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The Word For Today

How's Your Work Ethic? (2)

'Drink, and I'll water your camels too.' Genesis 24:46 NIV

When Abraham's servant arrived in the town of Nahor, a young woman named Rebekah offered to give him a drink of water. When he had finished drinking, Rebekah said, 'I'll water your camels, too.' We are told that she 'quickly' emptied her jar into the trough and ran back to the well. It all sounds fairly unremarkable, until you read between the lines: 4 litres of water weighs 4 kg. A thirsty camel can drink up to 120 litres of water and there were ten camels. Do the maths. Rebekah is drawing 1,200 litres - over a tonne! - of water for a stranger. She does all that could be reasonably expected of her - and then some. This was a pivotal moment in her life.
Because of her act of service, Rebekah became the wife of Isaac and went on to the adventure of a lifetime, becoming part of sacred history. To this day, her name is remembered and revered by people of faith. Rebekah did not know all that was at stake that day. She did not offer to draw 1,200 litres of water because she knew what the reward could be. It was simply an expression of her heart. Rebekah proved the truth of Scripture: 'Lazy people want much but get little, but those who work hard will prosper' (Proverbs 13:4 NLT).
Where did we get the idea that it is wrong to give, expecting a return, or serve, expecting a reward? Certainly not from the Bible! Some of our rewards will come in this lifetime, others in the next one. But, 'You know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does' (Ephesians 6:8 NIV).

SoulFood: Judg 7:1 - 9:33, Mark 8:14-26, Ps 93, Pro 13:7-8

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How's Your Work Ethic? (1)

'O Lord...give me success today.' Genesis 24:12 NIV

We seldom know ahead of time the full significance of what we do or don't do in our work. The Bible simply says, 'Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might' (Ecclesiastes 9:10 NIV).
Judaism, Christianity and Islam all trace their roots to Abraham - who was a farmer. Abraham was '...now old and well advanced in years' (Genesis 24:1 NIV). So he realised the time had come to find a wife for his son Isaac. Since there were no internet dating services in those days, he assigned the task to his 'chief servant' Eliezer. The servant set out with a caravan of ten camels to the region Abraham had directed him. Finding a wife for the son of your boss was an important assignment that required considerable thought. Certainly, it isn't a job you'd want to fail. So the servant began his work with a prayer: 'O Lord, God of my master Abraham, give me success today.' Do you ever pray and ask God to make your work successful? People sometimes wonder if it's ok to pray for your work to be successful. Of course! Now, if 'Success' is becoming your God, you will have to find a way to dethrone it. But generally speaking, if you can't pray for the success of what you're doing, you should start doing something else!
Any good parent wants their child to succeed. Any wise employer wants their workers to succeed, because when they succeed the company succeeds. Here's what God told His people: 'Carefully follow the terms of this covenant, so that you may prosper in everything you do' (Deuteronomy 29:9 NIV).

SoulFood: Judg 4-6, Mark 8:1-13, Ps 88:9b-18, Pro 13:4-6

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The Sin of Omission

'...To him who knows to do good and does not do it...it is sin.' James 4:17 NKJV

We tend to focus on sins of commission - the wrong we do. But what about sins of omission - the good we fail to do? In Christ's parables, when someone was condemned, it was often over a sin of omission. A man was put out of a wedding because he had no wedding garment (Matthew 22:12). Five virgins were excluded from the wedding party because they'd no oil in their lamps (Matthew 25:3-11). A servant who buried his talent in the ground instead of using it, forfeited it (Matthew 25:25-28). A rich man who failed to care for his neighbour was condemned for it (Luke 16:19-24). A barren fig tree that failed to produce fruit was cursed and died (Mark 11:20-24).
You say, 'But I'm interested in a deeper spiritual life.' Well, the deepest spiritual life is one spent doing good to others! And it's the basis on which you'll be judged and rewarded. 'Then the King will...say... "I was hungry, and you didn't feed me. I was thirsty, and you didn't give me a drink. I was a stranger, and you didn't invite me into your home. I was naked, and you didn't give me clothing. I was sick and in prison, and you didn't visit me." Then they will reply, "Lord, when did we ever see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and not help you?" And He will answer, "I tell you the truth, when you refused to help the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were refusing to help me"' (Matthew 25:41-45 NLT).
So when you've a chance to do good - do it!

SoulFood: Judg 1-3, Mark 7:24-37, Ps 88:1-9a, Pro 13:1-3

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Praying Jesus' Way (5)

'...He will show you a way out...' 1 Corinthians 10:13 NLT

'As we forgive our debtors' (Matthew 6:12 NKJV). Forgiving others isn't an option, it's an obligation. Being forgiven depends on forgiving others. Young Robert Louis Stevenson's family customarily prayed the Lord's Prayer before dinner. One evening he left the table before they reached the part, 'As we forgive our debtors.' Asked why, he replied, 'I'm not prepared to pray that prayer today.' Recognising his reluctance to forgive, he knew he couldn't receive God's forgiveness. 'If you forgive men...your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not...your Father will not forgive your sins' (Matthew 6:14-15 NIV). No matter how badly you've been wronged, God requires you to forgive.
'...Lead us not into temptation' (Matthew 6:13 NIV). This seems odd in the light of God's Word: 'When tempted, no one should ever say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone' (James 1:13 NIV). William Barclay says the Greek word used here for temptation means 'testing', as in the ordeals and trials of life. It refers to life's stressful experiences. An athlete might use these words with his trainer, 'Please don't push me beyond my endurance!' It calls for acknowledging three realities: (1) your human limits and vulnerabilities. (2) that God's in charge of your testing. (3) that He wants you to ask for help and not try to handle it alone. '...God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand...He will show you a way out so that you can endure' (1 Corinthians 10:13 NLT). He won't just intervene on your behalf; He will use the experience to strengthen you spiritually.

SoulFood: Obad, Mal 1-4, Mark 7:1-13, Ps 18:1-29, Pro 12:23-24

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Praying Jesus' Way (4)

'Give us each day our daily bread.' Luke 11:3 NRS

The second part of the Lord's Prayer addresses our everyday concerns:
'Give us each day our daily bread.' Your Father is willing to meet your physical and financial needs. The word 'bread' Jesus used here meant literal 'food'. God is more concerned about the necessities of your everyday life than you are. He multiplied food for five thousand hungry people. '...He...healed all who were sick' (Matthew 8:16 NKJV). And He wants to meet your needs, too. '...Do not worry, saying, "What shall we eat?" or "What shall we drink?" or "What shall we wear"' (Matthew 6:31 NIV)? The 'bread man' delivers fresh bread daily! So trust Him for today's needs, and tomorrow morning get up and do the same.
'...Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors' (Matthew 6:12 NKJV). The moment you enter God's presence, you become aware of your sin. And Satan will try to bring condemnation on you. How does he do it? By making you feel unwelcome and uneasy in God's presence. But Satan is a liar. 'There is...no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus...' (Romans 8:1 NKJV). God's Spirit brings your sins to light not to condemn you, but to motivate you to confess them and receive His forgiveness. God's Word identifies several categories of sin that we need to recognise. There's falling short of what's required; the deliberate violation of a specific rule; unintentional and often passionately motivated slips; deliberate disobedience and rebellion; failure to fulfil your indebtedness; the sin of omission. Regardless of what your sin is, the moment you confess it and ask God for forgiveness, He restores you (1 John 1:9).

SoulFood: 1 Pet 1-5, Mark 6:45-56, Ps 49, Pro 12:20-22

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Praying Jesus' Way (3)

'...Is anything too hard for Me?' Jeremiah 32:27 NIV

The words 'Our Father' remind us of God's unconditional love. Ever looked into the eyes of a suffering child and wanted to make them well, but found you lacked the power? '...who art in Heaven' reminds us of God's unlimited power to do what we can't. 'I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for Me?' The answer in the Hebrew language effectively comes back, 'No, nothing, absolutely nothing; everything with You will be extraordinary.' You can have total confidence that what God's love prompts Him to do, His power enables Him to do. 'Hallowed be Thy name' distinguishes His name and character from all others. 'Hallowed' in Greek indicates He's unlike others, different, special, the only One. In an age where respect for authority is disappearing, because it challenges our self-importance, Jesus teaches us to pray, 'Heavenly Father, enable us to give You the place Your Holy Name and character deserve.'
'Thy Kingdom come.' Jesus came preaching God's Kingdom; it was the heart of His Gospel. The kingdom incorporating Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and so on was past. The present kingdom includes all who acknowledge Jesus as Lord. And the future kingdom will encompass the whole earth at Christ's return. Each time you submit to God's will, His Kingdom is brought into operation. As a believer, you are in His Kingdom, and His power is available to you. 'Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven' (Matthew 6:10 KJV). In Heaven God's will is never questioned. Nor should it be in your life. And Jesus instructs us to pray and believe that what happens in Heaven will also happen through you here on earth.

SoulFood: Deut 32:29 - 34:12, Mark 6:30-44, Ps 62, Pro 12:18-19

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Praying Jesus' Way (2)

'...before the throne of our merciful God... we will be treated with undeserved kindness, and we will find help.' Hebrews 4:16 CEV

When you pray, 'Our Father,' you define every other relationship in your life:
(a) You define your relationship to the material world. Since God is your Father, you're not a stranger but an heir to the blessings of His universe (Psalms 24:1). But beware of the values of the world: 'Don't love the world or anything that belongs to the world. If you love the world, you cannot love the Father' (1 John 2:15 CEV). Nothing must take God's place! (b) You define your relationship to others. Everyone around you is your Father's creation and as such you must accept, love and value them. We're commanded to love our neighbour as ourselves regardless of colour, creed or distinction. We're not to compete with them or strive for superiority over them or use them for our own ends.
(c) You define your relationship to yourself. God says He's your Father; what a foundation on which to build your self-worth! Regardless of what's been said or done in the past to make you feel inadequate or inferior, you can hold your head high. You're not a nobody once God calls you His child. (d) You define your relationship to God. Because of your relationship to Jesus, the Father declares you '...accepted in the Beloved' (Ephesians 1:6 NKJV). As He accepts Jesus, so He accepts you! '...As many as received Him...He gave the right to become children of God...' (John 1:12 NAS). You no longer need to approach Him in fear. You can walk right up 'before the throne of our merciful God [and] be treated with undeserved kindness and...find help.' It doesn't get any better!

SoulFood: Deut 30:1 - 32:28, Mark 6:14-29, Ps 57, Pro 12:15-17

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Praying Jesus' Way (1)

'...Lord, teach us to pray...' Luke 11:1 NKJV

Overhearing Jesus pray moved one of His disciples to say, 'Lord, teach us to pray.' It's unlikely Jesus intended to teach them a rote prayer since He'd just said, 'When you pray, don't babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again' (Matthew 6:7 NLT). His answer was more than a sample formula-prayer. He was teaching them powerful, effective principles for praying.
Let's see how we can benefit from them. William Barclay said, 'The Lord's Prayer has two major parts: the first for God's benefit, the second for ours. Honour the first part, and the second is guaranteed.'
Part one begins with 'Our Father'. It's intended for His family, collectively as well as individually. He used the plural words 'our...us...we' to indicate prayer is a co-operative exercise, where we pray with and for each other, not just for and by ourselves. It also teaches us the power of agreeing together in prayer (Matthew 18:19 KJV). Before asking for anything, we're to acknowledge God's fatherhood, because prayer is: (a) a matter of relationship. It's the Father and His children in session; those who are redeemed through faith in the blood of His only begotten Son. That's the welcome mat under your feet when you pray. It's also: (b) a matter of submission. Jesus' disciples understood that fatherhood meant headship and authority. Prayer isn't an attempt to get God to agree with your will, it's aligning yourself with His Word and will. He's a promise-keeper, not an indulgent parent.

SoulFood: Deut 28-29, Mark 6:1-13, Ps 44:17-26, Pro 12:12-14

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What God Has Invested In You

Paul prayed for the believers at Ephesus that they might know what God called them to do and understand the 'riches' He had invested in them.

Think about this: (1) God knows what He's invested in you. He doesn't redeem you one day and take you to Heaven the next. He calls and equips you to fulfil a certain purpose in this world. Christ taught that some of us are five-talent people, some are two-talent people and some are one-talent people (Matthew 25:15). That's why it's a mistake to draw comparisons. It's not what you have that determines your reward, but what you do with what you have. It's when you bury your talent because you're afraid to risk and fail, that you get into trouble with God. (2) God protects what He's invested in you. Do we sometimes disobey God? Yes. Does He discipline us? Yes. And your response to Him can either lengthen or shorten your season of discipline. But does God abandon us? Never! '...God's gifts and his call can never be withdrawn' (Romans 11:29 NLT). (3) God expects a return on what He's invested in you. When you get to the end of your life, what will you have to show for it? God gave you time, talent, and treasure. Are you using them selfishly or are you using them to serve Him and bless others? '...We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive...according to what he has done, whether good or bad' (2 Corinthians 5:10 NKJV).
The songwriter put it this way: 'Only one life, 'twill soon be past. Only what's done for Christ will last.'

SoulFood: Deut 22-24, Mark 5:21-30, Ps 44:1-8, Pro 12:7-9

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Gossip - Don't Indulge in It

'Keep your tongue from evil...' Psalms 34:13 NIV

Did you hear about the three women who decided to confess their weaknesses to each other? The first confessed to drinking too much. The second confessed to being jealous of a friend's good looks. The third said nothing, so the other two pressed her and asked, 'Ok, what's your weakness?' Finally she answered, 'It's gossip, and I can't wait to get out of here and talk about you two!'
Now let's get serious. The Bible has strong words when it comes to the subject of gossip: 'He who guards his lips guards his life, but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin' (Proverbs 13:3 NIV). 'If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless' (James 1:26 NIV). 'Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil' (1 Peter 3:10 NIV). Gossip is like mud thrown against a wall - it may not stick, but it leaves a dirty mark. And that mark can last a lifetime! So before you take aim, check your target. Ask yourself how much damage you'll inflict and how you'll feel about it afterwards. Solomon said, 'The tongue has the power of life and death and those who love it will eat its fruit' (Proverbs 18:21 NIV). Did you get that? You will 'eat your words'. You'll reap the harvest you sow, good or bad.
Bottom line: if you're looking for faults, look in the mirror. When you work on your own shortcomings, you'll have no time left to gossip about anybody else's.

SoulFood: Deut 18-21, Mark 5:11-20, Ps 37:32-40, Pro 12:4-6

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