Fresh Hope – 31st July 2020

What are you growing? 

During lockdown many of us have been spending quite a bit more time in the garden, one or two projects, some new plants, weeding the borders, trimming the shrubs. I have to admit that I am not much of a gardener and would rather be sitting in it than working on it.

In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus describes the Kingdom of God as being ‘like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air perched on its branches’ (Luke 13:19). 

Jesus also refers to mustard seeds in relation to faith and we take from that account that the mustard seed is the smallest of seeds. Jesus is describing the Kingdom as something that starts in a small way and grows to strength and maturity when it is planted and nurtured.

In Luke 17:20 Jesus is asked by the Pharisees when the Kingdom of God would come. The Pharisees were strict adherents to many precise religious rules and Jesus responds by saying ‘The Kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, ‘Here it is’, or ‘There it is,’ because the Kingdom of God is within you’.

So we have two descriptions of the kingdom as something that starts as a tiny seed that is planted not in a garden but within us. That seed needs to be nurtured in a church community; fed by the word of God and watered with prayer and worship in order that it grows within us into a tall and strong tree.

Even though I am not much of a gardener I know that if I just sit, relax and do nothing then the garden will not flourish. It will turn into an overgrown, weedy mess. I know that I have to put the time and effort into nurturing the plants.

It takes care, effort and work to grow a beautiful, fruit filled garden. What am I growing in the garden of my heart? And how am I feeding and watering it?

Richard Ashmore

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 30th July 2020

Jesus made it clear that our number one priority as Christians is quite simply to LOVE – to love God first and then to love people (Matthew 22:36-40). Most of us are okay with the idea of loving people, until it is hard to love people. 

It is easy for us to love people when they are like us. It is easy for us to love people when they agree with us. It is easy to love people when they look like us, talk like us, and understand us. 

But can we love when it isn’t easy to love? How deep is your love? When does your capacity to love like Christ loves reach its threshold? Is it when someone doesn’t agree with you? It is when someone backstabs you? Is it when someone treats you unfairly? Is it when someone acts differently to you? Is it when things aren’t going well for you? Is that when you reach your limit to love?

Can I challenge us, myself included, today, to push the boundaries of our love capacity? Get uncomfortable. Love, honour and bless people not just when it’s easy, but when it challenges you to the core. Go out of your way, against your feelings and natural instinct, and love people when they do what aggravates you. 

What is love? 

1 Corinthians 13:4-8, 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, and it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, and alwaysperseveres. Love never fails’. 

Can you be patient when people test your patience? – Because that is what it means to love! 

Can you be kind to people who are not kind to you? – Because that is what it means to love! 

Can you celebrate others, rather than get jealous? – Because that is what it means to love!

Can you take a posture of humility around others?   –Because that is what it is to love!

Can you honour others who may have dishonoured you? – Because that is what love is!

Can you seek out the needs of others – when they’re not thinking about you? Because that is what it means to love!

Can you forgive those who have wronged you? – Because that is what it means to love!

Modeling how it is done, let’s look at Jesus. At the moment of his arrest, on the cusp of his cruixification, carrying the weight of all the sin of humanity, in that moment, he loved. Malchus was the servant of the Jewish High Priest Caiaphas who participated in the arrest of Jesus.One of the disciples, Simon Peter, being armed with a sword, cut off the servant’s ear in an attempt to prevent the arrest of Jesus. Jesus’ response was to stop for the one. Stop, even in a personally and spiritually heavy time for him, and love on a servant. Jesus healed Malchus’ ear in that moment. In a moment where he could have easily had his mind on other things. Right to the end, his mission was clear – to love. Can we say the same for ourselves? Can WE love people who come even against us? 

This seems radical. But, HELLO, that is the kingdom of God!

We aren’t going to look any different from the world, if we also just love others to the extent that they love us, or as long as they don’t offend us, or keep us happy. If this is the depth of our love, then we are no different from a world that does not know the love of God. Anyone can love people when they are loveable. It is perhaps the irrational, illogical love of God towards others that will truly set us apart. 

Let’s get some depth in our love. Let’s get some maturity in our love! Let’s not love based on feelings. Let’s love based on Jesus’ model.

Emma Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 29th July 2020

I had the privilege of going to a Christian school where reading books like Rick Warren’s ‘The Purpose Driven Life’ was a compulsory part of the school curriculum. 

I read this book when I was 16 and it without a doubt laid some of the key fundamental ideas of my Christian faith. 

One of the chapters is called ‘Experiencing Life Together’. The chapter expresses how life is meant to be shared. 

Warren gives four keys to building healthy relationships with others: 

1. Be authentic. Surface level chitchat has its place, but we need to have relationships where genuine, heart-to-heart, gut-level sharing takes place. This happens when people put down their facades and get honest about who they are and what is happening in their lives. You need to have relationships, and create space for relationships where people can share their hurts, feelings, failures, and acknowledge their weaknesses. 

Let’s create an atmosphere of honesty and humility in our lives rather than one of pretending, role-playing, politicking, and superficial conversation. Keeping your guard up is the death of real relationships. 

2. Build mutuality. This is the art of giving and receiving. It is depending on one another. You are not responsible for everyone in the body of Christ, but you are responsible to them. The Bible commands mutual accountability, mutual encouragement, mutual serving and mutual honouring. 

3. Offer sympathy. Sympathy is not just giving advice, or a quick fix. Sympathy is really stopping and engaging with how someone feels. It is sharing in the pain of others. To be sympathetic is actually a command in the Bible. Sympathy meets two fundamental relational needs – the need to be understood and the need to have your feelings validated. Every time someone understands and validates you, you build a bond with them. Every time you create a space to understand and validate someone else, you bond with them. Often we are too much in a hurry to fix things, that we don’t take the time to UNDERSTAND people. 

4. Give mercy and grace – Real, Godly relationships need to be spaces where grace and mercy are outworked. Forgiveness needs to be part of the culture. Mistakes are inevitable. We are all imperfect people. Therefore forgiveness is paramount. Bitterness and resentment will destroy friendship. We will inevitably hurt each other – sometimes intentionally, sometimes unintentionally, either way, grace and mercy will be needed. 

‘Share each other’s troubles and problems, and in this way obey the law of Christ’. Galations 6:2

Emma Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 28th July 2020

Did you know that God cares about every little detail of your life?

I don’t just mean the big stuff, and I don’t just mean the ‘God’ stuff, I mean the every tiny detail stuff. God doesn’t compartmentalise your life into important and non-important things either— He’s passionate about every minute detail of your life. Whether you are asleep or awake.

It goes something like this; If it matters to you, it matters to Him. If it concerns you, it concerns Him. We are all prone to think that God is only concerned about all the major things, or at the other extreme, He’s not concerned about anything. But take this verse in the Bible for instance…

Matthew 10:29-31 ‘What’s the price of a sparrow? Some loose change, right? And God cares what happens to it even more than you do. He pays even greater attention to you, down to the last detail-even numbering the hairs on your head!’ 
Every insignificant detail He has time for. He even takes interest in your hair —now that’s what you call detail.

Some time ago, our youngest son, Caleb, lost his expensive sunglasses at an event that we had held in our garden. We searched the garden, the house and every other imaginable place several times.

Every few days we would have another look and ask ourselves how could they suddenly disappear?
The following Sunday we had just arrived home from church when my wife went to the bedroom to get changed. For some reason she started to pray about where the sunglasses might be. At the very same time, Caleb went to his room and felt compelled to pray about the very same thing. Whilst this is happening, I’m in the kitchen and at exactly the same time I hear God speak to me and say ‘go and look in the downstairs closet and you’ll find the lost sunglasses.’

Now remember, this is NOT a coordinated search party. None of us know what each is doing right now. As I kneel down in the closet to look in my tool box (the one that Gillian continually tells me shouldn’t be in there), I glance round to find Caleb standing in the doorway, asking what I’m doing on my knees whilst looking through my tool box. 
‘I’m looking for your sunglasses…God has told me to come in here and I’ll find them’.  
No sooner had I said it, when he coolly reached down to where I was and picked up the glasses as if from nowhere!

Now I know they’re only sunglasses, and I know that there are so many huge problems going on in the world right now, but once again God just wanted to give all of us today a glimpse of how much He cares about the small stuff. 

One of the greatest things that you should know about God today is that He cares…but even more amazing than that is He cares for you.

1 Peter 5:7 Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. 

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 27th July 2020

One of the greatest mistakes that we are all prone to make is to talk too much and listen too little! Getting the balance right between these two things is of utmost importance for your personal growth.

If there’s one person that we all love to hate, it’s the person that doesn’t know when to shut up. Second in line only to this person, is the one that believes that every opportunity for a conversation is to make themselves look or sound good. How strange is it that those that need to listen the most, talk the most? However, when you think about it, it’s not that strange at all – they have become deaf to anyone else’s voice apart from their own, and have therefore rendered themselves absent of all sense and wisdom. As a result, you will observe that the people who have the most serious character flaws don’t change — they rarely listen to what needs to be said.

How many people make the mistake of meeting with someone for advice. They then feel that it’s their big moment to off load everything that’s going on in their world, when really it’s their big opportunity to listen to the wise words of advice being given. 

Over the years, I’ve tried to teach that one of the simplest and yet most life-enhancing questions that you and I could ever ask someone that you look up to, or even aspire to be like, is this one: ‘Is there anything that you need to say to me?’

When that question comes from you and you are willing to not only hear what is said, but also take on board what is said, then you will be on the fast track to change and growth like no other.

Now, only ask the question if you’re willing to take on board the answer, and only ask the question if you are serious about change and personal growth!

Make a conscious decision to seek out wise counsel from those who are ahead of you, and determine to spend 75% of the time listening and just 25% talking.

Don’t waste your life talking about yourself, instead enlarge your life by listening. 
Proverbs 20:19   ‘…avoid anyone who talks too much’. 

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 25th July 2020

God calls us to be brave. Brave and courageous. 

I’ve been reminded this week of how brave Esther had to be in the Old Testament. Brave to go and see the king on behalf of the entire Jewish nation. Brave enough to not let the fact that she might get her head chopped off in the process deter her! Her bravery brought about the deliverance of the Jews and a great victory!

To firstly get brave, she needed to pray, fast and put on her royal robes. You see there’s preparation to getting brave. Some of us may naturally ‘feel brave’ in certain situations and others may not. But when we spend time in the presence of an Almighty God and when we seek His face, then He gives us supernatural courage for any situation.

Maybe you’re feeling nervous right now about a new season, maybe you don’t know what the future will hold… be brave, God has the perfect plan.  Maybe you have to ‘deal’ with something, like Esther did, or confront a situation you know isn’t right. 

Today the word to you is simple. Be brave. 
Daniel was brave when he went into the den of lions, he did so because he wouldn’t bow down to foreign gods. The same for the three guys who got thrown into the fire because they stood for their God. 

David was brave in 1 Samuel 30, when he had to go and get back everything that the enemy had stolen. He did, and he got victory!
Don’t let the enemy tell you that you can’t do it, because you can!

You won’t see a victory, if you’re not brave. Pray and praise through it…and the victory will be yours.  

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 24th July 2020

Life is wonderful, enjoy it!

That’s a slogan we have in our lounge – ‘Wonderful‘ is written in large swirly gold lettering and the whole piece is in a simple black picture frame. It’s a great phrase and I love it. Except on the days when ‘Life is hard’.
That’s a great phrase too. Perhaps not so catchy, but one we can all relate to. We’ve all faced tough times, difficult seasons, and for some reading this, you could be walking through a difficult season right now.

It’s in tough times that I am thankful for the words of Jesus. Whether life is ‘wonderful ‘ or ‘ hard ‘or somewhere in-between’, Jesus’ words bring encouragement, comfort, hope and principles to live by, in every season.

Matt 11 v28-30 (The Message) gives us an example:
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion?Come to me. Get away with me and you will recover your life.
I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

What a promise when you’re feeling run down, exhausted, fed up, lacking motivation or just wondering how do I just keep going? 
In this passage, Jesus’ invitation is to stay close to Him; find him if you don’t yet know him and walk with him, and remain with him.

There are so many things that we can pay attention to, be distracted by and give our time to, with little gain or reward. Time spent with Jesus – a life that walks closely and is spent on getting to know Jesus – is a great investment. Few things in life truly promise to help us recover our peace, sanity of mind or sense of freedom, but Jesus promises all this! 

Take time to go over this passage today and respond to the invitation yourself – recover your freedom, stay light and be reminded that life in Jesus IS wonderful.

Jacqui Cartwright

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 23rd July 2020

The Christian life is a building site. The outworking of your faith is an ongoing journey. Whilst your salvation is perfected through Christ, the full expression of the work of Christ in you is a process. You are under construction! Your life is under constant construction!

When you are building, work is involved. If we are going to ‘build our faith’, there is going to need to be intentionality and work involved on a very practical, day to day level. 

The Bible talks many times about ‘building your faith’. 

Jude 1:20, ‘building yourselves up in your most holy faith’. Did you read that? Building YOURSELVES up. There is a personal responsibility on us to train ourselves, encourage ourselves, and build ourselves! 

Not only that, but there is also a call to build one another up! 

1 Thessalonians 5:11, ‘Therefore encourage one another and build one another up’. 

Ephesians 4:29, ‘Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up’. 

Hebrews 10:24, ‘let us consider how to stir up (build up) one another’. 

Building yourself up in your faith means: 

– Making intentional time to hear from God.

 – Making intentional time to read the word of God. 

– Making intentional time to find people who will build you up. 

When I train at the gym, it is to build myself up physically. 

Here are some facts: 

– I don’t always feel like going. 

– It is not always easy. 

– Sometimes I am simply doing it because I know it is good for me. 

Building yourself up in your faith, undergoing spiritual training, carving out time for God is not always easy. It is not always what you feel like doing. Sometimes you have to do it simply because you know it is good for you. 

It will cost you to build your faith, but it is well worth the sacrifice. 

Whenever I finish a workout, I never regret starting it. Likewise when it comes to building your faith, no matter how you feel when you start, you will never regret building it!

Emma Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 22nd July 2020

Often the first thing we let go of on our to-do list is intentional time with God. Popular culture rewards whatever is ‘outwards’ – that which is seen. But the kingdom of Heaven, the culture of Heaven, is upside down. It rewards what happens in private. It rewards the unseen – not the hustle, the grind and the productivity.  

We often neglect time with God because we know our gracious God will forgive us if we just go another day without time with Him. But what if time with God isn’t so much about what it does for God, but rather what it does for us?  

Did you know bamboo trees spend years growing their root system underground? From the outside you could look at a bamboo tree and think, ‘where is the fruit? Where is the growth? Why is it not being productive?’. Then all of a sudden, the tree in a matter of days will rocket up 80 feet! If you compared that bamboo tree to the way an oak tree grows, you would consider the bamboo tree a failure. Popular culture likewise looks for showy productivity in order to be considered a success, but sometimes you have to grow some things so deep, in the private, and unseen places of your life first.  

Perhaps we need to shift our efforts and focus less on outward production, and slow down, and invest on the unseen root systems of our lives.  

Intimacy with God, times where you allow God to ‘see into me’, does not just happen. Powerful men and women of God don’t just happen. They are built on the back of intentionality. Any relational bond does not just happen. It is built on the back of intentional time and effort – dates and schedules in the diary, conversations and time invested.   

Don’t get intimidated by the idea that you need to start spending 30 minutes to an hour every morning at 6am with God in order to grow. That kind of pressure is sometimes unrealistic and unsustainable. See intimacy with God as a training ground. Train yourself in the Lord. Spend less effort trying, and more effort training. An athlete doesn’t just run a marathon. They train and train and build up to it. Train yourself in intimacy with God. Start with just 10, undistracted minutes a day, and begin to see how your life changes. Then build from there. Schedule in that time like you would book in an appointment with a friend. If something else comes along, ‘sorry, I’m not free then’, should be your response. Prioritise time with God at all costs.  

Many of us are burnt out, stressed, overwhelmed in the soul, and venting to others that which we should be giving to God. Not making time for God is costing your emotional and spiritual health. Time without God will hurt you and time with God will heal you. 

Let’s not just be good at ‘asking God for stuff’, let’s train to become good at BEING with God and hearing from Him! 

Emma Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 21st July 2020

Imagine for a moment that I’m holding a £10 note. As it stands, that note is worth what it reads on the front and back… ten pounds.

Let’s say I left that note in my jacket pocket, hung up in my wardrobe and a few weeks went by and I presumed I’d lost it. How much is that note now worth? Still ten pounds.

What if I took that same £10 note and dropped it on the floor? It would still be worth ten pounds. How about if while it was on the floor, someone rode by on their bike and went over it? That note would still be worth ten pounds. What if… you get the idea.

What I’m wanting to communicate is that despite all that the £10 note went through, it didn’t lose any of its value – it was still as valuable as the day it was made.

Today, like that ten pounds, you may have felt lost, you may have felt abandoned, even trodden on by life, but I want you to know that in spite of all of that, you have not lost your value.

How can I say that? Because your value is not determined by what life throws at you or by what people say about you, your value is found in the God who created you.

And His opinion about you has not changed. When God sent His one and only Son, Jesus to die on the cross for you, as a way of demonstrating how valuable you are to Him, He knew everything that you’d go through. He knew the mistakes that you’d make and the hurt that you’d feel, and still, He poured out His love for you.

I want you to know today that your value is not founded upon changing circumstances or opinions, but it is built upon an unchanging God.
So if you were valuable when you were made, you can rest assured that you’re still as valuable today.

Caleb Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 20th July 2020

“I know not why God’s wondrous grace to me has been made known, nor why, unworthy as I am, He made me for his own. 

But I know whom I have believed in and am persuaded that He is able, to keep that which I’ve committed, unto Him against that day.”

Old fashioned words from a very old hymn (1880’s) but true as ever today. I don’t know why God’s grace, keeps on loving and coming after me, I don’t know why, even though I’m so unworthy, He chose me to serve Him. But I do know this, that I continue to trust in Him and I am persuaded that He is able to look after and care for me, to never leave or forsake me and to present me before the Father on that day I meet Him. 

There are some things we can’t work out, there are some things we will never know. BUT there are some things we can be certain of – because if God’s Word says it, then it’s good enough for me. 
Have you ever wondered why God chose you? You may not be man’s obvious choice, but you are certainly God’s. Have you ever wondered that even though you may doubt and mess up, He still ‘bothers’ with you? That’s amazing grace. The grace that chases you down when you didn’t deserve it. The grace that abounds every day. It’s undeserved favour and for that I am eternally grateful. 

Don’t worry about anything. His Word says that He is able to KEEP you. Knowing that God ‘keeps’ me is precious. Keep = to continue in a specified position or course. By His grace, I am a child of God. He will keep me that way until the day I meet Him face to face. 

Thank Him today, that even though you may not fully understand the wonder of it all, He loves you and He keeps you. 

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 18th July 2020

Florence Chadwick was a champion swimmer. In 1952 she attempted to swim a span of the peaceful Pacific Ocean between California’s Catalina Island and the state coastline. As she began the twenty-six mile journey , she was accompanied by small boats of supporters who watched for sharks and were prepared to help Florence if she got hurt or grew tired. Thick fog rolled in after about fifteen hours of swimming.

Florence recalled that after already having spent so many hours navigating the waters with her body, she began to doubt her ability. She didn’t think that she could make it, but she kept going. She swam for another hour before asking to be pulled out, physically and emotionally exhausted. She was tired, and in her mind the Californian coastline felt like it was a million miles away.

After she got into the boat, she learned she had stopped less than a mile short of her destination.

She couldn’t see the shoreline and the journey began to feel impossible.

“All I could see was the fog,” she told the news paper reporters the next day. “I think if I could have seen the shore, I would have made it.”

Today, you may be closer to your destination than you realise.

I often tell the story of part of my own journey of faith in order to help people. For 17 years of my life I believed that one day we would be able to build a church that would be fit for the 21st century. Every year I believed it would happen and every year it didn’t! There was never an end in sight, and at times I grew weary and wanted to give up. I knew that God had promised it and He would one day bring it to pass. That’s exactly what He did…but not until we had ‘swum’ for 17 years in order to reach the shore. Each time that I decided to quit, I would regain my strength and composure and start to believe it could happen again. It did!

Your next attempt could well be like Florence’s, who two months later actually made it, because she kept an eye on her destination albeit through another foggy day. When you’re in a struggle, keep your goal in sight. It may be physical, financial, relational or spiritual, and it may feel like that you’re never going to reach the shore of a new day.

You may well ask “if this is my God given destiny, then why am I battling to stay afloat with no sign of the destination?”

Remember: don’t take a life-storm as the absence of God; No one can see clearly in the fog, that’s why we must walk by faith and not simply by what we can see. The storm can make you stronger and give you confidence to handle future challenges.

When you get through battling, you’ll have more wisdom, more tenacity, more strength and more vision to take you forward.

Today, don’t get so distracted by your circumstances that you lose awareness of God’s presence, instead, let this challenge drive you to your knees, where you know you can find help in your time of need.

Hebrews 10:23 Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for He who promised is faithful.

Pastor Mark 

A daily devotion for a better way of living. 

Fresh Hope – 17th July 2020

Every evening before I go to sleep, I pray. I’m sure I’m not alone in this. I pray throughout the day too, but my evening prayer time is a time of reflection and looking forward. It’s the time I talk to God about my day and I bring to Him my list of daily prayer requests – the big ticket items. 

However, before I get started on my prayer requests, I work periodically through the day and say thank you. Some days these ‘thank you’s come flowing, other days, I have to scramble for the little things. However, no matter how bad a day has been, there are ALWAYS multiple things to be thankful for. 

Sometimes it takes the bad days to make you realise the little things we have to be thankful for every day – a roof over my head, a bed to sleep in, a friend to go to, a church I call home.

Sometimes I’m overwhelmed by the goodness in that day alone, so I just need to express my gratitude. Other days, it can feel like I’m starting my conversation with God like this to not be cheeky – I don’t want to ask for big things without first saying thank you for what He’s already done. I don’t want Him to think I’m just asking for more. (Clearly on these days I forget He is God and knows my intention, no matter what words come out of my mouth.)

On occasion, ordering my prayer like this can quickly shift my sole focus from prayers that have been answered and blessings I have received, to the things not yet done. It’s like saying thank you, with a big ‘but’; “thanks for doing this, but you haven’t done the other thing I’ve been asking for.”Appreciation quickly depreciates and want takes over. On bad days, I can even start to question whether the things on my prayer list will even happen, particularly the things that have been on that same daily prayer list for years. 

Reflecting on those bad days, it amazes me how quickly I can go from gratitude to doubt. How can I be thanking the same God who has provided for me in the day, then question whether He will provide in the future?

It takes a fight to counteract those thoughts. It takes effort to remind yourself of the promises of God. It takes conscious competition to not let the enemy infiltrate your prayers – seems ironic that that’s the time the doubt can creep in. It makes me realise that on those days, they’ve become empty prayers. Prayers without faith are just words.

On those days I pick up my bible. I read the words God is speaking to me. I have there in front of me, in black and white, undisputable communication that God is for me(Romans 8:31), that He will work everything out for my good (Romans 8:28).

God knows our struggle; but our struggle is so diminished when we truly trust Him. 

Honour Him with genuine gratitude, daily. 

Whole-heartedly trust Him with faith-filled prayers and speak the outcome with conviction. 

There is proof of His goodness in every day and He works everything out for good.

Psalm 34:8 (MSG): Open your mouth and taste, open your eyes and see – how good GOD is. Blessed are you who run to him.

Fiona Geary

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 16th July 2020

God does not operate on the timings of the man, He operates on the timings and rhythms of our heart. 

If our inner man is full of grumbling, complaining, bitterness, unforgiveness, prejudice, resentment, or idolatry than God will lovingly keep us where we are, as long as it takes, to process our issues before we move into our promises. 

Thankfully you don’t have to process the inner workings of your heart alone. You have been given the Holy Spirit to help you with that job. Ask Him to ‘lead you to truth’, and show you what needs to be dealt with. 

Don’t be like the Israelites who had a mountain to overcome, in order to reach the promise land. Instead of facing, and scaling the mountain, they went around and around and around the mountain, complaining all the while, until the penny finally dropped and they learnt their lesson. When they had learnt their lesson. They overcame the mountain and reached the promise(Deuteronomy 2:3). 

 Be careful not to compare your process with the person next to you. Remember that a tree’s health and fruitfulness is determined by its root system – the part that you don’t see. 

There is more purpose in your season today than you will probably give it credit for now. Hindsight will show you later on. Stop and listen to what God is saying to you in this season. Ask Him what lessons need to be learnt. Ask Him what needs to shift in your heart. Trust that He is working together all things for your good right now! As crazy, as it might sound, take pleasure in the process. 

Emma Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 15th July 2020

What do you do when you are in a season that you don’t want to be in? 

You may be waiting for better days. Wondering why God has you here. Dreaming of the future, and disappointed with the present. 

Adding salt to the wound, you may be looking around at others further along than you. Others, in a season where you yourself long to be. Others, who seem to have life easier than you do. They seem more blessed or favoured than you. 

Whether we feel like it or not, the truth is that God promises to never leave us (Deuteronomy 31:6). He also never goes to sleep on us (Psalm121). He also promises that He is working things together (Romans 8:28). He Promises that His plans for us are plans for us to succeed (Jeremiah 29:11). 

So what is God doing in the present then? 

The answer is that God is probably getting you to your promises through your present circumstances! IT IS CALLED PROCESS. Something we don’t like. Something that is not instant. 

While we are waiting on things to change around us, God is often waiting for something to change IN us. 

If you are struggling with the way your life is at present, that is okay, but also know that there is probably a process going on IN you.  

More on this tomorrow! 

Emma Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 14th July 2020

The camel is an unusual animal. It was created by God to thrive (not just survive) in hot, desolate places. I always thought that the camel’s humps were full of stored water – not so! In fact, they are full of fat that gets stored when the camel eats… so, when the camel has no food for days, it can call on its reserve and eat at the fat that has been stored. How great is our God!

The camel was also made with oval blood cells, so that it can also retain water in its body. A camel can actually go up to a week without water, but when it drinks, it can consume up to 30 gallons of the stuff!

What a great lesson for us here; the camel has a reserve and so should we. We may find ourselves in dry and difficult places, but it’s then that we can call on the reserve that we have. The danger is, is that if we don’t have one, then we are in trouble.
Every time you pray, you worship, you read God’s Word, you listen to God’s teachings, you are filling up your reserve. So that when you are in a difficult place, you can call on that which you know to be true. 

Don’t wait until you’re desperate to try to call on that which you don’t have. Keep your reserve topped up at EVERY opportunity. 

The camel doesn’t say “I don’t need to drink or eat today, because I have some in reserve.” No, it takes it, so that when it does need it, it’s there. 

Let this be a lesson to us today. Fill up your reserve…at every opportunity. 
Worry will rob your reserve? Anxiousness will rob it. Fear will strip it. Life in general will take from you. So each day, take time and make time, to keep it topped up. 

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 13th July 2020

Every new week that you live, you’re in the process of becoming. What you become depends on what and who you give yourself to. Before you head into yet another week, whereby you will have the potential to either remain the same or become someone better, consider these seven steps:
1- make a commitment to grow daily — it won’t be long before you see real change. Growth comes by what you read, who you listen to and how much value you place on the Bible and prayer. 

2-value the process, more than the event. Certain events may be helpful in making you have a growth spurt, but inevitably it will be the process that matures you into what God wants you to become. 

3-don’t wait for inspiration…it’s not always available! Sometimes you can run on excitement, but most times it will be commitment that will carry you through. 

4- if you’re willing to delay short term pleasure in order to have long term gain, then the results will taste much sweeter in the end. 

5- don’t limit God. By only focusing on your limitations you will magnify them and down size God’s unlimited power. The God that lives in you is able to do ‘…exceedingly abundantly above all that we can ask or think’. (Ephesians 3 v 20).

6- learn to master your time. Since you can’t recover lost time, make every day count from now on. What difference does a few minutes make? Think about it —if you save even 5 minutes every day by streamlining your morning routine, 10 minutes by eliminating things that take your focus from starting the day, 10 minutes by avoiding other distractions and even people that just want to waste your time, and 5 minutes by taking a shorter lunch break — you’ll gain an additional 125 hours a year! That’s three 40hr working weeks that you can use for better things! You can double that by watching TV or scrolling social media for 30 minutes less each day. 

7 – life is filled with decisive moments when you have to trade one thing for another. Always trade up and not down. If it’s the case of choosing the lesser of two evils…chose neither. 
Want to achieve your God given destiny? Follow these steps.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 11th July 2020

Author, Alex Haley, has a picture in his office of a turtle sitting on top of a 2m fence post! The caption reads, “you can be sure he didn’t get up there by himself!”

Samuel may have been the greatest Bible prophet of his age, but you can be sure that he didn’t get up there by himself. It was the prayers and the influence of his mother, Hannah, that moulded him into a man of destiny. The same goes for young Timothy in the New Testament: 2 Timothy 1:5 ‘I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also’. The same goes for me and I’m pretty sure it goes for you too?

Do you remember who gave you your first encouragement and break?

Somebody saw something in you. That’s why you’re in the position you are in, enjoying the blessings you have right now.

Who was it? A loving parent? A perceptive teacher? A demanding coach? An appreciative employer? A praying pastor? Or just a friend who dug down deep into his pockets to come up with the help you needed? Whoever it was had the kindness and foresight to want to be part of your future.

Today, why not take a few minutes and write a note, or send a text of gratitude to someone who helped you? It will mean the world to them. Then take another few minutes to think about a person that you could give the kind of ‘lift up’ that others gave you.

Who knows, someday you might get back an appreciative note—one of the most gratifying things you’ll ever receive. But even if that note never comes, you will live on through the seed you sowed into somebody else’s life. Priceless.

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 10th July 2020

Do you desire something so much you feel like you can’t be truly happy until it’s satisfied? Do you have a dream or a passion that you feel is the reason you are on this planet? Do you have a heart for something, a passion that consumes your thoughts and you can’t be content until you’re fulfilling that dream?

Do others seem to have it, and there’s no way they could appreciate it as much as you would? No matter how much you pray or work for it, it gets no closer. The more you try and grasp it, the further it seems away from you. 

You feel sick when you think about it, disappointment mixed with frustration. The last piece of the jigsaw of your life and it’s missing. Friends can help cheer you up and take your mind off it, but once they leave the despair is quick to greet you, waiting like an obediently trained dog. 
Then you read this proverb and it makes your blood boil: Proverbs 13:12 | NIV Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.

You feel like an expert on the first part of this verse, you have a diploma on the subject of carrying unrequited love, being in a one sided romance. But the second half ‘a longing fulfilled’ is a foreign concept, a pipe dream. You can’t go on anymore, how long can you live like this?

You ask God, ‘why? I’ve prayed, fasted and sought you, I have this desire and I don’t know why I can’t have it?’  
God answers you ‘because I have something better! Much much better!’
‘What could possibly be better?!’

He answers loud and clear in the person of Jesus Christ ‘Me! I am your reward, and no one who puts their hope in me will ever be disappointed’ 
Lamentations 3:20-25 I remember my affliction and my wandering,the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them,and my soul is downcast within me.Yet this I call to mindand therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion;therefore I will wait for him.” The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,to the one who seeks him;

The irony is, when you finally have what you’ve always wanted, it never truly satisfies. But…if we turn our hope to God, he can truly satisfy our hearts like no other, he fulfils every desire and can meet every need. 

I encourage you, if you’re feeling hope sick, if you’ve been left disappointed and in doubt, turn to him today, seek him with all your heart and all your strength, as Psalm 37:4 says ‘Delight in the Lord and he will fullfill the desires of your heart.’

Luke Cartwright

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 9th July 2020

Recently, at work, I’ve been working quite closely with a team of software developers. Our jobs are all so different but we’re working towards a common goal: to get a particular website up and running.

I’ll always find it fascinating to see how they make things work ‘at the back end’ or behind the scenes, to change what the users see at ‘the front end’, which is the part of the website that is on display for all the world to see.

Part of my job is to go on the ‘user journey’ and pre-empt the possible scenarios someone would come up against, whilst they’re using this website and try to solve them in advance.

It got me thinking about God’s word. It forms a part of the behind the scenes of our lives and how we apply it changes what plays out in our worlds.

The more our relationship with God develops, the more roadblocks we can come up against and more scenarios we find ourselves in. God knew what our ‘journey’ would entail and created solutions in scripture all throughout the Bible for us to draw on and overcome.

However you feel today, you’ll find encouragement in His word, if you’re just willing to look.

‘Your word is a lamp for my feet,
a light on my path’ | Psalm 119 v 105.

Melissa Reynolds-Lawrence

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 8th July 2020

Love assumes the best about others. None of us would argue that as Christians our primary mission is to love. I’m not talking about love as a feeling, I’m talking about love as an action. 

It can be difficult to believe the best about others when we have experienced an ugly side of people in the past. Maybe someone has broken your trust. Maybe you have even had recurring negative experiences with certain types of people. 

Even in our failures, when God looks at us, He believes the best about us. He is not blinded to our flaws. He is more aware of them than anyone else. He CHOOSES to focus on the gold on us. He chooses to see what we are, not what we are not. He chooses to believe the best about us over and over and over again. 

If you struggle with trusting every person you meet, if you have something critical to say about every person in your life, if you struggle to celebrate the success of others, if you are quickly threatened, if your immediate response is to see what people lack instead of what they have, then it is time to switch the lenses in which you view people. 

The entire religious law was summed up in two commands: 

1. Love God. 

2. Love people 

It is very difficult to do the latter if you don’t believe the best about them. 

Until that person violates your trust, until that person actually says what you assume they are thinking, until people actually do something for you to question their integrity, give them the benefit of the doubt.  Remove your heart of judgement and replace it with a heart of love. Ask God to give you the ability to see people the way He sees them – the ability to see the gold in them. 

Galatians 5:14, ‘For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbour as yourself.’

As you would want people to believe the best in you, let us believe the best in others. Let’s be quick to love, and slow to judge. Don’t believe the lie that being cautious and closed off is ‘wisdom and discernment’. This attitude will make for a lonely life with few close relationships as you struggle to be vulnerable, warm and open.  I’m not saying you bare all to anyone and everyone. I am encouraging you to see where believing the best about others will take you! You may actually find that believing the best in others in fact brings the best out of them! 

Emma Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 7th July 2020

I recently saw a billboard advertisement for an insurance company with the slogan, ‘FREE, NOT FREEISH’. 

Many of us have come to learn that nothing in life is really free. ‘What’s the catch?’ is our initial response if something is given away. Is anything really no-strings-attached free? 

When Jesus said, ‘Whom the son sets free is free indeed’ (John 8:36), he was not saying, ‘whomthe son sets free is freeish’… he was declaring that who Jesus has set free is COMPLETELY and utterly free!

Can I remind us today that if Jesus has set you free, then you are free indeed? There are no strings attached. This tells us that true freedom is found only through Jesus. 

Humanity is hungry for freedom. It is within human nature to want freedom. But anything outside of Jesus will only make you ‘freeish’, not truly free. 

It is in relationship with Jesus Christ, through abiding in His Word, and being His disciple that we find the freedom we have been looking for. 

Don’t think that because you have been a Christian for many years that you don’t need to be reminded of your freedom in Christ. Even seasoned Christians can too easily fall into the trap of believing that they need to earn their freedom or behave their way into freedom. You don’t set yourself free. The son sets you free. He is the only one that can do that. You can only make yourself ‘freeish’, the son makes you free indeed. 

If there is any area of your life that is not feeling free. If you are only feeling ‘freeish’ then can I encourage you to go to the one who sets you free indeed? Jesus.

Emma Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 6th July 2020

“I am your constant companion, your greatest helper or your heaviest burden.

I will push you onwards or drag you down to failure, I am completely at your command. Half of the things you do, you may as well turn over to me and I will do them quickly and correctly. I am easily managed. You must be firm with me. Show me exactly how you want something done, and after a few lessons, I will do it automatically. I am the servant of all great people, but alas, of all failures as well. Those who are great, I have made great. Those who are failures, I have made failures. I am not a machine, though I work with the precision of a machine, plus the intelligence of a person. You may run me for profit, or run me for ruin – it makes no difference to me. Take me, train me, be firm with me and I will place the world at your feet. Be easy with me and I will destroy you. Who am I?”

You may have guessed it… it’s a habit.

There are good and there are bad. But actually it’s habits that will determine your future.

Cleaning your teeth and taking a shower are good daily ones, but so is reading God’s word, praying, worshipping and praising, being generous, encouraging someone, helping someone, declaring positive things over your life, exercising regularly, eating healthily and having a positive outlook on life, seeing the best in everyone and working hard. The list, my friend, is endless.

Ask yourself on this Monday: what are yours? Are they leading you to success or failure? Blessing and prosperity or lack? Health and strength or weakness? How are your habits affecting your family?
Show me your habits and I’m sure I can determine your future.

Pastor Mark’s current Sunday series “What Happens When You… ? “is encouraging and inspiring us. Don’t let your day just go along ‘as the wind blows you’. Be intentional in everything you do. Make some great habits. Keep doing the right thing for long enough and it will become a natural habit and part of your life – your life to success and significance.

Pastor Gillian

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 4th July 2020

Centuries ago, wine was stored in leather wine skins rather than bottles. When the wine skins were new, they were soft and pliable, but as they aged they became hardened and couldn’t expand. If new wine was poured in an old wine skin, the container would burst and the wine would be lost. 
When Jesus wanted to encourage His followers to enlarge the capacity of their lives, He reminded them, ” You can’t put new wine into old wine skins”( Matthew 9 v 17). He was saying that you cannot have a larger life if you have an old restricted mind. Don’t be fooled into thinking that having an old wine skin only relates to those that are older in age; You can be young in age, and yet still have thinking that has already got old and hardened.

Ask yourself this question: Have I already developed a mind set that says thatI’ll never do anything successful or enjoy the good things in life that I used to dream of?

Today, I encourage you to stretch your faith, your vision and your mind in order to get rid of that old restrictive stinking thinking — it’s holding you back from all that God has got for your life. 
Start to make room in your life for the much bigger things that God has in store for you. You must conceive them in your mind and heart before you can receive them in reality, otherwise they will simply pass right through you. 

This pandemic has maybe already caused you to shrink back with your life, but now you need to allow it to push your forward into all the new possibilities that God has for you. 
Ask yourself a simple question: If God poured a new dream into your life today would it just quickly disappear through the cracks of your old attitude?

The key today is to allow your heart to become pliable and supple again to all of the great things that God has in store for you. He’s never short on ideas for your life, but you maybe short on space to contain them. 

Pray right now, and ask the Holy Spirit to drench you with His presence in order to soften your heart and make you pliable once again. 
Expect Gods favour to help you break out the rut that you’re in and expect to excel in whatever you do.

Expect great things from God…attempt great things for God. 

Pastor Mark

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 3rd July 2020

Last year I was invited on a 10k run that included obstacles through a muddy course – they call it a ‘Tough Mudder’.

I said ‘yes’ so as not to lose face and it was so far in the future I thought it would never arrive, unfortunately it did. I soon found myself amongst thousands on the starting line of the event.

The first kilometre wasn’t too bad, and I carefully ran around the mud and kept myself quite clean. Soon though we were passing muddier terrain and I wasn’t enjoying the anxiety of trying to keep myself free of mud and I found myself regretting being there.

A few kilometres in and I could maintain my dignity no longer. There was a swamp to get through and in front of us were hundreds of contestants queued up to their waists, stuck in the mud. At this point we realised the quickest and least energy-sapping way through was to lie flat on our backs on top of the mud like we were doing a snow angel (a mud angel) and then flipping over onto our fronts, then flipping again onto our backs, and so flipping over the surface of the swamp. 

Considering I wasn’t enjoying anxiously trying to stay clean at the beginning I was now strangely absolutely loving rolling like a pig in muck. Once I let go of my sensibilities and embraced the course and came to terms with the fact that I was in a state beyond repair, I absolutely loved the rest of the day and when we finished we all actually wanted to go through the whole course again.

Often, our approach and attitude to following Jesus can often be like me at first in the run, stifled as we try to maintain some composure and dignity, not totally committed as we try and get a sensible balance with church/family/work.

I want to encourage you (and myself), to let go! Let’s not waste time trying to keep our dignities. Jesus Christ has called us to lay down our lives and follow Him! 

If you’re feeling – in this strange quiet season -discontent, maybe apathetic and bored with life, challenge your approach and attitude. Life isn’t about maintaining a dignified appearance – it’s too late for that, let’s let go, get stuck in, give 100% to our passions and enjoy this amazing journey called life!

Stop worrying about what you can’t change and focus on what you can, stop trying to fit in; stand out, don’t allow fear to make you hold back but jump in with both feet and fall back in love with the reason for it all, Jesus Christ! 

Luke Cartwright

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 2nd July 2020

Galatians 4:7, ‘…you are no longer a slave, but a son’. 

Slavery is essentially the act of being made to work by compulsion. 

Almost every ancient and economic civilization, throughout history, has sadly used slavery as a means to gain economic prosperity. 

Slavery meant that people could pay for their debts. You didn’t file for bankruptcy. You just worked as a slave in exchange for freedom from what you owed. 

But something happened – Jesus came.  

Jesus came to abolish slavery, both spiritually and economically. 

Historically speaking, as the power of the Roman empire (slave driven) began to decline, Christianity began to grow. 

Long story short, a slow transformation in society began to take place. Society began to change its heart around slavery and people who were once slaves, began to own their own property, and learn their own crafts to have their own means of making money. 

The economy began to change from one of slavery to citizenship. 

The church actually shifted things from a pagan/slavery model into a new economic model. 

Creativity was born. Ownership and freedom was born. 

Sadly, it did not stay like this. Division birthed a new system of slavery, yet again. 

The heart of God is for His people to be free. 

Jesus paid the ultimate price so slavery, could be exchanged for sonship. 

Freedom from being a spiritual slave means: 
– We don’t work to pay off our debts/sins/wrong doings. 

– We don’t work FOR our freedom. We work FROM our freedom.

 – We have the ability to take ownership of things. We have the privilege of being stewards. 

– We have the privilege of being creative and developing our gifts. 

Unconsciously believing you still are a slave to God means we:

 – Exhaust ourselves trying to earn our way to freedom. 

– We don’t have ownership of anything. We believe we haven’t been given any authority to steward anything. 

– We aren’t free to explore, get creative, operate in our gifts, and be our true selves. 

– We don’t use the authority we have.

 – We don’t access the resources we have. 

No only did Jesus free us from spiritual slavery. It gets better. We have been made SONS. 

Romans 8:15, ‘The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.’ 

As sons, we have been made ‘heirs’ (Romans 8:17). That means that not only are we freed from our debts, but we are receivers of reward and special authority. 

A true revelation of this has radical implications in every area of our lives. 

You are no longer a slave, you are a son. 

Emma Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.

Fresh Hope – 1st July 2020

‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also’, Matthew 6:19-21. 

Jesus talked about money a lot. It was one of the topics he talked most about. Why? Because he knew the power it could hold over one’s life. 

When Jesus councils us to not store up treasures for ourselves, does he mean we shouldn’t save and should just give all our money away? No. Jesus’ message was more about what you’re spending your life working towards. Is your pursuit of money ultimately for earthly, temporary goods that can be easily stolen and taken? Or is your pursuit of money second to the pursuit of Jesus? Is your money under the Lord, or is money the Lord? 

Jesus’ point in the scripture you just read, is that right now, here on earth, we have an opportunity to build for our future. I’m not talking 20, 30, 50 years down the line. I’m talking about your ETERNAL future. 

Rewards in heaven are a real thing. There is a rewards system in heaven. You will be given treasures according to how you lived on earth. You will live with your heavenly reward for not just 10 years, 20 years, or 30 years, but for ETERNITY. What could be a better investment than investing into your eternal situation?! No wonder the Bible tells us it is better to give than receive (Acts 20:35)!

We have a very short, brief window on Earth to invest, invest and invest and to give, give, give, in order to live eternally in the reward of our sacrifice! 

Matthew 6:24 says, ‘No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money’.

Again, Jesus is not condemning money, He is condemning it as an idol in our life. He is condemning the love of money. He is condemning money having a hold on you, instead of you having a hold on money. 

Make sure you are making a good investment decision.

Emma Burchell

A daily devotion for a better way of living.