Fresh Hope – 30th June 2020

Recently I saw an America’s Got Talent audition of a man called Archie Williams who had been wrongly imprisoned for 37 years. Despite his innocence, he was sentenced to 80 years imprisonment for multiple crimes he didn’t commit. After 37 years, DNA proved he was innocent and he was freed.

During his audition he said that in prison he prayed and he sang, and that’s how he got peace. He said: “Freedom is of the mind. I went to prison but I never let my mind go to prison.”

His story reminded me of Joseph, who was also wrongly imprisoned. A couple of things struck me most about Joseph and Archie’s stories of glory through suffering.

 1. They didn’t let their minds go to prison

When wrongly accused of anything, big or small, it can be easy for us to get defensive. Aggression can build and bitterness can start to grow. Bitterness can easily start unnoticed by others but the unaddressed hurt quickly becomes a catalyst for our own bad decisions. If Archie had grown bitter, his life could have looked very different and he might not be walking free today. If Joseph had grown bitter and sought revenge against his brothers, he might never have had the opportunity to save his family and fulfil his Godly purpose. 

2. They stayed with God

Archie needed peace in a situation that was unfair and that he didn’t understand. He knew that praying was what was needed for his peace. 

Philippians 4:6 ‘Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, 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.’

Joseph became a successful man in prison because it was obvious God was with him. His actions and demeanour remained that of a man walking with God and he was promoted and trusted. Despite the situation, he didn’t let negative feelings transform his character and derail him from his purpose. Romans 12:2 ‘Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.’

Archie’s audition won over the judges and the nation. His humility was so apparent. What impacted me was, when asked how he felt about being out of prison, he said “I’m still trying to digest the freedom I have right now.” 

Because he had been imprisoned, he remained overwhelmed by the freedom in which he now lives. In truth, we all live in that same freedom. Because we have not experienced physical incarceration, we don’t recognise it. We can, however, let ourselves become imprisoned by worries, decisions or circumstances. These things can stop us living, they can trap us without us even being consciously aware of it.

Galatians 3:13 (MSG) Christ redeemed us from that self-defeating, cursed life by absorbing it completely into himself.

Our freedom is a lot to be grateful for. Let go of anything that’s trapping you, and live the free life Jesus died for us to have.

Fiona Geary

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 29th June 2020

If you’re reading this today and feel frustrated and uncomfortable at the confines of this current season, then I encourage you to read on and get ready to embrace change.

Did you know that a lobster can only grow by shedding its protective shell and growing a larger one to expand into?

How often do we all find that the very thing in our lives that protects us most, can end up being the very thing that stops us from growing and achieving greater things! This is a great picture for us…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 on the inside, become uncomfortable, and so make the change. However, that same Lobster becomes very vulnerable once its shell has been shed, it’s often the reason that we don’t grow. We don’t feel it’s sensible to expose ourselves to a weakened position, but if the lobster doesn’t take the risk, its shell eventually kills it!

Be careful that you don’t confuse the current restrictive shell that you’re in believing that it was from God, whilst failing to see that it’s from a previous season. This can make you feel that it’s where we should live forever; but the life of faith is one of advancement and growth and that which was previously correct for us may now be restricting us. God always has new miraculous provision for you today. It’s a new season that you’re coming into.

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 a life of stepping out and taking risks. Be prepared to lay down your old life today in order to come into the real freedom of a new and much bigger one. You won’t be disappointed!

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 27th June 2020

Did you know that you weren’t an accident? 

Did you know that you were born on purpose and for a purpose?

You may not have been planned by your earthly parents, but you were certainly planned by God. My parents were told that they wouldn’t be able to have children. I came along six years later. A miracle. God obviously wanted me born. I have a purpose to fulfil. AND so do YOU. 

God has had His hand on your life every day up until now…you may never have stopped to think about that. You may never have had any regard for God until today. He’s not fazed by that. He’s watched over you, protected you and He’s been with you, even when you didn’t realise it. 

You are not here today, reading this by accident. It’s part of God’s plan for your life. Your life may have been one of struggle and strife, but you made it! It doesn’t matter how much you messed up, or how those bad circumstances have affected you, because God has a beautiful plan for your future if you allow Him in. He’s a gentleman. He doesn’t force His way into anyone’s life. He waits to be invited. 

You can buy a new car, or a new kitchen appliance and ignore the manufacturer’s instructions. It will soon stop working, or even blow up. That’s like us, when we ignore our Maker’s instructions for our lives, we can get broken or lost or in a mess. 

Today, stop and thank God that He has been with you (even though you may not have known).

– Thank Him that He has a plan for your life (even though you may not yet know what it is).

-Ask Him to help you live your best life yet.

 -Invite Him in to be the Leader and Lord.

 -Ask for forgiveness for your past mistakes and mess ups. 

-Ask Him to fill you with His Holy Spirit. 

He has some great things in store for you. You were born ON PURPOSE. 

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 26th June 2020

The Aspen is a deciduous tree found in the northern hemisphere. Unusually for a deciduous tree it thrives in places that are normally reserved for coniferous forests. The Aspen tree has some features that make it able to survive where few other deciduous trees can.

Aspen’s grow in groves of many trees but within each grove all the trees are in fact connected by their root system. Each tree in a grove is actually part of the same tree, they are all shoots from the same interconnected mass of roots.

This gives the Aspen tree some unique attributes. It can survive forest fires and storms. The trees may burn or be felled but the root system simply sends up a new shoot to replace the damaged trees. Each individual tree may only live between 40 to 150 years but the whole root can survive for thousands of years. There is a grove in the USA that scientists believe is 80,000 years old, making it the oldest living thing on the planet.

The Aspen’s root system enables the tree to survive in conditions and through traumas that other trees cannot. The secret to that ability is it hidden underground interconnection.

In John 15:5 Jesus says ‘I am the vine and you are the branches’. Jesus is painting a picture of what it is like to be a child of God. He is explaining that through him we are not only connected to him, but to the root. The root is the source of all the nutrients that we need to survive. The root also gives us stability and an anchor to hold firm to in a storm. That root is God.

As we are all branches of the same vine, then not only are we connected to Jesus and the root but also through him to each other. Some of us are old branches, gnarled and rough to the touch whilst others are new fresh shoots, but nevertheless we are all connected to the same vine.

The fact that we can be so connected helps us, like the Aspen tree, survive through the storms in our lives. We can draw our strength, our hope, our joy and our salvation from our connection to Jesus and to each other. Jesus urges us to remain in him and he will remain in us. Through that invisible interconnection, our lives will ‘bear much fruit’.

Richard Ashmore

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 25th June 2020

The word, ‘worship’ comes from the word, ‘worth’. This means we worship what we value. What you deem worthy is what you will worship. 

You were born to worship. It is in your DNA. As natural as it is to eat, so it is natural for you to worship. Why are you a worshipper? Because you were created to LOVE. You worship what you love. 

The big question is: what are you worshipping? We all worship something, we can’t help it. 

When you love something, you make sacrifices. Sometimes the sacrifice is easy, sometimes it is hard. The point is that all through history, worship is connected to sacrifice. Love is connected to sacrifice. 

So if you want to know what you worship, look at what you will make sacrifices for. You could make sacrifices for good things like your job, or your family, but the question is, where does God fit amongst these things? Is He after? Is He somewhere in the middle, or is He worshipped ABOVE these things? 

Frankly, when we worship the wrong things, it is called idolatry. Yes, even good things can become idols. Your spouse can become an idol, your kids, your job, your church, your ministry, people’s opinions. 

All immortality flows from idolatry. What you worship, you end up obeying. What you worship, you end up becoming. Be careful what you make sacrifices for, and the order of your sacrifice. When your worship is disordered, your life becomes disordered. 

Ironically, when your sacrifice is in order, and is entirely fixed on ‘one thing’ (Psalm 27:4), and your ‘seeking first’ to worship God (Matthew 6:33), your life comes into order. 

Check the order of your sacrifice. Check the order of your worship. 

Romans 12:1, reminds us that in light of the sacrifice Jesus made for us, we in turn sacrifice our own lives (note, we don’t just sacrifice our Sundays, we sacrifice our LIFE), as an act of worship. ‘…By the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.’

Emma Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 24th June 2020

Could there be a more challenging scripture for today than that of 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18?

‘Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you’. 
1. REJOICE ALWAYS  – Not just when things are going well. Have great joy and delight ALWAYS. 

2. PRAY WITHOUT CEASING – That means praying non-stop!

3. GIVE THANKS IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES – When your circumstances aren’t your preferred circumstances, thank Him through it. 

These are incredibly uncomfortable and confronting scriptures for many of us. 

Was Paul, the author, totally out of touch with the realities of life and hardship? No. Quite the opposite. He went through more trials than many of us probably ever will (2 Corinthians 11-25). 

Many of us want to know what the will of God for our lives is. Well, here is it: rejoice always, pray non-stop, give thanks always. There is the place to start. ‘For this is the will of God for you’. 

We can rejoice always because our joy is not tied up in circumstance. It is tied up in the cross. We can pray non-stop because prayer is not and should not be exclusive to an occasion or an event. Prayer is all day, every day, constant communication and relationship with God. We can give thanks no matter the situation because through Jesus we ALWAYS have something to be thankful for. 

These actions may seem idealistic, impossible or even ridiculous, but perhaps that is exactly why they are in fact the most powerful weapons you could use right now. 

In the words of a true worshipper, David in Psalm 34:1, ‘I will bless the LORD AT ALL TIMES; His praise shall CONTINUALLY be in my mouth’. 

Rejoice, pray, give thanks, repeat!

Emma Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 23rd June 2020

Does this season of your life feel wasted? What feels like a wasted season right now could become your greatest season, if you choose to put in the work.

Imagine waking up today, looking at your physique and being disappointed that you don’t have as many muscles as you’d like. You then ask yourself, ‘why is that?’ After a few seconds of pondering you realise it’s because you haven’t worked out as much as you should have.

Now think about a farmer; you would call him crazy if he went out into his field one afternoon to find no crops. You then ask him if he remembered to sow some seed, to which he replies, ‘You know what, I forgot that part!’

The principle here is that you cannot expect to receive a harvest in one season if you failed to sow the seeds in the previous season.

Therefore the question I want to pose to us both today is: ‘what work are we putting in during this season of our lives that is going to produce results in the time to come?’ I want to say it again, what may seem like a wasted time in your life right now could become the greatest time in your life.

Maybe you want to see your friendships thrive. Use this opportunity to invest into them. Make that call, send that text, arrange that FaceTime.

Maybe there’s a skill that you’ve been wanting to develop. Read that book, watch that tutorial, listen to that podcast. Don’t just step into the future, create it.

Today, make a decision to turn this season around and work it to your advantage. Sow the seeds so that you can reap the harvest, and when you look back on the first half of 2020, you won’t see a time that was lost, you’ll see a time that was well spent.

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 22nd June 2020

The winds of adversity have been beating on the world for several weeks now and there have been many casualties in so many ways. As we enter a brand new week with all of its challenges, and of course its opportunities, I want to encourage you to stay strong as I remind you of just 4 verses from Psalm 92.

12-15 ‘The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, ‘The Lord is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.’
Draw strength today from these simple yet profound words… ‘The righteous will flourish like a palm tree…’

  1. You can cut it, but you can’t kill it! The minerals and nutrients most trees need to survive are found on the surface, just below the bark. When you cut them, they die. But not so with the palm tree. Its life comes from within, so it flourishes even under attack.

2. It will bend, but it won’t break. Tropical winds can blow most trees away, but not the palm tree. The stronger the wind, the further it bends, sometimes all the way to the ground. Yet when the storm ceases, it straightens up again and is actually stronger in the place where it bent. What a picture! We were made to bend, but not break, because God gives us the strength to endure.

3. Its depth always exceeds its height. While the roots of the average tree go only a metre or so under the ground, the palm tree’s roots can go down hundreds of metres in search of water. Psalm 42:1-2 ‘As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God…’ When you put your roots down deep in your relationship with God, there’s no guarantee that you won’t get blown around, but you’ll certainly never get blown away.

Joshua 1:7-9 ‘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. 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.’

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 20th June 2020

How many of you look at people’s shoes?

Some may wear the wrong colour for their outfit, some may wear some that are too big or too small, some people may wear really old ones that have gone out of style, some may have new ones every week…

I wonder what shoes you are wearing today?
Our purpose in life is a lot like shoes – God has the perfect fit for each of us.
Have you ever thought someone’s shoes were totally unsuitable for their age or stage of life? How many little girls loved to dress in ‘Mommy’s shoes’, yet obviously we wouldn’t allow them to wear them for school or even outside, they may fall and really hurt themselves. How many little boys have wanted to wear ‘daddy’s work boots’, yet again, only for ‘dressing up’.

What are your shoes like today? Are they suitable for you? You see, wearing the right shoes, and walking in the purposes of God for YOUR life is a perfect fit. You will go where you’re supposed to go, be who you’re supposed to be and fulfil the purpose that GOD has for you. One size does not fit all when it comes to God’s purposes for us.

We each have a different one. Yes, we are all created to love God and love people and bring others to know Him, but in doing that, we have each been designed specifically and beautifully unique. We all have the same mission, but a different part of it.

I love the story of David when he was going to fight Goliath. You can read about it in 1 Samuel 17 vs 38-40. King Saul wanted David to wear his armour; the offer came with good intentions and right motives, yet it was completely wrong for David. He had to keep his ‘shepherd boy’ shoes on and fight Goliath as he knew best, with a sling and some stones, not with some huge heavy armour.

You may like other people’s shoes. There’s nothing wrong with that, but that doesn’t mean they are right for you. Walk with the shoes on that God has given you to wear. Other’s shoes will be too big, too small, won’t fit, will hurt you, cause you to stumble, not be able to run and you will be ineffective in them, just like David knew he would be in Saul’s armour. Your shoes may not be as ‘flashy’ as someone else’s. I’m sure David was tempted by the offer of the King’s armour, but just because it looks good, doesn’t mean it’s right for you.
You never see athletes swapping shoes. No, they have a specific pair reserved for them and them only, ready to run their OWN race!

If you don’t know what shoes you’re supposed to wear, ask God, He will help you – and if you’re trying to wear someone else’s, get out of them quick and into your own. For that’s where you will be most effective… and everyone will say “WOW, look at their shoes” and like David, you too will be a hero.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 19th June 2020

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. The time we’re living in right now had certainly brought about uncertainty and nervousness.

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 – 18th June 2020

Some years ago when we bought a new fridge freezer, not only was I surprised to find that you had to have it plumbed into the water mains, but also that you had to fit a special water filter to the pipe work — something that no-one ever gets to see.

The filter system provides perfectly filtered water from the water dispenser at any time of  day or night – no more continually filling a water filter jug several times a day!

Every six months, a warning light appears on the front of the fridge to let you know that it’s time to change the filter. The filters are not only expensive, but changing them requires effort and time. I’m probably just the same as everyone else, in that I wait for the warning light to annoy me sufficiently before I make the change. This is usually about a month at least after the light comes on. 

Purity is something that you not only have to give attention to when you get a warning signal from the Holy Spirit, but it’s something that you have to actively work on and fight for within yourself on a daily basis. 

I have discovered that one of the greatest ways of maintaining a pure life is to be accountable to others that you respect around you. 
The people that I’m talking about will be usually further ahead and carry a greater level of maturity than you, although they will not always be older than you. 

Accountability operates like a filtration system. If you’re unsure about something, or if you find yourself in a difficult position that may compromise you, then by talking it over with a trusted friend you are in effect passing your thoughts through their filtration system of wisdom and sound advice. 

The benefit from being accountable is that you get shielded from making unwise decisions, and the decisions you do make are pure because of the process. 

Accountability also means that you get warned when others watch you going head long into an unwise decision or disaster. 
Don’t go it alone today and end up spending the rest of your life regretting the poor choices you’ve made, instead select some great people in your life to help filter out your impurities.

Proverbs 4:5-6 Get wisdom, get understanding; do not forget my words or turn away from them. Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you. 

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 17th June 2020

Philippians 4:19, ‘…For I have learnt to be content in whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.’ (Philippians 4:19).

Let’s look at the context of this scripture – Paul was writing this letter to the church in Macedonia. Paul was not on his sun-lounger, drink in hand, sun on face, telling people to ‘be content’. He wrote this letter from prison. And it would not have been the first time he was imprisoned either.

‘…I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea. I have travelled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers but are not. I have worked hard and long, enduring many sleepless nights. I have been hungry and thirsty and have often gone without food. I have shivered in the cold, without enough clothing to keep me warm’ (2 Corinthians 11).

After Paul had endured all this, still his words, ‘I have learnt to be content in whatever the circumstances’ suddenly takes on a different meaning. Paul is not calling us to be content while life is ‘good’ or even ‘okay’. He is calling us to be satisfied when life is a challenge. He is calling us to be content now in lockdown, in the middle of 2020!

This doesn’t mean we stop praying and believing for more, it simply means our circumstances do not need to determine our level of happiness and satisfaction. Our happenings do not need to have a hold on us because we have strength in something beyond our happenings. We have strength in Christ. It is in Christ that we find contentment. It is not in the absence of a virus, or the presence of people, or abundance of finances. It is in God that we find contentment in EVERY situation and season.

If your strength and contentment is found only when you are in control, know the future, are back at work, and are around people, then you are in for a scary ride, because life doesn’t always guarantee those things. But if you can find strength in an unchanging, good God, then you will find contentment in whatever the circumstances.

Did Paul just have this understanding and ability to be content land in his lap? No, the verse says, he LEARNT to be content. We won’t get this perfect, we will have days where we struggle, but let us have the posture of LEARNING to be content in whatever we are facing at the moment.

Emma Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 16th June 2020

1 Corinthians 13:1-8, ‘If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails’.

Love is the essential ingredient in all we do. We can do a good thing, but if the love is missing, it is pointless, useless and ineffective.

Love makes a powerful combo, when teamed with truth. In fact, truth and love must go hand in hand with each other. I love this quote from Timothy Keller, ‘Love without truth is sentimentality; it supports and affirms us but keeps us in denial about our flaws. Truth without love is harshness; it gives us information but in such a way that we cannot really hear it. God’s saving love in Christ, however, is marked by both radical truthfulness about who we are and yet also radical,unconditional commitment to us. The merciful commitment strengthens us to see the truth about ourselves and repent. The conviction and repentance moves us to cling to and rest in God’s mercy and grace’.

Let’s look at the Bible – it reveals a realistic, sometimes unflattering picture of who we are. The Bible takes you by the scruff of the neck at times and addresses you. What we read in the scriptures challenges the core of who we are, but we know it is really the road to liberation. We cannot resist this power that truth has to blow the lid off and turn the light on to issues in our life. Equally, Jesus came with ‘truth bombs’, but he delivered them in love. His mission was to deliver truth, but with an unmatched affirmation that could heal the deepest wounds and hurts of your life.

Loving to speak the truth is different to speaking the truth in love.

Truth without love ruins unity, and love without truth gives the illusion of unity but actually stops the growth. The solution is GRACE – the experience of Jesus’ grace makes it possible to practice the two most important skills in the Christian walk: forgiveness and repentance.

Speaking the truth in love requires emotional humility and emotional wealth – a fundamental inner joy and confidence – this can only come from God… both his example and his empowering grace allow us to be this.

Emma Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 15th June 2020

After more than 13 weeks in lock down, we have all been subjected to what can only be described as an exceptional set of circumstances. Living in each other’s pockets has been both an unexpected blessing and an unexpected strain at times. 

Spending so much time under one roof, with little opportunity for any outlet, has proved very challenging for many families as well as those living alone. I’m sure that you will have noticed that while emotions are running high, we are more prone than ever to do and say things that would not normally be an issue. 
By way of an MOT during this time, here are ten reasons why relationships fail:

  1. Communication breaks down. 
  2. Truth is violated 
  3. Integrity is forsaken
  4. Time isn’t invested 
  5. Risks aren’t taken (not social distancing risks I might add)
  6. Control rises to the top
  7. Trust is broken
  8. Self-interest is the rule
  9. Manipulation is allowed
  10. God is ignored 

How well did you do? Before you lose heart because you feel like you’ve failed, here are just three values that I find helpful in my daily thinking:

  • Become a good listener. In the book of James chapter 1 v 19, he writes… ‘be quick to listen and slow to speak.’ Sometimes the greatest gift that you can give to others, is to listen with not just your ears, but with your heart. Just ‘being there’ for someone, even if it’s just on their doorstep or on the end of the phone is enough. 
  • Speak the truth in love. Nobody likes to be corrected, but when you’re heading down the wrong road or settling for less than your potential, a true friend will have the courage to tell you. If you truly care about someone then you will make time to speak the truth in love even though it may cost you. 
  • Always believe the best. Love sometimes sees you at your worst, but never forgets your best. Love will often see you as far more wonderful than you know that you really are, but is able to see past your faults and failings. 1 Peter 4:8 “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins”. Love doesn’t sweep things under the carpet, but it does see beyond the dirt on the carpet. 

Whatever relationship challenges you are facing today, let’s be mindful that if we can learn to overcome the challenges in this season we will have learnt to overcome them in any season!

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 13th June 2020

I was thinking about the story from the Bible in Matthew chapter 7 about the wise and the foolish builders. One built his house upon the rock, the other on the sand. Growing up in Sunday school, we regularly sang a song about the wise and foolish builders.

Along with many actions and sound effects, it told the exact story and that was that when the storm and the wind and waves came along, the house on the rock stood firm and the house on the sand fell flat. Matthew 7 teaches us that if our lives aren’t built on God’s word then we are like the foolish builder.

 You and I have to make sure our lives are built firmly, with great, solid foundations. For surely, life’s wind and waves and storms WILL come and what will be left? Hopefully we will still be standing firm. 

When my life is built on prayer, God’s word and a relationship with Him, then even when I’m tested (and we all will be) my life will still stand. My husband always says that what we learn in the light, we have to practise in the dark. Many people base their lives on feelings. This is too dangerous. For life isn’t always ‘happy’ and things don’t always go as we would want. But, when we instead build our lives on what GOD says, and not what I feel, that’s a firm foundation. When I listen to what He says and not what social media tells me, or the news media, then I am building the right foundation. 

God wants to build something great in you. Storms will come and storms will pass. You will remain standing… IF you have taken the time to build some great foundations. 

As children you may remember the story of the three little pigs…the same story as the Bible really. The wolf came and blew down the house of the homes that were built of straw. Yet, those that had been built with bricks, were able to stand when the wolf came. 

The enemy of our souls, the devil himself, may want to take you out. He may want to blow our house down with a big crash! BUT… he can’t if your foundation is strong. 
Check it today. Ask God to help you. Do something important that will last you forever. 

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

Fresh Hope – 12th June 2020

A few years ago, I watched a movie titled the Life of Pi. In it, a young boy is shipwrecked and finds himself lost at sea sharing a small lifeboat with some wild animals, one of them being a tiger.

Faced with dehydration yet surrounded by miles of water around him, the boy doesn’t drink any of it. He knows that although he faces certain death unless he can find something to drink, he would die sooner if he drank the sea water, and so waits for rain.
He was thirsty, yet surrounded by the very thing he was craving. He could touch it, feel the cool waves lapping on his skin under the hot sun, but hidden inside the water was salt that would kill him from the inside.

What are you thirsty for today? I, like many people, have been yearning for news of things settling down, and news is available everywhere you look. Information, both verified and unverified, and opinions are an unyielding torrent on social media, news channels, the sources are endless. But Proverbs 4:23 tells us to “above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

Guarding your heart and mind is especially difficult when you wake up to the heart-breaking news of the horrific killing of an unarmed man by police officers in America, and the resulting polarising protests demanding that they, and other perpetrators be brought to justice.

The assumption in the scripture is that we are going to act when it says “everything you do flows from it”, but what action do you take? How do you empathise with the hurt of another person, and make yourself vulnerable enough to feel their pain whilst protecting your heart and your mind? How do you let their hurt touch you enough so that you can feel enough compassion to become passionate, but remain rational? Proverbs 4 is an encouragement to get wisdom, and understanding; to allow things to touch you, and through God’s Word, discern which is the salty water, and which is the fresh, living water.

Let your prayer be that God gives us the willpower, strength and perseverance to come out healthier and stronger in our minds and relationships as we seek His wisdom and understanding.

Noble Mudenha

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 11th June 2020

When I was 18 and got my first proper job I remember looking into getting a mortgage on a small terrace house. I then decided against putting all my money into a house but should enjoy being young and so I got a motorbike. 10 years later, I got married and I remember wishing I’d gone ahead and invested in that house because I would own half a house that would have significantly increased in value! 

In this unusual time where it feels like our lives have been put on hold, there is an opportunity for reflection. You may be thinking like I was, ‘what have I been investing in?’ ‘What should I now invest in?’

Let me encourage you with this thought from the parable of the talents found in Matthews gospel chapter 25. 
Just to summarise the story, a master is going away and entrusts to three servants 5, 2 and 1 talent respectively. Then after a long absence returns to find that two of them have doubled their master’s money, but one (out of fear) buries it. His master is delighted with the two and very angry and punishes the latter. 

If you’re like me, when you hear this familiar parable, you hope that firstly you get trusted with the larger portion, but then secondly you manage to increase it. What’s interesting though is that we often overlook the fact that none of them actually got to keep the talents but had to hand them back. They weren’t theirs and never would be. What actually was said to the faithful servants was ‘Come and share in your master’s happiness!’

This was the ultimate reward not the talents. Therefore maybe in this life you haven’t been given the most, don’t worry, just be faithful with what you have, stop worrying about the size, and make sure you invest wisely. 

Okay, now here’s some math. Did you know that 1p invested in eternity is worth an awful lot more than £15billion invested today here in this very temporary world?
Also this is odd but 1p invested eternally is actually equal to £15billion invested eternally.

Because anything multiplied by infinity is infinity. 
Houses, cars and holidays are great, building a business or an organisation is fulfilling, but not necessarily eternal.

When you keep being faithful to God’s call on your life, when you invest in the community, feed and clothe people, when you continue to serve your local church, helping to man the spiritual life boat by helping to pull the drowning to safety, it’s eternal and you will reap a reward that will never perish.

Keep on serving in the church, keep on investing in people and remember: your pennies in eternity far outweigh any cost or value in today’s currency! 

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.

Luke Cartwright

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 10th June 2020

If you have ever purchased a real leather item of clothing, you would have noticed a removable tag that reads ‘genuine leather’ on the piece. This implies that the item is not made of imitation leather or a plastic material, that looks like leather, or “pleather” as I like to call it, but is the real deal. There is nothing like an authentic leather item – the quality, the smell, and the feel. On the contrary, a fake leather item, won’t last as long, can smell toxic and just doesn’t have the same feel. 

God hasn’t called us to be “pleather” Christians – doing the right thing, looking the right way, but without a genuine love.  Fake smells toxic, doesn’t last long and just doesn’t feel the same. 

A simple value, but one that scripture speaks about over and over is that of ‘sincerity’. Romans 12:9 says, ‘love must be sincere’. 1 Peter 1:22, ‘…fervently love one another from the heart’. 1 Timothy 1:15 says, ‘The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith’.

One way to tell the difference between a real diamond and a counterfeit diamond is how it responds under the intensity of heat. Diamonds are one of the strongest materials on the planet and therefore they will be resistant to such heat. On a real diamond, heat will disperse quickly and the diamond won’t be affected by the change in temperature, on a fake, it will crack and break. A sincere person can withstand the pressure of trials and circumstance as their character and motive is genuine. 

If we are going to change the world, people need to feel that we are the real deal. Fake is toxic and doesn’t last. Before you do something good, don’t just do it, ask God for a heart of sincere love as you go and do it.

Emma Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 9th June 2020

We’re not even half way through 2020 and this year has already been like no other. The year kicked off with the Australian bush fires, we’ve then launched into a global pandemic, and now another race-driven murder weighs heavy on our hearts.  I have seen and heard many people wishing 2020 away, waiting for 2021 where they can ‘start over’. It’s interesting how people desperately need to feel comfortable in order to believe life is good and they are good. It’s interesting how much we struggle with discomfort and want to run from challenge. The Bible contradicts this notion encouraging us to in fact ‘consider it PURE JOY whenever you face trials of many kinds (James 1:2). Why? Because tough times produce something in us! Like the purification of a diamond that is only achieved by fire, so we too produce something invaluable under heat and pressure. There is fruit only after the pruning. 

As crazy as it sounds, we shouldn’t wish the pressure and pruning away. As overwhelming as it is, let’s lean into what God is saying and doing amongst His people. Let’s suck the marrow out of the discomfort, so we can bear the fruit. Let’s embrace the heat, so we can produce a diamond. 

2020 has been wake up call, after wake up call, after wake up call – if you’ve allowed it to be. The saddest thing would be to let this year pass, and have learnt or gained nothing. There are lessons for all of humanity here, and there are lessons for you personally here. 

God is shedding light in the dark areas of our culture where the enemy has prospered. God is asking us to not turn away any longer. 2020 is an invitation. An invitation for all of us to humble ourselves and listen, to understand, to grow and to step into our divine calling and privilege of proclaiming freedom for the captives. 

‘He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,

to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty

instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the Lord
for the display of his splendor.

They will rebuild the ancient ruins
and restore the places long devastated;
they will renew the ruined cities
that have been devastated for generations…
…You will feed on the wealth of nations,
and in their riches you will boast.

Instead of your shame
you will receive a double portion,
and instead of disgrace
you will rejoice in your inheritance.
And so you will inherit a double portion in your land,
and everlasting joy will be yours.

“For I, the Lord, love justice….’ (Isaiah 61).

Emma Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 8th June 2020

A well known medical Doctor writes: “unresloved emotional pain wreaks havoc on your imune system, cardiac function, hormone levels and other physical functions”. He goes on to say, “we must make peace with our past, because our life may literally depend on it”.

Challenging words!

Here are four thoughts in order to help you deal with your past:

1- reframe it. Ask yourself, how did it make me stronger, what did I learn from it, what do I know now that I didn’t back then?

2- break the chains of shame. Shame isn’t feeling bad over what you’ve done, it’s feeling ashamed of who you are. It’s lethal. When God created you in His image He said, “this is very good”. (Genesis 1 v 31)

3-stop the constant dripping of regret. Stop punishing yourself with the ‘if onlys’. In the Bible David said these words, “Happy is the person whose sins are forgiven…whom the Lord does not consider guilty…” (Psalm 32 v 1-2) If you’ve opened your heart to God, and sought His forgiveness, then you have to not only receive His forgiveness, you have to forgive yourself. 

4 -move from grief to gain. Healing takes time, so expect some anger, fear and sadness. Don’t disown them and pretend that they don’t exist, they are all part of the healing, however, don’t adopt them either! You have to move on. You can’t move backwards into your future. The future that God has for you is ahead and contains more happiness than any past you can remember. 

Psalm 25:7-11 Do not remember the sins of my youth and my rebellious ways; according to your love remember me, for you, Lord, are good. Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in his ways. He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way. All the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful toward those who keep the demands of his covenant. For the sake of your name, Lord, forgive my iniquity, though it is great. 

Isaiah 43:25 ‘I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.’

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 6th June 2020

Unfortunately as human beings, we have the tendency to dwell on negative things. If someone is ill that can become our entire focus. If money is tight and things are difficult we can easily focus on that. If someone has been mean to us, we make it a huge mountain in our lives. I have challenged myself many times this week to get my eyes off situations and on to Jesus. 

I was fascinated to read a surprising study from the university of California, whereby its researchers discovered that the feeling of ‘awe’ can actually counteract dangerous and chronic illnesses. 

The kinds of awe that they studied included people’s responses to nature and beauty, listening to inspiring music and viewing great works of art. 
These ‘awesome’ responses stimulated hormonal messengers that tell our immune systems to work harder and thus produce emotions that are associated with good health.

Whilst we have all known for a long time that a healthy diet, adequate sleep and healthy exercise bolster our body’s defence mechanism, this study is one of the first of its kind to state ‘the effects of a sense of awe’ promote positive emotions in the context of total wellbeing. 

Being awestruck is of course nothing new to a Christian.
Being a follower of Jesus cannot fail to bring us daily to a place of joy, contentment, love, compassion, amazement and wonder. But to receive those wonderful blessings we have to put ourselves in a place to receive. 

Psalm 121 vs 1-2 “I lift my eyes to the mountains, does my help come from there? no it comes from God”Psalm. 61 vs 2. “When my heart is overwhelmed (with stuff) lead me to the rock that is higher than I.”

However, we have to be willing to be led there. 
Let’s never lose sight of how awesome God is and all that He has created for our benefit. 

Let’s never forget His faithfulness and His never ending kindness to us. 

Let’s never lose sight of how “awesome” it is, to get into His presence. What a privilege!

He knew exactly what He was doing when He inbuilt within us a sense of awe for all that He has done. 
Take your eyes off ‘your mountain’ and take a fresh look today at something that God has blessed you with and once again be ‘awestruck’.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 5th June 2020

There’s a lot going on in the world right now. And if you’re anything like me, you’ll have been faced with feelings of overwhelm at times. 

What can I say? What shouldn’t I say? Maybe you have big decisions to make about your life and business, since the impact of the pandemic. Whatever it is, there’s no doubt that the world is having an effect on your world. 

No matter who you are or what your circumstances look like and how fast things are moving around you, our God is the same. His word tells us to be still. 

Don’t allow your fear to freeze you into inaction. That’s exactly what the enemy wants.

There is nothing that we can’t overcome when we turn to him. James 1:5 says “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.”


 Change is uncomfortable but God already knows what you need. 

Melissa Reynolds-Lawrence

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 4th June 2020

We all have rituals. It’s what makes up every day of our lives, they include cleaning your teeth, feeding yourself, your thought life, what you read and watch, where you go, people you do life with. The daily rituals of our lives make up a narrative that displays what we really believe, irrespective of what we say. 95% of our lives are generally unchanging day to day ‘walking the dog’ rituals.

The old testament is full of rituals. Law after law of do’s and don’ts, list after list of names and endless routines for the sacrifices, offerings and festivals of God’s chosen people.

As a modern day liberal Christian there’s a danger in thinking that Christ came to set us free from all this Law, but actually Jesus said, he didn’t come to abolish but to fulfil the law! All those rituals the Israelites were commanded to fulfil were there to help them break their ingrained pattern of Egyptian idolatry. To break the narrative of their previous slave lives and to create a new cultural identity. It’s a massive undertaking. Our biblical rituals (reading the bible, prayer, fasting, tithing) do not in any way earn salvation (forgiveness of sins) but they massively help us to break the idolatrous culture we have grown up and live in, and so helps us live in a different realm. The film Karate Kid has a great example of the power of rituals. 

The young hero Danny LaRusso is getting bullied so approaches Mr Miyagi (Karate expert) to learn to fight. But for weeks he doesn’t train him but has him doing mundane tasks such as painting his fence and washing his car.  He’s instructed very specifically on how to ritualistically complete the tasks. Using very deliberate repetitive movements, to wax on, wax off, when washing the car over and over. When Danny finally says he has had enough and wants to learn to fight, Mr Miyagi throws a punch and Danny blocks it without even thinking, using the ‘Wax off’ learned movement! His boring mundane ritual (that many push away because they have an unhealthy liberal Christian attitude that Jesus came so they could please themselves) was training his reactions so that when danger and difficulty comes, his natural  ‘wax off’ instinct serves him well. We must get an appetite for the seemingly mundane in order to live in the extraordinary! 

What are your rituals? What great habits do you have that you perpetually repeat day after day,  constantly reenforcing the positive reality of you really are, a child of the living God?

It’s not being religious, it’s not earning brownie points; it’s maintaining behaviours to position you in truth, they’re strengthening your inner posture daily so when difficulty comes ‘wax off!’ If you want your life to grow, if you are bored of the same old problems and want some new ones, assess what’s making up your day that creates your reality, good or bad.

Position good healthy habits to help maintain you in the constant reality of the grace of God. You’ll be amazed how differently you react when trouble then comes… ‘Wax off!’

Luke Cartwright

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 3rd June 2020

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 Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 2nd June 2020

God is unlike anything or anybody. 

Humans can only understand something, by building upon what they already know. In the words of A.W Towzer, ‘we learn by using what we already know as a bridge over which we pass to the unknown’. Hence why in scripture, the authors often attempt to describe God by saying He is “like” something that we already humanly know. Even Jesus Himself used metaphors and stories over and over again, in order for the human mind to comprehend how the kingdom of God works. 

At present, our understanding of God, no matter how many years we have been a Christian, is finite in comparison to the great nature of who God really is. This is actually a very reassuring thought. 

God is creator. We are His created. To reduce all of God down to our level of understanding would be to make him as powerful as us. How comforting it is to know that my mind cannot fully fathom Him, because He is far bigger than me, and thus I can rest in the mystery of His almighty, sovereign nature. If He weren’t a mystery, then He would be no bigger than me. 

Yes we are made in the image of God, but scripture didn’t say, ‘The EXACT image’ of God. Just like a painting reflects the attributes and the mind and heart of the artist, but isn’t the artist itself, so we as people reflect the mind and heart of God, but are not God – and thank God for that! 

Often we want a God we can manage and control. But don’t try and reduce God to manageable terms. Rest in the mystery of His magnitude. One of the great paradoxes of God is that we can know Him so personally and intimately, yet so much of His ways still remain a mystery. In the words of Frederick W. Faber, 

​‘Darkness to the intellect

​But sunshine to the heart.’ 

In other words, there are aspects of God that the mere human mind cannot understand completely and rationally, only a heart can receive in faith, and then experience the love of God. 

In the gospel we see the helplessness of the human mind in understanding the mystery of God. Paul in 1 Corinthians 2:10-11 teaches that God can be known only as the Holy Spirit works in a hungry heart. 

‘For to us God revealed them (deep thoughts) through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God’. 

So stay hungry to understand more of God, let the Holy Spirit enlighten you on the ways of God, as you partner with Him. Equally, rest in the reality that you never will know it all – and that is the beauty of His mystery.

Emma Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 1st June 2020

During this time of isolation, how many of you have thought (be honest), “I’m wasting my life, time is passing me by, I have too much life to live, than sit around and do nothing”?

My friend, you shouldn’t just be doing nothing. I remember many years ago, when our main church building was being built. For years, we saw no building going up, yet, there was a lot of preparation going on that wasn’t seen. Mineshafts were being filled. Ground was being prepared, surveys were being done and then the most important of all the things, were the foundations.

Yet I just wanted to see the building built! How many times have you thought recently, not only “what is going on?” But also, “I’m wasting time!” Don’t be impatient to see the rest of your life take place. I’m in my 50s, I could easily think these thoughts. You may be a lot older than me and thinking “I don’t have lots of time to waste.”

My friend, recognise what God is doing in the now. God wants you to use this time to make some adjustments down deep. He has some work to do on you that no one else may see. He wants to create some great foundations in your life.

Maybe some that weren’t there before. These things take time. When the building goes up, it will be beautiful. (And it is). But it won’t go up successfully unless the foundations are right. Remember the higher the build, the deeper the foundation. If you want to see and experience something new and fresh and something you’ve never seen or experienced before, then you’ve got to do something that you’ve not done before.

You’ve got to let God do some ‘foundation’ work and not see it as wasted time at all.
So get ready – because God always brings something better and bigger out of a difficult situation and out of a time of preparation. Don’t sit around bored or as if ‘nothing’ is happening.

Get on it! IF you use this time to prepare right, you will realise the best IS YET to come. No time is wasted. It’s all in the plan!

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.