Fresh Hope – 31st December 2019

In the late nineties, a sense of excited panic gripped much of the world as the year 2000 approached. The fear of computer systems crashing because of the Y2K bug bolstered the anticipation of a new era after the big crash, of pandemonium, lawlessness, and the beginning of the end of the world as we knew it. Needless to say, that didn’t happen.

Sadly, since that huge anti-climax, the sense of excitement preparing for the new year has been replaced by a predictable comparison of the fireworks displays around the world.

In 1 Samuel 17, a young shepherd boy named David was sent on a dull errand, to deliver cheese and sandwiches to his brothers who were, as it turned out, not fighting a war. A giant soldier from the enemy camp mocked and challenged them morning and evening for 40 days, but they cowered in fear. The sense of excitement and anticipation David’s brothers had when they joined the ranks of soldiers marching to battle had been replaced by a dull existence eating sandwiches camped out in tents.

David overturned the dull mission he started out on, and ended up killing the giant, because of the vision he saw for his future. The vision of a promotion from a shepherd messenger to the king’s son-in-law propelled him more than the fear of Goliath, or the negativity that was coming from his brothers held him back.

What exciting, audacious goals have you set for you to testify about God’s power in your life in the ‘20s we’re about to enter?

Like David, when the vision you have in front of you becomes clearer and more important than how you started, what surrounds you and what is behind you, God’s Word is the only power you’ll need to move forward.

Your success in your relationships, finances, health, emotions is not going to be determined by how well you’ve been trained to fight, but by the value you see in what you are fighting for.

Who you are, and what you have is enough! God never made anyone inadequate! David had to go to find some stones after he accepted Goliath’s challenge, so remember as we enter this new year, take on what God puts on your heart, and as Philippians 4:19 says, He will provide what you need, when you have a need for it.

Noble Mudenha

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 30th December 2019

TODAY we will form opinions of people.

TODAY people will form opinions about us. 

If we’re honest, we often don’t like the opinions people form about us, but in reality, those opinions are not without a reason. Opinions aren’t random. If you don’t believe me, ask why you have formed an opinion of someone else? Is it not based on what you have seen, perceived, or heard about that very person?

Now admittedly, we can form wrong opinions of others because we judged them wrongly or decided to base an opinion on hearsay, a lie or mere gossip.

I wonder…can you change what people’s opinions are of you?
The answer is yes!

Take for instance, the opinion that you are stingy rather than generous. How did people form that opinion? The answer is simple…you are stingy!
In one sense, people’s thoughts about us don’t matter and yet they do. Their opinions are really a gauge to let you know how you come across to them. 

Over the 35 years of our marriage, both Gillian and myself have at times said things to each other that we have later regretted. 
One such conversation would go something like this…”When you said that you hurt me” to which the reply came back, “but I didn’t say it like you heard it”…to which the reply comes back…”I can’t help how I heard it, but you can help how you said it!”
As painful as those conversations are, there is a great truth contained in them – you can’t help how you hear things, but you can help how you say things. 

If people have formed a wrong opinion of you, don’t be too harsh with them as they have based it on what they saw, heard and perceived about you. On the brink of a brand new year, take a moment to listen to yourself in an unguarded moment — you may be surprised to find that you don’t like how you come across either. 

Always be humble enough to admit that you got it wrong and be willing to change; you may be the last person to see the change, but others will soon spot it and be happy to review their opinions of you. 

As this year’s Christmastime soon comes to a conclusion, ask yourself, what would you like to be known for and then give yourself a personality makeover. If you think you’re perfect, ask a close friend to tell you the truth. 

Proverbs 27:6 Wounds from a friend can be trusted,but an enemy multiplies kisses. 

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 28th December 2019

In Luke 2, we read the story of the birth of Jesus and in the same chapter (vs 41-52) we also read some 12 years on when Jesus went to the temple with his parents and they lost him!

His parents were in relationship with him (obviously) yet still managed to lose him. Notice how and where they lost him…by observing customs and traditions. It was their custom to go to the temple for the feast. They were busy doing what they had to do and even though what they were doing was good, they still lost him. We need to all make sure that Jesus does not get lost in our customs or traditions…the way we always do things, even though they seem good…we have to be careful, because we can still forget Him in the midst of our busyness. 

In verse 44 it says “they presumed he was with them” – presumption is the sin of over- familiarity. They thought he was with them. Presumption is dangerous, it can lead to many mistakes and upsets. Notice it took them one day to lose him and three days to find him! I love what Jesus says back to his parents (v 49) “ I wasn’t lost, I was here in my Father’s House” In other words, I wasn’t lost, you were. Jesus is always near, if we feel He isn’t, guess who moved? 

As one year comes to a close and another begins, make sure Jesus is close, make sure your customs and traditions and busyness haven’t got in the way of Him being in your life and working in your life. 

Don’t presume He is with you… make sure He is. 

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 27th December 2019

Maybe you are pulling up to the end of the year feeling exhausted, and a bit battered and bruised. We can all reflect on the year that has been and undoubtedly recall moments that weren’t easy. Days that were not planned on January 1st 2019. Days where you needed God – empty tank days and desperate days. 

We can reach the end of a year and feel like we are ready to kiss it goodbye and start with a January 1st clean slate. But like the January 1st before it, the New Year promises a year of both highlights and lowlights – this is the reality of real life, and the life that Jesus told us we would experience. What is important is how we walk out every season – our attitude and approach. Psychologists have concluded that our quality of life is more about our attitude and approach amidst difficulties, than it is the difficulties that we encounter. 

So what should be our approach?

Firstly, God promises us that we should not be fearful about the future. He tells us not to worry about ANYTHING (Matthew 6:25). 

God has plans for you this year. And they are plans to allow you to fly (Jeremiah 29:11). He promises that as we trust Him in 2020, He will make our paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6). 

Consider His goodness towards you in 2019. His faithfulness. His voice in the dark times, the fact that you are alive today with another year of lessons under your belt. Reflect on the times that God showed new mercy and grace to you. Be grateful that the best is yet to come.

Before we brush an entire year under the mat because of burn-out, struggles or disappointments let us continue to be prayerful for the future, and so thankful for the year that has been (Philippians 4:6-7). 

Emma Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living. E

Fresh Hope – 26th December 2019

The Christmas spirit can motivate us to be generous, and while this most definitely isn’t a bad thing, our giving should include and extend beyond the festive feels. The Holy Spirit invites us into a lifestyle of generosity. 

Being made in the image of God, who is unfathomably generous, it is in our nature to be people who are open handed and open hearted. Does God want us to give everything away? No! He blesses us for us sometimes, and He also blesses us so we can be a blessing to others. That is the beauty of walking with the Holy Spirit – we discern day-by-day, opportunity-by-opportunity what is for us to partner with Him on. 

When we talk about generosity, it isn’t just referring to just giving away money. Generosity with finances is certainly something God calls us to, but equally He invites us to be generous with encouragement, the honouring of others, with time, and talent. 

A person with a generous spirit will actively, and attentively look out for the needs and genuine interests of others. They will eagerly look for an opportunity to display generosity. At the heart of generosity is a desire to honour God, and honour people…And not that we just do it for this – but naturally there is a blessing and fruitfulness when we do give. Why? Because generosity is a sacrifice, and God is drawn to sacrifice. His fire and favour rests on sacrifice. 

A closed hand cannot give out, and it also cannot receive. A closed hand cannot sow, and it cannot reap. But as God opens His hands and heart towards us, we too can open our hands and heart towards others – yes, Christmas time is a great time to do this, but also beyond. 

In Acts 2 we read of a church family where miracles, signs and wonders were a regular part of the church culture. 

Acts 2:43, ‘Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done…’

As the church witnessed the generous hand and heart of God, it overflowed into their personal lives. Acts 2:45, ‘They sold their possessions and their goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need’. The power of God is evident here because Jesus became much more important to them than their possessions. The person next to them who was in need became much more important than what they had. They lived attentive to the needs of others. 

In the spirit of Christmas, and in living a life that is Spirit-led, consider the sacrifices you can make in 2020 in order to display greater levels of generosity – is it offering your time and talent? Giving money? Spending time with someone that isn’t ‘easy’? Thinking of yourself less and developing an awareness of others more? 

If you’re struggling to maintain a generous lifestyle, then first discover the generosity of God toward you and you will find it difficult to not emulate His goodness.

Emma Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 25th December 2019

TODAY in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2 v 11)

Happy Christmas!

As we celebrate on this very special day, just take a few moments to THINK and to THANK right now. 

Think about the fact that no human birth could have born a saviour to us. That would be no different to you or I standing up today at the Christmas lunch table, stating that God had made us the saviour of the world. It is simply something we cannot do, as we too are in need of a saviour — a drowning man cannot save another drowning man. 

God had a special plan. He would choose an ordinary woman and do something extraordinary through her. 

The Virgin birth is central to the Christmas message, not because it makes a nice scene in a nativity play, but because it was the only way God could send His son into the world. 

Jesus had to arrive a different way, a way in which He would not just be another human being unable to save anyone, but someone that bypassed the sinful bloodline that each one of us carries since the fall of mankind. 

Jesus, born of a virgin, was not the product of an earthy father, but of God, His Heavenly Father.
…Luke 1:34-35 ‘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. 

Jesus was no ordinary man, prophet, god or a deluded person believing himself to be a saviour; He was born in such a way that excluded him from being born in sin, whilst at the same time including him in the human race in order to come down to our level. 

You may well ask: how on earth could that ever happen?
That’s exactly the question that Mary asked…
‘How will this be,’ Mary asked the angel, ‘since I am a virgin?’ (Luke 1 v 34).

The answer came back…’for nothing is impossible with God’. (Luke 1 v 37)
As we think and thank on this Christmas Day, let’s never lose sight of the awe and wonder of the Virgin birth – it’s the only way our Saviour could have arrived.
…and remember, whatever impossibilities you may be facing today — with God, all things are possible.
Pause for a moment right now and thank God for the wonder of Christmas. 

Have a magnificent ‘Saviours’ day. 

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 24th December 2019

When the Angel Gabriel delivered the news to Mary and Joseph, he told them that the name of their baby was to be Jesus. There were no other names suitable for this special baby, He had to be named Jesus —why?

The name Jesus means ‘God saves’. When the Angel announced the name, he also wanted everyone to be quite clear as to why…’for He will save His people from their sins’. The message didn’t just stop there though, as just a few verses later into the Christmas story, the Angel further announces that He will be called or known as Emmanuel.

Everyone of us is named one thing and called another from time to time. Jesus was no exception; what He would be called and known for was more than just the name Jesus, as Emmanuel means ‘God with us’.

Can you imagine the breathtaking news that this day brought – not only is the world getting a saviour, but this saviour was to be God in the flesh. God so wanted to come down to our level that He came as Himself in the form of Jesus. WOW!
Today, the same is still as true as it was then, in that every Christmas that comes and goes is yet again a reminder that God is with us. Maybe you only ever think of God as somewhere out there, someone that exists, but cannot be personally known. Jesus’ arrival changed all that in that He made it possible to be known, yes, personally known.

His arrival into Bethlehem is actually an open invitation for you to come to Him and allow Him into your life. Jesus is the ‘knowable’ God. 
The Inn keeper is one of the best known characters in the nativity play, as he was the fella that said ‘no room’. Don’t be like him today as you get caught up in the busy-ness of Christmas, but be like the shepherds that put their own lives on hold just to come and see.

Take a look at Jesus this Christmas – after all, it’s His birthday that we are celebrating. 
Maybe the last words of the old carol, ‘in the bleak mid winter’ will help you in making that decision today…
What can I give Him, poor as I am? If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb; If I were a Wise Man, I would do my part; Yet what I can I give Him: give Him my heart. 

May I take this opportunity today to personally invite you to the very special family CHRISTMAS EVE service tonight at 6pm. (Doors and coffee shop open at 5pm). Ample offsite overflow parking is available.
I look forward to seeing you.  

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 23rd December 2019

I heard someone say recently, ‘people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.’

I’m sure you know this to be true. If you’ve ever had someone correct you, or even encourage you, it is always received better when you know the person’s motive to be pure.

This Christmas, at every opportunity, show people how much you care. Maybe you can’t do so through a gift, but we all have words. Use what you do have to communicate your care for the people in your world.

One of the lessons that my Dad has taught me is that people don’t remember so much what you say to them as much as they remember how you make them feel.

I don’t want to see others as a means to offload everything happening in my life, but rather I want to be the one extending a listening ear, giving people the time of day, letting them know that they matter.

And when the time comes for a difficult conversation with a loved one, or a moment for me to share from the knowledge or experience I may have, people are fully aware, this comes from someone who cares.

Do people know how much you care? Do they feel better after spending time with you?

This holiday season, don’t show people how much you know, show them how much you care!
I pray this Christmas is your best one yet.

Caleb Burchell
A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 21st December 2019

This week I have been thinking about the shepherds from the Christmas story, you can read about them in Luke chapter 2. The King of the Universe, the one who made the Heavens and the earth and everything in it, arrived on planet earth in the form of a human baby and the first people he wanted to know about it were shepherds! Not kings or ‘special’ VIPs but shepherds. They were on the lowest rung of the social ladder, they would have been paid very poorly for their work and they would have lived a very humble life…and yet God chose them to announce His birth to and they were invited to be the very first to meet the KING of KINGS himself.  

That gives me hope. However unworthy you may feel today, God wants you to know that you matter so much, He wants to have an encounter with you.  

I love what verse 19  says “and Mary pondered all these things in her heart” – what things? The fact that she too from a humble background had been chosen to give birth to the Saviour of the World and maybe also that the first visitors that God in Heaven had chosen were lowly shepherds. She must have had great anticipation that this was going to be a very special season because of a very special Son.  How precious is that?

I pray that in this very busy season of Christmas, you will make time for an encounter with God yourself. One that will make you sing out “Glory to God in the Highest” and one that as you come out of Christmas, will make YOU ponder all these things in your heart. 

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 20th December 2019

As we approach this Christmas time, think about what you’re putting value on, because it determines whether you will end up feeling disappointed or encouraged. As we fast approach 2020, let’s be aware again that whatever we put value on will determine whether the year is a triumphant success or again a disappointing let down.

In 2 King 17:15, we read ‘They followed worthless idols and themselves became worthless.’

Whatever you value in life, attaches a value or meaning to your own self worth. If all you dream about and work towards is for example holidays, you will feel good or bad dependant on that. Ultimately when the very temporary holiday is over, you feel empty.
Here’s some great words to help us approach Christmas and 2020:

John 1:9-12 | NIV
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 recognize 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.

The more we learn to put our value on Jesus, the more worth we feel in ourselves! As it states ‘children of God!’

Our family and friends are great blessings, but they aren’t the meaning of life; if your children are your sole focus, you will forever be disappointed and will end up feeling worthless.

Houses, jobs and holidays are great as well. But if they are your primary dream of 2020, you will judge 2020 based on these and ultimately end up struggling for meaning as you become as worthless as the idols you pursue.

Today in all the busy Christmas preparations and excitement, let’s focus on these words of Jesus in John 6:35 ‘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.”

Let’s realign our hearts today, let’s not put our hope in creation but the creator, let’s not seek blessings but the one who blesses.

“Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”

Let’s make sure today we choose to give our primary attention and value to Jesus, and in doing so we will become of all value ‘children of God’.

Luke Cartwright

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 19th December 2019

James 3:11&12, ‘Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers and sister, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs, Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water’. 

There is something to be said for purity. The more pure a diamond, the greater its worth. The more pure the water, the more healthy it is to drink.  A lifestyle that is both salt and fresh water is not only impure, but also impossible. It is either pure or it is not. Our lives are either salt water or fresh water. God is not after perfection, but if your lifestyle isn’t a picture of purity, perhaps there are some things at the source (the heart) that need to be checked. 

Christians can full into the trap of trying to muster up pure behaviour. This isn’t sustainable. It is like pouring salty water into a glass and then distilling that glass of water into purity before finally enjoying drinking it. How exhausting. You are better off going to the source of the water coming out the tap, and bringing that into a place of purity so you can enjoy endless glasses of pure behaviour because the source is in a healthy, pure place! 

You cannot have a life where fresh, pure water is flowing if your heart is in a salty place. 

Some of us arewondering why we can’t love people. Yet in our heart, we are judging others all the time. Salt and fresh water cannot flow from the same spring. You cannot love people if you are too busy judging them! 

Some of us may be struggling with promoting others, but it’s because we are too busy promoting ourselves to have the time to look out for others. Salt and fresh water cannot flow from the same spring! 

Some of us may be struggling to have influence over people, but in our heart we aren’t prepared to serve under people. Salt and fresh water cannot flow from the same spring. 

Some of us are struggling to speak positively about people and life, yet in our hearts we are harbouring negative attitudes and slander against people. Salt and fresh water cannot flow from the same spring. 

If you feel like your life is in conflict to what you really desire, check the health of the water source of your life – your heart. If you heart is in an unhealthy, salty position, don’t expect fresh and pure water/ behaviour to flow out. It is impossible – it is either one or the other.

Emma Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 18th December 2019

The beauty of family is that we are not bound together because we all see eye-to-eye on everything. What binds us together is that we are family. It is love that connects us, not agreement on everything. 

There’s nothing like a federal election to bring out the vocal opinions and passionate viewpoints of people. Our convictions come from our deeply rooted belief systems, so it can be easy to get offended or take it personally when someone challenges what we hold so closely. Our immediate reaction is to disconnect with people when they voice their conflicting values and priorities. 

One of the greatest challenges of this generation is that we can so easily cut off, ‘unfollow’, or ‘block’, people who we disagree with. This is not a healthy way to relate to people. To be able to listen, disagree, and still maintain a loving, respectful relationship is a mark of maturity and a sign that love surpasses all. 

Confrontation, different belief systems and challenging discussions, are not only possible, but also healthy. Our personal world will become very small if we only surround ourselves with opinions and people that make us feel comfortable and never challenge us to think another way. We should in fact seek to understand where people who are different to us are coming from. We do not have to agree, but an attempt to understand and hold honouring conversation is good.   

Consider the grace shown towards you by an all-knowing God. I’m sure he could easily look at our ideas at times and think, ‘Pfft! She has no idea what she is talking about! How small-minded and ridiculous! How dare she have that perspective after everything I have done! What ignorance!’. But in His grace and love, He remains connected to us and seeks out relationship with us above all. He doesn’t dishonour, block or unfollow us because of our beliefs. Why? Because agreement on ideas isn’t what he is primarily after. Relationship and connection is what He is after. Likewise, as the church, we should model the same heart. 

When we feel that people are ignorant, watch that we don’t: 
-Demonise people we disagree with.

 – Create an ‘us’ and ‘them’ mentality. 

– Spiritualise the demeaning of those with different persuasions. 

In today’s political climate where tension and emotions are high and different views and contrasting opinions are vocalised, let the church be a picture of a family marked by grace and kindness, regardless of political stand points. Be aware of your thoughts and words. Watch what you partner with in conversations and over social media. Remember, the enemy will take any opportunity to bring division in God’s family.

Emma Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 17th December 2019

One of my childhood memories of the Christmas season was centred around a huge fitted cupboard in my sisters bedroom.

The cupboard, known as the ‘big cupboard’, was built across the whole width of the far side of the room. It came up from the floor to about three feet in height and had two hinged lids that could be folded right back against the wall. We would spend hours pulling out old stuff from that cupboard, in order to make space for the incoming toys, cars, games and puzzles that myself, my brother and sister hoped would be coming out way that Christmas.

We ended up rarely throwing anything away as the old stuff seemed to have more of a magical attraction than the new after it had spent a year or two hidden away from sight.

Many a boring Saturday throughout the year would be spent propping open the lid and digging deep to see what we could find that had long since been forgotten. Toys and games from many a Christmas past were often bought back to life and played with just as if we’d never seen them before. If ever there was a childhood treasure chest then that simple cupboard would be one of them.

The big cupboard reminds be so much of the hidden treasures contained in the Bible; no matter how old they are, they are able to bring something fresh and alive to us, know matter how many times that we may have read them before.

I have personally read through the Bible many times over the last 30 years, but no matter when I read it, there is always something new to inspire, teach and transform me on any given day. Sometimes it feels like that I have never read it before as its pages take a hold of me just as if they were freshly written that day.
Digging deep into the Bible means that you have to set aside some time each day to uncover the hidden treasures that God has placed within its pages just for your own benefit and blessing.

I have acquired so many books over the years and I’ll often have about three on the go all at the same time; yet when they have been read once I rarely read a book a second time.

The Bible is unique in that you can go back to it time and time again and discover pearls of wisdom and truth, and more importantly discover the living Jesus on every page.

The Christ of Christmas is just as real today as when he first stepped into this world 2000 years ago.

Make a decision today to lift the lid on the Bible and find real life, fresh hope, inspiration and wisdom on its pages – it’s Gods treasure chest to you every day.

Luke 2:16-19 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 16th December 2019

I’m sure that we will all take part in a Christmas quiz or two over the next couple of weeks. In fact, our family Christmas parties rarely go by without a pretty well organised quiz, even though they usually end up with heated arguments over the right answers!

While you’re getting yourself in the Christmas quiz mood, here’s a question…
What was the very first words that God spoke in the Bible?

Answer: Let there be light.
It’s one of the biggest clues to the very nature of God in that He doesn’t want you to be in the dark.  There’s also 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 fact740 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, if we skip to the New Testament, 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 working in your life just fine, that there’s still a longing for something more?

Have you ever wondered why in a very brightly lit world why you feel as if you’re in the dark?
Maybe you would describe your existence like this…’everything is working, but there’s just something missing’.

That something 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 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 during this Christmas season 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 one most important 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 and in doing so this Christmas will become the most meaningful ever and 2020 will be like no other. 
Everything changes when the light goes on.
Invite Jesus into your life right now.  He’s just waiting for you to ask.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 14th December 2019

Make sure you’re listening!… that’s something we’re all familiar with I’m sure.  Those ladies with husbands… you know they can hear you, but they’re not listening, those parents with children, you know they can hear you, but you also know they’re not listening. I’m sure you all know exactly what I mean. 

It’s also easy to get distracted.  When someone is talking to me, I always try to make a point to focus and listen to them and not get distracted.  I’m sure we’ve all encountered or been that person, who asks a question, but then doesn’t listen to the answer…and how about that person who you’re talking to, but they’re on their mobile device and don’t even look up at you.. don’t be that person!
But what about when God wants to speak to you and you’re so distracted that you don’t hear? Some of us can be so busy we miss out on those special moments in life, because we don’t hear what we are supposed to. 

Recently, I was on a train with my daughter, we were so busy chatting, that we didn’t hear the announcer say “the next station is…”.  Oh my word, we missed our stop and had to go to the next station. That was so inconvenient, as my husband was waiting to pick us up and had to drive to the next station!

How often do we miss God’s instructions for our lives, because we are simply not listening.. and then we end up in completely the wrong place because we didn’t hear?
I don’t know about you, but I don’t have time to go to the wrong stop, to take a detour. I don’t want to be that person, who is so focused on stuff that doesn’t matter, that I miss the things that do. 
Tune your heart to the Holy Spirit today.  
Make sure you’re listening… and even in the busy-ness of this season, don’t miss out on His instructions. He has some great places to lead you to. 

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 13th December 2019

In the gospel of Luke we have this story of Mary and Martha.

Luke 10:38-42 | NIV
As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself ? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

This is a great example of how we can be so easily distracted, even with serving and doing the right thing, that we miss the point of what it’s all about!

As we approach Christmas this year,with all its busyness I want to encourage you to stop! Right now stop and take your time. Turn your attention to who this season is all about! Sit at his feet like Mary, stop worrying about so many things. Make sure that in all the chaos of family, friends and Christmas preparations that we don’t lose focus of the true reason for the season!

I have often been disappointed around this time of year, we build up our expectations, we spend money we don’t have for this one off occasion and so often it’s a let down. Not quite Christmassy enough, or maybe people haven’t appreciated our efforts enough. 

The opposite of disappointment is appointment. So to be diss-appointed means to be taken out of an appointment, removed from a position you felt you should have. Mary’s position that she chose was at the feet of Jesus and I love what Jesus said about her choice, “Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Whatever your holidays are like this year be sure to put yourself at the feet of who the holiday is for, choose what is better, don’t get disappointed this Christmas, but start today as you mean to go on, at the feet of Jesus – it is the one position no one can take from you! 

Luke Cartwright

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 12th December 2019

It’s not always easy to trust, when you can’t see the outcome.

A lot of the time, walking with God is a case of
moving one step at a time, trusting that what you’re doing is right.

When I was younger, I used to love watching a programme called Art Attack. There was a segment on the show called ‘Big Art Attack’, where the presenter would create a masterpiece in a very large area, such as a warehouse or a field. He would collect seemingly random items and place them together. From the ground, the masterpiece wouldn’t make much sense. However, when the camera zoomed out, he would have made something like a peacock or a juggling clown.

It used to be frustrating, trying to guess what
these small items, carefully positioned, were eventually going to become.

Life can be much like this. Sometimes, where we
found ourselves or what God asks us to do just doesn’t make sense to us. Our life is made up of many small elements; different relationships, conversations, challenges and victories. It can all feel a little bit random.

Remember today that God sees beginning to end. Not only that but He has a purpose for every experience. You may find yourself asking ‘why?’. When we’re ‘zoomed in’ to our lives and living the day-to-day, we can’t always understand what is going on around us.

Be encouraged that when you ‘zoom out’ and look at your life from Heaven’s perspective, God has been creating a beautiful masterpiece, all along.

Melissa Reynolds-Lawrence

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

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Fresh Hope – 11th December 2019

Recently, I was driving along and must admit, I wasn’t entirely paying attention – I was just eager to get out of the traffic and get to my destination as quickly as possible. As the traffic lights turned green and I pulled off, I realised that my car has slowed right down and had started to beep loudly!

In a flash, my thoughts had raced to the worst case scenario – “I’ve broken down and I’m going to have to be rescued.” “I’m going to miss this appointment.” “This is going to cost me a fortune.” But as I looked to see which warning light was flashing, I realised my handbrake was still on! I simply released it and off I went.

Often in life, this is how we react to stressful situations. Something doesn’t ‘feel right’ – as in our peace is gone or we’re in a state of stress. Then the ‘beeping’ starts — which usually manifests itself in worry and anxious thoughts and trying to figure out what’s going on. Then, when we take a moment, we may reflect and realise what is happening. And that is the point where God can come along and set us free…or release that handbrake!

Imagine if I’d sat at those traffic lights for another hour, waiting for the RAC, only for them to come along and release my handbrake! What a waste of time and resource. Yet, that’s how we approach our circumstances at times and we find ourselves unable to accelerate.

Let me remind you today that whatever you are facing, you already have the victory and God wants to take your burden.

Matthew 11:28 says ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.’ He wants to take those things from you that you’ve taken up yourself.

So take a moment to surrender today and stop driving with your handbrake on. You’ll be in for a much smoother journey.

Melissa Reynolds-Lawrence

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 10th December 2019

How often in life do we miss out on something wonderful because we are completely ignorant of it – sometimes by choice? I can personally think of many times where I have chosen to remain ignorant and missed out because I haven’t taken time to explore and discover. I’ve settled for the easy and comfortable option. I didn’t bother reading reviews, checking offers, ensuring the deadlines, researching what the Bible really means in its true context. Rather than seeking out truth, I have passively been feed ideas from media and others sources, allowing these means to form my opinions. Ignorance and choosing to not seek out knowledge is dangerous. 

I recently considered how people who are not interested in the Christian faith probably don’t understand God and Christianity simply because perhaps they have never truly been curious or interested enough in it. Maybe if they had a genuine interest, taken the time to consider life’s deeper questions, and truly explored, then I imagine relationship with God might be very hard for them to deny or resist.

In short, when we choose not to explore and learn we actually miss out on something wonderful! Some people would rather remain as they are, then actively seek out and discover something that would change their life. 

Ignorance leaves you where you are – comfortable and small. Seeking out knowledge and understanding propels you forward and opens up your world. 

Proverbs, the book of wisdom, speaks over and over about the importance of having a hunger to learn more, and gain wisdom and understanding. 

‘An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge’, Proverbs 18:15. 

‘A man of knowledge enhances his might’, Proverbs 24:5. 

‘Blessed is the one who gets understanding’, Proverbs 3:3. 

We should have a curious heart, hungry to learn, eager to search out truth, knowledge and answers. 

Part of ‘loving the Lord with your mind’ (Luke 10:27), is using it to gain wisdom and understanding, and refusing to remain ignorant! Imagine the rich reward that waits on the other side of understanding! 

There is more for all of us than what we know now! Ask God those big questions, seek out the answers, research the wisdom of God on topics, speak to experienced people. Grow in wisdom and understanding and develop a love for learning!

Emma Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 9th December 2019

The king of kings, the saviour of the world, was born not in a palace, not in a castle, not with a big, grand royal announcement, but in… a barn. Surrounded by animals. With the smell of poo and hay in the air. This is how the most precious and powerful person of all time entered this world. Jesus was birthed into a mess. But even his birth was a prophetic statement about who he was. 

Jesus came as a humble servant. He was king, but He came as a man to serve. He wasn’t after a platform, a stage or grand entrance. He came as a representation of you and me – born perhaps in unexpected and humble circumstances, but called. He also came as a representation of God – a God who isn’t afraid to get involved in our mess. 

The first lesson we can gain from Jesus’ birth situation is: 1. Don’t ignore the assuming. This could be those unassuming people around you, or perhaps it is yourself! God loves to use the most unassuming and humble people and situations to do the most powerful things. We are trained to have our attention taken by the shining, sparkling, perfected aspects of our society, but that is not where God was found. He was found in a pile of hay in a random town. Don’t assume that the greatest gifts in life are going to come from perfect places. They could come from something very ordinary or even messy. 

The second lesson we can gain from Jesus’ birth situation is: 2. Be prepared for mess. Mary had agreed to carry the saviour of the world, taking on all the drama and judgment that would have come along with it too. You think God would have at least rewarded her with a really nice place to birth the saviour…not a barn! Surely God could have pulled off something a little less messy? Buuut God had a message in all this. Beautiful things are birthed in mess. The perfect, clean-cut circumstances around your life aren’t what determines the value of who you are and what God has for you. Messy life circumstances don’t change who you are! 

Jesus is no less the messiah based on where He was born. 

This Christmas, if your life feels a little messy, perfect! Consider what God may be birthing through it all. 

I think God was so intentional about Jesus’ birth being in a mess. I think there is part of all of us that can connect with a God who comes to meet humanity in a mess.

Emma Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 7th December 2019

Have you ever felt stuck? Have you ever got to a place of feeling you’ve hit rock bottom? If so, don’t despair, there is hope!

In  Luke 15 vs 11-32 we read the story of two brothers; one decided that he knew best, took his share of his father’s inheritance and off he went and blew the whole lot on riotous living.  
He was so desperate and hungry that he ended up with a job feeding pigs. It was there in the ‘pig muck’ that he came to his senses.  Whilst he was at the lowest of the low, he had two choices. Do I stay where I am and blame God? Or do I admit that I was wrong, made a wrong choice and messed up and go back to my father?

Fortunately, we are told “he came to his senses” (vs 17) and went back home.  He decided that even the servants in his Dad’s house would be eating better than him. 

Two things to notice about His Dad. 1. He let him go willingly. That’s like God with us – He lets us make our own choices, even when he knows they are wrong for us. It’s called free will. 

2. He welcomed him back with open arms, no judgement, just grace and mercy…gave him the best clothes and threw a party! That’s like our God.  He just wants us to come to our senses and often he will allow a ‘pig muck’ experience into our lives so that we will realise it. 

If you’re in the muck today, good. It’s an opportunity to make a new decision, a new choice.  The right decision, the right choice. It was the muck that made this guy see what he needed to see. 
Final thought: never be too proud to go back home. It’s where you belong.  God is only a prayer away. 

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

Fresh Hope – 6th December 2019

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

It’s completely normal to worry but it is not something that God wants you to live with.

At the beginning of this busy season, it is quite possible that you have already thought ahead to how the next few weeks are going to pan out.

If you are anything like me, you plan your days and make a note of things that you need to get done. There will definitely be things on your list that you would rather avoid.

Don’t allow worry to spoil the day that God has for you. We can live in the peace that no matter what, God goes before us. We can’t go ahead in time to make sure that everything will be okay… but He can. Matthew 6:34 is a reminder that God’s grace is sufficient for every single
day of our lives. He has everything that we need ready for us, if only we will ask. So replace your worry with prayer.

Today, I encourage you to take your day and invite God in. It may be something that we only do in passing but God is in the detail and cares about even seemingly insignificant things. Worry does not add one second to our lives but when we hand our cares to God, He steps in to
do what we can’t.

Melissa Reynolds-Lawrence

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 5th December 2019

I’d love to be free from pain.
I’m not physically ill.
I don’t have a broken bone or have arthritis.
I’m not taking medication for anything. 
The pain I feel is therefore nothing to do with my physical body, but is something that is part and parcel of living a life for God. 
The pain I’m describing is not exclusively mine as it belongs to us all.

None of us ever sign up to follow Jesus because we are attracted to pain, but often because we want to live a life free from pain, however, the pain I speak of is the unavoidable and inevitable pain of the daily trials that we all face. 
I came to a conclusion many years ago that ‘there will always be a problem’.
It’s not a faithless statement, but it is a realistic statement that helps us gain a proper perspective on what it’s like to live a daily life for God. 

1 Peter 4:12-13 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful and fiery trial that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice in as much as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. 

How many of us are so surprised when we find a painful trial sprung upon us?
Yet the Bible is advising us that we shouldn’t be – in fact, it’s actually teaching us that trials are our friends and not our enemies.

By virtue of the fact that this verse says that we shouldn’t think that ‘something strange is happening to us’ when we go through trials, indicates that we should embrace difficulties as character makers, rather character breakers

My friends today, if you are in the middle of pain because of a trial that you are facing, then don’t dismay, but understand that every Christian is in just the same boat.

Our trials will be different and will come at different times and seasons in our lives, but be assured of this, they are not a sign that God has left you, but is right there holding your hand to bring you out the other side a better and stronger person for it. 

James 1:12 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. 

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 4th December 2019

Christmas time evokes all sorts of feelings and emotions for us. For some it is the most special time of the year – family, food and friends. For others, the painful realities of their lives are highlighted – lonely, broke, another year of no progress, perhaps forced celebrations with people who we don’t particularly enjoy, or maybe the deep pain of losing a loved one.  

Yet perhaps the festive season has a purpose in forcing us to face such emotions! It highlights that yes, we have needs, yet we equally have a more overwhelming hope. As beautiful as the gifts may be, delicious as the food is, and as frantic as the retail hype is, Christmas is actually about remembering that in our consuming situations and emotions, a hope was birthed for us! Jesus was gifted to us! 

I recently heard a heart-breaking comment made that the Christmas story of Jesus’ birth, is ‘just a myth’ and the real meaning of Christmas is about time with family and friends. Aside from this comment being historically inaccurate (we won’t go into it), I found it saddening that someone could live in this broken world without a hope in something beyond us! Yes family and friends are a beautiful aspect of the festive season and should be thoroughly enjoyed, but what if you don’t have family or friends? Or what if your family and friends fail you? What then is your hope? 

Without a strong hope, our soul (mind and emotions) are tossed to and fro by the storms of life. Hebrews 6:19 says, ‘Hope is the anchor to our soul’. The surest hope we have is in Jesus. He is our security this Christmas. 

Yes – make amazing dinners this Christmas, yes – enjoy time with those who are precious to you, yes – buy presents and share, but as wonderful as these things are, don’t neglect to remember the hope that was given to you, and don’t forget topass it on, for this is the real meaning of Christmas!

Emma Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 3rd December 2019

We don’t date God. He isn’t an event, an occasion, the walk-in centre at the hospital when we find ourselves in desperate trouble. In His grace, He will make Himself available to us at an event, an occasion or when we find ourselves in desperate trouble, but this isn’t God’s full intent for our lives. 

I’m sure we all know of people who claim to never believe in God, but when they find themselves in a time of great desperation, it’s Him they turn to, praying, and asking Him to intervene. Then once on their feet again, they forget about Him, cracking on with their own, self-sufficient lives. 

From the beginning of creation, God’s intent for us has been that we would ‘be one with Him’. In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve shared in perfect relationship with God. Sin then broke this union, putting up barrier between God and man. Jesus then restored that union. Today we live in perfect union with Christ. Romans 6:5 says, ‘we are permanently grafted into Him’. 

Grafting is a horticultural technique whereby tissues of plants are joined so as to continue their growth together. A bud is taken from one plant and grown onto the ‘root plant’ of another. The result is two plants that appear as one plant. 

When you are unified with something, it is impossible to make that something an occasion, or an event. Union means you are tied to that thing. To be in ‘union’, means ‘to be joined together’. It doesn’t leave you, you don’t leave it. He doesn’t leave you, you don’t leave Him. You are grafted. 

We don’t go to church to meet God, we met Him at salvation and He never left us. Our lives should be an ongoing conversation with Him, an ongoing acknowledgement that He is always with us! 

In Galatians 5:16, we are encouraged to ‘walk in the Spirit’. This means to walk – go about the mundane day-to-day activities of our lives, acknowledging the voice and presence of God. 

As long as we treat God as a date – someone we pick up and drop off, making no commitment, is as long as we will not fully experience the intimacy and fullness of relationship that is available to us! 

God is not a feel-good fix on the side of our lives. He truly is the centre, the source, the ‘root plant’ of our lives.

Emma Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 2nd December 2019

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 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 God’s 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.