Nights with Ross

The Word For Today

Lessons from the life of David 1

'All things work together for good to those who love God.' Romans 8:28 NKJV

God said, 'I have found David...a man after my own heart, who will do all my will' (Acts 13:22 NKJV). When God says that about someone, you'd be wise to observe that person's life. David started out as a shepherd and ended up as king. The chances of that happening were zero. Shepherds were so low on the social totem pole they couldn't testify in a court of law because their word wasn't considered reliable. Yet David ended up writing the most widely read psalms of all time.

Understand this: When you invite God into your life, he cancels the liabilities of your past and rewrites your future. But you must choose what God has chosen for you! There's an interesting contrast between Paul and David. Paul lived his chapters of disobedience before he met Christ, then went on to live an exemplary life. David became king at 30, and during his forty years in leadership experienced devastating failure, including adultery and murder. There are two important lessons here: (1) Don't rush to judgement. It's not over until God says it's over! David's story is a warning to the transgressor, a rebuke to the self-righteous, a verification of God's justice that won't allow you to escape your consequences, and a testimony to his love that will never let go of you. (2) God can bring good out of what seems like a bad situation. He can take every experience you've been through and make it work for good - either your own good or the good of others.

Bottom line: he can make 'all things work together for good' (Romans 8:28 NKJV).

Soulfood: Nah 1-3, Matt 27:1-10, Ps 65, Prov 19:5-8


Put your heart and soul into it

'Whatever work you do, do your best' Ecclesiastes 9:10 NCV

Solomon writes: 'Enjoy life... enjoy the work you do here on earth. Whatever work you do, do your best...' (Ecclesiastes 9:7-10 NCV). Professor Howard Hendricks writes: 'Recently I lost one of my best friends, a woman 86 years young. She was the most exciting lay-teacher I've ever been exposed to. The last time I saw her on planet earth was at one of those "Christian parties" where we all sit on eggshells and try to look pious. In she walked, looked at me and said, "Well, Hendricks, I haven't seen you for a long time. Tell me, what are the five best books you've read in the last year?" (That'll change the group dynamic in a hurry) Her philosophy was, "Let's not bore each other...let's get into a discussion. And if we can't find anything to discuss, then let's get into an argument." She was 83 years old on her last trip to the Holy Land. She went with a group of NFL football players. And one of my most vivid memories is seeing her out in front yelling back to them, "Come on, men, get with it!" Recently she died in her sleep at her daughter's home. Her daughter told me that just before she died she'd written out her goals for the next ten years!'

So whether you are 19 or 99, the word for you today is: 'Whatever work you do, do your best.' In other words: Put your heart and soul into it.

Soulfood: 2 Pet 1-3, Matt 26:57-75, Ps 14, Prov 19:1-4


Choose gratitude

'Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.' Psalm 103:2 NKJV

He sat on the park bench so depressed-looking that a policeman tried to console him. 'Something the matter?' 'Yes,' he replied. 'A few months ago my grandfather left me $500,000 and some oil wells.' The policeman responded, 'That doesn't sound like something to be upset over.' 'Yeah, but you haven't heard the whole story. Last month my uncle left me $1,000,000.' The policeman shook his head. 'I don't get it. Why are you so unhappy?' He replied, 'So far this month, nobody's left me anything.' Seriously, he's part of a group of people who are unhappy no matter what they have.

The Psalmist shows us how to overcome an ungrateful attitude by cultivating a spirit of thanksgiving. 'Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits' (Psalm 103:2 NKJV). Thinking and thanking go hand-in-hand. Memory is a catalyst for worship. An old hymn declares, 'Count your blessings, name them one by one...see what God has done.' The Psalmist encourages us to do three things: First, think about what God has given us - his forgiveness, healing, protection, redemption, love, and compassion (see Psalm 103:1-5). Second, think about what God has not given us - the punishment our sins deserve (see Psalm 103:8-12). Third, think about what God is yet going to give us. 'From everlasting to everlasting the Lord's love is with those who fear him' (Psalm 103:17 NIV).

God accepts you when you trust in Christ's performance, not your own. So each morning look in the mirror and say, 'Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.'

Soulfood: 2 Sam 22:31 - 24:25, Matt 26:47-56, Ps 146, Prov 18:23-24


Look for the best in others

'We have this treasure in earthen vessels.' 2 Corinthians 4:7 NKJV

One of the worst arguments recorded in Scripture took place between one of the most successful ministry teams of all time - Paul and Barnabas. What was it about? John Mark. Barnabas wanted to take him on their next missionary journey and Paul didn't. Why? Because Paul was upset with John Mark for wanting to take time off to be with his family. (Sometimes passionate, purpose-driven people don't see things clearly!) But after consideration, Paul changed his mind and wrote: 'Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world...Get Mark, and bring him with you: for he is useful to me for ministry' (2 Timothy 4:10-11 NKJV).

There are three important lessons here: (1) Everyone deserves another chance. After all, that's what God repeatedly does for you. Now, in extending grace you can get hurt and disappointed, but if you're going to be Christlike it's a risk you must take. (2) Not everyone has the same calling. The person you're upset with may not be called to do what you're called to do, or they may have been called to do it in a different way. Never make your personal preferences a condition for loving, accepting and working with someone. (3) Look for the best in others, not the worst. The Bible says, 'We have this treasure in earthen vessels' (2 Corinthians 4:7 NKJV). That means everyone you deal with has 'treasure,' but it comes in a flawed 'earthen vessel.' It also means it's your responsibility to look for that treasure and value it.

Generally speaking, when people feel appreciated they try to rise and meet your expectations.

Soulfood: 2 Sam 20:1 - 22:30, Matt 26:36-46, Ps 140, Prov 18:21-22


At home in God's presence

'Lord, through all the generations you have been our home!...' Psalm 90:1 NLT

At the end of a hard day it feels good to come home to a place you know - a place where you can kick off your shoes, run around in your bathrobe and not worry about what anybody thinks. And reverently speaking, God's presence can become equally comfortable to you too. With time, you can learn to go there for strength, for protection and for guidance. God wants you to be at home in his presence and aware of his nearness at all times. We think of God as a deity to discuss instead of a place to dwell, but God wants us to see him as the one in whom 'we live and move and have our being' (Acts 17:28 NIV).

When God led the children of Israel through the wilderness, he didn't just show up once a day and then disappear. No, the pillar of fire was present with them all night and the cloud of smoke was present with them all day. God never leaves us. Jesus promised, 'I am with you always' (Matthew 28:20 NIV).

The psalmist said, 'The one thing I ask of the Lord - the thing I seek most - is to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life' (Psalm 27:4 NLT). 'That's nice,' you say. 'I'd love to live in God's house too, but I'm stuck in the real world.' No, just the opposite; you are just one decision away from your Father's presence. You don't need to change your address - just your perception.

Soulfood: 2 Sam 17:14 - 19:43, Matt 26:26-35, Ps 133, ov 18:17-20


Find the 'key log'

'I thought about my ways.' Psalm 119:59 NKJV

One of the great keys to success in life is having the right approach. But to improve your approach you need to assess where you're starting from. This may take some time. And depending on how self-aware you are, it may even be difficult. The key is to look at yourself objectively, to separate yourself from your attitude. Your goal isn't to condemn yourself; it's to see yourself clearly so you can make positive changes in the way you think.

When professional loggers discover a logjam, they climb a large tree near the river so they can look over the problem and find the cause. What they're looking for is the 'key log' creating the jam. Once they remove that, the river takes care of the rest. An inexperienced person could spend hours, days, even weeks moving logs around without results. The point is you don't necessarily need to change all your thinking - just the few items that keep you from having the right approach to life. Once you do, your life will begin to flow in the right direction.

Here are some questions that may help you discover the 'key log' that's holding you back. How do you feel about yourself? When do you feel the most negative about yourself? What causes you the greatest problems when dealing with others? Insecurity? Resentment? Inferiority? What negative thoughts constantly control your mind? These are important questions, for as a man (or woman) 'thinks in his heart, so is he' (Proverbs 23:7 NKJV). If you want to change your life for the better, ask God to make you aware of what's impacting it for the worse.

Soulfood: Num 9:15-23, Exo 24:15, Matt 17:1-8, Matt 17:1-8


Which 'law' are you operating under

'The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.' Romans 8:2 NKJV

You say, 'I fall so far short of God's standards. Will there ever come a time when my old carnal nature will stop acting up, and trying to drag me down?' There's bad news and there's good news. The bad news is, just as the law of gravity is always in operation, so is 'the law of sin' that your fleshly nature wants to respond to. The good news is, you can access a higher law and operate in it. It's called 'the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus,' and it overrides 'the law of sin and death' (Romans 8:2 NKJV).

The law of gravity says that what goes up must come down. But when you're in an aeroplane another law is in operation - the law of aerodynamics. It works like this: The plane moves at a certain speed, and the proper thrust enables it to climb out of gravity's pull. That doesn't mean the law of gravity is no longer the law of gravity. Getting the idea?

You ask, 'What is this law of the Spirit?' Good question. Here's the answer. When you're indwelt by the Holy Spirit and relying on his power rather than your own, which means being sensitive to his leading and obeying his commands, you're no longer controlled by 'the law of sin and death.' It's no longer about trying harder, but leaning harder on God's Spirit who lives within you and drawing from him the strength to live victoriously.

Soulfood: 2 Sam 14:21 - 17:13, Matt 26:14-25, Ps 123, ov 18:13-16


Guard against intolerance

'God shows no partiality.' Acts 10:34 NKJV

Tolerance is not just about agreeing to embrace our differences. It's about accepting the other person's right to believe as they wish, and to behave according to those beliefs. One of the great tests of spiritual maturity is our willingness to love and pray for those whose beliefs and behaviours are unacceptable to us. Instead of condemning people who err, we should see them the same way we see a blind man walking towards a cliff's edge. Our reaction should not be to condemn him, but to have compassion and try to show him a safer route.

Now let's be clear: compassion is not compromise. In the first century Jews looked down on Gentiles and referred to them as 'dogs' (see Matthew 15:26-28). But Jesus came and redeemed those 'dogs' and turned them into disciples. When Cornelius the Gentile summoned Peter the Jew to his home, Peter was reluctant to go. He explained, 'You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean' (Acts 10:28 NKJV). God was uprooting embedded traditions and opening up new opportunities for the Gospel. Peter continued, 'In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears him and works righteousness is accepted by him' (Acts 10:34-35 NKJV).

Could it be that God wants to expand the borders of your mind for his glory? If you're open to it, he will bless you.

Soulfood: 2 Sam 12:1 - 14:20, Matt 26:1-13, Ps 118:19-29, Prov 18:10-12


Develop your child's potential

'The genuine faith that is in you...dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice.' 2 Timothy 1:5 NKJV

It's said Timothy became an apostle when he was 17. He was Paul's spiritual son and designated successor. And it happened because of two women: his grandmother Lois and his mother Eunice. Interestingly, his father and grandfather are not mentioned. So as a single parent you can raise a winning child.

According to a ten-year Harvard Medical School study, there are six factors related to the eventual intellectual capacity of a child:

(1) The most critical period of a child's mental development is between eight and 18 months old. (2) The mother is usually the most important person in the child's environment. (3) The amount of 'live' language directed to the child between 12 and 18 months is absolutely critical. (4) Children given free access to living areas of their homes progressed much faster than those whose movements are restricted. (5) The family is the most important educational delivery system. (6) The best parents are those who excel at three key functions: they are superb designers and organisers of their children's environments; they permit their children to interrupt them for brief 30-second episodes during which personal comfort and information are exchanged; finally, they are firm disciplinarians while simultaneously showing great affection for their children. In other words, they love their kids, talk to them, treat them with respect, expose them to interesting things, organise their time, discipline them fairly, and raise them in strong stable families. It's a time-honoured recipe for producing bright (and happy) children.

Soulfood: 2 Sam 7:18 - 11:27, Matt 25:31-46, Ps 118:10-18, Prov 18:7-9


Avoid strife

'Where...strife is, there is...every evil work.' James 3:16 NKJV

The apostle Paul encourages us to act out of love, live in harmony and be of one mind. He adds, 'Don't act out of selfish ambition or be conceited. Instead, humbly think of others as being better than yourselves. Don't be concerned only about your own interests, but also be concerned about the interests of other' (Philippians 2:2-4 GWT).

Strife wreaks havoc in relationships. It often stems from an inflated ego and leads to comparing, competing and condemning. James points that out: 'Where...strife is, there is...every evil work' (James 3:16 KJV). So be a strife-spotter! The moment it rears its ugly head - uproot it! 'Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many' (Hebrews 12:15 NLT). If you want to walk in God's blessing today, try to live in harmony with others. Is that always easy? No, but the sooner you learn to do it, the better things will go for you. When God prompts you to 'turn the other cheek,' or 'take the short end of the stick,' draw on his grace and do it.

Pray: 'Lord, give me your wisdom in this situation.' He will. 'The wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no favouritism and is always sincere. And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness' (James 3:17-18 NLT). Bottom line: If you want God's blessing on your life - avoid strife.

Soulfood: 2 Sam 3:22 - 7:17, Matt 25:14-30, Ps 118:1-9, Prov 18:4-6

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