – everyone does better with encouragement.
A child at school. A wife. A sportsman. A musician. An employee. We could go on. Whatever your walk in life, when you get encouraged, you will be better.

We will all succeed, if down the line, we all get the encouragement that we need.

We can get tired, feel like giving up, get confused, say “is it worth it?”, “nothing is going right. We can feel that all is against us.
We can give out a lot in life and not always get a lot back.

Some people sit around waiting to be encouraged. That’s not right.
Some people give up if they don’t get encouraged, that’s not right.
To encourage means to inspire with courage, to give hope to, to give help to.

Encouraging is powerful.

Whoever you meet today, encourage them. They will be better for it.
“You cooked a lovely meal” – means it will be even better next time.
“You preached great today” – means they’ll preach even better next time.
“You did a great job today” – means they’ll do an even better one tomorrow.

When you encourage, you’re making someone’s life better. You may even save them from giving up. You may be the answer to their prayers.
NEVER HOLD BACK on encouragement. You could be a life saver.

And guess what? Whatever you sow, you will reap.

So just you wait.. it will come back to you.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 29th July 2017

Lots of people decide to quit when life gets hard. If the enemy has got you to quit, he has done a good job! Think about it.

I occasionally talk to people who think about quitting. Why? Because life is hard, stuff is hard, work can be hard, school/college, relationships – no one ever promised us that life would be easy.

Don’t you think it was hard for Michael Phelps the US record- holding Olympic gold medalist to win 23 golds? Or do we think that was somehow easy?
Don’t you think there were times when he wanted to quit?
When he wanted to stay out late with mates, instead of being in bed ridiculously early because of training the next day?
When he wanted to stay in bed on those winter mornings, when it would have been far easier to do so?
When he really wanted to eat loads of cheesecake, when that wasn’t on his diet sheet?
When he didn’t want to do any more laps because he was tired?

Of course it was hard and of course life is hard too.

Wasn’t it hard for Moses and Daniel and Noah and Esther and all the Bible greats?
Wasn’t it hard for Jesus to go to the cross for each one of us?

Sometimes me and you can be quite pathetic, when it comes to giving up too easily. Sometimes the slightest thing or distraction can take us off course.

Please don’t give up today. Stay the course. Go for gold. Push through.

I’m glad Jesus didn’t quit and neither should you. You can do it.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 28th July 2017

Whether you recognise it today or not, you need to know that you have an assignment from God. You’re not here by accident, your existence is not a mistake, but God has created you on purpose, for a purpose.

Because of this truth, the devil would love nothing more than to get you off of your assignment, and the way he does this is by getting you to believe that your assignment is insignificant.

Don’t believe the lie…

The call of God upon your life carries great significance, so much so, that people are counting on you to carry it out.

Maybe you’re heading to the same job today that you’ve been at for multiple decades – know that your faithfulness is significant. Maybe you’re a single Mom trying to raise your family – know that your commitment is significant. Maybe you’re a leader of an organisation – know that what you’re pioneering is significant!

Don’t allow the devil to get you to believe that who you are and what you do is insignificant, but realise today that who you are and what you do has eternal significance attached to it.

Don’t give up, keep on going… there’s a generation counting on you!

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – 27th July 2017

On Tuesday of this week, I attended the funeral service of a very special lady. It was actually a thanksgiving service for her life.
So many wonderful thoughts were shared about her and there was a whole lot of love in the church that day for an amazing lady.

We can learn a lot of things from the ‘passing away’ of someone. One of the biggest things has to be this…

Don’t wait for someone to ‘pass away’ before you let them know how much you care and loved them. It’s actually too late then.
Your encouragement and love can make a WORLD of a difference to someone’s life, whilst they are still alive.

Here’s some of the excuses we give…
“They know I love them.” Do they? Maybe not?
Keep reminding them. It’s an amazing blessing you’re giving to someone’s life.

“I’m too busy to stop my busy life.” Don’t ever say that. Take time before it’s too late. None of us are promised tomorrow.

Often, someone’s passing makes us fully understand how we felt about that person. Isn’t that sad? Be thankful for them TODAY.

A word of love, a hug, an affirmation, an encouragement will make someone’s life so much richer. Have you ever wondered if someone really cares about you?
Start to sow care and love and encouragement and you will reap it back.

AND MOST IMPORTANTLY…Start your day, every day, being thankful to God.
Thankful for breath in your body and a life to live to the fullest.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 26th July 2017

Yesterday, I took the funeral of a dear friend who would have been just 44 on Sunday. Angie Morris was a vibrant Christian that lit up any room that she walked into. For the last two years she has battled with cancer that eventually spread throughout her body. She lost the battle a few days ago.

In the natural, it would appear that all has been lost, but for Angie no matter how many days she suffered she never lost her faith in Jesus.

Just two weeks before she passed away, my wife and I sat drinking coffee with her in our local coffee shop. We laughed, cried and held her hands across the table as we prayed one more time. The last thing she spoke to us about was the life changing event that happened some 16 years earlier. She had been walking through the shopping mall with her mom one Sunday afternoon and was stopped in her tracks as she heard the band and choir from our church performing at the amphitheatre that day. Tears rolled down her face as she listened. The following Sunday she came to church and has never looked back. She gave her life to Jesus and made a choice to serve him right up until her last breath.

She has touched so many lives since then.

Were it not for that moment, she would openly say that she had no idea how she would have got through the last couple of years. God has been her continual source of hope and strength, especially through her darkest days.

Literally hundreds of people have stood with her in prayer.

At times like these, we all are forced to think about our own lives and where we stand with Jesus. No matter what happened, Angie knew for sure that she would be safe with Jesus.

When the Bible translates the word ‘death’ in the New Testament, it uses a different word when relating it to a Christian. It uses a word that intimates that this is not the end for someone like Angie…it uses the word ‘sleep’. On every occasion that a Christian dies it says that they have simply ‘fallen asleep’.

Falling asleep is not a fearful thing as you fully expect to wake up! Isn’t it amazing that sleep takes you completely out of the normal world of time and space and can make 6 or 7 hours seem like but a few minutes? And so it is with Angie, she has fallen asleep only to wake again in a brand new world called Heaven, with seemingly no passing of time, straight into the presence of God forever.

Death to the Christian is not something to be feared as we know we will meet again.

Do you have that sure and certain hope that when death most certainly comes knocking at your door, that you will be with Jesus for eternity?

That assurance comes from simply acknowledging Him in your life. Why not pray a simple prayer right now asking Jesus to come into your heart? He is more than willing and able to forgive you for everything you’ve ever done wrong and make you right with God. When you do that you will be immediately flooded with His peace and you will know that He is alive.

Death doesn’t have to be ‘goodbye’, with Jesus it’s a case of ‘see you later’.

Angie knew it…do you?

John 11:25-26 Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?’

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 25th July 2017

There are two men in identical circumstances but with totally opposite experiences.

For months, they’re both kept in complete isolation from families, woken early every morning for forced labour and exercise. They’re both fed on plain tasteless food and water and forced to fight against their will.

One is the saddest man in the world but the other is the happiest. How is this possible?

Because one man is in a prisoner of war camp, and the other is the heavyweight champion of the world preparing for another fight.

What a difference it makes knowing the ‘meaning’ of what we’re doing.

When we have meaning and we live with it clearly before us, it can place perspective on all we do! We can then actually enjoy hardships and trials because we see them as training for a world changing battle that we know we have already won.

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

The reality is, in all the challenges we face, we actually have the choice of either being a ‘prisoner of war’, a victim, or the ‘heavyweight champion of the world’, a victor! We decide which by choosing either ‘to see’ or ‘not to see’, the world changing significance of the battles we’re in.

I encourage you today in whatever you are facing, make a choice to see it as another gym session, another press up, one more stomach crunch in preparation for a glorious battle, a sensational victory and for that crown that will last forever. See any difficulty not as an obstacle to avoid or just get past, but elite training for a world changing mission! Don’t be a victim but a victor and run to win.

Luke Cartwright

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 24th July 2017

I recently joined the gym. I never expected it to be easy, but neither did I expect to enjoy it quite so much either. For probably the first time in my adult life, I have found something that not only keeps me fit, but also helps me shut off for an hour or so from all the challenges that I face daily in leading a church.

I try to get there 3-4 times a week and have already noticed the change that is taking place in my general stamina levels. As my youngest son also goes to the same gym, I sometimes go at the same time that he does and hitch a lift with him. On Saturday afternoon we went together, and as he was driving I took a few moments to sit back and relax in the warm sunshine that was breaking through the rain clouds that had been with us all over the weekend. As we arrived on the gym car park, I felt so warm and comfortable that I didn’t want to get out of the car. ‘How ironic’, I thought to myself ‘that I’m on my way to the gym and I actually have so much enjoyed the five minute journey that I want to make my means of transport my resting place.’

How easy is it in life to get so comfortable on the way to where you are going that you actually fall in love with places along the journey more than the destination itself?

In the Old Testament, we see Abraham journeying with his whole family to the promised land. However, when he reached Haran he decided to settle there, forgetting that it was only a means to the end and only half way to where he was bound for. Interestingly, Haran means parched and dry and became the death of him.

He died never having reached the place he was meant to, in favour of the comfort, convenience and the seeming security of his stopping off place.

Ask yourself the question, ‘would you ever make a motorway service station your holiday home in favour of moving onto the place you were bound for?’ Exactly!!

If you feel tempted today to settle for anything less than God’s best for your life, then shake yourself right now and get moving before you make your resting place somewhere far away from the destination God has for you.

Don’t stop short.

Push through and never give up.

You’re closer to your destiny than you think right now.

Hebrews 10:36-39 You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For, ‘In just a little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay.’ And, ‘But my righteous one will live by faith. And I take no pleasure in the one who shrinks back.’ But we do not belong to those who shrink back and are destroyed, but to those who have faith and are saved.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 22nd July 2017

A teacher was teaching her class one day about Lot’s wife. “The Bible says that Lot’s wife looked back and turned into a pillar of salt,” she said. One child responded, “that’s nothing, my Mom was driving home yesterday and she looked back and turned into a lamppost.”

Lot’s wife only appears briefly in one part of the Bible, so why does Jesus tell us to remember her? Two reasons:

1) She invested her life in something that had no future. God tried to get Lot’s wife out of Sodom, but He couldn’t get Sodom out of her. When she thought of what she was leaving behind, she looked back and turned into a cold, unresponsive monument. When God says it’s time to move, don’t hesitate. Don’t become like those who once walked with him, but now are cold and unresponsive. Don’t become a monument to the past.

2) Your decisions have consequences. If only she’d kept moving forward so that when her daughters got to the place ahead of her, she would’ve been there to protect them. Instead, they became victims of abuse and incest. Before you lose your children, poison your marriage and tear up your life by refusing to break with your past…’remember Lot’s wife’. She didn’t make it to safety, but she did make it into the Bible long enough to warn us about three things: a) Complacency b) involvement with wrong things and c) a divided heart.

Remember…memories take us back, dreams take us forwards.

Luke 17:32-33 Remember Lot’s wife! Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 21st July 2017

Before God’s people could get out of Egypt, Pharaoh made them three different offers. To each one of the offers, Moses had the courage to turn them down, otherwise they would have never got free from slavery.

First, Pharaoh said, “go, and leave your children here.” Then he said, “go, and leave your business here.” Finally, he said, “go, but don’t go too far.” Moses told him in no uncertain terms, “we are taking everything with us.”

When confronted with the enemy, that’s exactly what you have got to do too – look the enemy in the eye and say…”I’m taking my family, my business and I’m going all the way with God.” That’s what it takes to get out of Egypt!

But what about getting into the Promised land? That happens only… One city at a time… One habit at a time… One attitude at a time… One step of faith at a time. It happens when you break the enemy’s hold on your finances and put God first. It happens when you take the remote control out of his hand and protect your family from a culture that corrupts. It happens when you refuse to contradict what God has said about you in his word. Never speak words that make the enemy think he is still in control-he’s not! The Bible says you have the authority to drive him out-and he’s got to go (Luke 10v17)

Rise up in faith today and announce, “I’m coming out of bondage and I’m going in to freedom.”

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 20th July 2017

We live in a world more and more environmentally aware, which is great; we hear a lot about the damage to the rainforest and Great Barrier reef, and endangered species like the Siberian tigers and pandas etc…

The problem is, it’s less and less God aware – the actual creator of the rainforest and the panda! And so what follows is as one of 7 billion humans on the planet we can feel expendable and we get the message that a panda’s life is worth more than ours.

This by the way isn’t true. The difference between us and all creation is that God breathed his spirit and likeness into us, meaning we’re of infinite worth to Him.

Isaiah 51:6 Lift up your eyes to the heavens, look at the earth beneath; the heavens will vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment and its inhabitants die like flies. But my salvation will last forever,my righteousness will never fail.

This verse helps us in a world where we can feel second place to a Panda that actually there is an eternal plan for us that is way beyond that of any created rainforest or barrier reef. There is a significance to you that stretches beyond the limited universe – you are worth more than many Siberian tigers!

This should then help us to also see the infinite worth of people we come into contact with every day and the fantastic mission field God has placed us in.

When you struggle for meaning in a world that can only operate within the obvious visible realities, take courage in God’s infinite purpose and plan that will outlast everything you can see.

2 Corinthians 4:16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 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.

Luke Cartwright

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 19th July 2017

If you want results like you’ve never had before, you’ve got to do something you’ve never done before.

In Luke 5, the disciples had been fishing and caught nothing, Jesus said “push out into deep waters and let your nets down for a catch.”
They had been fishing all night and yet not pushed out far enough, or deep enough.

If you’ve ever had a baby, you’ll know you have to PUSH. It may feel like you’re going to die, yet you’ll push because you know the end result is what you truly desire. Women get amazing strength from God at this time to keep pushing!

The enemy of our soul will convince us to give up and stop the pushing before we see what we are believing for, because it’s too much like hard work.

Don’t listen! Instead be a PUSHER – get out a bit further into the deeper waters and you will receive all that God has for you.

Their catch was colossal, and so will yours be.

Do not be tempted to give up before the thing is born. Press on and PUSH my friend.
P pray
U until
S something
H happens.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 18th July 2017

Yesterday, we looked at how important it is to keep ‘pushing’ for
what we are believing for.

P. Pray
U. Until
S. Something
H. Happens

In the Bible, the persistent widow came to the judge and kept bothering him. She didn’t get what she wanted because she came, but because she was persistent. You see, the judge kept saying “NO”, but she kept asking. Not satisfied with his answer, she hung on in there. (Luke 18)

People who ‘shove’ in life, usually aren’t liked.
People who ‘shove’ their way to the front, instead of waiting to be asked.
People who ‘shove’ for selfish ambition are not usually our favourites.
YET, pushing is not the same as shoving.
Pushing reminds me that I will not give up until I see what I’m believing for.
People who ‘push through’ their circumstances and don’t settle for what life throws at them, are admired and respected.

Today, be a PUSHER. Believe God again for your breakthrough, your miracle, and like the persistent widow… you may just receive it.

 

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 17th July 2017

Sometimes we really need to ‘push’ for things in our lives, yet we don’t get very far.
Sometimes when life is hard and the going gets tough, it’s easier to give up, rather than push through.

People can be interesting. If there is a clearance sale, or a long queue in the supermarket, we will ‘push’ forward rather than stand at the back.
In a queue of traffic, my husband will often go in the wrong lane, rather than queue in the correct one.

Yet there are times when God wants us to push through for things and we don’t. We say instead ‘whatever will be, will be.’

The Bible talks about us putting on our armour, taking up our weapons and going after the great things that God has for us. God never teaches us to just sit back and see what happens.

Today, I encourage you to push forward with that request, that dream or desire, that thing you are believing God for.

P.U.S.H – pray until something happens.

If life has given you a raw deal, if your marriage isn’t what it should be, if your health is not good…PUSH.
If your children are away from God, if your job is not your dream, if you are living a life that is not one to the full…PUSH.

Don’t give up. Pray until something happens.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 15th July 2017

One thing that you and I have in common is that we both have needs. My needs may be different than your needs, and your needs may be different than mine, but nevertheless, we’re both in need of something.

I want to encourage you today to see your need the way God sees your need. God doesn’t see your need as a problem, He sees your need as an opportunity.

God doesn’t see your financial struggle as a problem, He sees it as an opportunity to show you He’s a provider.

God doesn’t see your sickness as an issue, He sees it as an opportunity to show you He’s a healer.

God isn’t freaked out by your broken relationship, He sees it as an opportunity to show you He’s the God of restoration.

Consider this: if it wasn’t for your need today, how is it that God could demonstrate His power in your life?

Let’s change our prayer from, ‘God, get me out of this situation’, to, ‘God, reveal Yourself to me in this situation.’ And I believe once we do that, we’ll see Him like we’ve never seen Him before.

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – 14th July 2017

We all experience waiting, whether it’s in the queue for our morning Starbucks, our weekly shop or having to get some petrol at the last minute because you’ve realised you won’t make it to work!

Maybe you’re waiting for something more important, like exam results, or test results from the doctors. Either way, I’m sure we have and will all have to wait at some time in our life.
Be encouraged in your waiting, that you are not alone, in fact, allow your soul to draw ever closer to God in the waiting.

The Book of Psalms gives great insight and encouragement whilst we wait, as King David wrote multiple times how he waited on the Lord. During hard times, feeling alone or under attack, David knew that waiting on God would renew his strength and faith in God.

Remember today that whatever you are waiting for, whether in anticipation, excitement or even disillusionment – God is in the waiting.
Position your soul to receive His strength during this time. Be patient, be honourable and trust in Him.

Here are just threePsalms that can encourage you – 40, 128 & 130.

Adam Nash

A daily devotion for a better way of living,

Fresh Hope – 13th July 2017

2 Corinthians 6 v 10. ‘…sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.’

One single man saved hard and bought himself a ticket for a luxury cruise.

He couldn’t afford to buy food whilst aboard his long awaited holiday, so he decided beforehand to pack his case with cheese and crackers for the whole 10 days. He was happy to live meagerly knowing that it was a small price to pay in order to be on board a luxury liner.

Each meal time, he would longingly glance through the restaurant windows and watch the passengers enjoying their fine dining experience. He would then retreat to his little cabin for yet again another simple meal of cheese and crackers.

As the holiday of a lifetime came to an end and the passengers disembarked, the captain shook his hand and enquired as to why he’d never seen him in the restaurant or indeed at the captain’s table. He embarrassingly explained to the captain that he had used all his money to pay for the cruise and therefore couldn’t afford the fine dining experience.

To the man’s horror, the captain explained that his ticket included all the fine dining whilst onboard, and he had every right to all the food he wanted, just like all the other passengers.

Imagine living the whole of your life and not realise that you could have everything when you had thought all along that you were entitled to nothing?

I read again today from the Bible verse above and it impacted me like never before…’having nothing, yet possessing everything.’

When Jesus died on the cross for you, He paid IN FULL for you to experience total forgiveness and a life to the FULL.

The question is: why are you living in economy class when you have a first class ticket that’s already been paid for?

You may ‘feel’ that you have nothing, but in reality because of Jesus, you ‘possess’ everything. Possessing means that you need to claim whats already yours.

Are you going to keep looking through the windows of your small life at those enjoying first class life, when all along you should be sitting there too?

Stop rehearsing over and over in your head the fact that you have nothing, when you should be enjoying all that God has purchased for you.

PAID IN FULL.

ALL INCLUSIVE.

John 10:10 Message
‘…I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of.’

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 12th July 2017

My wife decided to surprise me, and herself I think, by buying some extra large strawberries and dipping them in chocolate.

I didn’t know what the fresh punnet of strawberries were for in the fridge, until I’d already eaten two of them and she wanted to know where they were. ‘I have special plans for them’ she explained, as I owned up to eating them. Later that night when I returned home from a meeting, she announced that the special strawberry surprise was waiting, however she quickly gave a disclaimer, as they hadn’t quite turned out as planned. In fact, what was presented to me was a plate of strawberries with a mound of nutty looking mess sitting on top.

I couldn’t help but laugh, as I enquired as to what could have gone so horribly wrong with such a simple procedure.

Gillian had got totally carried away with melting the chocolate in a bowl on top of a saucepan of boiling water. She thought that while she was at it she may as well throw any other kinds of left over chocolates from the cupboard in as well. There were nutty bars, fudge bars, dark and milk chocolate bars and you name it, it was in this mass. I explained calmly that you cant just randomly throw any old chocolatey ‘things’ in the bowl as they each have different properties and melting points. Suffice to say we each tried a couple and the rest are still in the fridge. Correction: they are now in the bin.

In life, in marriage, and in relationships of any kind, you have to know what ingredients will enhance and what will detract, otherwise you will turn your good intentions into one big ugly heap. Gillian’s lack of knowledge in the cooking department led to her strawberry disaster. It will be that way too in any area of your life, if you just have enthusiasm to do something but have no knowledge of how and what to do.

Knowledge can be learnt and it can be taught as well as caught.

We have now been married for 33 years in just two days time and the knowledge that we have gleaned over the years of what makes a happy a blessed marriage is something that we are committed to sharing with as many couples as possible.

If Gillian had simply asked, or learnt by looking it up, then I would have come home to perfectly coated chocolate strawberries.

How many of you reading this are coming home to a marriage or a relationship that’s in a complete mess? Could it be that it’s due not just to a lack of love, but more so to a lack of knowledge?

Why not Join Gillian and myself this coming Monday evening (17th) at Champions Church for part 1 of ‘Marriage matters’?

To register or for more info, simply click on then ‘contact us’ link on the app. or call our office on 01384 457923 between 9-4pm Monday to Thursday.

We look forward to welcoming you.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 11th July 2017

‘MARRIAGE MATTERS’ is a 2 part course that is run by myself and my wife. The first part commences on this coming Monday (17th July) and is for all those who are married, those thinking of getting married, planning to get married, wish they were married and those that wish they weren’t.

Today’s inspiration is a glimpse into what we teach on the ‘marriage matters course’…

‘How many of you have outlived the honeymoon stage of your marriage and find yourself trapped in a mundane existence with someone that once excited you?’

Have you ever thought about what life together will be like after the children have grown up and left home?

Will you have anything left to say to each other, or will you have long since forgotten how to date each other again, with no hope of reigniting the passions that once burned within?

When was the last time you had a ‘date night’ together?

Make a plan to sit down together for a meal-  a ready meal, a microwave meal, liver and onions…any meal.

Go out occasionally just the two of you. No kids, no friends, no in-laws or out-laws allowed.

Have a bath, do your hair and make yourself look like you’ve bothered, just like in days gone by when you were dating.

Watch a movie, read magazines, chat and snuggle up, but don’t answer the phone or the door bell.

With divorce rates so high, recent statistics show that only 4% of married couples have a date night once a week.

21% plan a night together once a month, with a further 21% prioritising their time with each other just once in every 2-3 months.

Every 4-6 months is enough for 18% of marrieds, but the biggest group of all is stands at 36% of marrieds have one date night less than twice a year.

You could well say ‘that’s plenty for me with the way my spouse is’, but maybe the reason it’s like that is because you no longer cherish what you did when you first fell in love.

The top five things that cause marriages to break down are…

Chores

Money

Sex

Work

Children

No one on earth can solve all those problems for you but we can help you to fall in love all over again.

Stop treating each other just like some kind of inconvenient object that lives in the same house, and start to plan to fall back in love again by planning your next date night.

Someone once said, ‘ It’s easier to act your way into a feeling than to feel your way into an action’.

So, if you’ve lost those tingly feelings for each other, you’re normal; but now start to surprise each other by acting your way back into love again.

To register for ‘marriage matters’, or for more info, simply click on the ‘contact us’ link on the app or call our office on 01384 457923 between 9-4 Monday to Thursday.

We look forward to welcoming you.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 10th July 2017

Aesop the Ancient Greek story teller observed “After all is said and done, more is said than done.”

How true this is.

Another saying is ‘The road to hell is paved with good intentions.’

This sounds harsh, as though there’s something wrong with good intentions, but it’s saying that there’s nothing wrong with them but there’s nothing right with them either…if they don’t materialise into action.

At my place of work, we are always trying to move away from a ‘meeting culture’ where lots of people are involved in lots of discussion but there’s not always a lot of action resulting. A big danger to a business with a ‘meeting culture’ is a false sense of security that’s created as people feel something has been achieved but in reality nothing has changed. It’s the resulting actions being put into practice that makes progress.

The same can happen in our everyday life, we can feel better about ourselves and situations when we meet and talk with people about what we’re planning to do to move forward as if somehow by talking about it makes it feel like progress has been made. It hasn’t. We need to start moving, even if just little baby steps in the direction of what we want to achieve or do.

If you’ve been threatening to start a business venture for a long time I encourage you today to make preliminary calls, get quotes, scope out projects, create business plans, leaflet areas, make inroads, apply to banks, get the ball rolling and stop talking about it – just do it!

I’m not saying it will work, but you won’t know unless you try! Failure isn’t a problem, never trying is the problem. Failure leads to learning, lack of activity can’t lead to anything. If fear of failure is holding you back, let go, it’s better to have tried and failed than to have never tried.

Maybe you’ve been talking or thinking about putting some things right in your life, making a call to a family member you fell out with five years ago! Stop reading now and put a time in your diary to make that first move.

Maybe you know you need to start the day better creating time to read and pray but haven’t yet made a plan, stop reading right now and set your alarm.

Don’t procrastinate, plan, apply, apologise, move!

Jesus has done everything necessary for us to live an exciting life of authority, stepping out taking risks and making things happen! Let’s move today and see what great stories we can create for us to talk about, instead of talking about what stories we would like to create.

Just do it!

Luke Cartwright

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – 8th July 2017

Jesus tells a story in Luke 15 in response to questions being asked as to why He hangs around with people of doubtful reputation.

He responds by saying, “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbours together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”

Now I read this story and think to myself, what shepherd would leave his 99 sheep, leaderless, vulnerable and unprotected to go after one sheep who ran away.? This story makes no logical sense.

Yet the reason this story makes no logical sense is because the love of God is illogical. God is willing to leave the majority in pursuit of the minority, because He loves people that much. And if you desire to be someone who loves others the way Jesus does, you’re going to have to realise that it will be risky, it will be uncomfortable, and at times it may make no sense whatsoever.

This story is a representation of us and God… We are the sheep and He is the Shepherd. And if God displayed this kind of persistent love towards us, how much more should we display it towards others.

He’s the One who never leaves the one behind.

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – 7th July 2017

Adversity is just a great opportunity to a person with a great attitude. Consider a simple kite; it rises only when against the wind, not with it. The harder the wind blows, the more it rises. Take a complex, modern day passenger plane; it always takes off into the wind so that it will create more ‘lift’. If the wind changes direction on any given day, the control tower will inform all pilots that they must now take-off in a different direction in order to obtain what they need to lift the plane into the sky.

Today, your attitude will either lift you above your circumstances or bury you beneath them.

I heard about a small business owner whose store was threatened by a national chain. When he refused to sell, they said, “We’ll build on either side of you and put you out of business.” Soon he found himself hemmed in and a big sign surrounding him saying ‘GRAND OPENING’.

Not to be outdone, the little man with a big vision but up a banner over his doorway reading – ‘MAIN ENTRANCE’.

One of the most potentially frightening aspects of being a Christian is knowing that when you put your trust in Jesus, all of Hell takes arms against you intending evil upon your life. And yet, what trumps that fear and evil is knowing that no matter what comes, God is the Master Weaver. He takes what was intended for evil and reweaves it for good.

Feeling defeated by all that’s going on around you right now? Take heart…this is merely the main entrance to where God wants to enter your circumstances and turn them around to your benefit and His glory.

Genesis 50 v 20. ‘You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.’
Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 6th July 2017

In his great essay called ‘The Station’, Robert Hastings writes, “tucked away in our subconscious is an idyllic vision. We see ourselves on a long train trip that spans the continent. Out of the windows we drink in the passing scenes-children waving, cattle grazing, rolling hillsides, city skylines, and village halls. But uppermost in our minds is the final destination. On a certain day, will pull into the station, bands will play, and flags will wave. Once we arrive, so many wonderful dreams will all come true, and the pieces of our lives will fit together like a completed jigsaw puzzle.”

“Restlessly we pace the aisles despising the minutes… waiting… waiting… waiting for the station. When we reach the station, we breathe a sigh of relief. At last we have arrived.”

‘When I’m 18, when I buy my first car, when I get married, when I buy a house, when I pay off the mortgage, when I get that promotion, when I reach retirement…waiting…waiting …waiting for the station. But sooner or later we realise that the true joy of life is not just in reaching the destination, but the journey itself.

If we are not careful, we can miss much of the amazing things that will happen along the way even today, simply because we are anxious to get to our dream place.

Make a decision today, to stop counting down the miles; life must be lived as you go along. The station will come soon enough.

Psalm 118 v 24. “This is the day the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.”

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 5th July 2017

‘If anyone desires to be a leader, he desires a good thing’ 1 Timothy 3 v 1

So you want to be a leader…good!

Centuries ago, Jerusalem lay in ruins. Nehemiah felt called to do something about it and so he rallied, motivated and organised the people. 52 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?

Here’s what it takes…

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

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

He had confidence in God. He may have doubted his own ability, but he never doubted Gods. His book is full of prayers-Silent ones, short ones, specific ones.

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.

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 got their feet on the ground.

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. Still want to be a leader?

Leaders don’t look for badges and titles, they simply look for a job that needs doing and then get on and do it.

Find a need and fill it. When you can do that time and time again without any fuss or bother…you ARE a leader.

Recognition comes later.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 4th July 2017

My Mom and Dad have lived in the same house for all their married life.
One of the highlights of growing up there were the fields right opposite the house. We would go over there as kids almost everyday during the summer holidays and would be out for hours on end. Whenever we left the house to go there we would shout behind us that we were going over the ‘banks’, as that’s what they were. Banks of unkempt grass, trees and ponds on all levels. It was a pretty amazing place to spend your childhood.

The day arrived when the council decided to completely flatten the whole area and turn it into a beautiful flat playing area. Once again it became the perfect place for us as teenagers to then play football. Part of the excitement for me was watching from the window for months on end as excavators transformed the place that had played a big part in our young lives.

All these years later, the ‘Lister Road field’ as it is called to this day, is to be divided into two, with half of being turned into a car park for council workers at the adjacent incinerator plant.

The residents, including my parents, are up in arms about it and a few days ago have had the local MP come down for a residents meeting, which took place on the field. Reporters and photographers for the local newspapers turned out to capture a shot of the gathering so that the voice of the community could be heard.

When the photograph appeared last weekend in the papers for all to see, each of the residents had been asked to make an angry face for the camera. However, my Dad not being able to hear too well didn’t know what was being said, so imagine now the photo of all the angry residents, with my Dad right at the front with his usual beaming smile saying CHEESE for the camera!

It has caused great fun in our family especially as we could hear my Mom laying into him as to why he was smirking all over his face at such an angry meeting.

I have to say however that this picture is a great way of looking at life. You may have enough going on right now to make you concerned, annoyed and even angry, and the folk around you may be trying to pursue you to behave just like they are doing in the situation. Sometimes though we have to just go ‘deaf’ to what’s going on around us and make a decision to smile your way through it. It’s almost guaranteed that the focus of everyone’s attention when opening the newspaper is not on the angry faces of the residents, but on my Dad’s big smile.

Learn to smile through your storm today and you’ll not only change what’s happening inside of yourself, but you will positively effect everyone around you too.

Proverbs 15:13 A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 3rd July 2017

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
‭‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭12:9‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Have you ever watched a small child try to lift something that is clearly way too heavy for them? They put all their effort and energy into it and more often than not, they don’t succeed. What they don’t realise is that the adults around them are there to help; that they are stronger.

How many times are we like that small child? As human beings, we often become so sure of our own strength, that we forget who God is. We think we can leave God out, give Him a break, when in actuality, God wants to be our strength. He wants to be our provider.

I love this verse in 2 Corinthians. It’s a constant reminder that when we are at our weakest, God is at His strongest. There have been so many days that I have had to declare that over myself, and today you should too.

Don’t try and face today alone. Don’t try and face your battles alone. His grace is sufficient and when you are weak, He is strong.

Lucy Lawrence

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 1st July 2017

I wonder how many ‘buts’ you have in your life?

Let me explain.
She’s financially blessed, but she has a unhappy marriage.
He has a good job, but he has just been diagnosed with cancer.
They have a happy marriage, but their children have major issues.

You see, we can be blessed in one area, yet have a ‘but’ in another.
Some of them we can do something about…
He is a great manager, but he always turns up late for work.
She has some great creative ideas, but she is very lazy.
She is such a lovely warm-hearted lady, but she has a tendency to gossip.
He has great potential to do something amazing, but he is so insecure.

Some ‘buts’ you may not be able to do much about, but most of them we can.

Naaman was a commander in the army, but he had leprosy. (Read the story in 2 Kings 5). He had a great responsible position, but he had a very nasty disease. When you read the story, you’ll learn that Naaman didn’t like what God was asking him to do, yet eventually he did and God dealt with it.
NO BUT is too big for God to deal with.

This is what I’ve learnt: don’t go through life with a ‘but’. They will hinder you and stop you being the person God intended for you to be.
Ask God to help you eliminate them today and live a life that is ‘but’ free.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion of a better way of living

Fresh Hope – 30th June 2017

Just a few days ago, 14 people died from a forest fire that ripped through the tiny village of Varzeas, Portugal.

The area was suddenly engulfed in flames, from what was described by villagers as an ‘inferno’, destroying the area in seconds.

As villagers became aware of what was happening, they started to flee their village in search for safety. Two families in particular managed to get into their cars and make for the main road. Ironically, they never made it, as not only the trees on either side of the road were engulfed, but even the road itself caught fire, killing those that were trying to escape certain death.

The only people that did survive, were those that made the decision to stay put in their homes. It may have seemed like their fate was sealed by doing so, but that one decision led to the survival of all that made that very same choice.

This incredibly sad story leads us to see a parallel in our spiritual lives. There is safety in another kind of home, namely the Church…our spiritual home.

Many people chose to flee the Church when faced with circumstances that threatened their very lives and their faith, not realising that their greatest protection during this time lies in the place from which they are fleeing.

I’ve seen and heard many sad stories over the years, of folk who have decided to run for their lives when depressed, offended, hurt, let down or just feeling the heat of the day, not realising they were fleeing the safe haven of their spiritual home…God’s Church.

If you’re going through the fire today and belong to a ‘life giving’ church, then stay put. If you have not yet found a spiritual home, then I encourage you to do so this very weekend.

Church is just like any family, it’s full of all kinds of people that range from incredibly amazing to incredibly annoying! It’s a family…warts and all. It’s those differences that make it what it is.

Running away from home is what many teenagers and even children do because of immaturity during tough times. No matter what is going on right now, don’t run away from home. God gave it to you for a reason.

Feeling the pull away from God’s house this weekend? Get to Church! Your spiritual life depends on it.

Success begins on Sundays.

championschurch.org.uk. Every Sunday – 9 and and 11.30am.

 

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 29th June 2017

God calls us each day to a life of obedience without showing us the end result.

I’ve personally found that God will challenge me to do something that I had no plans for whatsoever. I can be starting the day off as normal, and just about to prepare breakfast, when I hear His still small voice asking if I will fast that day. It usually follows with a few questions from myself asking if this is completely necessary and for what reason. This is usually met with silence, not that God doesn’t want to speak, but that He wants to see if I will obey. Sometimes all is revealed that day, but it is often weeks or even months before looking back and finding out why I was called to obey.

There are days when we are all tired of the challenge of getting out of our comfort zone, but no matter how much we whine about it, God’s plan is to stretch us in order for our faith to grow. There’s nothing quite like stretching in order to help strengthen us. I have very stiff hamstrings and I know that at my age, if I don’t keep stretching them several times a week, they will potentially only get worse and never better.

I’m still learning that stepping out into an adventure of obedience, is God’s very best way of stretching us in order to teach us that He’s trustworthy.

It is a well known fact that when a mother eagle knows that her baby eaglets are ready to fly, she starts to dismantle the nest until there is only one option, and that is to get out! She literally pushes them over the edge into a totally unknown experience, knowing that that is what they were created for. They weren’t designed to sit in a nest all day, but to get out there and soar. Those first few moments for them is anything but soaring, but more like flapping for dear life. However, they soon realise that is what they were made for and it becomes the most natural thing in the world.

Feeling like God is ruffling your nest? Good – He’s simply preparing you for your future.

2 Corinthians 5:7 For we live by faith, not by sight.

Isaiah 40:28-31 Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 28th June 2017

James Michener said he had a neighbour whose tree had stopped producing apples. So he hammered rusty nails around the trunk and that year he got his greatest crop of apples ever. He said ‘hammering those nails in was a shock to the tree and was a reminder to it that its job was to produce apples.’ Unscientific, maybe, but it worked.

Michener explained how heart bypass surgery, hip surgery and a bout with vertigo were like nails God hammered into the trunk of his life. It got his attention. Realising that he wasn’t going to live forever he got busy, and in five years, he wrote 11 books, including best sellers.

What pain are you going through today? Why not seize it as an opportunity to step up to a new and more productive level in your life?

Losing a job that you felt you were good at can force us to discover untapped talents that we didn’t know we had. The loss of some physical capacity can push us to develop other ways of being an inspiration to others that come our way. Having to let go of some of our material comforts can move us to simplify our lives.

Harold Sala says…’let’s face it, when those rusty nails get hammered in we take notice and our lives become more productive. When you get a ‘wake up’ call from God, it is His way of allowing us to get a jolt to get on with living the life that He has for us.’

Hebrews 12:11-13 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. ‘Make level paths for your feet,’ so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 27th June 2017

The well known Bible character, Joseph, was 30 when he became governor of Egypt. He was 17 when he was sold into slavery. For 13 years he dealt with pain and confusion, maintained both his character and commitment to God, and allowed his trials to make him triumphant.

Jospeh didn’t simply forget what had happened to him by simply pretending that it didn’t, but took positive steps to prevent his past having a hold over his life and his future. God gave Joseph two sons: he named them Manasseh, which means ‘God has made me forget,’ and Ephraim, which means ‘God has made me twice fruitful in the land of my afflictions.’

God helped Joseph overcome the memory of his painful past by naming the things that he would see everyday as reminders of God’s goodness. Everyday that he saw his children, their very names spoke volumes. Forget, and be twice fruitful. The other option would have been to name them ‘remember your pain’ and ‘never move on.’

He still had the memory, but he prospered in spite of it. When you walk with God, the promise before you will be greater than the pain behind you.

Here are five principles that Joseph taught us to live by:

Don’t try to ignore or pretend it never happened. God will give you the grace to handle it, not deny it.

Believe that God will more than make up the time, relationships and opportunities you’ve lost.

List the people that have wronged you. Forgive them and release them to God in prayer. Now tear up that list.

Tell God that you are ready to start over again.

Don’t look back, but keep moving forward into all that God has for you.

 

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 26th June 2017

When booking a holiday, you do your utmost to find the best possible destination with the budget you have. Why wouldn’t you?

It’s normal to presume the success and enjoyment of that holiday will be based on how good a destination and hotel you manage to book.

Have you ever though, been to a great destination and had amazing weather, but it still wasn’t the best holiday? Maybe the dynamics of the people you went with didn’t quite work, or you yourself were just not in a great place?

Having dreamed and planned the vacation for so long you come home really disappointed and regretting spending so much money on the trip.

How true in life that we can seek success in the best possible destination, i.e. new job, better car, but it doesn’t make us happy because it’s the same us in the new job or car.

‘Happiness is not a destination. It is a way of life.’

How true this saying is; we’re always looking for the next event to bring us closer but we never seem to arrive. Learn to enjoy and make the most of where you are. Stop focusing on a change in circumstance but a change in your soul!

Luke 17:20-21
Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst.”

People have always been waiting for some future event to right the world. We can stop waiting, because the kingdom of God is in our midst.

I encourage you today in whatever your need or future dream is, make sure you’re not missing out on what God has for you right now, today!

Luke Cartwright

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 24th June 2017

The Bible teaches us that obedience brings blessing.
I’ve had to do some things this week that I didn’t feel like doing, or particularly want to do, but I knew that God was asking me to them.
I know that if God asks me to do something, even when I don’t understand it, He will bring blessing into my life because of it.
So thankfully, on both occasions I obeyed the voice of the Holy Spirit.

Deuteronomy 28 and verses 1 and 2 tell me that if I obey His commands and follow His ways, then all these blessings will come on me and overtake me.

Wow – if blessings come upon me and overtake me, that means I’m surrounded by blessing!

Blessing isn’t always about money. It can be beautiful sunshine, a good cup of coffee, seeing your children happy, meeting a new baby for the first time, seeing someone get well, getting a bargain from the shops, feeling a great sense of peace.

I want to live a life FULL of God’s blessings. Which means that each day I have to be sure I’m walking in His ways and doing what He asks of me.

It’s quite simple really, isn’t it?

Too many people don’t feel blessed. It’s sad.
God wants to bless us all.

For the best results, follow the maker’s instructions.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 23rd June 2017

EXCUSES, EXCUSES, EXCUSES.

10 reasons why I don’t wash.

1. I was forced to as a child.

2. People who wash are hypocrites – they think they are cleaner than everybody else.

3. There are so many different kinds of soap, I can’t decide which one is best.

4. I used to wash, but I got bored and stopped.

5. I wash only on special occasions, like Christmas and Easter.

6. None of my friends wash.

7. I’ll start washing when I get older and dirtier.

8. I can’t spare the time.

9. The bathroom is never warm enough.

10. People who make soap are only after your money.

Have you noticed that when we laugh, we become more open to receive something more serious?

Every day, people make lame excuses concerning just about everything. Most of them fortunately don’t have too many serious implications, but some do.

The decision as to whether or not you will step out and fully trust Jesus with the leadership of your life, is the most major and most life changing decision you will ever make. That decision changes everything from the quality of your life right now, to the forgiveness of your past sins, right through to where will you spend eternity.

For many people, they are just one excuse away from surrendering their lives to God, and in a funny sort of way, those excuses usually sound like one of those listed above as to ‘why I don’t wash’!

Isn’t it time today to stop being so underwhelmed by God and allow HI’m to defeat every excuse you have with His very real love that He has for you right now?

Defeat your excuses – decide to follow Jesus.

Jeremiah 31:3 ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.’

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 22nd June 2017

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

Here are 10 things from my own journey that fear causes.

Fear causes us to reduce the size of God and elevate the size and opinion of man.

Fear causes us to go in the wrong direction – usually backwards.

Fear causes us to stay quiet when we should speak up.

Fear causes us to be passive about an issue that that God has clearly broughy to our attention.

Fear causes us to seek a consensus of opinions, rather than really seeking the voice of the Holy Spirit.

Fear keeps us from engaging with the broken, the hurting, the misfits and the neglected in our community, because we fear they will mess up our lives.

Fear causes us to refuse to embrace change because we care more about being comfortable than being conformed to Christ.

Fear causes us to control things and take matters into our own hands rather than trusting God and trusting others.

Fear causes us to conceal our sin rather than confess our sin.

James 5:16
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

Fear causes us to seek the easy decision rather than the right one.

2 Timothy 1:7
For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 21st June 2017

By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established;  through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures. (Proverbs 24 v 3-4).

Like a house, our lives are built brick by brick.

If each brick is made of wisdom, knowledge and understanding, then that house will stand the test of time, however, if that house is built out of any old stuff then you know what’s about to happen. The first time a storm comes to your life, you will collapse and have to start building all over again.

Wisdom comes in many forms; I chose to live by the wisdom of the Bible every day, but I also glean wisdom, knowledge and understanding from people that have successfully built something with their lives. Why would you trust the sayings of someone that’s never built anything?

Here are a few wise sayings that will help you build a successful life…
The greatest danger for most of us is not that we aim too high and miss, it but that we aim too low and reach it – Michelangelo

A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity. An optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty -Sir Winston Churchill.

A different world cannot be built by indifferent people – Peter Marshall

A fool is quick to quarrel…Watch out for quarrellers. Proverbs 20 v 3

You’ve heard it said ‘strike while the iron is hot’, but why wait for the iron to be hot before you strike it…why not strike it until it gets hot -Reinhard Bonnke.

People have a way of becoming what you encourage them to be – Pastor Jentezen Franklin.

A happy person is not a person with a certain set of circumstances, but a certain set of attitudes.

The measure of a man’s real character is what he would do if he were never found out.

The only sure way to avoid criticism, is to do nothing and be nothing.

The truth always outlives a lie.

Happiness relies on happenings, but real joy relies on a real Jesus.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 20th June 2017

Since last Thursday evening, our lives have been turned upside down.

Early morning and late night phones calls have had to be exchanged.

Extra journeys at inconvient times have been made daily to ensure that life carried on as best as it could, even though to a much lesser degree than before.

Welcome to our world of having both a Mother-in-law and a mouse…or two.

My mother-in-law, Alice, had spotted the first one running across the carpet while she was reading in her lounge on Thursday afternoon. She is petrified of mice and although she could hardly speak on the phone through fear, we did get the message this was nothing more than a tiny little field mouse. To most a cuddly little thing that the cat plays with, but to Alice this was a giant rat.

For five days now, I and others, have had our lives disturbed and dictated to by this tiny little rodent that is cowered in some tiny space, probably laughing at how these huge humans are completely paralysed by its presence.

Rooms have been vacated, and on most days the house itself abandoned, as we have had temporarily housed and fed Alice for fear that she may have a nervous breakdown of sorts.

When you think of this whole scenario, you cannot help think how irrational this is – a tiny mouse takes control of a whole house and several people’s lives too.

How true it is though, that very small things can take over our thinking and create huge implications for our lives.

Little thoughts can be magnified in our minds and render us useless.

Little problems, once mulled over a few times can become insurmountable.

Little words spoken to us in jest can reside in our hearts for months at a time, and little actions that we perceive were personally done against us can bring us down and cause us to lose our way.

The wise words of Solomon make complete sense to everyone that feels the huge destructive weight of a very small problem. This is what he had to say…

Song of Solomon 2:15 Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom.

He noticed that it was the ‘little’ foxes that ruined the vine.

Often we can handle huge problems because we can identify them much more easily than the little ones that seem to run and hide when we try to tackle them.

What is it that is rendering your day useless? In reality it’s often such a small thing that really YOU should be chasing down and killing off with ease.

Ask yourself this question today: Will the seemingly mountainous problem that I’m facing today be a problem to me in a month or even a weeks time?

If the answer is no, then don’t even give it the attention it’s looking for right now.

Pick yourself up, get back on track and start to live your life again.

Let God be God in your life today and don’t give the devil credit for authority he doesn’t have.

Romans 8:31-39 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died – more than that, who was raised to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 19th June 2017

Romans 5:8 gives us a window into exactly how God loves people. In a matter of one verse we see the entire gospel (the good news of Jesus) on display.

The apostle Paul writes, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

The word I want to focus on contained within that verse is the word ‘died’. For those of you who are great students of the English language, and for the rest of us who just use Google, you will know that the word ‘died’ is a verb (a doing/action word).

I want us to notice how at the very centre of the demonstration of God’s love is action.

The Bible does not record that God demonstrates His love by telling us that He loves us, but by showing us He loves us.

You see, love cannot only be spoken, it has to be shown. And the way God’s love was shown was through sacrifice.

Now God already made the ultimate sacrifice by sending His Son Jesus to die on the cross so that we don’t have to, but you and I have the opportunity to be sacrificial in someway on a daily basis…

Maybe it’s your time, or your talents, or your resource that you can sacrifice today. Whatever it may be, I want to encourage you to let your love lead to action.

Today, don’t just tell the people in your world that you love them, but do something to demonstrate that love.

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – 17th June 2017

Here’s a few thoughts to encourage your Saturday.

1. It’s not what you feel, it’s what you know.

If we only ever did what we felt like, we wouldn’t do a lot. I don’t always feel like brushing my teeth, taking a shower or getting out of bed, but it’s what I know to be good and right.
Sometimes we may not feel like God is with us, but He is.
Sometimes we may not feel like He loves us, but He does.
We may not feel like there’s a purpose to our lives, but His purpose is perfect for our lives, as long as we remain faithful.

Don’t always go on feelings, they made lead you up the garden path.
Go on what you know is true.

2. If you don’t learn it, you wont know it.

There’s a saying that says ‘what you learn in the light, you can practise in the dark’. That is saying, that in good times, learn as much as you can, because when you’re in a dark situation, you may have to call on that which you know to be true, to help you through.
But if you haven’t learnt it, you wont know it.

3. Learning often comes the hard way.

Oh yes it does. How often have you said that to your children?
But learning stuff often comes when times are hard.
This is what I’ve learnt through my many years as a Christian. That when I’m going through a tough time, I ask God ‘what should I be learning from this?’ Then if I’m mature, I’ll be happy to be teachable and learn quickly. (If I’m immature, I won’t want to know).

Learning may often come the hard way, but learn we must, If we want to become champions in life.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 16th June 2017

I am convinced that resilience is a major key to achieving your destiny. The real test of who you are is measured by what it takes to discourage you. Some people talk a great game, but then buckle under the slightest pressure. Others function better under stress and pressure.
Pain, in any form is not nice, but it need not be debilitating, or even immobilising.

At 56, I’ve just decided to join my local gym. I’m just learning that body building is built on tearing down muscles through resistance, which sends the body’s healing systems into overdrive to repair and restore the weary muscles. It could well be that your current hurt is the secret to tomorrow’s strength.

There is one other important factor in this area of overcoming pain and hurt. That ingredient is having both the support and concern from and toward those around you. Significant relationships are what empower us to reach past our challenges and move beyond obstacles.

Children run with open arms to a Mom or Dad when they are afraid or hurt. Teenagers tend to hang around the house in order to send a coded message that they need support from you. Grown-ups seek mentors when trying to negotiate life’s challenges that come to us all.

It is in these significant relationships that we receive empowerment to bounce back.

I have personally had a life that was full of set backs, and naturally speaking I would have just given up, but with the support of people and the help of God I have turned each set back into a come back.

Champions Church is a place where you can find such great relationships with very ordinary, yet amazing people. Our Champion life groups exist all over the area with the aim that no one needs to do life alone. We continually make it out theme tune that ‘life is better together’.

If you are finding it hard to bounce back, then I encourage you to find your way to church on Sunday, where you will immediately feel at home as well as becoming part of a growing family.

You can also sign up to a local ‘Champion life group’ by attending Champions church this weekend at 9am or 11.30am.

I look forward to personally meeting you.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 15th June 2017

Jeremiah is one of God’s major spokesmen in the Bible. His role, like any other prophet, was to declare what God wanted to say to a person or to a group in any given situation.

In Jeremiah 20, he is sent to speak to the leader of the temple, and to tell him that he needed to set things straight in God’s house or else. Everyone was doing their own thing and totally disregarding the laws of God.

As Jeremiah brings this strong word, he is rejected and the following day is beaten and chained.

Now you would think that Jeremiah would be really made of strong stuff as he was used to delivering pretty harsh words to bring people back to God, but notice what he says after delivering such words…

Jeremiah 20:7-9 You deceived me, Lord, and I was deceived; you overpowered me and prevailed. I am ridiculed all day long; everyone mocks me. Whenever I speak, I cry out proclaiming violence and destruction. So the word of the Lord has brought me insult and reproach all day long. But if I say, ‘I will not mention his word or speak any more in his name,’ his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.

It’s what I call the pain of speaking out.

Speaking out on God’s behalf brings with it a very real sense of pain and even insult and reproach at times. You can make a lot of enemies as well as friends for saying what’s right.

Have you ever felt like giving up because your words are seemingly always met with disdain?

Do you feel that the cost of being a mouth piece in this generation is too high?

Jeremiah certainly wanted to just bury his head in the sand and say ‘enough is enough…I’m not opening my big mouth again.’

But no sooner had he said it when he described a feeling of God’s word being like ‘a fire shut up in his bones’. He couldn’t stay quiet, he had to speak out. That is exactly what God had called him to do with his life.

If you feel like quitting from time to time, then jooh the club…you’re normal.
Jeremiah was no different to you or I today. One day you feel like speaking up with boldness and couldn’t care less what anyone else thinks and then the next you are totally sidelined with such forceful negativity that you just want to die.

Listen to his further thoughts about his life, after communicating exactly what God wanted him to say…

Jeremiah 20:14-18 Cursed be the day I was born! May the day my mother bore me not be blessed! Cursed be the man who brought my father the news, who made him very glad, saying, ‘A child is born to you – a son!’ May that man be like the towns the Lord overthrew without pity. May he hear wailing in the morning, a battle cry at noon. For he did not kill me in the womb, with my mother as my grave, her womb enlarged for ever. Why did I ever come out of the womb to see trouble and sorrow and to end my days in shame?

My friends, take a lesson from Jeremiah’s book; if you speak up, you may well get shot down by others, and if not you may well want to shoot yourself down.

If you can identify with this today, then don’t dismay. They are just feelings, and they will come and they will go. God needs your voice.

Don’t be silenced – speak up!

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 14th June 2017

As I write today, I should be a very happy and blessed man. The reason being is that I have ten trillion dollars sitting right beside me!

It’s actually just one note, and before you ask, its not fake.

It’s real alright, however there are just a couple of problems…it’s in Nigerian dollars, and so its value is not great, but even more to the point is that it’s no longer legal tender. Drat!

It looks impressive, but has no value simply because it can’t be spent today.

That one crisp note speaks volumes about our lives.

Let me ask you a question: are you valuable, but not current?

You can look great, sound great and have everyone falling at your feet, but if your life is not relating to this generation, you cannot be spent by God. You’re just like an ornament that gets everyone’s attention when they walk into the room, but apart from that, you have no usefulness.

You weren’t placed on this planet just to look pretty, but to serve the generation in which you’re alive.

You may be doing all the right things and can’t understand why you are getting little or no results. Could it be that your good intentions and methods are just too outdated?

People often ask the secret of why we have so many people coming to church each weekend. The answer is no secret, but it’s often a surprise to many when they hear what we believe may partly be the answer – BE CURRENT. In the time frame that you’re alive, if you don’t stay current, you will be left behind and lose your usefulness.

I used to love wearing flared jeans that used to drag on the floor. They were so cool and so current…ten years ago. Today if I wore them I’d simply have no respect in the ‘cool’ department.

In the early 1900s, a revival came to Wales. At that time, thousands were swept into the Churches as a spiritual awakening emptied the pubs and clubs.

More than 100 years later, those same packed churches lie dormant and even derelict. Its leaders cannot understand what went wrong, yet the answer is so simple. Because the revival mainly hit the welsh speaking churches, they believed that the welsh language should be revered and still be the only language spoken in those same places of worship. However as the generations came and went, less and less people spoke the welsh language and so the chutches rendered themselves ineffective and irrelevant.

Are you hanging onto what God did in your life in the past, yet have failed to recognise that He wants to do something new today?

I love what it says on king David’s epitaph…

Acts 13:36 ‘Now when David had served God’s purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his ancestors and his body decayed.’

The key was that he served God in HIS GENERATION.

The modern worship in our church admittedly doesn’t suit everyone, but it’s not meant to. I have to make sure that it’s current in the generation in which I’m serving.

New versions of the Bible may not suit those who prefer the ‘thees’ and the ‘thous’, but my question is not one of what suits me, but one of who does this relate to today?

There’s nothing so sad as being alive and yet living a life that no one understands.

Looking pretty…but cannot be spent?

Find out what God is doing today and simply join in.

Are you valuable and yet not current?

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 13th June 2017

Continuing from yesterday when we were looking at the life of Daniel, and what happens when we take time to set ourselves apart and really seek God…

4. You will get great favour.
Daniel got many lavish things thrown at his life because he heard from God and helped the King.

Lesson:There will be times that God’s favour is obviously on your life. Don’t be embarrassed by it, just embrace it and be thankful for it. God rewards those who earnestly seek Him. (Hebrews 11 v 6)

5. You can’t be touched.
Because of some nasty schemes, by some nasty people, Daniel got thrown into the lion’s den. But God shut the mouths of the lions.

Lesson: God will be your protector when you honour Him.

6. God will sort your enemy.
Daniel walked free from the lion’s den and his accusers got thrown in!

Lesson: its not your concern to worry about those who come against you. God will sort it. Every time.
Learn some lessons from Daniel, set yourselves apart to honour God with your life and just see what He will do.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 12th June 2017

Often there are situations in our lives that don’t seem to ‘shift’.

When Daniel in the Old Testament was faced with a dilemma, he decide to fast and pray. He didn’t want to do what the others did and eat the choice wine and food, he decided to set himself apart, because he was believing for a breakthrough.

Here’s some things that will happen when you do.

1. He came out better than the rest.
He only ate fruit and vegetables and he came out looking healthier and better than all the others. So much so, that everyone noticed. He not only looked better, it says his gift was 10 times better.

Here’s the lesson: when we give up something for God, we’ll come out better than those who didn’t. God always rewards sacrifice.

2. When you earnestly pray, God will answer.
When no one else got the answer to the need, Daniel did! He didn’t panic, stress or say “oh no, what are we going to do?” He just said “guys, we need to pray.”

Here’s the lesson: When you focus on the problem, the problem gets bigger. When you focus on Jesus, you get the answer.

3. God reveals stuff to those who seek Him
Yes, Daniel received revelation and answers, all because He had taken time to pray and fast. In this instance, it was the answer to a weird dream that he urgently needed.

Here’s the lesson: when you take time seek God and pray, He will give you the answers you need.

Continued tomorrow….

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 10th June 2017

We continue our journey from yesterday, as we look at more stories of how God prepared some of the greats in the Bible…

David was anointed king, but it took years of fight and flight to finally claim his God given throne. His faithfulness in the small things meant that he would be ready to step up to his destiny.

Daniel was an exile in Babylon, but was selected for the King’s court. He became the top ruler in the land, but first he had to be delivered from the mouths of the lions.

Peter made a grand proclamation of loyalty to Jesus, just hours before denying even knowing Him. After the resurrection, Peter gave up on the mission and went fishing, but Jesus found him and made him the leader of the first church.

Paul despised Jesus and all Christians. He set out with ferocity to destroy the people of faith, but Jesus met him and completely changed his heart. His passions were totally transformed and he became writer of two thirds of the the New Testament.

We could mention countless others, but we would have to conclude that painful experiences aren’t a mistake in God’s world, even if self inflicted by doubt and sin. Everything gets used by Him to usher us into the very reason for which we were created.

Many years ago, Erwin McManus, world renowned speaker and Pastor of Oasis church in LA, was helping serve behind the scenes at a Christian event organised by is wife. The event drew as many as 20,000 people. Erwin had been there all week and told this wife that he was too tired to go on the final night. After reasoning with her back and forth, she insisted that he should be there albeit under protest. On the way, he decided that he needed some new clothes for the event, so went to a store, but in the rush didn’t check the sizes and didn’t realise til he put them on later that they were all too big. All of a sudden, one of the main organisers came up to him and told him that the speaker for the evening had not been able to come, and felt that he was to ask him to speak. That night, Erwin Macmanus left his behind the scenes position and took to the stage in his oversized clothes to preach to thousands. What nobody knew that night is that the only crowd that he’d ever spoken to before was no more than 50 people.

Just imagine what would have happened, or not as the case may be, if he’d have not pushed through the pain!

God graciously weaves the strands of these experiences into something beautiful – if we’ll let Him.

*with special thanks to Sam Chand over the last 2 days, for insights from his book, ‘Leadership Pain’.

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 9th June 2017

Throughout the Bible and church history, we see a clear pattern emerging of how God works with people. No matter how gifted they were, God humbled them before He used them.

The humbling process is invariably painful for us, but is completely necessary in order for us to become pliable in the hands of our Creator.

God’s methods may vary of course, but He always manages to get a person’s undistracted attention to teach the most fundamental lessons of trust.

Let’s take a look at a few such examples over the next two days together as we see how God moved in the lives of some of the Bible greats…

God told Noah to build a huge boat on dry ground. The deluge didn’t come for 120 years.Noah had to trust God while all the other people around thought he was crazy.

Abraham was promised that he would be the father of a great nation, but he remained infertile for 25 long years before he and his wife had their son.

Joseph had two dreams that his family would someday bow down to him. His brothers resented his arrogance and their father’s favouritism. He was sold into slavery and ended up betrayed and in a dungeon, But after 17 years, when God saw that the time was right, Joseph was ready to rescue two nations – Egypt and his family.

Moses grew up in the luxury of Pharaoh’s palace. When he realised that he was a Hebrew, he tried to defend a slave by killing an Egyptian. He spent 40 years in the backside of nowhere before becoming a mighty deliverer.

Elijah saw God perform one of the great miracles of the Bible, calling down fire from Heaves to consume the water drenched sacrifice on mount Carmel. He then destroyed 500 false prophets. However, he then became so fearful because of just one demonised woman named Jezebel, that he fled for his life and became deeply depressed. In the depths of his despair, God met him.

Please join me again tomorrow for more stories of how God prepared some of the Bible greats.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 8th June 2017

Matthew (not his real name) had been married for five years when his marriage began to struggle.

He was a committed Christian and so he took his concerns to the Lord and asked him to supernaturally infiltrate his circumstances.

While searching the scriptures, Matthew was reminded of how God had given His life for him even when he didn’t deserve it. He knew God was asking him to love his wife in the same way he was loved by God – unconditionally and completely.

Matthew asked God to allow him to see his wife through the eyes of Jesus and after his time of praying, he started to notice a change. His wife was the same, his marriage was the same, but he was different. God’s voice had changed him. He saw his wife in a brand new way. 35 years later, this couple testified to the changing power of God’s word.

Often when things in our lives start to change for the better, we attribute the transformation to something other than God’s voice, as we assume that all our hard work has paid off, yet in reality, when we see things changing, we should consider that God has been moving on it all along.

If you’ve written off your situation, then start to pick up the pieces in prayer and allow God to have the final say in the matter. You never know, you may be surprised at the outcome.

One word from God can change your life forever.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 7th June 2017

Most of the time we don’t need to be told things for the first time, we just need to be reminded of things that we already know.

Think of a child being told to brush their teeth. They are literally told the same message hundreds of times during their formative years before it becomes part of their daily lives. They know what to do everyday, but just to be reminded.

Because my wife knows I can be forgetful, she will repeat the same things (much to my annoyance) every day. When I’m left to lock up the house, she will ask me if I’ve locked the house, even though we have been married for 33 years!

Living the Christian life is often one of being reminded about things, even more than receiving an amazing fresh revelation everyday.

As you read through Romans 12:10-12, 15-16 you will notice some very powerful reminders on how to live a great life.

I’ve broken the verses into 12 statements that you can easily take on board as you launch into this week…

1) Be devoted to one another in love.

2) Honour one another above yourselves (treat other people how you would like to be treated)

3) Never be lacking in zeal, (energy passion enthusiasm) but keep your spiritual fervour, serving the Lord.

4) Be joyful in hope, (happy about waiting).

5) Patient in affliction, (patient when things are not turning out right).

6) Faithful in prayer. (Never give up on believing).

7) Rejoice with those who rejoice; (be happy for others when things are going good).

8) Mourn with those who mourn. (Be compassionate with those when things are going bad).

9) Live in harmony with one another. (Don’t be the one singing out of tune).

10) Do not be proud.

11) Be willing to associate with people of low position (be a friend to the little man).

12 Do not be conceited. (Vain, egotistical and self centred).

We are all appalled again at the level of attack that our country has come under over the last few days. Let’s all make a decision today that we will fight back with love and by becoming the very best people that we can be.

Matthew 5:43-45 ‘You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbour and hate your enemy.” But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven…’
Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 6th June 2017

Almost 11 million people in the UK tuned in on Sunday night to watch the Ariana Grande ‘One Love Manchester’ concert.

Once again our beloved nation rose to its feet to overcome evil by doing something positive. Ariana Grande may not be your cup of tea, but at 23 she made a decision to not just sit back and do nothing and turned a massive negative into massive positive for the nation. People from around the globe tuned in to see how we would once again react to the demoralising and demonised religious maniacs that have tried once again to take us down.

In the midst of this, who would have thought that a young Justin Bieber, would become a humble spokesman for the living God.

Whilst the world has been focusing on the radicalisation of young men for evil, God was quietly preparing this particular young man to take the centre stage on Sunday in order to speak out that our GOD IS GOOD.

Some will have thought it nice, whilst others will have been shocked or even offended for him to speak about such things, but unbeknown to many, Justin Bieber has been going through a radical transformation all of his own…a transformation to Jesus. Yes, this kind of transformation is radical too, but instead of being filled with a message of hate, he is filled with a message of hope; it is a million miles in the opposite direction to what many are seeing on our streets as religious fanaticism.

Who would have thought a few years ago that this wayward 23 yr old would be given the platform to speak about a God of Love to millions? Yet we should not just brush it off as something easy to do in front of a watching and highly sensitive world. He CHOSE to stand up and be counted. All of his mentors would be proud of him and so should we. Who better to convey the message of the Bible than this pop icon himself?

The only question remains, is not one of do you agree, but one of where, when and in front of who, will you stand today?

You don’t need to be famous, in fact you can just be plain foolish by all accounts…but God so wants to use you today.

The question then is are you willing?

1 Corinthians 1:26-30 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things – and the things that are not – to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God – that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 5th June 2017

The resurrection of Jesus is of course an astounding miracle…God raises His Son from the dead after being in a tomb for three days. It doesn’t get any better than this.

I then began to think to myself, ‘why after performing such a phenomenal miracle, would God chose to leave the holes in Jesus’ hands, created by the nails that were driven through as He was hung to the cross? Surely God could’ve amended that issue…?’

But I think God knew something when He made that very intentional decision, and that is, what your words cannot show people, your scars will.

It is possible that you yourself have some scars. Maybe you’ve been broken and life has dealt you some pretty tough blows. What you need to know is that God can heal you and God can resurrect you, but often He chooses to allow the scars to remain, so that other people may see Him through them.

You see, God is not always found in your success, but He’s often found in your scars.

It amazes me that the very thing we would hide away, God chose to put on display.

And today, you may be embarrassed or even ashamed of your brokenness, but I want to encourage you that God has a plan for your scars. It is through your brokenness that God wants to reveal Himself, it is through your hurt that God wants to give other people hope, it is through your scars that God wants to set other people free, that they might recognise, if God brought them through it, He can bring me through it too.

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – 3rd June 2017

Did you know that studies show that 85% of us are wearing shoes that don’t fit correctly. Can you believe that?!

Some of us wear shoes that aren’t the right ones for our outfit, some wear shoes that don’t suit us, or are bad for our feet and some of us wear shoes that went out of fashion with the ark.

Our purpose in life is a lot like our shoes.
Some of us are still wearing some that we wore many years ago and are afraid to try new ones.
Some of us only wear slippers, because they’re comfy and we only want to be comfortable.
Some of us only wear training shoes, because life is all about playing and maybe we don’t take anything too seriously.
Some of us only wear black lace-up brogues, because everything is too serious.
Some of us only wear flip-flops because life is like one big holiday, where we have no responsibilities.

God wants us to live a life that is not like the one we lived years ago. He has something new for us every day.

He wants us to get out of our comfort zone and experience new adventures with Him.
Some of us need to understand that God has a great work for us to do, and whilst its good to play, we also have to work hard.
Some of us need more fun in our lives and to stop being so serious all the time. Be more serious about God and less serious about yourself.
Some of us need to understand that the purpose God has called us to is great and we have a responsibility to fulfil it.
To run this race called life and run it effectively, you need to make sure your shoes are correct. What are yours like today?
‘So let us throw off everything that hinders us and the sin that so easily entangles us and let us RUN with perseverance the race marked out for us.’

Check your shoes today and maybe go out and get some new ones.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 2nd June 2017

One of my pet frustrations is with people that don’t text back. I just don’t understand how a person can completely ignore a message.

Now, there are those that text back immediately. There are those that text back later. There are those that text back within a week, and then there are those that don’t text back at all. (Maybe they didn’t get the text of course).

In my days of growing up, there were very limited ways in which to communicate with each other; most of the time it was by letter. If you remember those days then you will remember what it felt like to apply for a job or write a love letter, and then have to endure the long wait. Part of the excitement was in the waiting, but part of the major disappointment was in never receiving a reply. It made you feel worthless.

It’s just the same today, apart from the timing that is. Instead of waiting for days or weeks, we now have to wait for minutes or hours.

When I don’t get a text back, I’m prone to think thoughts like…’have I offended them…don’t they like me anymore…am I a nuisance…or worst still…am I so unimportant to them that I’m just worthy of being ditched altogether?’

The reality is, we have no idea what’s going on in their minds or their worlds for that matter, at the time. We are left either guessing or having to have the courage to ask point blank.

No matter how our way of life has dramatically changed over the years, thankfully God hasn’t. He still hears and He still answers.

The purpose of communicating with God in prayer, is not to ascertain whether or not He likes us, as judged by His immediate response or by His silence, but to bring us into a close relationship with HI’m. His silence brings about a more mature love as He draws us towards Himself, and is often more effective in doing so than an immediate ‘text back’.

Maybe some people are forgetful or just plain rude, but God never is. Your questions, prayers and concerns are immediately received and attended to…you just may not feel it at the time.

God is never too busy and He’s never too late – but He may not be early either.

Always remember when praying, that NO is an answer. WAIT is a much needed answer, and is often far more of a blessing long term than an immediate YES.

Feeling like you’re not getting a text back?

God is onto it right now…you may however have to sit tight for the answer.

It will be worth it.

Hebrews 6:12 We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.

Philippians 4:5-7 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

 

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 1st June 2017

A few days ago, I asked to see a young man. I sent the message via someone that knew him well, as I didn’t have a contact for him. My reason for seeing him was simply to ask him an important question.

It wasn’t many hours later that I was face-to-face with him, however I was concerned as to why he seemed really nervous. He immediately launched into the conversation by asking if he was in trouble or had done or said something wrong. It became obvious that he had been fearing the worst. It took me a few minutes to reassure him that is was merely an important question that I needed to ask him, and had no negative connotations aimed at him at all. He’d simply jumped to the conclusion that it must be bad news.

Interestingly, a couple of days later I had someone come and tell me that a couple wanted to come to my house to talk to myself and Gillian; I was now on the other side of being the slightly concerned and nervous one.

I was asking myself questions like…’why hadn’t they told me direct that they wanted to see us? Why the urgency? Why do they need to come to my home? What could possibly be so bad that they want to see us without warning?’

As I thought through any number of things that it could be, the very last thing on my list was that they could be bringing us good news.

As they arrived on the doorstep and were welcomed through to sit with us in the garden, it became apparent from their huge smiles that this was to be anything but bad news, in fact they were having their first baby, and wanted us to be among the first to know.

Throughout my life, I’ve come to realise how much time has been spent believing that I’m going to be on the receiving end of potential bad news that’s going to come my way. How many times have the kids been late coming home and I’ve believed the worst, or how many times has my phone rang late at night believing it to be bad news? It appears that we live in a world that has conditioned our minds to always think the worst.

One of God’s promises to you today is about this very thing…

Psalm 112:6-8 Surely the righteous will never be shaken; they will be remembered for ever. They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord. Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear; in the end they will look in triumph on their foes.

If you are one of those people that wakes and lives in fear of what’s lurking around the corner every day, then you need to hold this promise close to your heart every day and begin to believe for the best.

That visitor that is about to arrive on your doorstep, may well be bringing to some wonderful news.

Stop fearing what may be, and start enjoying the goodness of our God.

His promise is to give you a steadfast heart everyday, if you’ll simply place your trust in Him.

Today…is a to be a good day.

Today…is to be a GOD day.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 31st May 2017

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

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

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

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

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 30th May 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No!

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

Because…

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

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 29th May 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 27th May 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 26th May 2017

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

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

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

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

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

A door left open attracts the attention of intruders.

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 25th May 2017

We are living in a world without windows.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 24th May 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t compromise yourself any longer.

Stay pure.

Stay strong.

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

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 23rd May 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your head is your brain power.

Your hands are your brawn power.

Stuck for answers?

Lacking in strength?

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

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

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

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

He wants to make a splash.

You can either fall forwards or you can fall backwards.

Choose today which one it will be.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 22nd May 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 20th May 2017

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

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

Here’s 4 reminders about sowing seed

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 19th May 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – 18th May 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are you depend- able?

Are you reli-able?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 17th May 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From now on, wear what suits you most.

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

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 16th May 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2. Realise that change is supposed to happen.

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

3. Recognise change as an opportunity to grow.

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

4. Stay positive about change.

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

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

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 15th May 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Luke Cartwright

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 13th May 2017

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

Cornelius was hungry for God to touch his family.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 12 May 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

Melissa Reynolds-Lawrence

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 11th May 2017

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

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

What are you fearing today?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DO NOT FEAR!

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 10th May 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 9th May 2017

God wants to be our partner throughout life.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Waiting for God to move?

He’s waiting for you to move.

Step out today.

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

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 8th May 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 6th May 2017

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

Here’s a few things about weeds…

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now, go and do some weeding!
Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 5th May 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – 4th May 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 3rd May 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 2nd May 2017

What can I do for God?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 1st May 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 29th April 2017

How many of you today are waiting for an answer to prayer, a breakthrough, or a miracle?

There is a key word here…it’s called WAITING.

Sometimes God seems to ‘go quiet’ on His answers.
It’s at those times we have to REMAIN.

When you wait at the traffic lights, sometimes it’s a red and sometimes it’s an amber.
Often, when there are temporary road works in the street, especially during a quiet period and your lane is on red, you can look for the oncoming traffic and there is none and you wonder what is the point in waiting.
Sometimes early on a quiet Sunday morning, I’ve been tempted to ‘jump’ those lights, thinking it wouldn’t matter, because no one will even know. But, then the sensible in me kicks in, and I realise there is a reason I have to wait, even if I’ll never know the reason.

Sometimes, God ‘goes quiet’. It doesn’t mean He has left you or that He’s forgotten you, but it does mean you have to be patient.

DO NOT stop praying during those times, that’s exactly what the enemy would want, for you to give up on your dream and request, after a short period of time.

Anything that’s special, anything that’s important, is worth fighting for. Who knows, your breakthrough is probably just around the corner.

So today , don’t equate those quiet times as NO, just trust in the timing of God. It’s always perfect.
Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 28th April 2017

Your thoughts can be previews of ‘coming attractions’, unless you do something about them.

When the enemy sets out to destroy you, he always starts with a thought.

Evil thoughts are not yours until you allow them to move in and rearrange the furniture. Left to ramble through your mind, a thought will attach itself to an incident in your past and feed on it, until it becomes like a tumour inside you.

Paul says “…Take captive every thought… To make it obedient to Christ.”  (2 Corinthians 10v5).

Solomon said…”above all else, guard your heart, for it affects everything you do.” (Proverbs 4 v 23).

Don’t give evil thoughts any ground in your head. Evict them before they weaken your commitment, and leave you in the Valley of despair.

When we clean the house, we tend to focus only on what others can see or inspect. Just imagine how much ‘mental’ junk we collect, because we think nobody sits in our heads examining our thoughts…but somebody does – God does! He knows your every thought.

Identify your wrong thoughts.

Address them as unwelcome guests.

Fill your mind with good thoughts.

Read the Bible daily, and let it wash your mind clean again.

Psalm 139:1-4 You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 27th April 2017

That chip on your shoulder could be heavier than you think.

The evidence that anger kills is growing every day. Dr Redford Williams says that the stress hormone cortisol, which fuels anger, literally tears blood vessels, causing damage to your arteries.

Continuous anger prevents the healing process from taking place, so once the damage is done, a single bout of rage can trigger a fatal heart attack.

Jesus said, “Don’t lose a minute. Make the first move, make things right. Do it now, otherwise an inevitable process starts working and continues until you have paid the last penny in pain and distress.” (Matthew 5 v 25-26)

Deal with the issue now before it costs you the race. Forgive! Even if the person who wronged you never admits it, or does not seem to suffer for what they’ve done, forgiving will set you free and enable you to move forward, and that’s what’s important.

Never underestimate the power of forgiveness. It’s the one power you always have over the person who hurt you. Abraham Lincoln said, “the best way to destroy an enemy is to make him a friend.” Forgiveness will put a spring in your spiritual step, and give you a second wind for the race of life.

Go ahead…forgive, and watch what happens.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 26th April 2017

In 1 Kings 18 is the familiar story of Elijah going up against the prophets of Baal. Here in verse 21, we read how before the action begins, Elijah addresses the people.

‘Elijah went before the people and said, “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.” But the people said nothing.’

This is a great question we should ask and answer ourselves every day.

The problem is, we can easily give the correct answer verbally ‘Jesus Christ is Lord’ but then give the incorrect answer behaviourally by how we live and answer ‘my circumstances are Lord!’

For example, we can say ‘Jesus Christ is Lord’ but then continually worry about finances, family or health issues. Then dwelling on our issues we look to tell anyone who will listen and we end up confessing that circumstances are Lord.

It’s perfectly natural to be affected by circumstances, but Baal is Lord of the perfectly natural and to worship Baal is to make your perfectly natural situation the most important thing in your life.

To have Jesus as Lord though is perfectly ‘supernatural’ and means despite circumstances, we’re confident and feel assured that the Creator of the universe is for us.

As I said though, this isn’t natural – it’s not our default or everyone would by nature follow God’s plan, but if by faith we seek Him in our lives every day and make intentional efforts to keep our hearts and minds on HI’m, we start to not only overcome our emotions following our circumstances but we start to enjoy the battle because we know we’ve already won.

“How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.”But the people said nothing.

Don’t just say nothing today, but make a decision to declare, “the Lord is God and even if my circumstances don’t look great, they are just a temporary facade over the glorious reality of what God has for me!”

Luke Cartwright

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 25th April 2017

Success is usually given only at the end of great struggle!

If it came easily, everybody would have it. Lots of people procrastinate, hoping to find an easier way. But it doesn’t work. What ever it costs, it costs – there is no swapping of price tags.

The value of anything is determined by the price you pay for it. Furthermore, you won’t easily jeopardise something when you remember what it cost you.

What are you afraid of anyway? Failing? Your greatest concern should be the opposite – regretting that you didn’t even try.

Are you afraid of criticism? Face it, as you move upwards certain people will find your success offensive. If they do, that’s their problem – unless you make it yours by getting insecure or defensive.

We all want to be liked, but at some point you’ve got to ask yourself, “how much am I willing to lose in order to be accepted?”

Nehemiah cried out to his opposers…”I am doing a great work and I cannot come down.” Any time you defer to the opinions of people instead of the will of God, you’re stepping down.

Advancement often brings isolation and criticism. God may be grooming you right now for a new level of blessing by exposing you to both. Can you handle it? Not everybody can!

If you are determined not to be the kind of person that can sit on the sidelines while others play the game, then go for it. God will reward every step of faith and every sacrifice you make.

Luke 12:48…From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 24th April 2017

‘Ride or Die’ is a term that is used in today’s society and it refers to a person who is with you no matter what, through both the good and the bad.

Maybe you can think of someone in your world who you would consider to be a Ride or Die kind of person, someone you know you can rely on, someone who’s going to stick by your side at all times.

Though we would think of this as a modern term, I want to suggest to you that we find the original Ride or Die all the way back in the Bible.

As we have just come out of Easter, maybe the story of God has been on your mind. The thought of Jesus hanging on a cross to bear the weight of the sins of humanity.
What’s amazing to me about this is that the Bible says if you were the only person on Earth, Jesus still would have done what He did just for you. Talk about a Ride or Die.

Before you even knew Him, before you even considered riding with Him, He died for you.

John 15:13 says, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

This is the sacrifice that was made and this was the price that was paid for you and for me.

I wonder whether today you would consider the reality of God’s love towards you and accept the free gift of salvation and eternal life that comes by believing in Him.

Jesus is the original and only true Ride or Die.

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – 22nd April 2017

Recently, I was requested to go for some routine blood tests. They apparently are looking for eight different things. It’s all part of a well-woman health check. Things like cholesterol and diabetes are on the list to check for. They do that to help make my LIFE BETTER. Is there anything that needs correcting?

You may give blood each year to help someone in need or in a crisis. I remember my Dad several years ago, as he lay in hospital dying, receiving someone’s else’s blood, that helped save his life. Our daughter, after giving birth to our second grandson had to have a blood transfusion – again,  using someone’s blood that had been freely given to help a LIFE IN CRISIS.

Blood tests, may help better your life, or blood may help when in a crisis, but there’s only one person’s blood that can actually CHANGE YOUR LIFE and make it BRAND NEW.

We have just celebrated Easter. Jesus Christ died and gave His blood freely, so that you and I can know forgiveness of sins and have a totally brand new life.

Blood tests may hurt for five seconds, giving blood may be uncomfortable for a time, but the blood that He shed, didn’t only hurt, but it killed Him. And He did that freely for me and for you.

Think about the sacrifice and be thankful. Think about the sacrifice and make sure you make it personal to yourself, by accepting His forgiveness and the new life that He offers you.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 21st April 2017

The first black American to play major league baseball was Jackie Robinson. He faced insults and abuse in every stadium while trying to break through baseball’s colour barrier.

One day in his home stadium in Brooklyn, he committed a foul and the fans turned on him. While they jeered, he just stood there at second base, humiliated. Suddenly, one of his teammates ran over, stood next to him, put his arm around him, and together they faced the crowd. Within seconds the fans grew quiet. Years later, when Robinson was elected to Baseball’s Hall of Fame he said, “it was the arm around my shoulder that day that saved my career and brought me to this moment.”

If God has truly lifted you, you will always reach back for others, it will be as natural to you as breathing.

Luke 22:31 “Simon, stay on your toes. Satan has tried his best to separate all of you from me, like chaff from wheat. Simon, I’ve prayed for you in particular that you not give in or give out. When you have come through the time of testing, turn to your companions and give them a fresh start.”

In prosperity, our friends know us, but in adversity we know our friends. They are the ones who come to us when we are in a fix.

Are you a friend like that?

If you think you’ll ever need one – be one.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 20th April 2017

Joe had worked for the same building contractor for over 20 years. One day he called Joe into the office and said, “I’m putting you in charge of the next house we build. I want you to order all the materials and oversee the job from the ground up. I’ll be out of the country for three months.”

As Joe studied the blueprints and checked the specifications, he thought,”why not cut a few corners, use less expensive materials and put the extra money in my pocket?” So he ordered second rate timber, inexpensive concrete, and cheap wiring.

When the house was finished, the contractor came to see it. After inspecting it, he turned to Joe, handed him the key and said, “I didn’t tell you this before, but this house is a gift from me to you in appreciation for all the years you have worked for me.” You can imagine Joe’s surprise, along with his concern that he had now built his own house with inferior materials.

Build well. The character you build today is the one you will live with tomorrow.

Today is another chance to build – make sure you do it right.
1 Corinthians 3:13-15. Take particular care in picking out your building materials. Eventually there is going to be an inspection. If you use cheap or inferior materials, you’ll be found out. The inspection will be thorough and rigorous. You won’t get by with a thing. If your work passes inspection, fine; if it doesn’t, your part of the building will be torn out and started over. But you won’t be torn out; you’ll survive—but just barely.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 19th April 2017

If you are serious about growth, here are four things you must do:

1. Make a commitment to change. Most of us want things to get better without having to change anything. To grow, you must commit yourself to not only accepting change but to seeking it.

2. Focus on your strengths. Peter Drucker said, “the great mystery is not that people do things badly, but that they occasionally do things well.” One thing that requires no effort is incompetence, strength is always specific. Nobody ever commented that the great violinist, Jascha Heifetz couldn’t play the trumpet very well. If you try to be good at everything you will be good at nothing. God gave you specific gifts – find them and use them.

3. Put yourself in a growth environment. Certain fish grow to the size of their environment…so do people. Put them in a small aquarium and they remain small. Release them into the ocean and they grow to their intended size. If you spend time in the wrong place with the wrong crowd doing the wrong things you will never experience growth.

4. Learn to enjoy the journey. Most grand Masters of chess learn and relearn their moves over a period of 15 years before winning their first title. That’s almost a fifth of their lives. If you’re going to spend that much time doing something, you had better like it. If the destination appeals to you but you are not enjoying the journey, you would be wise to seek God’s guidance and make sure that you are heading in the right direction.

Proverbs 9:9 Instruct the wise and they will be wiser still; teach the righteous and they will add to their learning.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 18th April 2017

When God calls you to do something, His call is confirmed in several ways:

1. You feel ‘moved’. There’s a moment of certainty when God puts His hand on you and nudges you towards a particular need, usually an unmet one.

2. It’s confirmed by others. People around you will discern that God is at work in your life; people that know you well will watch you and see when you’re at your best. They’ll say things like…’you shine when you do that.’

3. You’ll be gifted to do it. God’s call to your life will always come with His giftedness. You may not realise it at first, but you will start to feel His hand holding yours when you do what you were created to do. When you’re in your ‘calling’ you soar despite the obstacles.

4. You’ll see results. You’ll change things and touch lives. St.Patrick once had a dream of the people of Ireland calling him to walk among them. He responded and an entire nation began its journey towards Christianity.

You can’t live in someone’s else dream, you are called to have a dream for your own life. Sometimes your dream starts by helping others to fulfil theirs.

Remember: you are not so much asked to DECIDE what to do with your life, but to DISCERN what you are to do with your life.

Ephesians 2:10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 17th April 2017

People will often treat you according to how you treat yourself; pelope will eventually speak about you according to how you speak about yourself too.

When God made man and woman, as recorded in the book of Genesis, He gave a huge thumbs up and stated that they were ‘very good’. He gave them His royal seal of approval.

Having a healthy self esteem is not pride, but it’s having a correct opinion of yourself as revealed in God’s word.

Your opinion of YOU will affect everything you do in life, not to mention its effect on how far you will go in life.

Stop and ask yourself today, ‘how do I really feel about myself?’

Before you answer, read these 10 principles to help correctly govern your life.

1. Never think or speak negatively about yourself – that puts you in disagreement with God

2. Work on your God-given strengths and learn to encourage yourself – for most of the time, nobody else will.

3. Don’t compare yourself to anybody else. You’re unique, one of a kind, an original. So don’t settle for being a copy.

4. Focus on your potential, not your limitations.

5. Find what you like to do, do well, and strive to do it with excellence.

6. Have the courage to be different. Be a God pleaser and not a man pleaser.

7. Learn to handle criticism. Let it develop you instead of discourage you.

8. Determine your own worth instead of letting others do it for you. They’ll short change you.

9. Keep your shortcomings in perspective – you’re still a work in progress.

10. Focus daily on your greatest source of confidence – the God who lives in you.

Psalm 139:13-14 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 15th April 2017


Here are a few verses from James 5… “if anyone is in trouble, he should pray…if you’re happy, be thankful to God…if you’re sick, get the elders to pray for you.”

We should adopt a LIFESTYLE of prayer. In verse 17, it tells us how Elijah needed a couple of miracles, so he prayed, and God answered.

So these verses just about cover everything.

In trouble? Pray.
Happy? Pray.
Need healing? Pray.
Need a miracle? Pray.

I love how it says that we should give thanks when we are happy. Too many of us are pray-ers when we need something.
What about living a lifestyle of thankfulness when you dont need something?

When you wake, instead of thinking, “Lord I’m not looking forward to today, start with “thank you Lord that I’m alive.”That’s a prayer, but it’s a thankful one.

I like to be thankful as often as I can. I talk to the Lord often and say “Thank you.” For my food, for my coffee, for my family, for our church. You will often hear me saying “thank you Lord.” For all the good things that He is doing. For all the plans He has for me. For all the times He helps me. I could go on and on.

As a parent, we probably would like our children to talk to us more, how much does God love it, when you speak with Him?

I love this verse. I have quoted it many times “and the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” (vs 16)
No matter how short or long your prayer maybe, even if it’s a “thank you”, your prayer is powerful and it’s effective enough to produce a harvest in your life.

Remember today whatever your situation, be a pray-er.
Because God answers prayer.
The strength of prayer is not in the one who prayed it, but the One to whom you pray.

THANK YOU JESUS.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 14th April 2017

There are few things in life that come under the category of ‘top priority’; however, when they do, they tend to get our immediate attention.

A few years ago, I wrote an email to someone and got no response. A further two emails were sent and I received the same silent treatment. It was only after I headed the very same email up in huge capital letters that shouted out ‘read me and respond’ that eventually I received the answer I was looking for.

The Bible confuses many people, in that they don’t know where to start to look for the answers that they desperately want; there are so many things contained in the 66 books that it’s hardly surprising.

I went to catering college when I was 17. I’d done a little cooking at home and was fascinated by learning how to become a professional chef. In those first few classes, I was mesmerised as some of the greatest chefs taught us the most simple, basic and yet mind-blowing ways of creating classic dishes. I remember going home every night and telling my parents that I now knew how to make all those wonderful creations that everyone enjoyed.

As I tried out what I’d been taught, the end result was mouth-watering, yet the method was so simple when you knew how.

Finding out how to make sense of life is much the same. You need someone to help you.

Let’s pretend for a moment that you are one of those people searching for the answers to your life, and that you want to look into the Bible to see what it has to say. Let’s imagine that you have no clue where to begin and would like some help.

Allow me then to take you to what is the most important information that you need to know and is classified as ‘TOP PRIORITY’.

Here it is…

1 Corinthians 15:3-6 …’For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have died’.

The most important information in the whole of the Bible is written here by a one time Christ hater and Christian persecutor and now says I’m passing this onto you as of ‘FIRST IMPORTANCE.’

As we enter this day known as Good Friday, I pray that your eyes will be opened to understand the greatest life-changing news of all time. News that will once and for all settle the issue of life and death and cure the basic scramble going on inside of you regarding the meaning of life.

His name is Jesus.

He died for your sins.

He was buried.

He rose from the dead, so that you could find life in His name.

Why not come and find out more this EASTER SUNDAY?

I will be bringing a special Easter message called ‘Evidence That Demands a Verdict’ at both our services – 9am and 11.30am.

You owe it to yourself to at least give yourself the opportunity to believe.

For more info check out or website – championschurch.org.uk

Happy Easter.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 13th April 2017

As we draw closer to the day known historically as ‘Good Friday’, let’s take a few moments to think about the magnitude of what happened on the day that Jesus was crucified.

Throughout the whole Bible, no blood except the blood of Jesus was ever called ‘precious’. Millions of animals were slain for sacrifices used in the Old Testament, yet for all of that blood that was offered it was powerless to take away a person’s sin once and for all.

1 Peter 1:18-19 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.

Imagine for a moment that you had a dining room table with a large stain in the middle of it. When visitors came round for a meal, you would more than likely cover the table with neatly ironed table cloth and cover the stain. The cloth would successfully cover, but could never take away the stain. Once the visitors were gone, the cloth would be washed and put away and the stain would be still there.

Just like that table, we all have stains in our lives that seemingly cannot be removed. We all tend to cover them in order to appear pretty perfect in front of others. It’s only when we are on our own that we allow our stains to be revealed.

In the Old Testament, the animal sacrifices made for sin had only the power to temporarily ‘cover’ people’s sins, but when Jesus was seen for the first time in public as a man, His relation John said…’Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1 v 29)

Jesus’ blood works not just to cover our sin, but is the only blood that can TAKE AWAY our sins once and for all. He gets right to the root of your problem and when you invite Him into your life and ask for His forgiveness, HE has the power to cleanse you from all sin and make you right with God. No wonder John was excited when he saw Jesus.

Why settle today for a life that keeps covering up your faults and past mistakes when you can come to Jesus and confess your sins, knowing that He will completely wash your sins away and give you a brand new life?

1 John 1:8-10 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 12th April 2017

One of the greatest questions of all time, would have to be along the lines of this one…’what do I have to do to do the work that God requires?’

The answer to that comes in many different forms, dependent on your belief system. Here are a few common responses…

Do more religious things

Help more people

Give more money

Serve in a community project

Pray more

The list really has no end to it.

All of these are usually very commendable things and would certainly never be frowned upon , yet we have a problem, in that Jesus never said that any of those things qualify for a correct response to such a huge question.

For centuries, people have felt that good works are the answer to this, yet that answer doesn’t even come close.

Here is what Jesus said in response to being asked this exact question by a group of individuals…

John 6:28-29 Then they asked him, ‘What must we do to do the works God requires?’ Jesus answered, ‘The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.’

That’s it?! YES, the work that God requires is to BELIEVE.

Praying, serving, giving, loving and all other things come as a result of just one thing, and that is, BELIEVING.

Believing on and in the name of Jesus, is to do the very work that God requires and must come before all other things.

God made it so simple that everyone can do it.

At this very special time of Easter, I pray that you would come to a realisation that no amount of good works can earn you God’s love, in fact it’s impossible to receive this free gift by trying to ‘pay’ for it.

As we contemplate the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ this coming weekend, ask yourself one simple question: do I believe?

That initial step of faith and trust in all that Jesus HAS done is what God is looking for, and is the very work that He requires.

All others things find their true meaning after this, but never before it.

Believe today and receive today.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 11th April 2017

Recently whilst helping to clear out a loft, I came across a china bowl.

It turned out to be what’s called ‘Nanking cargo’ china recovered from the wreckage of a Dutch cargo ship that had sank in the South China Sea in 1752 and was famously salvaged in 1984.

For 232 years it lay perfectly preserved under the sea before being recovered and sold at auction at Christie’s where the current owner had purchased it, it still showed the Christie’s badge and lot number.

This must be priceless you would think? Unfortunately no, for the simple reason that around 50,000 identical bowls had also survived from that wreckage.

You can get other china that’s chipped, tainted, not as old and doesn’t have the same amazing back story, but is worth immeasurably more for one simple reason. They’re a one off from a famous maker.

Guess where this is going?

You are, as you read this today, a ‘one off’ from a famous world renowned maker. You are priceless. You may be imperfect, chipped, not the most elegant to look at, you may not have the greatest back story etc… but you are a one off and so valuable that God gave His only Son to buy you at auction.

I hope your self esteem is rising as you read this, your self-worth should be going through the roof.

Romans 8:31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?

What can we say other than ‘thank you Jesus!’ He’s done it, it’s over, the auction hammer has gone down and he’s paid up in full. There’s nothing we can add other than to believe and work out what it means in the day to day of life to have been truly saved from the depths. Let’s work that out together.

Luke Cartwright

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 10th April 2017

In the Bible we find a story about a woman who’s been faced with the same illness for 12 long years. During this time, she had seen many doctors and spent lots of money, but instead of getting better, she grew worse.

One day, she hears that Jesus has come to town and thinks to herself, ‘If I can just touch His clothes, I will be healed.’ Sure enough, she works her way through the crowd, manages to touch the edge of His garment and is instantly made whole.

It’s important to note that during her sickness, this woman had acted in an attempt to get better. She hadn’t just sat around, but she had explored many different options, hoping that as a result, her condition would change. However, there was just one problem…her aim was off.

Up until this point, she had aimed her action in the direction of her own resources, and at the abilities of the people around her, hoping they could make things better, but it didn’t work.

On the day we see this story recorded, yet again we see this woman step out and act. However this time, she had perfected her aim. She aimed her action not towards herself or the people around her, but towards Jesus. And it was in that moment, she found everything she had been searching for and more.

What are you putting your trust in today? Who are you relying on to turn your life around? Let me encourage you to aim your action in the direction of Jesus – the only One who is able to do for you what you cannot do for yourself… The only One who is able to bring true transformation to your life.

He’s everything you’ve been looking for and more.

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – 8th April 2017

In John 20, Jesus appears to His disciples having just risen from the dead. They were obviously overwhelmed by this visitation.
Thomas however, wasn’t there at that time, so when he was told later that day, he said “unless I see it for myself, I won’t believe.”

We can be like that. We can say we won’t believe until we see, yet we believe in gravity that we can’t see, yet we know it’s real. We believe in the wind, even though we can’t physically see it, but we can see its effects.
Many of us believe in Australia even though we’ve never been, because we know someone that has been there and so we believe them.

Later on in that chapter, Jesus says “blessed is the man who believes, even though he has not seen.” The correct translation of ‘blessed’ here is ‘makarios’ – which means ridiculously happy.

When you are praying for something that you have yet to see, keep believing that you will see it, because you will be blessed.
Your marriage may not be good right now, but you have to believe it will be, before you see it.
Your health may not be good right now, but believe for your healing before you actually see it.
Your situation may need a miracle…believe it can be different and you will see.

“Blessed is the man or woman who believes , but has not yet seen.”

God wants you to apply faith to your situation, to your prayer request.
Don’t ask God for one thing and start to believe another.

Don’t be like Thomas, be a BELIEVER…then you WILL see.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 7th April 2017

There are three kinds of peace found in the Bible.

Each one relates to a different part of your life, yet Jesus willingly gives you all three, all at once, and without measure. In fact, as we saw yesterday, Jesus was crucified, and was raised back to life, in order to bring you the very best and most lasting peace that’s ever been on offer.

John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

The first kind of peace is the peace He LEAVES with you.

In other words, it stays. It doesn’t leave. It’s always there, even beneath the surface on your worst day.

We could call this peace..PEACE WITH GOD.

By asking Jesus for His forgiveness, He, in return gives you instant peace WITH God. That peace remains with you for the rest of your life as you follow Jesus.

Make your peace WITH God today.

The second kind of peace, is the peace He GIVES to you.

We could call this peace…the PEACE OF GOD.

This peace is the peace He sends to your life when you are on the right track. When you obey Him, you will sense this peace. When you do the right thing, you will sense this peace. If you’re going in the right direction for your life, you will sense this kind of peace. It’s the peace OF God.

You’ll soon know when it’s taken from you also. If you wander from the right path, disobey Him or do the wrong thing for your life, you will notice that this peace leaves you. It’s a kind of gauge to help you know when you are in God’s will. This peace will return as soon as you say sorry and get back on track.

Do you have the peace OF God today? If not, ask yourself why.

The third kind of peace, is PEACE WITH YOURSELF.

The Bible passage above says that Jesus gives peace…’not as the world gives.’

The world gives people temporary emotional lifts that make us feel great for a night, so long as we’ve had quite a bit to drink and that people all want to be your friend. The problem is that that kind of peace in yourself is short lived and always has to rely on outside circumstances to prop you up.

Knowing peace WITH YOURSELF means that no matter what day it is, and no matter what you have to face, Jesus gives you an overwhelming sense of well being from WITHIN.

His death on the cross was the payment that he had to make on your behalf, in order to smash the effects of sin and to make a way for all those that believe on His name to be set free.

Have you found peace with yourself? There’s only one way…be at peace with Him.

NO GOD – NO PEACE

KNOW GOD – KNOW PEACE.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 6th April 2017

If you are the parent of a young child or children, you will especially know the desire to find peace at the end of every day.

From the moment they’re awake, it’s a full on war against your peace. That’s not to say that your children are difficult or naughty, but, to have your whole day totally taken up with their needs, is enough to make you crave the moment they are lovingly tucked back up in bed, marking your survival of yet another day as a parent.

As you clear away the toys and the clutter before collapsing on the sofa, you let out that deep sigh that we all recognise as…’now let me have some peace.’

As we approach this Easter season, let me jump ahead and take you to the first hours after the resurrection.

It’s the Sunday night of the resurrection day, and the disciples have barricaded themselves in a small room for fear of their lives. They had been following Jesus for three years, and now that He’s been crucified, they were afraid that they too may be next in line.

Huddled together and remaining deathly quser, Jesus walks straight through the locked door and simply says…’peace be with you.’ (John 20 v 19 -29)

During this conversation, He repeats the very same phrase three times, giving you no doubt as to what the first result of His resurrection may mean to you – Peace.

Peace is only fully appreciated when you’ve had none for a few hours or in some cases, a lifetime.
The very same sigh that you feel at the end of your day as a parent, the very same sigh that you give off when getting home from a busy day at work, is the very same sigh that the disciples gave off when Jesus visited them that day and brought with Him the gift of peace.

He was saying, ‘calm down guys, everything going to be alright…I’m back!’

That night, the disciples’ fear turned to incredible joy as they saw the Lord.

If you’ve been wondering of late, ‘why it is that you can everything in life and yet still have no lasting peace?’; then look no further…the resurrected Jesus brings peace.

Is that what you would like for yourself this Easter time?

Then you are included by Jesus, no matter who you are.

The Easter message has never lost its power, even though 2000 years old. People by their millions are still finding peace, when they let Jesus walk in on their lives.

No matter how closed up your life may have been up until now, He will immediately walk right in and fill you with peace.

Simply believe on His name and invite in Him.

John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

 

Fresh Hope – 5th April 2017

Ever felt that the life you are trying to build is being taken apart by God?

Ever felt in this current season of your life that you seem to be being stripped of everything you have lived for?

Ever been scared to open the Bible, or pray, for fear that God would once again ask for yet again another part of your life to be surrendered to Him, knowing that there’s hardly anything left as it is?

There have been seasons in my own life when the only way I could describe them was to say that it felt like as if I was walking naked through a crowd, with no ability to cover myself up – nightmare! Embarrassed, confused and stripped of everything that I’d built in and around my life.

A couple of days ago, I visited a friend. He was excited to show me this garden that he’d been working on. As we walked from the front to the back of his house, he began to describe the massive plums that his trees would be bearing this year. You can imagine how surprised I was when we arrived in the back garden to find just four very small trees with just a few short branches on. In my mind, if you were going to produce massive plums, you would need a massive tree – but not so to him. He showed me the shoots that had been growing during the winter and that he had just that day cut right off.

It was the very action of pruning the tree that guaranteed the future success of the fruit. “The more I prune, the greater the size of the fruit later on”, he said.

I’d known this all along, but that day was a very clear reminder as to why God ‘prunes’ our lives.

Pruning is seasonal and is for greater growth.

Pruning seems painful at the time, but is necessary for a future harvest.

Pruning seems wrong when things can give an appearance of getting bigger. Yet, we must not be confused that the size of the fruit equates to the size of the tree. In fact, the opposite is true. Seemingly insignificant ‘small’ humble people can far outweigh those that are mighty in their own eyes.

Feeling cut back today?

Feeling stripped of everything right now?

Don’t dismay…God always prunes those He loves so that you will have a far more effective life.

Hebrews 12:5-11 And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says, ‘My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.’ Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined – and everyone undergoes discipline – then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 4th April 2017

Dropping off my mother-in-law’s shopping a few days ago, she announced to me that she thought she’d blown up the microwave.

“There were flames coming out of it”, she said, and upon further investigation she told me what she had done.

It turned out that she had taken two uncooked frozen Yorkshire puddings from the freezer and placed them in the microwave as per instructions. I asked if she had tried to cook them in the foil, but she knew not to do that.

Knowing that it would be unlikely that you could cook such a thing in the microwave, I asked to see the instructions that she had used. I was taken to the freezer and shown a loose bag of Yorkshire puddings with no original container in sight. Instead, there was a small piece of card containing instructions that she had cut out from the discarded box. She was right…the instructions clearly stated that you could cook them exactly as she had done so, however, on reading further I discovered the problem; the cut out instructions were from a box of frozen pizzas!!

It’s one thing to follow instructions, but it’s another to follow the right instructions.

You may well ask why things are always going up in smoke when you are seemingly doing everything that someone told you to do; my question to you is this: whose instructions are you following and what are they telling you to do?

Following instructions for anything in life is pretty simple, but in reality we all want a short cut that takes us from the first page to the last one without having to read the whole thing. If only my mother-in-law would have read the word ‘Pizza’ she would have saved herself a whole lot of trouble.

Following Jesus ultimately means that we agree to follow His instructions for our lives, yet we all tend to go through seasons of our lives where we stubbornly live as ‘know-it-alls’, believing that our way is the best and only way. In reality, we are walking into disaster – a disaster that we will probably end up blaming God for.

God’s word, the Bible, has the answer to everything you may be facing right now, however it can only be applied if you read it. The Holy Spirit doesn’t read the Bible for you, He can only remind you of what you’ve already read.

Wisdom for what to do at any given time is the result of storing God’s word up in your heart.

Start today afresh with these words to one of God’s chosen leaders…

Joshua 1:7-8 ‘Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 3rd April 2017

A lobster can only grow by shedding its protective shell and growing a larger one to expand into.

This is a great picture for us that often in order to grow, we have to go through a season of shedding our security blanket.

Lobsters only shed their shell because of discomfort. They grow too big for their shells, become uncomfortable and so make the change. If a lobster had access to the NHS, it would never grow. As soon as it had any discomfort  it would visit the doctor, get some pain relief and counselling to help it live with the discomfort and would never have the courage or inclination to take the risk and shed that shell.

The lobster becomes vulnerable once its shell has been shed. That is often the reason we don’t grow – we don’t feel it’s sensible to expose ourselves to a weakened position. If the lobster doesn’t take the risk though , its shell eventually kills it.

If you’re reading this today and feeling frustrated and uncomfortable at the confines of your life, I encourage you to take a risk. Often, the thing in our life (the shell) that protects us most, brings provision and shelter, can be the thing stopping us from growing and achieving greater things.

What can also be confusing is that the current restrictive shell was a previously God-given miraculous provision from a previous season. This can make us feel it’s where we should live forever, but the life of faith is one of advancement and growth and what was previously correct for us may now be restricting us, and also God always has new miraculous provision for us.

In Luke 17:33 Jesus said, ‘Whoever tries to keep their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life will preserve it.’

The life of faith is an upside down existence and so I encourage you today to step out, take risks.  Be prepared to lay down your life in order to come into real life. You won’t be disappointed.

Luke Cartwright

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 1st April 2017

A favourite movie of ours is ‘The Fighting Temptations’ – you should see it, if you haven’t.

The title makes me think about how most days we are tempted – maybe it’s just to eat the whole box of cream cakes, but surely as the sun comes up each morning, we will get tempted.

Here’s some common misconceptions about temptation

1. “Temptation is sin.”

No it isn’t. Jesus Himself was tempted, yet without sin.

2. “I’m the only one struggling with this temptation.”

No you’re not. You’re not that special.

3. “There’s no way I can overcome this temptation.”

Yes there is, it’s called self control, discipline – know your Bible and remember the verse ‘He that is in me, is greater than he that is in the world.’

4. “I’m a very strong person, I’ll never get tempted or pulled down.”

Be careful; Jesus was tempted but not pulled down. The Bible teaches us “be careful so that you do not fall.”
How can I get stronger and withstand temptation?

Have a great relationship with God. (Jesus did)
Know your Bible. (Jesus did)
Be aware of the enemies schemes. Be wise. (Jesus was).

Take your lead from Him today and know that He is always with you and that whatever the temptation, you can withstand.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 31st March 2017

What is your crisis management plan? Sounds like a bit of an odd and heavy question for a Friday but bear with me.

When something happens to a brand or company that could potentially tarnish their reputation, a PR plan is in place to limit the damage.

When a bad day comes along, or a time that is testing you, here’s how you can manage your situation and come out stronger on the other side:

1) Know who to speak to

Who is the first person that you speak to in a ‘crisis’? The spiritual answer is obviously God but if we’re really honest with ourselves, that’s not always true.

I encourage you, go to Him first. Let Him work on your behalf. The sooner you hand your troubles over to Him, the sooner you can celebrate those answers to prayer.

2) Watch what you’re saying

The Bible says that ‘death and life are in the power of the tongue.’

You may not have the victory just yet but…speak it out. Every negative conversation, every harshly worded social media status, pushes us further from breakthrough.

3) Listen carefully

When a company is facing bad press or a PR disaster, the best thing that they can do is listen to the experts and do as they’re told.

In every situation and season of our lives, God wants to speak to us. In James 1, we learn that God gives wisdom generously. We can only receive it if we’re willing to pause and figure out what He is saying to us.

Whatever you are facing,  no matter how overwhelming it may seem, be encouraged today. You have the victory.

Melissa Reynolds-Lawrence

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 30th March 2017

We can ask God for many things and then decide we don’t believe what we are asking for.
We can call out to Him for help and then think ‘is He actually going to help me anyway?’
God is always looking for a response from us. He’s looking for a response of faith and of belief in Him and of what we are asking for.

There are times when God asks something of us.
He is looking for our response to be positive.

When the angel visited Mary and told her that she was going to give birth to the Son of God there were three responses…

1. This is impossible. Her response was “I am a virgin”. In other words, she was saying, this is impossible.
God may ask something from you. Don’t think it’s impossible. Instead, believe that if that’s what God has asked then “All things are possible for him who believes” and “With God, all things are possible”

2. I’m not worthy. She wondered why she had been chosen to do this incredible thing that God was asking of her.
You may feel like that today, why would God choose me? Well He has, He does and He will. So remember, God has a great plan for your life. “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you, not to harm you, to give you hope and a future”

3. It’s very improbable. I’m sure people around her thought this probably wouldn’t happen and she herself said “How can this be?” God can do whatever He wants, whenever He wants and with whoever He wants.

Make sure you respond correctly today to God, because He wants to do something great with you.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 29th March 2017

‘The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom’ is a well known proverb that can be difficult to understand.

It goes against the grain of believing in a God that’s a loving father to then be told that we should fear him.

What can help us to understand this is to put it alongside another well known verse in Matthew 6:24:

‘No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.’

In the same way ‘you can’t serve two masters’, you can’t also ‘fear two masters!’ We can’t fear paying the bills as well as fear the all-sufficient and powerful God who is more than able to pay those bills. It doesn’t make sense – which one is right?

When we’re anxious about anything, it’s a declaration we fear man (or the consequence of needs not being met) more than God’s ability to meet those needs. We can’t fear both lack of provision and the God who is our provision.

Fear and anxiety though are a normal part of life – don’t ever feel guilty, it’s what we do with them that counts.

Philippians 4:6&7 helps us…

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

I encourage you at the beginning of every day, deal with your anxieties; don’t let them rob you of enjoying your days, but learn to hand them all over to God, then He will give you peace that is, contrary to your circumstances. This is called living by faith. This then allows God to ‘show off’ in our lives as He reveals His love for us in meeting every one of our needs and then some.

Luke Cartwright

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 28th March 2017

In the Bay of Naples, there’s a jellyfish that loves to swallow a certain snail. But the snail has a hard shell, and the jellyfish can’t digest it. So the snail fastens itself to the inside of the jellyfish, and slowly begins to eat it. By the time the snail is fully grown, it has consumed the entire jellyfish. Now, the point is, a lot of the things we think we can handle finish up consuming us. Things like alcohol, worry, greed, or simply the aimlessness of our lives: there’s  a real killer.

Fred Smith, the author of Learning to Lead, once sent all his friends a letter with these three questions:

  1. Am I enjoying what I’m doing?
  2. Am I happy with where I’m going?
  3. Am I satisfied with what I’m becoming?

One of his friends, a top Wall Street broker, called him and said “When I read the question ‘Am I satisfied with what I’m becoming?’ I said, ‘Absolutely not!’ I’m tired of grabbing the Wall Street Journal first thing every morning like its my Bible. My life has no meaning outside of my investments, so, today I liquidated them all – I’m quitting! Tomorrow, I’m beginning a new life, and I want to thank you for giving me the courage to do it.”

Don’t end your life feeling empty, having your insides eaten away by  a quest for things that can’t satisfy. God has a wonderful plan for your life. (Jeremiah 29v11).

Get into His presence today and let Him tell you about it.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 27th March 2017

Dr Alexander Maclaren attributed everything he knew to one habit: ‘spending an hour each day with God.’

Sometimes he allowed others into the room where he prayed, but they were never allowed to speak.

Maclaren would sit in a well worn armchair with his big Bible lying across his knees. Sometimes he’d read its pages, but mostly he’d just sit with his hand over his face. During that hour he wouldn’t read it as a student or study it for sermons; one of his assistants noted, “he read it like a child would read a letter from an absent father, or like someone deeply in love that was separated from their loved one”. To know God you must spend time with Him.

One night a famous orator recited the 23rd Psalm to a packed theatre and great applause. Afterwards he spotted a Pastor in the crowd from his local church. He called him up to the stage to say a few words, and to his surprise, he too read the 23rd Psalm. But when he was through, there was silence. People dried their tears all over the audience. Afterwards the great orator asked the Pastor why he thought that he had prompted such a powerful reaction. The Pastor simply said “the difference is, you know the 23rd Psalm, but I know the shepherd!”

Do you know Him?

Join me each day this week and I’ll tell you how you can.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 25th March 2017

I wonder how many of you today feel like you are limping through life? You know, life is hard, storms come, situations make us feel down, circumstances pressure us…etc etc
Life can sometimes make us feel like we are limping, when in fact we should be LEAPING.

Today I want to encourage you, that no matter what is going on in your life…
GOD IS FOR YOU . Yes that’s right, my Bible tells me that if God is for me, who can be against me? He’s on my side.

GOD HAS A PURPOSE FOR YOUR LIFE. Yes He does, you may feel right now that you don’t know what it is – stop and ask Him to reveal it to you. He has a special plan, just for you. He made you unique and no one can do what He wants you to do, quite like you.

GOD IS WITH YOU. He’s your friend, your protector, your portion. You never need to be afraid, He (THE KING OF KINGS) is always with you. His word says, He will never leave me or forsake me.

HE WANTS TO PROSPER YOU. Yes, He wants every area of your life to be blessed. Your family, your health, your finances, your career, your relationships. When you acknowledge Him to be the Lord of your life, you can be assured that He has great favour and blessing for you.

So, stop limping today and rejoice in the great things that God has in store for YOU.
Thank Him and Believe His word over your life.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 24th March 2017

There’s a story in the Bible where we see Jesus enter a town and there is met by a man whose daughter is at home, sick in bed. He pleads with Jesus to come to his house and heal his 12 year old girl.

Jesus agrees to go with the man and while He is on His way, a woman who has been faced with an illness for 12 straight years, comes up behind Him, touches the edge of His cloak and is instantly made well.

Jesus then proceeds to turn around and converse with this woman, and while doing so, hears the news that the little girl who was at home sick, is now dead. Nevertheless, Jesus continues on to the home, walks into the room where the dead girl is lying and raises her from the dead.

These are two outstanding miracles that we see recorded here, but I want you to see the order in which they take place…

We see two females in this story, one who is 12 years old and the other who has had a 12 year old issue. One represents the future generation, the other represents the present generation.

I believe here, Jesus wanted to send a message to you and I that says, ‘before I can resurrect the future, I first have to heal the present.’

You need to know that before God can bring your future back to life, you first need to let Him deal with whatever hurt or pain you’re dealing with at present.

What is it that you need to let go of today and allow God to heal, restore and redeem in your life? When you make a choice to hand over the discomfort of today, you can be assured that the resurrected God Himself is resurrecting your tomorrow.

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – 23rd March 2017

Do you have any idea how effective you could be if only you were totally committed? The difference between the masterful and the mediocre is focused effort. At 55, I’m convinced that my best days are still ahead of me, and am totally sold out to being all that God has designed and destined for my life.

How about you? When are you going to roll your sleeves up and get moving towards the purpose that God has for your life?

There’s a difference between talent and purpose. God calls you according to His purpose not according to your talent.

Romans 8:28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

If you’re just talented, but unaware that you are called, you’ll be happy to go anywhere and do anything, even if it de-rails your life.

Talent, like love, is sometimes blind. But if you’re conscious of your God-given purpose, then you will know there are some things you are not meant to do, because they may defeat God’s purpose for your life.

Knowing God’s given purpose for your life means that you will only focus on your talent if it relates to your purpose.

Think about it for a moment…every domestic appliance has been created to fulfil a specific purpose. Just imagine putting the dirty dishes into a washing machine just because it’s supposed to clean things. Disaster. It does clean things, but they are very specific things! They only clean things ‘according to their purpose’.

Instead of just asking God to bless whatever you are doing today, ask Him to reveal to you His purpose for your life.

Have you discovered God’s purpose for your life yet?

If not, get into His presence today and stay there until He reveals it to you.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

 

Fresh Hope – 22nd March 2017

How do you handle correction? By taking offence? By hearing it as rejection? By getting defensive? All of us need people who’ll be honest with us because we’re easily blinded by our egos. When God sends someone to correct you, it’s because he loves you. He only does that to those He values. Listen: Hebrews 12:7-11 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined – and everyone undergoes discipline – then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

So how do you handle correction? By killing the messenger? By making sure that he or she never gets to you again? By giving in to self pity and saying, ‘people do not understand or appreciate me?’ Your life needs to be sharpened constantly, so stay close to those that God sends to you.

Accountable people always exhibit 4 qualities:

Vulnerability. They are capable of knowing when they are wrong and admitting it, even before they are confronted.

Teachability. They are willing to hear, quick to learn and always open to counsel

Availability. They are accessible. They don’t avoid you.

Honesty. They hate anything phoney and are committed to the truth no matter how much it hurts.

Pride and ego has to fall when you are willing to be make yourself accountable, so when God sends good people into your world that love you enough to challenge you, then try to be an open book…you’ll not regret it in the long run.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 21st March 2017

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 he would be the father of many nations, but in the natural this looked impossible. Both he and his wife were beyond 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 son, Jacob, had 12 sons who became the original 12 tribes of Israel, whose descendants outnumbered the grains of sand on the sea shore.

Today, I encourage you to do what Abraham did and believe 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.

Keep looking through the eyes of faith because HE has blessing and victory in store for you.

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 – 20th March 2017

There is a common saying that goes ‘cart before the horse’ to suggest something is done back to front. Imagine how difficult it would be for a horse to be pushing a cart? Have you ever tried to ride a bicycle backwards? Unless you’re in a circus, it’s impossible.

This often is a picture of how we are in relation to God. We serve and live to please him, to achieve something? This is back to front, we should serve and obey because of what He has already done for us.

Life conditions us to work for what we get, work hard at school and get good grades. It makes perfect sense but this thinking hinders our walk with God where, thankfully, he treats us better than we deserve.

Jesus helps us in John 13 where he’s about to wash the disciples’ feet.

Jesus  knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist.

Here is a great example where Jesus ‘knew’ who he was in God ‘so he’ served. He didn’t serve to obtain who he was, or work it out.

How often do we serve etc because we’re working out who we are, where we’re meant to be, what’s our calling?

Life is a lot easier when we know who we are, not because of our strengths or what we have to offer, but because of his strength and what he has to offer, for us to be children of the living God.

I encourage you today to assess whether your bike’s back to front? Do you get frustrated and easily hurt by people as you try and serve God? It’s a sign we are trying to work towards something instead of from the assurance of knowing who we are, his children.

1 John 3
See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!

Luke Cartwright

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 18th March 2017

1 John 5 v 14 says
This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.

Have you ever tried to send a text message to someone and it says “message failed to send”? What a pain that is. Maybe the wifi connection is down or there is something the matter with yours or their phone.

I’m glad that when I come to God in prayer, my message never fails to send.

That’s right…every word spoken audibly or in my heart ALWAYS reaches the throne of God.
This verse says that He hears every prayer.

The next verse says:
And if we know that he hears us–whatever we ask–we know that we have what we asked of him.

So He not only hears me, He will answer too.

Sometimes my text messages go through, but the recipient doesn’t answer – that can be frustrating too. But not with God. He always answers.

His answer may be ‘yes’ or ‘wait’ or even ‘no’… but HE ALWAYS ANSWERS.

His network is never down, my prayer always gets through and the minute I pray, He’s working on the answer.

Get messaging today.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 16th March 2017

One of my favourite people in the Bible, is Zacchaeus. We meet him in the New Testament, whilst Jesus was passing through Jericho. Zacchaeus, being a guy of short stature, climbs up a tree to gain a better view of Jesus. Jesus spots him in the tree, and commands him to come down; Jesus is going to stay at his house today.

Why I love Zacchaeus is because in this moment, he had every odd stacked against him to meet Jesus. In fact, the words “passing through” indicate that Jesus did not even intend on stopping at all. However, he made a decision to step out of the crowd and make himself available to meet with Jesus.
I saw a great quote which reminded me of Zacchaeus: “Go the extra mile, it’s never crowded.” Sometimes, we have to get out of the crowd and go the extra mile because that’s where the amazing stuff happens.

Maybe, you need to step out of the crowd to meet with Jesus. Find a space within your day, where you can step out and meet with Him. Make yourself ready and available to meet with God.
On the other hand, maybe today, you need to go the extra mile for someone else. Buy someone a coffee, send someone an encouraging text, do something kind for a stranger. I’m sure we can all think of times when someone has gone the extra mile for us, and how good that makes us feel. Without realising it, we can miss several opportunities a day to step out and do something for someone else.

If Zacchaeus hadn’t have stepped out on that day, he wouldn’t have met with Jesus and his life wouldn’t have been changed. Today, step out. Step out to meet with Jesus and step out to do something for someone else. Both, have the power to change your life and the lives of those around you.

Lucy Lawrence

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – 15th March 2017

We all face different challenges and circumstances – it’s the nature of life isn’t it?

Whether you feel alone and isolated, like it’s the middle of the night and sunrise seems a lifetime away. Or maybe you’re having to face your worst fear and it’s the darkest time of your life.
Perhaps you’re walking through a valley in life, where you can’t see a way forward or maybe you’re climbing a mountain – and whilst the view may have improved, it’s a struggle to keep going up the incline.
Let me encourage you to trust in God’s unfailing love, and rest on His grace.

God is always with you, He never leaves you.
Remember that in Jesus, you will find all you need. He is our source and supply.
God is a light in our darkness.
His words provide light to see a way forward.
We have a hope in Jesus that means we do not need to fear.

When Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead, he defeated the grave, which means He has won it all! Don’t forget that Jesus is all we need.
He is everything!

Adam Nash

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 14th March 2017

If you want your future to be bright, what you’re doing NOW matters.

Think about it. The decisions you make today will affect your tomorrow. The choices you make today will shape your tomorrow.

We are our choices.

Sometimes we can be in a place we don’t like. But if it’s God’s will for us we have to stick with it, because tomorrow can be different.
If I don’t like my weight or fitness level, I need to start making changes today, in order for tomorrow to be different.
If I don’t like my relationships today, if they’re not propelling me towards a greater future, then today I have to make some decisions to change them.

David was a great harp player. He was not only good but anointed. He found himself playing the harp for a demon possessed king, Saul. Yet all the time he was anointed for something far greater (to be a King himself) . He chose what God placed in front of him right then, allowed God to use him in that and in doing so, was getting ready for a greater future.

You see what we choose to do today, and how we choose to do it, WILL affect our future.

You may wonder why you are doing what you are doing today, yet what you do today will affect your tomorrow.

We all have an opportunity for a bright future, just choose wisely today.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 13th March 2017

For Christmas, my Nan was given a 1000 piece puzzle. She recently told me how for the first six weeks, she had spent every single day working on it and was now nearing completion.

Myself and a few of my family went to see her one night and decided to help her finish it. In order to be of as much assistance as I could, I decided to adopt a method of picking up a piece, seeing if it fit, and if didn’t, putting it back down and repeating the process. I think I contributed two pieces during the 45 minutes we were there…

The reason I share with you that story is because I believe that many of us take that same approach with life. We identify that there is a missing piece on the inside of us, a gap, a hole, a feeling of emptiness. So we begin picking up different pieces, hoping that they will fill the void in our lives.

However, I want to save you a lot of time, energy, effort and resource by telling you that this missing piece on the inside of you is a God-shaped hole and only He can fill it.

Relationships can’t fill it, substances won’t do it, nothing in this world can eliminate that sense of emptiness, that lack of meaning and purpose that’s on the inside of you, apart from the One who created you – God Himself.

Today, make a choice to put down all of the pieces that were never intended to complete you and turn to God. He’s everything you’ve been looking for and more.

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – 11th March 2017

Whenever we come to God and come into His presence, we should do so with a great expectation.
Anyone who comes to God with an expectation, will never go away disappointed.

The blind man wanted his sight, he expected Jesus to do something about it and He did .
The woman with the issue of blood expected that Jesus could help her and He did. Jairus came to Jesus for help with his daughter…and guess what He did? He raised her from the dead.

Our expectation is always God’s invitation.

You expect and He will reply to your invite.
God will give the quickest RSVP ever.
He won’t have to think about it, check His calendar, or see if there’s anything else He’d rather be doing.
He’ll be right there.

What’s your expectation today ?
That God will speak to you as you spend time with Him?
That God is going to help you with your situation?
That God is going to do something new in your life?
That God’s will is about to be done?
That God can do whatever He wants, whenever He wants and with whoever He wants?

You invite Him and He’ll be there.
You expect and God will not disappoint.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 10th March 2017

A Chinese tour guide found himself in deep trouble and risked losing his job after he realised that he had forgotten his passport en route to the airport.

The coach they were all travelling on, had to be turned around resulting in all 30 tourists in his care turning up late for the flight.

When they did eventually arrive at the airport, the group were enraged when they were told that their pre-booked seats at the front of the plane had now all been given to other passengers, resulting in them having to be seated at the very back of the plane.

During the flight, the tour guide took the brunt of the group’s anger again and again, as they threatened to report him.

As the hours rolled by,  en route to their destination, he was forced to sit in silence as he thought about the cost of his actions to all of the group and ultimately to himself.

What no one could have known is that his ‘forgetfulness’ was actually a gift to the group that they could never have seen coming.

As the plane prepared for landing, it went off course and slammed into a mountain – killing almost all on board. The only people to survive the crash were 90% of the tour guide’s  group, including the tour guide himself. Changing their seats because of him, now meant that they literally owed their life to him. He turned from zero to hero in a few short hours.

Have you ever been annoyed at the inconvenience you have been put through simply because of someone else’s actions?

Have you ever wondered why the plans that you made were diverted by the seeming thoughtlessness of others?

Could it be that God saw what disaster was about to come your way, and took immediate action to inconvenience your steps in order to save you?

We may never know these things at the time, but one day we will look back and realise that my ‘detour’ was ordered by God.

When Joseph in the Bible was left for dead by his brothers, and then sold into slavery, he could never have known as his life was in free fall that his ‘set backs’ were actually sent to catapult him into one of the greatest ‘comebacks’ in history.

Feel like you are on a detour to nowhere right now? Believe today that your life is in HIS hands and He is taking you to exactly where you need to be.

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

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 9th March 2017

In Luke Chapter 4, Jesus is led by the Spirit into the wilderness. He ate nothing for 40 days and during this time, was tempted by the devil.

Although we may not be wandering around the desert, there are times in all of our lives where we find ourselves in the wilderness. Maybe you’re waiting on God for an answer to prayer or a promise from Him. The wilderness can feel like a lonely and uncertain place.

When Jesus was in the wilderness, He did things that we can learn from:

1) He clung to God’s word

40 days is a long time to wait. No matter how long your wilderness season lasts, God’s word never expires. When the devil tempted Jesus, he fired back at him with scripture.

See, when you’re feeling lost, having scripture to draw on is vital. Psalm 119, verse 1 says ‘I have hidden your word in my heart’; in your moments of desperation, there’s no time to look verses up.

2) He resisted temptation

This one is tough. Absolutely none of us are above temptation.
Jesus was shown ‘all the kingdoms of the world’ by the devil. It was of course, all an illusion.

When you’re waiting on God, you will often be faced with a quick fix, or an easy way out. The longest route out of trouble often comes in the form of a shortcut. If it looks too good to be true, or you know it isn’t God, flee.

3) He endured

Jesus’ resistance and obedience brought great reward.
In verse 14 it says ‘Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. He was teaching in their synagogues, and everyone praised Him.’

Did you catch that? God got the glory. Jesus was faithful and he came out of the wilderness ‘in the power of the Spirit.’ Not only did He see great things happen, following his time there  but He was more powerful and effective than ever.

Melissa Reynolds-Lawrence

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 8th March 2017

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Jeremiah 29:11 NIV

Maybe you’ve woken up today with a plan. You  know exactly what you’re going to do, how you’re going to do it and when you’re going to do it. Or, you’ve woken up today with no plan and nothing to do; you’re just going to see where the day takes you.

We can often get so wound up in ‘the plan’; in knowing what the next day, week or year holds. We want a plan for every area of our life and if we don’t know, or it doesn’t happen, that stresses or worries us. As humans, we get so consumed by knowing. I read Jeremiah 29:11 and asked God to give me a new perspective – what more can I learn from one of the most famous verses?

I was so drawn to the word KNOW – ‘For I KNOW the plans that I have for you’. It’s already common knowledge that God has a plan for us, but we never focus on how or when that plan was made.
God’s plan for your life isn’t something He creates day-by-day as you live your life. He doesn’t struggle to set out a path for you at the beginning of each new day. God KNOWS. He’s got it all sorted. Before you existed, before you were a thought in your parents’ minds – God knew the plan He had for you.

Today, don’t get caught up in ‘the plan’; don’t stress about not knowing – rest in the knowledge that God knows. And more than that He knows BEST – ‘plans to PROSPER you, and not to harm you. Plans to give you a HOPE and a FUTURE.’

Lucy Lawrence

A daily devotion for a better way of living

Fresh Hope – 7th March 2017

In the book of Genesis, we see God creating the world over a six day period. He continually recognises that His work is good until we reach Genesis chapter 2, where God has identified one thing that is not good…that man is alone.

From the very beginning of time, it becomes evident that God’s intentions for humanity are not that they should do life alone, but together with other people.

Adam was in the most beautiful environment, surrounded by the most amazing scenery, and yet God wanted to send a clear message to him and to us: what is life without people to share it with?

You can have all the success, all the resource and be living the life you always dreamed of, but what does it count if you don’t have anyone to enjoy the journey with?

God knows what you need and He knows who you need. After all, He created you. God knows that in order for you to live the life that He created you to live, then you can’t be secluded, you must live surrounded.

Make a choice today to surround yourself with people who are going to take you closer to your destiny and the fulfilment of God’s plan for your life.

For life is not about what you do, it’s about who you do it with.

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – 6th March 2017

When each of our children were growing in the early stages of their lives, they each would complain of a similar type of pain that they were experiencing. When we took them to the Doctors, we would hear the familiar words…”these are simply growing pains.”

As we grow in life we cannot avoid pain, but what we can do, is identify it.

Craig Groeschel is Pastor of one of the largest churches in the world. What he has to say on the subject of pain is far too valuable to keep from sharing…

‘The longer I avoid a problem, the bigger it generally becomes. If I summon the courage to endure small amounts of pain and do what’s right early, I will avoid larger doses of pain later on.
Pain is part of progress. Anything that grows experiences some pain. If I avoid all pain, I’m avoiding growth.
Often the difference between where I am and where God wants me to be is the pain I’m unwilling to endure. Doing what’s right – no matter how difficult – is a rare trait. Most chose easy. We must always choose right over easy.
God is always faithful. Even when life is hard, God is working for our good. Pain teaches us to depend on Him. It purifies our motives. It keeps us humble and moves us to pray.’

‘We must embrace pain and burn it as fuel for our journey’ – Kenji Miyazawa

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 4th March 2017

Don’t ask me how I know that my dog Percy knows when it’s Wednesday, as I have no idea. He must have a calendar in his room, that he marks off every night with a Sharpie and says “yippee, it’s Wednesday tomorrow.”

We can have a different sequence of events in our home and yet he still knows it’s Wednesday.

‘What’s with a Wednesday?’, you ask?
Well Wednesday is the day I often take him to the office for a couple of hours to see the staff. It started when we first had him, so I took him to meet them all. It’s developed from there, now every week he cries on a Wednesday morning waiting to go. Because for him it’s exciting, he gets to see good people, have a little treat (often just leftover lunch) and yet he comes home happy, content for another week.

Today as I write this, it’s Wednesday, but it’s different.
I’m not going to the office, as I’m home preparing the message quietly for Sunday. So I haven’t got dressed in my ‘office’ clothes, I’m not following any normal Wednesday pattern, yet he’s still showing that ‘Wednesday’ reaction of excitement and anticipation because today he might be going!
As I sit here writing, he’s crying and trying to get to the front door. Because somehow, that dog knows it’s Wednesday.

As you read this, tomorrow is Sunday, the day when we should have the exact same anticipation and excitement of “get me to church.”

Make sure you have it…make sure your heart is right…and like Percy, don’t settle until you get there.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 3rd March 2017

Matthew 14:22…Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side…

More lessons from a storm (continued from yesterday)…

Trouble doesn’t mean that God has abandoned you. The disciples learned that Jesus may be out of sight, but He’s never out of touch. To ‘walk by faith, and not by sight’ means that sometimes you’ll walk in darkness without visible cues. Someone put it this way: ‘when you can’t trace His hand, you can trust His heart.’

When the disciples were being tossed around in the boat, Jesus was up on a mountain praying for them. He was totally aware of the problem and was working on the solution. Just because He’s not present, it doesn’t mean He’s not there.
Between the command to ‘go’ and your safe arrival on the other side, there’s often a crisis. Jesus commanded them to cross to the other shore, but before the trip was completed, their world experienced upheaval.

What’s buffeting your life today – loss, guilt, loneliness, financial pressure, illness, addiction, rejection?

Instead of sinking in fear, ride the waves by faith. Those very same waves will carry you quickly to exactly where you need to be.

‘We must embrace the pain, and burn it as fuel for our journey’ – Kenji Miyazawa
Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 2nd March 2017

Matthew 14:22…Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side…

No sooner had the disciples followed Jesus’ instructions, then they found themselves in a huge storm.

When you find yourself in trouble, is the first thing that you think…’have I done something wrong…Perhaps I’ve missed God’s will and He’s punishing me?’

Yet, the disciples weren’t in a storm because they’d disobeyed God, but because they’d obeyed him.

At times you’ll find yourself in troubled waters because you did what was right, rather than what was popular, easy or selfish.

When that happens, here are some helpful lessons from the disciples’ experience:

Obedience doesn’t guarantee there will be no storms. The disciples had just been part of the miracle of the feeding of the 5000. Shouldn’t their faith have been strengthened, yet they forgot it completely when fear came knocking at the door. Jesus had told them that He would meet them at the other side of the lake, yet they forgot His miracle working power and His promise gave way to their fear.

Remember: sometimes God doesn’t SOLVE your problem, but He will SHOW UP in your problem.

Fear doesn’t mean you’re a failure. It’s just a reminder that you’re human, and, like the disciples you’ve forgotten who has the power and who’s in charge.

More lessons from the storm tomorrow, but in the mean time…

Trials turn to triumph when you know who’s holding your hand.

Trust Him again today.

No matter what.
Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 1st March 2017

Cripple him and you have a Sir Walter Scott.

Lock him in prison and you have a John Bunyan, author of Pilgrims Progress.

Bury him in the snows of Valley Forge and you have a George Washington.

Raise him in abject poverty and you have an Abraham Lincoln.

Subject him to bitter religious prejudice and you have a Disraeli.

Strike him down with infantile paralysis and you have a Franklyn D. Roosevelt.

Deafen him and you still have a genius composer called Beethoven.

Have him be born black in a society filled with racial discrimination and you have a Martin Luther King, Jr.

Persecute him for his faith and you have an Apostle Paul that wrote two thirds of the New Testament.

If that doesn’t challenge you, consider Benjamin Franklin: at 25, he founded America’s first library. At 31, he started its first fire department. At 36, he designed a heating stove that’s still in use today. At 45, he founded the nation’s first university. At 79, he invented bifocals. He had exactly two years of formal education and yet he wrote and spoke five languages.

As you start out into a brand new day today, ask yourself what excuse do you have for not trying?

And remember: what started out looking like it was really bad, God can turn it around for good, even to saving of many people’s lives.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 28th February 2017

One winter night, an old couple dashed into the lobby of a small Philadelphia hotel, hoping for a room. But the clerk said, “all the rooms are full.” As they started to leave he said, “would you be willing to sleep in my room? It’s not a suite, but I think you’ll be comfortable.”

At first they were reluctant, but he insisted, “don’t worry, I can sleep in the office.” So they accepted. The next morning when they were due to check out, the old gentleman said to the clerk, “thank you, you should be the manager of the best hotel in the country. Maybe some day I’ll build one for you.” The clerk simply smiled and thanked him.

Two years later, the clerk received a round-trip ticket to New York City and a letter thanking him for his kindness. The old couple were inviting him to come and visit them. Although he’d forgotten about the incident, he decided to accept their offer. When he arrived in New York, they took him to the corner of 34th street and 5th avenue. “That,” said the elderly gentleman, pointing to the magnificent skyscraper, “is the hotel I have just built for you to manage.” The clerk said, “you must be joking.” “I can assure you I’m not.” he said.

The old gentleman’s name was William Waldorf Astor. The hotel was the original Waldorf-Astoria. The young clerk was George C. Bolt – its first manager.

Don’t forget to sow another seed of kindness today…you never can tell what your harvest will be.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 27th February 2017

Some time ago my husband ran over a pigeon. It was very unfortunate. We approached slowly, we beeped the horn, but the pigeon wouldn’t move. Why? Because it wouldn’t let go of the item of food that it had found in the middle of the road. I covered my eyes ready and hoped that the pigeon had seen sense and moved. I heard the thud. Sad, I know.
That’s a lot like us. We refuse to let go of things, when really we should move on.
Often, it can be dangerous to hold onto things.

If there’s stuff in your life that you’re refusing to let go of, remember this, you’ll never move on until you do.

You may think that what you’re holding onto is worth it, but often it’s not.
We can actually damage our lives by keeping hold of it and don’t see the danger ahead.

May today be a day of letting go and unlike the pigeon, may you know a new found freedom when you do.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 25th February 2017

Some of my favourite verses in the Bible are found in Matthew 6 where we see Jesus addressing people’s concerns such as, ‘what am I going to wear?’ and ‘what am I going to eat?’

What amazes me about the Bible is that although it was written over 2000 years ago, it still speaks to people’s situations today. We still have the same kind of worries and fears as those who Jesus was specifically speaking to in the book of Matthew.

Jesus responds to their concerns by turning their attention to birds and flowers… ‘I want you to consider the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them’. ‘Furthermore, think about the flowers of the field; they do not labour or spin, and yet you’ve never seen anything dressed as good as these.’

The reason Jesus uses such an illustration is to show us that we only have to look at creation to be reminded that God is a good God, that He’s a faithful God and that He’s a God who provides your every need.

He then goes on to say, ‘And how much more valuable are you than they?’

Jesus wants you to know that you are of far greater worth and value to Him than birds and flowers. And just as He ensures that their every need is met, so will He ensure that your every need is met too. You don’t have to worry, you don’t have to fear, you don’t have to be concerned, for the God of Heaven and Earth cares about what you care about and what matters to you, matters to Him…

You can rest assured today that He’s got your whole world in His hand.

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – 24th February 2017

God’s personal word to you will be accompanied by a sense of assurance and peace.

When you sense God’s leading, ask yourself, ‘do I feel confident and peaceful about moving forwards or am I restless and unsure about the directions I have received?’

Can you honestly move forwards in confidence that you will not be betraying yourself?

Even when doing something that seems impossible, God’s peace will accompany your actions if it is His will. You may feel far from confident in your own ability, but you can grow in confidence in His.

Have you ever moved forward without the ‘green light’ of God’s peace? What were the results?

God has made His guidance system to us very simple – every one of us can easily follow it…

…when we obey God, we experience internal tranquility.

…when we step outside of His will, we feel uneasy.

Our God given peace will not be lost, but if something that we are doing or not doing isn’t pleasing to Him, peace will not rule in our hearts.

Keep it simple.

Peace or no peace?

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

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – 23rd February 2017

“I know God is speaking to me when, in spite of my initial struggle, an undeniable release and peace follows when I have obeyed His voice.
When I finally do the thing he has been nudging me to do, whether it’s letting something or someone go, or taking a step towards the unknown, there is a deep calm in my soul. Where my heart and mind were once filled with terrible angst, I am now filled with supernatural peace.” – Kathy Troccoli

The Greek word for peace in the Bible is the word ‘eirene’. It means to be exempt from rage and havoc of war, to be at rest and quietness.

This word is also used to describe peace between individuals. The peace that Jesus gives therefore is both external and internal.

The Holy Spirit lives within us to give us a continually peaceful assurance internally that directs us to make decisions that honour God, and also to guide our relationship with others.

When God wants to speak to you about something today, or confirm the rightness of a decision today, rest assured, He will give you His peace as a sign to move forwards. When you don’t sense His peace, take it as a sign to stay put.

John 14:27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 22nd February 2017

Proverbs 3 vs 1-2 says “My Son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you prosperity..”

God’s teaching and commands are there for a reason.
Why? To bring us prosperity and a great long life.
We’d certainly like that, yet are not always eager to do what His word asks.

If there was a cream out there that promised to prolong our lives, or a power drink that promised us prosperity, we’d be drinking it by the gallon, or rubbing it all over every day.

Yet God’s word says simply this: obey my commands and the results will be the same.

In our society, people think they can please themselves with no thought for God or His word and yet expect to be blessed.
God’s rules are there for our blessing and our protection. He has the perfect plan for our lives.
If we choose to operate within that, then our lives WILL be blessed. If we choose to do the opposite, we do so at our own peril.

If you follow the Maker’s instructions, you’ll get perfect results every time.

Choose to follow God’s word today.
Choose to follow His road map for your life.
HE knows what He’s doing.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 21st February 2017

Every organisation that is centred around people, has a lost property office, cupboard or at the very least, a cardboard box.

Accompanying this, is usually a book that records as an inventory, all lost items. It’s amazing how many things get left behind without anyone seemingly being bothered to chase them up. You do begin to wonder as to how an adult could go home and leave just one sock behind – at what point did they take it off and forget to put it back on?!

Then there’s valuable items that just sit there for months without being claimed, leaving you to believe that someone out there must be racking their brains as to where they might be.

Interestingly, the Bible records many lost items, which turn our thoughts as to why it would do so? The answer is simple…it’s a book devoted to lost people.
Just like a cookery book is designed to help us create fantastic dishes, and a car maintenance manual is designed to help us repair a car, then the Bible is a manual to show lost people how to be found. Found by God, that is.

In one part of the Bible (Luke 15) there are three things recorded as lost things. These three things are actually stories or parables told by Jesus to help us understand how important lost people are to him…

The lost coin – has no value unless placed in the hands of the one who can spend it…making it WORTHLESS.

The lost sheep – just wandering around without a shepherd…it’s AIMLESS.

The lost son – left to his own devices without a father…he’s RECKLESS or senseless.

Maybe that’s exactly how you feel?

The whole point of this story about ‘lostness’ is found in the closing words about the lost son…”But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”’

God is passionate about finding lost people; in fact the whole purpose of Him sending Jesus to the planet was to to save the lost.
I lost my car some years ago, or at least I thought I had. I parked it and left it for just five minutes and when I went back it was gone. Stolen? After several minutes, I realised that it was exactly where I had left it. My car wasn’t lost…I was. I’d simply forgotten where I’d parked it!

Have you ever asked where God is? Have you felt that His presence is no longer close?

The answer lies in that He is where you left Him. He’s not lost – you are!

The great news is that He is right now waiting for you to turn back to Him and be found.

He’s closer than the breath you breathe.

He’s only ever a prayer away.

Luke 19:10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.’

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 20th February 2017

John chapter 10 v 11 says “I am the good shepherd.”

You may have noticed that the verse before, tells us that the devil comes to steal, kill and destroy. But verse 11 tells me that Jesus is my good Shepherd.

Sometimes we think that Jesus is a distracted shepherd, because maybe while I have stuff going on, Jesus is distracted by someone else’s stuff and therefore maybe He’s not giving me His best attention.

Then we think He’s a busy Shepherd, well that’s certainly true, He is busy, but He’s busy shepherding you.

Maybe you think Jesus is an absent Shepherd, because maybe you can’t feel His presence near, or you’re wondering where He’s gone in your situation? Let me tell you this: He’s gone nowhere. If you can’t feel Jesus, guess who moved?

Maybe you think that Jesus is a negligent Shepherd. Maybe He has got your situation wrong, maybe things would be different, if Jesus was not so negligent? Is that why everything doesn’t seem right at the moment? Has Jesus forgotten me?

Not at all! Jesus is a GOOD shepherd.
He’s neither absent or negligent or distracted.
Like every good shepherd (and He’s the perfect example) , He will give you His best loving attention at all times.

Prayer: Thank you Jesus that you are always good and that good things are coming my way.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 18th February 2017

Psalm 103 “Bless the Lord O my soul, all my inmost being bless His Holy name.”

Sometimes we have to dig into our inmost being to worship.

You may not feel like it, or at times, dare I say, want to…but at those times, you need to dig deep and do it anyway.
Because this Psalm reminds us of why we should “…and forget not ALL of His benefits.”
He forgives all of your sin.
He heals all of your diseases – STOP…and thank Him right now.
He rescues your life from the pit -STOP…and thank Him for rescuing you.
He crowns you with love and compassion.
I love that “He crowns you”.
Think about this, not only does He rescue me, but He crowns me also.

As a parent, there are times when I’ve had to help lift my children out of a pit, but the last thing I want to do at those times, is crown them with love and compassion!
Not with God, He gets us out of a pit AND then immediately crowns us with love and compassion.
STOP… and thank Him for that.

And then… BONUS. “He renews your youth like the eagles.”

Today my friend, it’s time again to Bless the Lord.
YOU have a lot to be thankful for.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 17th February 2017

Joshua 1:9 ‘Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.’

Shannon Lucid broke the world record for time spent in space – 188 days up there!

When she was only 13, she told her teacher that she was going to be a rocket scientist. The teacher just laughed and said there was no such thing, and if there was, a woman couldn’t be one anyway.

Did you know that more than 150 people a year die from falling out of bed and a further 400 are injured by the head board falling on them? The truth is you’re not even safe by staying in bed, so you may as well get up and get going. Reach for God’s strength and do something to make your life count. Did you know that donkeys kill more people annually than plane crashes?

Famous Author, Max Lucado says, “instead of just building a fire in your hearth, build one in your heart.” Adopt a child, teach a class, change careers, run for parliament, make a difference. I know it may not sound safe, but what is?”

Jesus said, (Luke 9:24) For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.

Reclaim the curiosity of your childhood.

Just because you may be near the top of the hill, doesn’t mean you are past your peak.

Get up and get going – God has amazing things in store for you today.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 16th February 2017

We all have hard times, inadequate times, painful times as well as great times.

In each season of your life, no matter what comes your way, you have to be motivated to move forward. As someone once said…”even if you fall, at least fall forwards. Even if you fail, fail forwards.”

The tendency with us all is to allow each bad circumstance to take us down and so our theme song becomes one of…’I’m ok under the circumstances.’

Each time you find yourself being overtaken by things, remind yourself that here lies an opportunity for me to grow and to mature.

Here are a few things that I’ve tried to put into place in my own life over the past 30 or so years:

Set the start time of the next day before you go to bed. Don’t get up when you ‘feel’ like it, Instead get up at the time you plan to. That way you get ahead of the day rather than the other way around. If you can remember to charge your phone every night as you get into bed, you can remember to charge your life by getting up at the right time the next day.

Prepare in advance for everything you do – don’t just blag your way through meetings and appointments, but prepare well for each thing that’s coming your way.

Have an ‘I can do attitude’. Paul, as he wrote much of the New Testament said in Philippians 4:13…I can do all things through him who gives me strength.

Fully participate in everything you do with great enthusiasm. Be present wherever you go and whatever you do. Don’t sit on the side lines waiting for something good to happen. Make it happen.

If no one else around you encourages you, encourage yourself!

When King David was greatly distressed because the people were talking of stoning him …(1 Samuel 30 v 6), he encouraged himself in the Lord.

As today unfolds, see everything that’s comes your way as an opportunity to grow.

If you are tired of praying, ‘Lord use me’ and nothing’s happening, then change the prayer to….’Lord, make me useable.’

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 15th February 2017

By the time that Albert Simpson was 38, he’d suffered two nervous breakdowns and a massive heart attack. His doctor told him that if he didn’t stop preaching, he’d be dead before he reached 40. Climbing even the slightest elevation left him breathless. In desperation, Simpson turned to his Bible to find out what it had to say about healing – soon he became convinced that God wanted to heal him. That was the key!

One afternoon while walking in the woods, he looked up and cried, “Jesus, heal me and give me strength to accomplish my life’s work.” Later he wrote, “in that moment, every fibre in me was tingling with a sense of God’s presence and I knew I was healed!”

A few days later he climbed a 3000 foot mountain. Afterwards he wrote,”a world of weakness and fear lay at my feet and from that time on I literally had a new heart and a new life.”

He went on to hold as many as 20 meetings a week, write dozens of books and establish a world wide organisation.

No matter how good your doctor may be, get a second opinion – God’s.

A.B Simpson went on to live to be almost 80.

The promises of God that he believed then, are also yours today.

Claim them and believe God right now.

James 5:15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 14th February 2017

God knew the specific purpose that you were born to fulfil, so He provided you with the gifts you’d need to make a success of your life.

Unless you firstly understand that God loves you and has a plan for your life, then you will never move in your full potential.

Loving yourself can almost sound selfish, but actually the way you look at yourself and the way you treat yourself will reflect in the way that others will treat you too. If the truth be told, having a healthy and balanced opinion of who you are will determine how far you will go in life in fulfilling His perfect will for you.

Stop and ask yourself today, ‘how do I really feel about myself?’ Before your final conclusions are made, read and digest these 10 principles that will help you to gain a better God perspective in your life…

Never speak negatively about yourself, unless you are confessing your faults and failings to God.

Think about your God given strengths and encourage yourself to use them – for much of the time no one else will.

Don’t make the mistake of comparing yourself to others – it will kill your joy. You’re unique and you’re an original, so don’t settle for being a copy.

Focus on your potential – not your limitations.

Find out what you do well, and then strive to do it with excellence

Be a God pleaser, not a man pleaser. Have the courage to be different.

Learn to handle criticism. Let it develop you rather than discourage you.

Determine your own worth instead of letting others do it for you.

Keep your shortcomings in perspective – you’re still a work in progress.

Focus daily on your greatest source of confidence – Jesus.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 13th February 2017

We read on Saturday about how pride and arrogance can take us away from God, yet when we are truly sorry, there is always a way back.

King Nebuchadnezzar was one such man who went through some very hard lessons and yet after seven years he came to his senses.

It’s never too late to put things right, it’s never too late to come to God, no matter how far away you’ve been.

In Daniel chapter 4 36-37 The King says “at the same time my sanity was restored, my honor and splendour were returned to me for the glory of my Kingdom. I was restored to my throne and became even greater than before.”

So often when we mess up in life, we think that’s it, no second chance, no way back.
Not with God.
As long as you have the right attitude and truly repent, you have the opportunity to come back stronger and greater than before.
We have to go through a process in order for us to become the people God wants us to be. Often, that process is hard, but God is always with us.

No matter what you go through in life, the grace of God is a wonderful thing. It forgives and restores AND blesses in greater ways than we ever thought possible.

That’s God. He’s awesome. Do you know Him today?

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 11th February 2017

I love the book of Daniel in the Bible – how against all pressure, he stood up for what he believed in.

But do you ever think much about the wicked King Nebuchadnezzar?
He was the one who made a golden idol and told them to worship it and when they didn’t, he threw them into the fire.
He was the one who put Daniel into the den of lions, but we all know what happened there.

Daniel 4 tells us that the KIng was full of pride and we know that from Scripture, God hates pride. (Prov 8 v 13 – “I hate pride and arrogance.”).

So God takes him through a series of events to teach him.
– Royal authority is taken from him
– lived with wild animals and eats grass like an ox
– lived outside for seven years and got drenched in dew
– his hair grew like the feathers of an eagle and his nails grew like claws

This was some lesson.

But I love vs 34-35 “At the end of that time I Nebuchadnezzar raised my eyes towards Heaven and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the most High and honoured Him”

The King came to his senses and came back to God.

You are never too far away to come back to God. He may let you go through some stuff in order to bring you to your senses, but the main thing is that you do.

The best part of this story is that he came back better than before.

To be continued…

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 10th February 2017

Everything big starts with something small.

One kernel of corn can produce a stalk with two ears, each having 200 kernels. From those 400 kernels come 400 more stalks, producing 160,000 kernels. From those 160,000 kernels, come 160,000 more stalks, producing a total of 64 million kernels!

Too many of us are not willing to take the little steps that God places before us. If God has called you to do a particular thing then leap at the opportunity, no matter how small. Don’t sit around and wait for opportunities to jump out at you, instead, find a need and fill it.

Instead of just waiting for big opportunities to come knocking on your door, why not get out there and start to sow seeds of kindness wherever you go?

Last weekend, we saw around 1000 people attend our church. Who wouldn’t have thought, 27 years ago when we started out, that that would have been possible. When I left my catering career to take on the little church, I had no idea as to what to do in running a church…but I did know how to love people and make them feel special. Year after year, I simply did what I could do in reaching out to people with love and hope, and gradually those seeds began to multiply.

When no one else was around to open up the building and sort out the heating, vacuuming and toilets, I would just do what was needed and made sure it got done. It was a very small and slow start, but it was just a simple case of finding a need and filling it.

Today, things are very different as we have teams of volunteers, staff and leaders, all who make Champions Church what it is.

Stop dreaming and scheming and get your hands dirty; God will open doors of your next opportunity, if you’ll just serve in any way you can.

Luke 16:10-12 ‘Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else’s property, who will give you property of your own?’

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 9th January 2017

I don’t know whether you consider yourself to be a high-level organiser, or maybe organisation isn’t your gifting. Wherever you find yourself on that spectrum, I do believe that when it comes to the big picture of our lives, most of us, if not all of us, want to be highly organised.

We want to know exactly what our future holds, the career path that we should take, and what relationships are right for us.

However, the problem with this kind of living is that it’s contradictory to the journey God wants to take us on. For the path that God wants to lead you down is not one of knowledge but of trust.

If you knew how everything was going to turn out, then you would have no need for trust. Dare I say it, this would in fact make you God. For what makes God God is that He knows everything and you don’t.

And when you have a relationship with Him, it requires for you to become content in the unknown.

If you’re currently asking yourself, ‘how do I do so?’, then consider this:

God knows everything about you. He knows the end from the beginning. Every intricate detail of your life is held within the palm of His hand. And when you realise that you are known by God, it enables you to become content in the unknown.

In whatever uncertainty you may face today, tell yourself, ‘I don’t know, but God knows – and that’s all I need to know.’

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – 8th February 2017

Do you ever remember getting lost on a crowded beach as a child?

I have vivid childhood memories of my Mom and Dad setting up ‘camp’ on our family holidays, and as the sun came out, more and more people would come in search of their private spot too.

Hearing the familiar words, ‘just be careful and don’t go out of sight’, coming from my Mom, I would make the long trek down to the waters’ edge and play for seemingly hours. Without knowing it, I would lose all sense of direction as I played, and by the time I’d bothered to look back to where I’d left my parents…they had disappeared. I was sure that I was looking in the right place and as panic set in, I would run back up the beach for dear life fearing that I was lost and that they’d left me behind. The more I ran the more I got lost.

Even as a young boy, instinct told me to stop running, stand still and simply look for familiar things. Could I spot my Mom’s bright sun umbrella or my Dad’s shiny bald head, or the steps that we had come down on to the beach? Then with a sense of embarrassment, I realised that they were exactly where I’d left them – I had simply wondered away without knowing it.

As I look back over my own life, I realise those childhood memories are more powerful than they appeared at the time all those years ago – here’s my observations that I trust will help in relation to your walk with God…

When feeling lost, don’t run – instead stop, stand still and focus.

If God seems far away, guess who moved.

If you’re still running, you’re likely to be running away from God and not towards Him.

Just because you can’t see God in this moment, it doesn’t mean He can’t see you.

Look for constants in your life – a Christian friend, a great Church or a part of the Bible that you know has helped you in the past.

Don’t focus on the crowds, focus on Jesus

When sensing that you’ve been left behind, remind yourself that God is just where you left Him – He never changes. If things are really desperate right now, don’t just carry on where you are, hoping they will get better, but turn around, look for the point at which your life started to lose its bearings…and then make your way back. His constant love is still waiting for you.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 7th February 2017

I recently went to see the movie ‘Lion’ (it was brilliant, I highly recommend).

As I got to the end of the movie, I thought “Why is this movie called ‘Lion’?” As there had been no apparent reason up until this point.

Anyway, the movie finished and people started to leave. As the credits rolled, an explanation appeared and more information given. For me it was an “Aha” moment.

Unfortunately, some people missed those important details, as they left too early.

Sometimes, we go through life and things happen that we don’t understand. We’re in a process, we’re on a journey and we can’t quite work it out.

What does all this mean? We ask.

What is God doing? We wonder.

How will all of this work out? We question.

DON’T walk out too soon, give up too soon or abandon your post. God is about to reveal something to you, that will make total sense and you will miss it, if you don’t see the thing through.

God always answers, always comes through and all WILL be revealed in God’s perfect timing.
Waiting and trusting are key.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 6th February 2017

Psalm 121 v 1 ‘I lift up my eyes to the hills—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord,the Maker of heaven and earth.’

As we look to the year ahead, we can start to plan what we’d like to happen or change, where to go on holiday, what could change job-wise, who we’d like to meet etc. We can easily look to circumstances as a solution and a natural progression in our lives. This makes perfect sense! And yet this psalm tells us not to look to the obvious for help.

The hills represents worldly strength, or the logical place of help; e.g. you have a health issue – look for a doctor. You need more money – look for a pay rise at work. You’re lonely – look at getting a pet.

It makes sense in life to look for help in the obvious places, yet this psalm encourages us to look up past the hills and to the Creator of the hills.

He is where our help truly comes from, and He wants you to trust in Him, to look to Him as provider. God loves it when He sees His children choose Him over the easier, more logical solutions to their problems.

This also then encourages us in our needs to actually see them as opportunities! An opening for us through faith to make Gods’s day by looking to Him – the maker of the Heavens and the Earth.

I encourage you this year to look to God in every area of your life. It doesn’t mean we forsake helping ourselves where we can, but it’s learning to put hope in Him – not just needs being met. You will, as long as you’re alive, have a need that needs to be met.

Also, when we look to Him for our help, it takes pressure off our jobs and relationships. We stop seeing our job as the only possible provider of cash and achievement; we stop seeing relationships as the only place we get acceptance.

Shift your focus today and put your hope in Him.

‘I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.’

Luke Cartwright

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 4th February 2017

Miracles with money. One man that certainly understood this was George Muller, a 19th century man of God.

Early on in his life he was convicted by Luke 6:38 ‘Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.’

He understood and believed that he should, from then on, start to trust God for his daily needs. He decided to give away all that he received except what was needed for his daily subsistence. God honoured his trust, and over his lifetime Muller was able to…

Found five orphanages which were homes to 10,000 children

Establish seven day schools that educated 81,500 children

Set up 12 Sunday schools that taught 33,000 children

Distribute 2 million Bibles

Give £26,000 to overseas missions

Over the 60 years of Muller’s work, he gave away £1.5m – this was at a time when a house could be bought for just a few pounds. His life made a massive impact on the world and all because he had total trust and faith in God and ordered his finances accordingly.

What will you do with your life and money?

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 3rd February 2017

How easy it is to judge other people by their actions, but only judge ourselves by our intentions.

Have you ever noticed that those who are set in their ways are obstinate, but when you are, you are just standing your ground?

When they don’t like someone, they’re prejudiced, but when you don’t, it’s good judgement.

When they treat someone extra well, they’re buttering them up, but when you do, you’re just being thoughtful.

When they take time to do things well, they’re slow or lazy, but when you do, you’re meticulous.

When they find fault with someone, they’re judgemental, but when you do, you’re being perceptive.

When they are gentle, they’re weak, but when you are, you’re gracious.

When they dress well, they’re extravagant, but when you do, you’re being tasteful.

When they say what they think,  they’re spiteful, but when you do, you’re just being honest.

When they take risks, they’re reckless, but when you do, you’re just being brave.

The next time you feel like justifying yourself whilst judging others, make sure that you take a long hard look in the mirror first and ask: what is the purpose of my comments – to take someone else down or to build them up?

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

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 2nd February 2017

One October evening in 1968, a group of die-hard spectators remained in the Olympic stadium in Mexico City to watch the last finishers of the marathon. An hour before, Mamo Wolfe of Ethiopia had won the race. It was getting cold and dark and the remaining spectators began to leave, when suddenly they heard the sound of sirens and police whistles coming into the stadium. As they watched in amazement, one last runner made his way onto the track for the last laps of the 26 mile race – it was John Akhwari of Tanzania.

His leg was bandaged and bleeding after a fall but he refused to let it stop him. Suddenly, the people in the stadium rose to applaud him across the finishing line. As he hobbled his way back to the changing room, he was asked why he had not quit since he had no chance of winning a medal. He said, “my country didn’t send me here to start the race, but to finish it.”

On Sunday evening just this week our good friend, Matthew Barnett of the Dream Center in LA, completed the World Marathon Challenge: 7 Marathons -7 Continents – 7 days. During the fourtg Marathon, he sustained a knee injury that normally would have prevented anyone from walking any further let alone running another three marathons on three continents. He kept going as promised and has become a living legend, raising more than $1 million for the Dream Center.

He spoke of going through the worst pain that he’d ever felt yet continually said that he would not give up – he didn’t.

What an attitude! He looked beyond the pain of the moment and kept his eye on the purpose for which he was there.

Our job is not just to start, but to finish strong in life.

No matter what challenges you are facing today, stay strong and don’t quit.

2 Timothy 4:7-8 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day – and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 1st February 2017

One day, a Wall Street broker fell in love with with a rising young Broadway actress.

Before proposing marriage, he decided to have her checked out by a private investigator, after all, he thought, “I’ve got a lot to lose.”

He asked the agency not to reveal his identity to the investigator making the report. When it came back, the report said, ‘she has an excellent character, an unblemished past and a great future. But we have one concern, she’s been seen lately with a Wall Street broker whose character and ethics are questionable.’

The question is: if you were that person, what would be revealed about your character?

Reputation is perception, but character is reality.

It’s what you are in the dark that matters. It’s who you are when no one else is looking that matters.

It’s having values that you refuse to violate even for profit or advantage. It’s a wall of integrity built day by day and brick by brick.

Until you can learn to trust yourself, your goals will have to wait.

God will allow you to pass through situations that bring to the surface weak areas which need to be dealt with. Until they are, you will find yourself going back to square one again.

Make it your prayer and your goal today to live a life that is not only pleasing to God, but one that attracts the attention of man…for all the right reasons.

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.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 31st January 2017

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

Who wouldn’t?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 30th January 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 28th January 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 27th January 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two areas that will help us do this are:

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

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

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

Luke Cartwright

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 26th January 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 25th January 2017

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

 

 

Fresh Hope – 24th January 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Missing peace?

Search for Jesus today.

No God – no peace

Know God – know peace.
Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 23rd January 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – 21st January 2017

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

Let me encourage you from these verses today.

Here are a few pointers…

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 20th January 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He’s God…you’re not!

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

Jesus is either Lord of all or not at all.

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

Let’s go.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 19th January 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 18th January 2017

Final day – prayer and fasting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay strong in faith.

Never give up.

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

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

Pastor Mark

A daily devoting for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 17th January 2017

Day 9 – Prayer and fasting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keep going.

Stay strong in faith.

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

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 16th January 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When faith accompanies your praying…God loves that.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 14th January 2017

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

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

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

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 13th January 2017

DAY 5 – prayer and fasting

Are you in a desperate situation today?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Your prayers and fasting WILL bring a reward.

Stay strong.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 12th January 2017

DAY 4 – prayer and fasting

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

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

Private devotion brings public promotion.

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

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

Where there is little private devotion there is little power.

Prayer and fasting plugs you into the power of God.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be specific with your requests.

Vague faith…vague answers.

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

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

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 11th January 2017

DAY 3 – PRAYER AND FASTING

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 10th January 2017

Welcome to day 2 of prayer and fasting.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 9th January 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now let’s get down to business…

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t delay.

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

Here’s our key verse for today…

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

Have a blessed day.

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

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 7th January 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

Be committed to Christ and His Church.

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

Serve with clean motives, not for selfish gains.

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

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

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 6th January 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Luke Cartwright

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 5th January 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 4th January 2017

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

Go on…be really honest.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m thankful for you today.

Be thankful…be whole.

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

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 3rd January 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Are you allowing fearful thoughts to rob you already this year? Then make this verse your own as you travel into today.
Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 2nd January 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 1st January 2017

Happy new year!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What vision do I have for my life?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have a happy and blessed new year.

Much love,

PM

 

Fresh Hope – 31st December 2016

I’m sure we’ve all taken part in a Christmas quiz or two, over the last few days…so while you’re in the mood…here’s a question:

What were the very first words that God spoke in the Bible?

Answer: Let there be light.

It’s one of the biggest clues to the fact that God doesn’t want you to be in the dark, in fact, there’s a little more to it than meets the eye too; the word translated light from the original text is the word ‘order’, and the word for dark came from the word meaning ‘chaos’.

Think about it for a moment…the first thing that God wanted for this world was to light it up, so that the chaos could be bought to order, in fact 740 years before Jesus came to Earth, we read these words…

Isaiah 9:2 ‘The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.’

Now skip to the New Testament and we find the fulfilment of that promise…

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’ John 8 v 12

Have you ever wondered why, when everything seems to be working in your life just fine, there’s still a longing for something more?

Have you ever wondered why in a very lit world, why you feel as if you’re lost?

Maybe you would describe your existence like this…everything is working, but there’s just one thing missing.

That one thing is what Jesus called the ‘light of life’. He said that if you find it, you will never walk in darkness again. WOW!

That, my friend, is the greatest New Years gift that anyone could ever possibly give you – to step out of the dark and walk in the light from this moment forward.

I’m sure that we’ve all been in a power cut from time to time.

What’s the first thing that you reach for? A candle? A torch? The light from your phone? The truth is that everything comes to a standstill until the power comes back on. Whilst it’s off, your life is disorientated and even quite fearful, yet just one light can dispel the darkness.

Having the ‘light of life’ means that your life comes alive and you begin to see clearly where you’re going for the first time – your life comes alive.

My question to you on this New Year’s Eve is simply this…Have you got it? Have you found it? Or is life just one big puzzle?

When a popular town plans a date to have its Christmas lights switched on, it usually invites a celebrity to do so.

The greatest thing that you could do today is to invite the greatest person that ever walked the Earth to switch your light on, so that you will never walk in darkness again.

Invite Jesus to switch on the light in your life so that 2017 will become the greatest year ever.

Everything changes when the light goes on.

Everything makes sense.

Invite Jesus into your life right now. He’s just waiting for you to ask.

Happy new YOU.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 30th December 2016

Several years ago, I played for a local football team. We weren’t the best. To us, a draw was a win. In the few years that I had been a part of this team, I had played in almost every position, but for the most part, I was the goalkeeper.

I remember one particular game quite well, I was playing in goal and we lost 6-0. At the end of the game, I was ready to go home and eat lunch, feeling pretty down about our defeat, but not really surprised as we were used to this kind of loss. As our team came together following the final whistle, the referee walked over to us and announced to everyone that I had been awarded man of the match.

Now, I was as shocked as everyone else at that point. How could this be? I had conceded 6 goals. The reason given was that the scoreline could’ve been much worse had I not have been in goal. Suddenly, I felt somewhat better than I did moments ago.

When reminiscing about this occasion just a few days ago with a friend, I started to see that this story paints a picture for us of what it’s like to do life with Jesus. Because you see, Jesus has an amazing way of taking the negatives and turning them into positives. He takes the bad stuff, and through it, reveals the good stuff.

In Romans 8:28 it says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

This is good news for you and I today, because it means that although circumstances and situations in our lives aren’t always good, if you place Jesus at the centre, He will work them together for good.

You can live with peace, knowing that everything that God does is good, but most importantly, God IS good. ‘Good’ is not just what He does, but good is who He is… Be encouraged with that thought today.

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 29th December 2016

There are some things in life that we don’t realise are important, until they’re not there anymore.
Take labels and signs for instance. They are everywhere in our day to day lives; on doors, the pumps at the petrol station, our food and drink, our luggage in the airport…the list goes on and on.

Now imagine that someone has come along and removed them all. We would make all kinds of mistakes, it would cause mass confusion and it would take a lot longer to get anything done.

Many of us wear labels and they affect us in many ways; they influence the decisions that we make, the dreams that we pursue (or don’t pursue). Some labels are put on us as children – we inherit them. Or maybe you’re labelled ‘poor’ or ‘broken’, through circumstances. The list is endless; we all deal with them at some point.

We are surrounded by people in society who feel like failures because they didn’t meet an expectation that was put on them. Maybe that person is you.

How do we become free of all of this? By looking at what our Creator calls us. The labels that God puts on us include ‘free’, ‘redeemed’, ‘healed’, ‘accepted’…and most importantly ‘loved’.

These are labels that we can wear and not be ashamed of. He gave us amazing purpose and we should share that. He loved us so much that He gave His everything (Jesus) to show it.

Hebrews 12 tells us to ‘throw off everything that hinders.’ Sometimes that can be our circumstances, other times it’s a mindset and the things that we have said about ourselves for so long that were never even true.

We are always on God’s mind. Be encouraged today. Be unstoppable.

Melissa Reynolds-Lawrence

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 28th December 2016

We all like to look ahead for what’s to come. That’s great, dreams for the future are very important. However, we can lose sight of today’s blessings by looking too far ahead.

It’s easy to keep looking ahead to what’s coming, and not live in the moment and enjoy today.

God is interested in the daily. Don’t be so consumed with the future, that you miss God’s blessings today. Someone once said, “Don’t be so concerned with the destination, that you miss out on the journey.”

Neither should you be worried about what’s ahead, thank God for what you have today and trust Him for what’s to come. A very famous prayer says, ‘Give us this day our daily bread.’

Psalm 119:105 says that God gives us a lamp unto our feet, He doesn’t give us a floodlight for the rest of our lives.

You may not know what tomorrow will bring, but you can trust Him for today.

Think about what you have today and be thankful for it. Pray and believe for the future. Living for God requires faith. Faith for today and faith for tomorrow.

F – Focus on the positive in your life right now

A – Affirm yourself and encourage yourself

I – Imagine God doing something greater, dream better things for your life

T – Trust God for everything… He is for me

H – Hope for the best, expect something good to come to me

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 27th December 2016

When Rudy Giuliani took office as the mayor of New York City in the 90’s, the crime rate was at an all time high.

He decided to implement a strategy that would set about repairing every broken window in the city within 24 hours of its breakage, sending a message of response, order and law enforcement to the community.

The plan worked better than anticipated.

The average person’s perception of the local law was enhanced greatly because the results were visible in their everyday lives, and the criminals noticed too.

Not only did the overall crime rate drop by 57%, more violent crimes were reduced by 65% as well.

The city once infamous for its dangerous streets, was now being recognised as the safest, large city in America for several years in a row.

How on earth did this happen by just repairing broken windows?

The answer was simple: by taking care of the small things, the bigger issues got dealt with as well.

It’s very easy to put off doing the small stuff, in favour of dealing with the bigger issues in our lives.

Maybe we’ve put off making that one phone call to apologise, not realising that a whole host of other bigger issues would be solved if we did.

A dripping tap may seem insignificant, but failure to repair could lead to a later flood and far greater time and expense.

My Nan used to say this, ‘take care of the pennies and the pounds will take care of themselves.’

Solomon in his wisdom put it like this…‘it’s the little foxes that spoil the vine.’

Today, set about taking care of some of those nagging, little issues that you’ve failed to realise are having a much bigger impact on your world than you thought.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 26th December 2016

It’s Boxing Day…and I trust you are enjoying your Christmas.

Here’s a quick little thought for you to go into your day with…

You’ll probably take time today to eat (even if it’s leftovers)…
You’ll maybe take time today to look at your gifts and decide where you may put them or whether you will actually wear that, or decide if you’re going to return one or two…
You’ll probably take time today to be with family or friends…
You’re most likely to watch a little TV, or play a game, or sleep on the sofa…
You may even text a few people to thank them for your gift and you’ll probably wish you hadn’t have eaten so much yesterday.

Make sure that today, whatever your circumstances and whatever you’re doing, that you take time to thank the one who made Christmas possible.

JESUS – take a little time for Him today.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 25th December 2016

Special Christmas greetings to all of our 2,500 Champions app family today.

Praying that God will fill you with His peace, presence and joy during this celebration of the birth of our Saviour, JESUS.

Luke 2:10-11 ‘…Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; He is Christ, the Lord.’

With much love,

Pastor Mark

Fresh Hope – 24th December 2016

I was travelling with my friend the other day who has three very small children.
We asked her how they were. What she said was very beautiful and very profound – she said that her three year old was at a stage where “Prayer solved everything.”
Maybe if his finger was hurting…prayer solved everything.
If he was hungry…prayer solved everything.
If his older brother was being mean to him…prayer solved everything.

We can learn a lot from children, because indeed ‘Prayer does solve everything.’

It’s Christmas Eve today. Remember this: whatever sort of Christmas you are facing…good or bad, remember to pray.

Remember not to carry your worry and concerns yourself, but bring them to Jesus.
Bring your thanks and appreciation and count your blessings today.

Prayer solves everything. When you pray, God listens and brings you His wonderful peace.

Have a happy and joyful Christmas and remember Jesus – He’s the reason for the season.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 23rd December 2016

Over the past few weeks and months, one of the things that I’m sure will have been at the forefront of your minds is buying gifts for your friends and family.

As a result, you most likely haven’t had time to think about buying for yourself, so I wanted to take this opportunity to inform you of one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself during this season…

A desire to grow.

As we look back over the past year, one of the things that I want to be able to say about myself is that I’m not the same person I was 12 months ago.

Maybe you look at your life and don’t see a great deal of change from this time last year. If that’s the case, today’s a fresh start…

Don’t allow yourself to be in this same position again next year, but instead, begin to stir within yourself daily a desire to grow and give yourself continual permission to change.

God has an amazing plan for your life, and it requires for you to keep moving forward. God doesn’t just see you where you are, but where you could be. He doesn’t just see you for who you are, but for who you could be.

Don’t stand still, but desire growth and pursue change. Your future self will thank you for it.

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 22nd December 2016

My parents still live in the same house that I grew up in alongside my older brother and younger sister.

The house was, and of course still is, about a 20 minute walk from the town centre of Dudley.

In the run up to Christmas, when I was around 12, I spotted a remote control racing car in the window of my favourite toy shop in the town, and insisted and persisted that if I had but this one thing I’d never ever want anything else again. Sound familiar?

Well, once again my parents pulled it off, and there on Christmas morning was my bright red racing car waiting in the lounge where all presents had to be displayed. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on my dream gift and after opening everything else, I got to race my car.

I was surprised that it didn’t go faster or turn as sharply as I’d imagined, but then came the biggest let down of all…the four huge batteries that were in it, died within half an hour of use, putting a very abrupt end to my Christmas day dream.

Battery after battery was begged and borrowed from everything else we owned, but then a week later the car itself stopped working. The forward and reverse gears had shredded inside and put a further end to my Christmas holiday dream. A few days later, I walked with the huge box to the toy shop as soon as they reopened after Christmas and promptly was given a new one in return. I made that journey to my knowledge four times to get further replacements before giving up on it once and for all. My belief that this was the one thing that was going to change my life was now a distant memory. I was now looking ahead to the next thing that would satisfy my childhood longings.

Throughout our lives we each look to various things that we believe will satisfy the deepest longings of our hearts, only to find out as I did as a boy, that nothing satisfies more than for a brief moment.

Several years ago I was given a very expensive brand new car, a real one this time, straight from a dealership showroom, and once again that old belief system kicked in, telling me that this would be the only car that I would ever need to satisfy me, but of course, even though more than 40 years had passed since my toy car had been received, it was just the same lie – it could never quench my thirst for satisfaction.

More than ever today I realise that Jesus is the only one that can fulfil your life and meet the deepest longings of your soul. More than 35 years later, after giving my life to Christ, I can safely say that His presence has never diminished and His faithfulness has never wavered. Instead of Jesus ‘wearing off’, He just keeps coming on stronger as each new day that unfolds.

He is the only gift this Christmastime that can truly bring you lasting satisfaction.

Don’t believe the lie that this year’s Christmas present is going to change everything, or that next year’s holiday, new house or relationship is going to bring eternal satisfaction…it wont. Instead, look to the one who alone can bring peace, joy and fulfilment.

If you are not part of a great church that worships and preaches Jesus then may I take this opportunity of inviting you to our Christmas Eve service for all the family at Champions Church, Netherton – 7pm?

I’d love to personally meet you there.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 21st December 2016

Are you jealous or envious of someone else’s life this Christmastime?

As you look into their world to see their happy, problem free life, and get star struck with their amazing family, gathering together on Christmas day, remember things that appear to be perfect rarely are. What you are looking at is not perfection nor is it a problem free life, but maybe what you are staring at is the blessing that comes from God upon their lives.

God’s blessing can never be earned or worked for, but can only ever be received by faith.

If there’s someone you envy, don’t try to live their life as you wouldn’t be happy – it’s theirs and not yours, instead look to the God that they serve, as ultimately it is God that has blessed them in this way. That very same blessing can be yours today.

Think of the shepherds in the Christmas story; Humble, lowly and underpaid. At the time they were the lowest of the low, doing such menial tasks that few ever wanted to do what they did. There was no long queue in the job centre of the day for tending sheep.

Yet, God chose to first reveal Jesus to them in the middle of the night. Why you may ask? Was it not because they were the only ones awake on that first Christmas night. Jesus came as the light of the world, and so that his arrival could be seen, God chose to reveal Him where He would shine brightest.

When you think about it naturally speaking, you would imagine that God would have revealed Himself to kings in palaces or religious people in Churches, but not so, He chose to make Himself known to the humble and lowly of heart.

Instead of looking at other people’s lives and families this years, ask yourself ‘what do they have that I don’t have?’ It’s not because they’ve deserved it but because they’ve been humble enough to receive it.

God sent His Son into this world that that you too can receive him and become a child of God right now.

It may feel like the darkest moment of your life right now, but remember God shows up best in dark places.

He’s holding out the free gift of life to you and just like with any other gift you have to reach and receive it with the words ‘thank you’.
The moment you do that you will instantly start to see for yourself God’s blessings upon your life.

John 1:9-13 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognise him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 20th December 2016

My Mother-in-law is a greetings card fanatic.

She just loves sending cards to people, and many would say that it is a gift that she has. She always has something meaningful to write in a card and seems to know just when to send it in order to lift a friend or even someone that she doesn’t really know in their moment of need.

No matter where we go, Gillian has to look for cards of all shapes and sizes for her Mom, but they have to be of a certain standard otherwise they get rejected. Cheap and cheerful will never do.

Not only does she love sending cards, but she’s passionate about receiving them too – in fact she has a system whereby she records every Christmas card that she sends out and then checks in every card that comes back.

Christmas isn’t Christmas for her until all cards have arrived and been crossed off her list, and woe betide anyone that sends a card late or forgets altogether.

The idea of sending presents and cards to only those that reciprocate is a practice that we’d prefer not to admit to, but in reality we know that’s what happens most of the time. How many times have we been dropped off someone’s ‘list’ only to find ourselves doing the very same to them the following year?

In this season of giving and receiving, wouldn’t it be wonderful if we each looked to do something for someone else knowing full well that we wouldn’t receive anything in return?

Random acts of kindness are rare today, but what if we turned the tide on our selfish world and made a difference to just one person’s life by surprising them with a card or gift this week.

The greatest demonstration of giving in this manner originated at that very first Christmas time, when God sent His son Jesus, knowing that He could never be repaid and that many would even reject His offer of the free gift of life.

Let’s each lift our eyes off ourselves today and look for someone to bless and encourage – you may just change their life forever…and ultimately God will bless you back in return.

Luke 6:32-36 ‘If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 19th December 2016

I recently began to look over the birth of Jesus found in the book of Luke. This of course was a major event – one of which we still celebrate thousands of years later.

Upon Jesus being born, you would think that God would choose to break the news to Kings & Queens, people of great wealth and influence. After all, the Saviour of the world has just been born.

However, God chooses to announce the birth of His Son, Jesus to shepherds in a field…

This left me bewildered as to why the greatest event in history would be disclosed to sheep watchers who carried no influence and had very little ability to spread the word.

Until I realised that the Bible informs us that these shepherds had set night watches over their sheep. In other words, they were the only people awake whilst everyone else was asleep.

God didn’t choose to announce the news of Jesus’ birth to the elite, He chose to announce it to the available.

God isn’t looking for perfect people, He’s not looking for strong people, because they don’t exist – He’s looking for people who are simply available.

God wants to reveal Himself to you this Christmas time.
If you would stay alert to the fact that He is closer than you think, and realise that He wants to make Himself known to you, then watch what He will do in and through your life.

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 17th December 2016

There’s a few very special verses in Luke chapter 1 that I love…’When Mary went to see Elizabeth, the baby inside her womb leapt for Joy, she was filled with the Holy Spirit and sang exuberantly.’

These few verses show how powerful the presence of Jesus was even in the womb. It caused Elizabeth to react in such a way.

When you meet someone who carries the presence of Jesus, it’s a wonderful thing – it can have a great impact on your life.

Think also about your own relationship with God. When you have been in His presence, you will carry that very same with you.

When you walk into a room, spend time with people, they should notice something different about you.

You should be a carrier of the presence of God wherever you go today. Make a difference to every dark place where your feet have to tread, every difficult situation that you have to walk into and every home you visit.

I’ve loved being in the presence of some great people of God. I’ve walked away better than when I walked in.
Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and sang exuberantly after meeting Mary who was carrying Jesus.

Lord I pray that your presence in me will be so strong, that everyone I meet today will be impacted by You.

Happy Saturday.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 16th December 2016

Will Noris, the journalist wrote “If your lips would keep from slips, five things observe with care; to whom you speak, of whom you speak, and how…and when…and where.”

Publius, the Greek sage, wrote “I have often regretted my speech, but never my silence.”

I was invited to do a live television interview some time ago and was very aware that there was no taking back my words once I’d said them. There was no room for me to convey a message that I could later retract. I would never have that luxury.

It serves as a daily lesson that our speech is ‘live’ at all times.

There’s no taking back what you have just said in a heated moment.

If you know you need to go to a new level in your speech, here are 3 simple thoughts to help you.

1. Think first – Before you speak, pause for 10 seconds and mentally preview your words. Are they accurate or exaggerated?
Kind or cutting? Needless or necessary? Grateful or complaining? Remember, what you don’t say you’ll never have to explain.

2. Talk less – Ecclesiastes 5v3 ” Many words mark the speech of a fool.”

Which basically means…put a sock in it.

You increase your chances of blowing it when you talk too much. Compulsive talkers find it hard to keep friends. Conserve your verbal energy.

3. Start today-You’ve now heard enough today to help you get started. Once you condition your mouth to the new ‘muzzle’, it will become easier each day to resist the urge to speak out of turn.

James 3:2-6, 9-12 We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check. When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.

Make a decision from this point forward to only ever use words that will bless and build up others. You’ll be amazed at how your life will change and at the same time others will be amazed too.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 15th December 2016

December is no respecter of persons!

As you watch people preparing for this happy season, you may well be faced with a personal crisis that makes you feel anything but in the mood for celebrations.

Pain and problems don’t stay away just because it’s Christmas. However, the presence of a storm in your life does not indicate the absence of God.

Storms are a part of life.

You may have been on a flight and encountered some pretty strong turbulence along the way. The pilot just takes it all in his stride –  for him it was 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 even 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.

No matter what you’re going through this Christmas time, hold onto to Jesus…He’ll never let you go.

Psalm 46:1-3 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.

V10 He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God…’
Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 14th December 2016

The old chapel that my parents attended from childhood was also the spiritual home to several previous generations of my family, dating back to the early 1800’s.

I was also taken there as a baby, and growing up never realised that I would one day be invited to take on the leadership of that little church; There had been no full time leader for 55 years when I became the Pastor on the Easter weekend of 1989.

I preached my first sermon there, was baptised there, our children were all dedicated there and not least of all, I saw the power of God move there as lives were changed week by week.

That old damp building now holds so many memories for so many people, but now it’s time to say goodbye. After 206 years of faithfully standing as a place of worship, it has finally been sold and its days of being a church are no more.

Sentiments are a powerful thing in many people’s minds. They provide for us strong feelings about the good old days gone by, but sentiment alone will never help us build for the future, in fact, to get so attached to a building or a certain way of doing things has been proven to keep us from achieving all that lies ahead.

I’m sure many people, when they drive by and see the building being turned into apartments, will shed a tear or two, but we must never allow a love affair with the past to stop us from doing what is right for the generations to come.

Allowing the building to be sold off could even seem cold and callous to some, but those that believe in the future will totally appreciate that its sale is a means of providing towards all that God wants to do with the new children’s wing of Champions today.

Maybe today you have an ‘old chapel’ in your life that you feel afraid to let go of? Sentiment has kept you stuck back in the past, simply because you feel afraid of offending the very attachments that have brought you to this point. Sentimental attachments are simply warm feelings that we have towards a person, place or an era, but in reality have no power to change what lies ahead.

I encourage you today to be bold enough to break with sentiment and let vision and passion lead the way.

Isaiah 43:18-19 ‘Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 13th December 2016

Be careful not to mistake the life you may have with the life you could have, if only you would meet Jesus.

The whole point of the Christmas story is that Jesus came to bring us life with a capital ‘L’.

I was enjoying a meal out recently, with a group of marrieds from our church. The deal was, come to have your marriage enriched and at the same time have a speciality burger and dessert. As the main course ended and the dessert came, I was busy chatting away to a couple sitting next to me and didn’t realise that the ice cream that was accompanying my treacle tart was in exactly the same looking small white dish that the mayonnaise had come in with the burgers. I was so engrossed in conversation that I mistook the icecream for the mayonnaise and gulped one enormous spoonful right down. The look on my face must have been a picture, but it had to go down! I didn’t want to let on what had just happened, so I just kept smiling.

Life comes to us in various packages and often from the outside, they look quite the same.

On the outside, my life can look pretty much like my next door neighbour’s but that’s where it ends as on the inside of both of us something very different is going on.

You can wear the same trendy and fashionable clothes as the next person standing in line for the bus, but one person can be filled with fear and anxiety whilst the other can know the peace and joy that  only Jesus can bring.

At the staff Christmas party it may be hard to differentiate who’s found real life and who hasn’t because everyone is laughing and happy on the outside, yet we know that once home, those seemingly happy lives can find themselves in the depths of despair.

The reason that you find real life in knowing Jesus is because He created life in the first place and understands how it works. We’ve all heard the advice ‘for best results follow the makers’ instructions’ and it’s true especially when it comes to finding lasting life.

This Christmastime don’t just settle for the life you have that’s filled with anxiety and devoid of purpose – hand it over to the one that came to give you life by inviting Jesus to become your friend and Saviour today.

Deuteronomy 30:19-20 ‘This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years…’

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 12th December 2016

A love affair is between two people who are infatuated with each other. The feeling has to be mutual.
If you love someone and it’s not reciprocated then it’s known as a ‘crush’!

How many times have you loved someone and they didn’t want to know? Or they didn’t love you, like the way you loved them? That’s hard.

I had a crush on a boy in my junior school, one on David Cassidy the pop star and also Donny Osmond. But on all three occasions, they were just crushes, not love affairs. They didn’t want to know :(

God loves us in such a way that He gave His only son for us. His love for us is much more than a crush, yet is it a love affair?
Do you love him back the same way? You will probably never love Him like He loves you, yet my desire is to love Him more every day.
A love affair needs great commitment and communication to keep it fresh and alive.

How are you doing with yours today?

“We love, because He first loved us” – 1 John 4v19

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 10th December 2016

One of the shows that I enjoy watching on TV is The Apprentice. However, one of the things that frustrates me is when the candidates are interviewed at the beginning of the series, stating their mission for the process ahead.

More often than not, you will hear one of the candidates say, ‘I’ve not come here to make friends.’

Now to me, that is one of the dumbest things you could say as you’re about to spend the next 12 weeks living with people, teaming up with people and trying to claim victory as part of a team. I think to myself, ‘surely you’d be better off trying to build as many relationships as possible…’

The reality is, many of us approach life with that same mindset of ‘I’m here to attain knowledge and gain experience.’ This kind of thinking comes out of a belief that life is all about what you know.

However, life isn’t about what you know, it’s about who you know.
Who you know will accelerate you far quicker to your destiny than what you know ever will.

And when you decide to build walls instead of bridges with people, what you’re actually doing is putting a barrier between you and your destiny.

Relationships are a major key to your success. The whole premise of life is for you to have a relationship with God and a relationship with people.

Today I encourage you, have a willingness to put aside knowledge, pick up humility and recognise, ‘I need people’.

Life is better lived together.

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – 9th December 2016

Luke 1:26-38 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, ‘Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you.’ Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favour with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants for ever; his kingdom will never end.’ ‘How will this be,’ Mary asked the angel, ‘since I am a virgin?’ The angel answered, ‘The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.’ ‘I am the Lord’s servant,’ Mary answered. ‘May your word to me be fulfilled.’ Then the angel left her.

Imagine the shock on Mary’s face and the public disgrace that she and her husband-to-be would have felt, knowing that they had not slept together and yet she was pregnant! The big question was for her…’how can this be…since I am a virgin?’

Down through the ages, God has called humble people, just like Mary, to be the carrier and incubator of a dream that will in some small or large way, change the world, or even just change a life.

When this interaction takes place between God and man there will always be questions asked of suitability, knowing that in your humble opinion, you are not cut out for such a task. It’s impossible.

God is not short on answers to any of our questions, but don’t expect Him to give loads of details, as He is often looking to you to merely read the headlines and then get on with it.

In responding to Mary’s question. God replies with just two brief confirming sentences:

The first being…’the Holy spirit will come upon you’, and the second being, ‘no word from God will ever fail.’

When doubting the very call of God upon your life, feeling that He has got the wrong person, you too just need to hear the same words that Mary did two thousand years ago…

…the Holy Spirit will come upon you

…no word from God will ever fail.

Don’t let seeming impossibilities rule out God from using you to carry His dream into this world; simply make yourself available and allow Him to do the rest.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 8th December 2016

I was brought up in a church that was dowdy, dull and uninspiring, and into the bargain had no Christmas decorations to brighten the place.

We’ve changed all that over the years, so much so that everyone that comes to our church nowadays is wowed by how much time, energy and money is spent making it feel like a real place of warmth and vibrancy, especially at Christmas.

I’m sure your home is like ours in that there is always so much to do. Replacing or repairing broken things, cleaning and tidying things, painting and decorating things and then at this time of the year Gillian comes into her own as she pulls together a magical Christmas theme in every room. I just have to do the donkey work and make it happen. We so love Christmas that we even called our house ‘Christmas House’ – it’s a great talking point even in the summer.

We’ve always felt that whatever we do for our own home we should do equally and even more so for God’s house, the Church. It would be wrong to have the most amazing decorations at home if the church was still that dark, dowdy and cold place. The hard work that we put into our home in making it a welcoming place is nothing in comparison to the thought and time that we put into making Champions Church a home for all walks of life.

If you’ve never considered coming to church, or maybe you’ve been put off by something the last time you attended, then give it another go this Christmastime; you’ll not be disappointed this time round…it’s just like coming home.

For all our events over Christmas starting with ‘Champions Night of Carols’ this Friday – which includes our renowned ‘Christmas village’, then why not visit our website? http://www.championschurch.org.uk/events/

I look forward so much to welcoming you and your family this Christmastime.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 7th December 2016

No one likes pain.

For those that have followed the last three weeks of ‘I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here’, you will know only too well that pain is difficult to bear, but can lead to amazing results and rewards if you’ll see it through.

For those that have watched from the comfort of our arm chairs, we can see not only the worst in people but the very best too. We have witnessed with our own eyes that most of the celebrities taking part have gone through a life transformation in three weeks, this being mainly due to the endurance of pain.

People that stay away from pain remain the same people – nothing changes.

When the ‘world famous’ Joseph in the Bible endured the pain of rejection, betrayal, prison and false accusation, he took it on the chin and allowed it to forge his character, making him a very different person.

Here are some thoughts on the pain of change:

– When you change, you will have to leave certain people behind.

– a sure sign of no change is that you are still trying to please everyone from your past.

– when you make your home in the pit or the prison, it’s a sure sign that you are not ready to reach the palace.

– when your attitude towards those that have hurt you is revenge, then you’ll know that you haven’t grown up yet.

–  when you do come into abundant supply, a better position or authority and you use it to bless even your enemies, then you know that you’ve grown up.

– never apologise for changing to those that haven’t.

– when people leave your life, do not try to stop them – it’s so that you will be free to grow.

– your personal growth will either attract people or repel people.

– if people complain that you’ve changed, make sure that the change taking place is in the right direction.

Why wait for the new year? Give yourself permission to change today.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – 6th December 2016

One of the things that I’m sure we all love about the Christmas season, is the smell of cooking.

For over 30 years now, we have had all the family over for Christmas day and we love every minute. Most of the day is spent cooking and eating, interspersed for some with the occasional nap. The kitchen is my domain and I love being able to put my culinary skills from years gone by to good use.

With the busyness of everyone’s lives, the time to cook things from scratch is for many, a lost art; however all is not lost as the all too familiar packet mix is available for just about everything you could wish for in the kitchen.

The words ‘just add water’ are a welcome sight to any stressed out Mom or Dad that’s trying to survive the Christmas family ordeal.

Adding water to what’s already been prepared in a factory somewhere is so quick and easy, not to mention being a pretty fail safe method of getting perfect results every time.

Adding water to a simple packet of dry cake mix can turn it into what the manufacturer created it to be. Without adding that vital ingredient from the tap, means that it remains nothing more than a load of dry crumbs in a box.

Whether a useless cook or a useless gardener, the same is true for all – adding water makes all the difference in the world.

The Bible is likened to this very thought and is called ‘the water of God’s word’.

Life pretty dry?

Nothing growing in your world?

Having trouble understanding why you never seem to be able to get beyond a crumby existence?

If so, it could be that you just need to add water.

Reading the Bible every day is not only a practice that I’ve adopted for many years, but is something that I recommend to everyone that wants to live a significant life.

Unlike any other book in the world, it has the ability to not only read you, but it has the power to grow your life too.

There’s a reason that the Bible is still the world’s best seller…people realise without it that life can never be lived to the full.

Simply add water today.

If you don’t have a modern translation of the Bible then simply let us know by clicking here and I’ll make sure that we get one to you in the post right away.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 5th December 2016

Too many of us, me included at times, look around at our circumstances and think “how on earth can this be any different? Can I survive? Will I make it out alive?”
When we think thoughts like that, we are allowing already heavy circumstances, to become even heavier and very soon we will be swamped by them.

How many times have you let your thoughts run riot in your mind, so that by the time you have finished thinking, you are actually worse? When you think about it, nothing has changed, yet your thinking has made everything seem far worse.

My bible tells me to take my eyes off my circumstances and to put them onto Jesus. Start reaching for what you are believing for. You may not see it right now, but start to speak it into action. Words are powerful, they will change your thinking and your situation.

Don’t look down on your circumstances, don’t look around at them either.
Lift your eyes up and off them and onto the one who is able – JESUS.

Psalm 121. I will lift up mine eyes to the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help comes from the LORD the Maker of Heaven and earth.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 3rd December 2016

I was waiting in a queue the other day at a local coffee shop. The shop was busy and the queue was long, so I got talking to the lady in front of me. She was very friendly and proceeded to talk about Christmas and shopping.

She said something that I’ve never heard before. She said “I’ve given my family a list this year of what I don’t want.”
Now, don’t people normally write lists of what they do want and not what they don’t want!?

I’m glad that when I come to God in prayer it’s not that complicated. I don’t have to think of all the things I don’t want, He’s got that covered.
It’s ok however to bring to Him our specific prayer requests.

I remember several years ago living in a small two bedroomed home and praying specifically for what I wanted.
I didn’t pray “Lord, I don’t want a three bedroomed house, I don’t want a house without a downstairs loo, I don’t want a house without a garage. I don’t want a home without a room for guests etc etc etc.”
That all sounds too complicated for me! I came with the list of what I wanted.
“Lord, I want a four bedroomed house, with a porch, a downstairs loo and a garage”. And guess what? God answered.

Vague prayers = vague answers.

Be specific in your requests. He’s your Heavenly Father. He knows your needs before you ask Him. (Matthew 6 v 8)

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 2nd December 2016

It is estimated that an adult makes on average 35,000 remotely conscious decisions every day. I don’t know about you, but I’m often happy to have finished my day having made one good decision…

I think it’s fair to say therefore that we spend the majority of our lives faced with choices that have to be made. The place that you find yourself in today on the journey of life is predominantly as a result of the decisions that you have made up until this point.

Now whether you consider those to have been positive or negative choices, I have some good news for you today…

1 Corinthians 1:25 says, “For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.”

You may be thinking to yourself, ‘I didn’t realise God had a foolish side…’
He doesn’t. But this verse puts into perspective for us just how truly wise God is. That if He did have a foolish streak to Him, He would still be far wiser than any wisdom we could produce.

The reason that this is good news for us, is that no longer do we have to struggle and strive in the daily decisions of life. But instead, we can come to God and ask for wisdom, and He will give it to us. He won’t withhold it, but He will pour it out generously to all those who ask.

I want to encourage you to begin your day, asking God to lead and to guide you in every step. The decisions that you make today will determine the future you experience tomorrow. And because your destiny matters, so do your decisions.

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – 1st December 2016

Our chocolate Labrador ‘Snoop’, was just a tiny bundle of brown fur when we drove him home that night from the family that had reared him.

He soon found his feet and I had such great fun with him, much to Gillian’s annoyance, as I got him playing underneath my armchair and eventually got him stuck underneath the sofa.

He soon started to do what all the books said he would do…and that was EAT. He had an appetite just as if at every meal time that he’d never seen food before.

Seconds after eating, he would be scouring the place for his next meal.

Things were fine for a few months and then took a turn for the worse. He would writhe in pain on his back and no matter what we did we couldn’t seem to console him. We decided the only thing for it was a trip to the vets. This turned into several examinations and rising costs with no answer forthcoming. Everyone was baffled and he was still rolling in pain.

I decided after several days to pray about the situation and ask God to give me some insight as to what we should do. That night God spoke to me and said…”POTATO!”                                   ‘What on earth did that mean?’, I thought.

My mind started to go back and forth over the last couple of weeks and there lay the answer: Snoop had become obsessed with eating raw potato. Every dog we’ve ever had had loved eating raw carrots and so in my wisdom thought that raw potato would be similarly healthy. I researched dogs and potato and found to my horror that raw potato was like poison. Some owners had posted warnings that potato had resulted in near death and some dogs going into a coma.

Within days of the revelation, Snoop returned to pain free living and normal health and strength.

Sometimes we can be totally bereft of which way to go in a desperate situation. Seeking professional advice is good but can still leave you clueless.

The highest level of wisdom comes from God. He knows the end from the beginning and can instantly know what’s going on inside any complicated situation.

Stuck for answers?

Need a solution?

Consulted everyone but God?

James 1:5-6 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.

Stop panicking…sit down…ask God.

He has the answer.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 30th November 2016

There was a terrible smell of burning coming from the upstairs of our home one day. Everyone could smell it, but no one could work out why.

I started to shout and get everyone out of the house as the smell intensified and smoke filled the air.

I ran upstairs, and there it was…a feather lined winter jacket had been hung to dry by my son over a light fitting in a bedroom that we had designated as the ‘ironing’ room.

“Why on earth did you do that Josh?”, I said, you “could have burnt the house down.” Then came the explanation.

He’d seen me on numerous occasions hang damp shirts on a coat hanger and hook them on the centre light fitting in order to dry, and without thinking he thought he’d follow suit; instead of hanging it on a hanger, he hung it directly onto the open bulb. No problem, that was until someone turned the light switch on and left it on. As the bulb got hotter, the coat started to melt.

A rule was made by my wife that day and went something like this…’lights are not to be used as anything else apart from giving light.’ Enough said.

That almost catastrophic event teaches us a life lesson too…doing and being something that you were not created for only leads to disaster.

We all live under constant pressure nowadays to be someone that you’re not and to do something that you were never cut out for; today I encourage you not to give in to the temptation and learn to be comfortable in your own skin.

God has blessed this world with your uniqueness, and although He needs and wants to change you to be more like Jesus everyday, He still wants your unique gifts and personality to shine through.

When you start to allow yourself to get into things you were never created for then not only will you be frustrated, everyone around you will be too.

There will always be people who want to hang stuff on your life that has no business being there, so you must have the courage to hand it back, in order for you to be free to do what God has created you for.

Write down today just five things that you feel that God has gifted you in and then ask someone else close to you if those things match what they see in your life. If they don’t match what others see, then go back to the drawing board until you get a real feel for what you are good at. When you do get a good match on your gifts and talents then start to give everything you have to them.

Don’t spend the rest of your life trying to be a clothes airer when God created you to be a light.

Ephesians 2:10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 29th November 2016

Call me old fashioned, but there is still something special about holding a door open for someone, even though you may not even know them. Is it me, but have those days of just being kind at no real cost to yourself, passed us by?

On the occasions that I get to do it, I get met with a grunt, nod or even no response at all, but it’s worth it just for the reactions, especially the ones that appreciate it and give out a heartfelt ‘thank you very much.’

Being thankful to someone that opens a door is one thing, but being thankful is also the key that opens doors.

I meet many people that cannot fathom why they don’t seem to get on in life. Questions like, ‘why does it feel like no one likes me?’,  ‘why don’t I get that promotion?’ or ‘why is it that I cant seem to get a breakthrough?’ Many of these questions and thousands more can be answered with one simple word: thankfulness.

It appears that we have become totally ignorant  to the power of thankfulness.

The Bible puts it this way…1 Thessalonians 5:18 ‘give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.’

Giving thanks may seem odd when things are against you or you find yourself in a bad place, but the key is not to focus on giving thanks ‘for‘ the circumstances but ‘in‘ the circumstances.

Having a grateful heart, no matter what today brings, is your key to the next door of blessing opening for you.

I have watched so many people over the years develop a bitter and critical spirit because of things that have gone wrong, only to find that they become angry at life and God, and get nowhere apart from to a self-assigned prison of hurt. On the other hand, I’ve watched people that have been dealt a real blow in life, but have kept a thankful attitude and have gone on to soar.

Whatever is going on in your world today, be thankful.

It will open the door to God’s best for your life.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 28th November 2016

If you’ve ever played the game of Monopoly before, you will have experienced the feelings of resentment when you find yourself being sent to jail. As you stand there, helpless, watching as your opponents get free run of the board, you’re looking for as much sympathy as you can get, especially if someone else has possession of the get out of jail free card.

However, the tables can so quickly turn, because the moment you get out of jail and somebody else finds themself in it, that same compassion that you were once looking for, you aren’t willing to give to anybody else.

That analogy, I believe, describes how we often live our lives. When we make mistakes, when we find ourselves in the ‘jail’ of life, we’re looking for help, sympathy and compassion. Yet the moment we find ourselves back on our feet, and feel as though we’re beginning to get things back in order, someone else finds themself in a struggle and the same help that we were looking for just moments ago, we aren’t interested in extending to them.

I want to challenge you today; don’t forget where you came from. Don’t forget that you once found yourself in a pit and God pulled you out of it, and that same forgiveness that He extended to you, He’s looking for you to extend to others.

God presented you with the get out of jail free card at no expense, yet it cost Him everything. Who are we therefore not to offer it to others time and time again?

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 26th November 2016

Nearby where we live there are some horses in a field. I always feel sorry for those horses. The field they are in doesn’t appear to be a good space. The ground is all churned up and rough. There never seems to be any grass and at this time of year, it’s like a complete mud bath.
I always think that those horses seem quite neglected, have a poor quality of life and would probably love a different home.

Today as I drove the same route, I looked to the other side of the road and saw a completely different scenario. Yes, almost directly opposite, are some horses in a different field. The grass is very green and very lush. There’s a shelter for them and you can see pales of water and food containers scattered around.
Two very different situations right next to each other.

‘What’s the message here?’, I thought.
It’s not the fault of the horses, they had no choice on their conditions, the answer lies in who their owner is. Boom! There it is, as clear to see.

Whoever is your ‘owner’ will determine the quality of your life. How many people do you see who don’t have the Lord in their lives?
They can make a decision that will change their future.
How much more at this Christmas season should we be taking every opportunity to introduce them to our ‘owner’,  Jesus?

Isaiah 43 v 1. “I have called you by name and you are mine.”

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 25th November 2016

A few days ago,  myself and Gillian were taken to a restaurant by some friends. The food was great, the conversation was stimulating and the time to leave came all too quickly. I noticed that the wife of the couple who were entertaining us had only eaten half of her lunch and asked the waiter for the rest to be boxed up for her to take with her.

As the bill was paid, she decided that it was just too much trouble to bother taking the leftovers with her and as the food had been untouched, asked if we would like it, knowing that we were travelling and far from home. Everything within me said there was no point, as we would barely have the time or opportunity to eat it.

In that split moment I felt an inner nudge to pick up the neatly packaged box and put it in the car, even though it almost seemed like an inconvenience, with what to us were merely leftovers that could have easily been discarded.

As we waved our friends goodbye, we had not traveled more than a few minutes when we came across a man on the side of the road that had nothing to eat that day. Everything about him said ‘please help me.’ I knew immediately that what I had considered waste was going to be to him like gold.

As we presented to him the nicely packaged leftovers, his eyes brightened with thankfulness and he excitedly tucked into his one meal for that day.

For us that day, we had been well fed at no cost to ourselves, and eating, like many other things, is something that we do without even stopping to think or to thank.

I remind myself today that one man’s means can be another man’s miracle. Food, clothing, love, warmth, acceptance, kindness is often part of our everyday lives yet there are those close by that have no such luxury.

Make today, and the rest of your life, a day of making a miracle out of your means…there’s someone praying right now for what you freely are able to give.

James 2:14-17 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 24th November 2016

I know the Lord is speaking to me when I stop listening to sounds from the world that feed my sense of pride and ambition.

Instead I fall quiet, tune in to God’s great world around me, and actively listen. Sometimes nature speaks, telling me of God’s majesty and glory. Sometimes God’s word speaks, reminding me of what God wants me to know. And sometimes the Holy Spirit speaks, awakening my conscience, reminding me of failures, stirring my compassion and sense of justice, aligning me with God’s will.

I cannot control the voice of God and how it comes. I can only control my ears – my readiness to listen and my quickness to respond.

Phil Yancey

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 23rd November 2016

If you’ve ever travelled by plane you will know that it’s reported to be one of the safest forms of travel. However, if you have a fear of flying (like I used to) then it can seem far from safe, with every bump and creak playing out as a potential disaster inside your mind.

A friend of mine that flies frequently, tells how on one plane ride that the passengers were shaken from their seats as the aircraft fell for a few seconds. Passengers screamed, overhead compartments opened and bags flew across the aisles.

After a few moments the pilot explained what had happened. The control tower had radioed to tell him that they were on a collision course with another aircraft and if he had not taken evasive action, people would have been hearing about an air disaster on the evening news. The pilot apologised to everyone but explained it was his only option to keep them safe. The control tower’s ability to see the whole picture and the pilot’s willingness to trust and obey saved everyone’s lives.

The Holy Spirit is God’s control tower. He sees the end from the beginning and wants to guide you accurately through your life.

Each day He may speak to you and instruct you about things that you don’t understand and even things that you may question. However, if you’ll just trust and obey you’ll find out one day that He was saving you from a potential disaster.

Many times over the years I have watched people ignore the sound advice of the Holy Spirit, only to find themselves in a disaster that they could have averted if only they would have trusted His voice.

Trust His voice.

He’s looking out for you.

Romans 8:14 For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 22nd November 2016

As I write today, I am listening to the heavy downpour of rain falling onto some plastic sheeting outside my office window.

As the forecast promised, we have had several inches fall over the weekend…they were right.

In most cases, the rain water drainage system at the side of each road is adequate, but as it coincides at this time of the year with the autumn leaves falling, several roads are flooded due to being clogged up.

Being around people each day as we all are, reveals that some folk are prone to be like drains. They take on everyone else’s problems and then get clogged up themselves. Over time this leads them to be so consumed with stuff that they start to drain every relationship that comes their way. We all know what this feels like when on the receiving end of such a draining relationship…we want to run as fast as possible.

Being a drain can appear to be a kind way of living with your fellow man, but if you allow everyone to drown you in their despair, then you must quickly realise that that’s not the way it should be.

The higher way of living is to be a fountain. A fountain doesn’t receive everyone else’s waste, but instead gives out fresh and life giving water.

People that are like fountains are such a pleasure to be with as they give life rather than drain from it.

If you’ve allowed yourself to get clogged up with everyone else’s problems that means you can no longer live in freedom that Christ came to give you.  Start  to live a different life with a different approach…be a fountain that refreshes, rather than a drain to just get dumped on.

Galatians 5:1 It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 21st November 2016

Colossians 1:15-17 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

For the universe to exist and be sustained, everything must be perfectly aligned.

If even one element of creation was out of sync, there would be catastrophic failure and we would be no more.

If the pull of gravity or the speed of light was wrong, then all would be wrong. If the sun was closer than intended we would be fried, but further away and we would freeze.

Each planet along with millions of galaxies are set and held in their perfect place without variation throughout the centuries.

Someone has taken the time to calculate the odds of how everything came to be perfectly lined up – this is how they expressed it:

“The odds would be same as a person buying just one lottery ticket twice a week and getting the numbers right every single week for 50 years!@

If that happened you would say it was a fix.

You’re right, it is.

God fixed it.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 19th November 2016

What are you doing to move your life forward?

I read this today, ‘You’ll never achieve what you’re capable of, if you keep hanging onto things or people you’re meant to let go of.’

Remember this time last year? How much further forward are you this year?
How much have you grown, developed and moved forward?

Here’s the thing, life definitely moves on, time flies. Yet the question has to be: are we moving forward?

You are either moving backwards or standing still or going round and round OR moving forward.

Give yourself a great reality check and ask yourself which direction are you moving in.

Are the people that you mix with forward-movers? Or are they same old, same old?

Don’t get stuck in a rut today, crave after something fresh.
When you’re planted in a great church that’s moving forward, you will have a head-start.

Isaiah 43 18-20 “Behold, I am doing a new thing. Do you not perceive it? The old has gone the new has come!”

My challenge to myself and you today is: TAKE STEPS FORWARD.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 18th November 2016

In the New Testament,  we read the story of the death of Lazarus.

Watch this…Jesus asked Mary and Martha to take him to the place where they had buried Lazarus.
He needed to be involved at that moment.
Jesus wants you to take Him to the place where you have buried something so that He can resurrect it.
Have you buried a dream? Take Jesus to where you buried it and let Him resurrect it.
Have you buried your courage and faith because of something that happened to you? Take Him right to that place and let Him resurrect it.
Have you buried a sin, hoping that no one will find or discover it? You certainly need Jesus to visit that place with you, so that it can be forgiven and dealt with.
Have you buried your love? Take Him to that place where it once burned bright, He has the power to resurrect it.

I’m asking you today what have you buried?
Until you let Jesus visit your burial place, He cannot resurrect it.

When Lazarus had been there a few days, he started to stink and what you have buried will stink also, until you allow Jesus to resurrect it .

Remember this: Whenever God reveals a mess in the Boboe, it’s always to reveal a message.

So let the resurrection power of Jesus take hold of you today and see and experience the miracle for yourself.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 17th November 2016

We have spent the last few days in Seattle, staying with our good friends Lin and Lanita Miller, before heading back home before the weekend.

We first of all met them 18 years ago, when we were invited to make our very first trip to The States. We have made that same trip several times over the years and it has become one of our favourite places to get refreshed and recharged ready for another great season in our church.

I find it hard to believe as I write, sitting in front of the log fire at the Millers’, that those years have passed so quickly.

That first trip saw us armed with pushchairs and nappies and now we have grandchildren!

The smell of their home where we stay is exactly the same today as when we first walked through the door, and brings back wonderful memories of those early days where we would go to get stretched, and our lives enriched and enlarged.

We still stay in the same basement from 18 years ago and many of the things that our kids remember are still in just the same place, creating a feeling of nostalgia.

Throughout our lives we will each have many constants that we need to be there; the warmth of a loving home, friends that we can love and be loved by, a place to find refuge from the everyday storms of life to name but a few, but as we look back on life the big question has to be, ‘have I changed?’

To say ‘no’ can be a positive, if it carries with it the sense that I’m still living and standing strong, however, that’s not the question; the point to consider is ‘have I just stayed the same and never grown bigger in faith and closer to the Lord, or am I satisfied with being just in the same place as I was all those years ago?’

Are the pictures hanging on the wall of my life unchanged ?

Is everything still just as it was, because I’ve never moved forward in life?

Am I still thinking the same old thoughts, having never allowed God to enlarge my life over the past years?

I remember for 10 years even before our first trip to Seattle, that God had spoken to me and told me that one day Seattle would be part of my destiny. I had no idea even where it was on the map, let alone knowing how to get there. I then remember asking the Lord years later as to why I’d never been when He’d clearly spoken to me about it; He simply answered that I’d never been because I’d never made plans to go. Within 12 months of that conversation, we were there.

Desire, plans and passion play an enormous part in our lives, and are the very driving force behind moving our lives forward towards change and destiny.

Take a quick glance back over your shoulder today and see if you’re still stuck in the very same rut that you were many years ago.

If so, take on board this passage of scripture…

Isaiah 40:28-31 Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Today, start afresh to hope in the Lord and take steps to move forward and regain your strength and passion.

Often, soaring means that we have to move from the environment that keeps us strutting along in the dust of our everyday life.

Take a little time today to ask the Lord to lift you to a new place where you can live a bigger life for His glory.
Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 16th November 2016

I remember a couple of years ago when I made a decision to not eat any unhealthy foods for seven days. On day one of this week-long commitment, I had an invite to go round a friend’s house, and as I walked into the living room, there in front of me was a long table lined with all of my favourite sweets and chocolates… I thought to myself, ‘why couldn’t I have been invited last week?!’

It’s funny isn’t it how temptation always follows commitment. The moment you decide to do one thing, circumstances want to pull you in the other direction.

Temptation is a very real thing and if we were being honest with ourselves, we would acknowledge that we are no match for it. In and of our own strength and willpower, we are not able to conquer the power of temptation.

But I want to encourage you today that Jesus Himself faced temptation, and not only that, but He also conquered it. And because Jesus has already won the battle against temptation, we too can overcome.

However, I would be lying to you if I said that you could do it all by yourself…
I do believe that the only way to overcome temptation is to involve Jesus in the equation. Ask Him to help you, ask Him to guide you through those areas of your life, and when you allow Him to lead, temptation can no longer have a hold over you.

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 15th November 2016

Have you noticed that we as human beings can often be inconsistent? One moment we’re this, the next moment we’re that. Consistent living is something many of us strive for but struggle to achieve.

However, I have some good news for you today: who you are doesn’t change who God is. Romans 3:3-4 demonstrates this for us; “So, what if, in the course of doing that, some of those Jews abandoned their post? God didn’t abandon them. Do you think their faithlessness cancels out his faithfulness? Not on your life! Depend on it: God keeps his word even when the whole world is lying through its teeth.”

In other words, when you are unfaithful, God is always faithful. When you are inconsistent in your ways, God never fails to be consistent. He is the same yesterday, today and forever.

And although who you are doesn’t change who God is, you need to know that who God is changes who you are.

I want to encourage you today in all of your efforts and striving to become a better you, to instead make a choice to lean into God. Let everything that is good about Him begin to rub off onto those things that aren’t so good about you.

Allow His faithfulness and His consistency to begin to change you, and I believe that when you do that, you will begin to take your eyes off your own weaknesses and begin to focus them onto His strength.

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – 14th November 2016

The very first Starbucks coffee shop was opened in Seattle, Washington, on March 31st 1971, by three partners who met while they were students.

If you ever get to visit the establishment, you will be somewhat underwhelmed by its appearance; even though packed with people buying coffee, not to mention taking selfies in a shop that is still fully functional and 45 years old, it has become a Mecca for coffee lovers from all over the world.

In the same city, Starbucks have successfully rolled out their new flagship roastery, which allows you to watch the coffee beans being roasted, ground and packaged in a huge coffee shop setting that is pretty mind blowing.

Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks is known to drink there on most days.

Amidst all the razzmatazz of the experience when we visited there a couple of days ago, I was taken in by just one expression that had been engraved into a piece of wood near to where we were sitting; it simply said this…’unreasonable passion has led us here.’

It made me think back to the three students who 45 years earlier, had given up everything in order to pursue a passion for coffee and now have almost 25,000 Starbucks stores opened across the globe.

If people can do that simply being driven by a passion for coffee, then how much more could we do being driven by a passion for people?

Having no passion leads us to live ineffective and dormant lives, but just imagine what we could accomplish in our lifetime, if we had ‘unreasonable passion’ for what we cared about.

Let’s make it our prayer today for the Holy Spirit to give us unreasonable passion in order to influence and change the world with the love of Jesus.
2 Peter 1:5-9 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them is short-sighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 12th November 2016

One of my earliest childhood memories was deciding that I wanted to be a teacher, when I grew up.

From then on, I seemed to devote most of my time to preparing. As I got older, I decided what subject I would teach, the age group I would teach it to and even which establishment I would teach it in!

However, when it came to the crunch, and I went on work experience, my passion for teaching had completely gone.

I was confused. How could I feel like this, when teaching had been my big dream, for over 15 years?

It was then that I realised that although my plan wasn’t going to work, God was still ready for me, with His plan.

One day, I simply asked him what I should do. Almost immediately, I experienced a shift in my life. I had completely new passions and interests. When I look back, I realise that they had been lying dormant  in me the whole time. I felt like a different person altogether. Suddenly,  things made a lot more sense.

Be encouraged today. If what you thought was going to happen in life seems to be heading in a different direction, know this: with God, nothing is wasted.

It’s okay to dream new dreams. He sees from beginning to end. Everything that you have experienced already has brought you this far.

Romans 8:15 ‘This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?” God’s Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are…’

You may be feeling lost. You may feel confused about who you are and what you are meant to be doing but God knows the exact details – so ask Him. Rest in that thought today and don’t be afraid to be adventurously expectant!

Melissa Reynolds-Lawrence

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

 

Fresh Hope – 11th November 2016

If you Google the phrase ‘wisest man who ever lived’, you will find that, in the minds of most people, this distinction belongs to Solomon, the legendary king who ruled the ancient nation of Israel about 3,000 years ago. A thinker as well as a leader, an author as well as a ruler, King Solomon was responsible for compiling the biblical book of Proverbs. In that book, he wrote, “A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels.” (Proverbs 1:5, KJV).

One of the most famous stories from the life of Solomon was his encounter with God, where the Lord offered Solomon any blessing he desired, including wealth, honor, or power. According to the biblical record (II Chronicles 1:1-12), Solomon chose wisdom. And God was so impressed with this choice that God then rewarded Solomon with all these other blessings, as well.

So Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, knew that wisdom was the most important quality a person could possess. And according to the notation above from his own writings, he knew that mental growth was a process, not automatic; it was increased incrementally, not gained all at once. Solomon knew that today’s efforts in gathering wisdom and knowledge would bring tomorrow’s successes in life and enterprise, because wisdom is the land under our feet, the solid, immovable rock upon which everything else is built.

People pursue all kinds of things in life. They pursue wealth. They pursue long life. They also pursue lesser prizes, such as pleasure and fame. But the ironic thing about life is that one gains these things, not by pursuing them, but rather by minimizing their importance and pursuing wisdom. Then these other “things” make their way toward the wise individual. Like Solomon, therefore, learn to prefer wisdom. If you do, you “shall attain” all the blessings that life has to offer.

Dr Dave Martin

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 10th November 2016

Ever felt under attack?
Join the club. We all go through that at times.
Here’s a great thing to remember.

Say the enemy attacks your marriage…he’s not after your marriage.

Say he attacks your finances…he’s not after your finances

Say he attacks your health…he’s not after your health.

“What do you mean?”, you may say.

He’s not after those things, he’s after your faith.
HE’S AFTER YOUR FAITH.
Your faith is powerful, it’s the weapon we use and when we are strong in faith, he can do nothing.

So remember, stay strong in faith, and everything will work out just right.
His purpose for your life is perfect.

Pastor Gillian Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 9th November 2016

Have you ever felt forgotten?

Forgotten by parents, friends, loved ones, your boss or even your spouse?

The Bible records in the book of Genesis that Joseph was not only thrown into a pit by his brothers, not only sold into slavery, not only falsely accused and sent to prison, but he was forgotten too.

After spending time in prison through no fault of his own, he started to make a positive impact on everyone that came into contact with him, so much so that people looked up to him and treated him with great respect.

On one occasion after interpreting the dreams of two employees of the king, he asked them to remember him and mention him to the king – something he hoped would get him out of prison.

You can only imagine how Joseph would excitedly wait each day for that prison guard to give him the news he had been waiting for, however it never came…

Genesis 40:23 The chief cupbearer, however, did not remember Joseph; he forgot him.

Jospeh waited everyday for a further two more years before getting the attention of the King.

What a painful story, but what an amazing ending that saw Joseph rise to highest ranking position in the land.

Being forgotten is something that we all face for long periods in our lives without any explanation, yet it is those very times that forge our character and lead us to maturity beyond our years.

Feeling forgotten today? Don’t dismay, though everyone may forget you, God never will – you are always on His mind.

He is using this very season of your life, if handled correctly, to catapult you into a significant life.

Isaiah 49:15-16 ‘Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me.’

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 8th November 2016

Last week, we looked at the dreams that we have for our lives and the importance of small beginnings.

In Genesis, Joseph, in a moment of naivety, told his brothers about things that God had revealed to him in his dreams. As we know from the story, his brothers, (already envious of their youngest sibling) tried their best to be rid of him altogether.

Genesis 37: 5-8 ‘Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more. He said to them, “Listen to this dream I had: We were binding sheaves of grain out in the field when suddenly my sheaf rose and stood upright, while your sheaves gathered around mine and bowed down to it.”

His brothers said to him, “Do you intend to reign over us? Will you actually rule us?” And they hated him all the more because of his dream and what he had said.’

There are two important lessons to be learnt from this story.

The first is to protect your dream. The reason that God communicates with you directly is because there are things that He wants to reveal to you and you alone. There is a time for everything. No matter how exciting, wild or wonderful our dreams are, wisdom about who we share them with is vital in keeping them alive.

The second is a warning to not be like Joseph’s brothers. I want to encourage you today with this thought: there is enough for everyone.

A calling on someone else’s life does not mean that there is no calling on yours. We will all face times where we feel that someone has something we think that we deserve. Do not let that consume you. Instead, know that there is a plan and purpose for each and every one of us – each one unique and important. God’s favour knows no favourites.

Melissa Reynolds-Lawrence

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 7th November 2016

I love a good American movie that goes like this:

Everyday ordinary man/woman is living a comfortable but unfulfilled life, struggling to get some big break so they can feel they’ve arrived.

Then disaster strikes! An alien invasion, a creature from the blue lagoon or a rogue shark on the loose in a quiet seaside town, breaks the peace and turns everybody’s lives upside down.

After lots of drama, ups and downs and maybe a car chase our hero/heroine and most of their family survive (maybe an uncle or irritating cousin are eaten). They are left with a deep appreciation of life.

Despite their actual situation being worse than at the beginning of the film (house and worldly possessions destroyed by a radioactive sea monster) they’ve never been happier because of a new perspective on what they do have, rather than what they don’t have.

There’s some kind of reconciliation between people, maybe even a wedding.

The end…roll credits.

This can reflect our lives. We may have family, a roof over our heads and food on the table but deep down we’re dissatisfied, frustrated and waiting for something we don’t yet have.

Let’s not wait for an earthquake or zombie invasion to break out before we realise what we have!

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 says ‘Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 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.’

What a verse!

‘Light and momentary troubles’ is that alien invasion! Our very lives threatened is classed as light, in comparison with the eternal glory we will enjoy with Jesus Christ.

I don’t know what tragic situation you may be in the middle of, or maybe you’re at the start of the film, frustrated and feel a lack of meaning and direction. Stop and take stock today.

Jesus Christ is the meaning of life – the twist at the end of the film that suddenly makes sense of it all. When we start to live this way knowing it ends well while still fighting zombies, peace comes into our lives and we can relax and enjoy the action!

Every day, wake up and thank God, be appreciative of what you do have and make the most of the adventure. Above all else, keep your focus on He who puts perspective and meaning to the script of our lives!

Luke Cartwright

A daily devotion for a better way of living.