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The Word For Today

Don't try to please everybody

'I'm not trying to win the approval of people, but of God.' Galatians 1:10 NLT

We tend to fall into one of two traps:

(1) Thinking too much of ourselves. Harry Truman was thrust into the US presidency by the death of Franklin Roosevelt. That's when Sam Rayburn, Speaker of the House, took him aside and said, 'From here on out you're going to have lots of people around you, and they are going to tell you what a great man you are. But know and I know you ain't.' Truman took that advice to heart, and became a truly great president. To succeed in the assignment God has given you in life you need two things-dependence on God and confidence in God (eee 1 John 3:21-22). As long as those two things are in place you'll succeed.

(2) Thinking too little of ourselves. Many of us have made it our goal to change someone's opinion of us; to prove to them that we're valuable. Until you quit agreeing with the opinions of those who criticise you, you'll remain locked in a prison of your own making. When your critic's opinion becomes your opinion, you've built a prison inside your soul with only one prisoner - you. The fact is some of the people you've spent your life trying to impress may never be impressed. And you need to accept that from God's perspective, it doesn't matter! To succeed, you must be able to work alongside others without letting yourself be controlled by their moods and opinions. That's why Paul wrote, 'I'm not trying to win the approval of people, but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ's servant.'

Soulfood: Exodus 20:1-17, Matt 5:1-12


God wants to set you free

'There is a way that seems right...but its end is...death.' Proverbs 14:12 NKJV

Ever noticed how zoo keepers handle an injured animal? Even though the keeper is only interested in helping, the animal doesn't understand because it is focused solely on the pain. As a result, it strikes out at the very one who's trying to help. Is that what's happening in your life right now? Perhaps people who call themselves Christians have hurt you. You didn't expect them to be the ones inflicting the pain. You may have been hurt to the extent that you no longer trust anybody - not even God. You haven't actually said, 'Lord, I don't trust you,' but your actions speak louder than your words. You avoid reading his Word to find an answer. You won't pray, or allow anyone to pray for you. You try to bury yourself in your job. You move from one relationship to another. You try alcohol or mood-altering chemicals. You spend hours watching television and surfing the internet, and some of the things you're watching violate your conscience and leave you feeling worse.

What's the answer? (1) Turn to God. Give him 'all your worries and cares...for he cares about you' (1 Peter 5:7 NLT). Give him your pain, your failures, your hang-ups and your challenges. (2) Forgive the person who hurt you. Obsessing over what they did and trying to make them pay just keeps you chained to them. But forgiveness breaks the chain and sets you free.

In your own strength you may be able to do something to alleviate your pain. But God can destroy the root of the pain and cause you to walk victoriously into the future.

Soulfood: Eph 1:1 - 4:16, Matt 24:26-35, Ps 79, Prov 17:24-26


Don't let jealousy destroy your marriage

'Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear.' 1 John 4:18 NLT

Solomon writes, 'Jealousy is cruel as the grave' (Song of Solomon 8:6). There are many practical applications for this verse, and one of them is that jealousy can cause the death of a marriage. When you're jealous of your partner, you distrust them and try to control their every move. And that's doubly true when someone in your past has betrayed you. Your fear of it happening again can make your spouse feel like his or her feet are always being held to the fire. And if you keep doing it long enough you'll create the very thing you fear; you'll end up driving them away. Even if they do stay, they may live in emotional isolation without ever fully giving themselves to you.

With that in mind, here's what the Bible has to say: 'We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in we live in God, our love grows more perfect...Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear' (1 John 4:16-18 NLT). When you know that God loves you in spite of your imperfections, your sense of self-worth grows and you start believing you are worthy of love. And when that happens, it's easier to accept that your spouse loves you too and will be faithful. That's like getting out of prison - a prison of your own making called 'jealousy.'

Today God wants to set you free from jealousy and give you the relationship you've always longed for. Talk to him about it.

Soulfood: 1 Sam 27-31, Matt 24:15-25, Ps 137, Prov 17:22-23


Recognise when Satan is at work

'He had astonished them with his sorceries.' Acts 8:11 NKJV

Just as the apostles worked astonishing miracles through the power of God, Simon the sorcerer was able to do astonishing things through occult power. So how did the apostles handle the situation? Did they sidestep it? Coexist peacefully with it? Say, 'It's no big deal'? No, Peter confronted Simon, saying, 'Repent...[that] your heart may be forgiven' (Acts 8:22 NKJV).

Today the forces of evil are real and you must know how to deal with them. Jesus said, 'Behold, I give you the authority...over all the power of the enemy' (Luke 10:19 NKJV). The Bible tells us two important things about the demon-possessed man in Gerasa whom Christ healed: (1) The forces of evil within him introduced themselves as 'Legion...for we are many' (Mark 5:9 NIV). A legion was a well-trained, fully-equipped division of the Roman army that took orders from Caesar. (2) They 'begged Jesus...not to send them out of the area' (Mark 5:10 NIV). That's because they'd established a stronghold within him. Understand this: You can't win spiritual battles with natural weapons. True, blaming Satan for all your problems can be a cop-out. But failing to see him at work gives him the advantage every time.

You must be wise and know when you're dealing with natural, human, psychological problems. But you must also be discerning when you're dealing with 'principalities...powers...the rulers of the darkness...spiritual hosts of wickedness' (Ephesians 6:12 NKJV). How can you overcome them? By taking up 'the whole armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day' (Ephesians 6:13 NKJV).

Soulfood: 1 Sam 24-26, Matt 24:1-14, Ps 122, Prov 17:18-21


Live a balanced life

'Come with a quiet place and get some rest.' Mark 6:31 NIV

The Bible says, 'The length of our days is seventy years - or eighty' (Psalm 90:10 NIV). If you're blessed to live that long you'll typically spend an average of twenty-four years sleeping, twenty years working, ten years in church and on holiday (mostly holiday), seven years eating, six years travelling, four years dealing with sickness, and two years getting dressed.

Kierkegaard said: 'The press of busyness is like a charm...seeking to lay hold of ever-younger victims so that [we] are scarcely allowed time for God to develop in us Christian character.' Rushing does not buy you more time. It doesn't. Apart from keeping your adrenaline pumping and perhaps making you feel and look important, busyness can be the enemy of your soul. It can rob you of spiritual growth by preventing you from reflecting and examining your heart. It's not the number of things you get done every day, but the quality of your life. You can be busy, yet not be balanced.

One Bible scholar said, 'Solitude is the furnace of transformation.' There are three kinds of solitude: (1) Brief intervals experienced daily. (2) Longer ones involving a few days away from it all. Despite his hectic schedule, Jesus made a habit of withdrawing from the demands of the crowd to spend time with his Father. He told the disciples, 'Come with a quiet place and get some rest' (Mark 6:31 NIV). (3) Forced rest. 'He makes me lie down' (Psalm 23:2 NIV). Don't wait until God makes you lie down! Endeavour to live a balanced life.

Soulfood: 1 Sam 20:30 - 23:29, Matt 23:23-39, Ps 110, Prov 17:15-17


You can start again

'A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.' Matthew 12:20 NIV

Aren't you glad that God is a mender and not a discarder? With him, broken lives don't have to be the end of the story. He's often been called the God of the 'second chance.' How short-sighted is that? If we got only two chances we'd all be miserably, hopelessly lost. But instead He's the God of the 'seventy times seven' (see Matthew 18:22). So he's the God of unlimited grace. As long as you humbly acknowledge your failure and desire to start again, he will enable you.

The 'reed' referred to in today's verse is a shepherd's makeshift flute that had withered, cracked, and become worthless. The smouldering 'wick' no longer gave light and was considered useless. Both represent people set aside as damaged goods and rejected by others. But Jesus is committed to mend and heal, not break or quench those who have failed. He desires to give us a fresh start regardless of our failures. The truth is that we all fail! As Adam's descendants, messing things up comes naturally and effortlessly to us. Abraham lied and put Sarah at risk. Jacob was a cheat and self-promoting con artist. Moses determined to do things his own way and ended up a fugitive. David was an adulterer and a conspiratorial assassin who betrayed a faithful friend. Peter turned his back on Christ. Yet God used each of them to accomplish his will.

And he will use you too, because 'where sin abounded, grace abounded much more' (Romans 5:20 NKJV). So you can start again.

Soulfood: 1 Sam 18:1 - 20:29, Matt 23:13-22, Ps 102:18-28, Prov 17:11-14


Get rid of the mental junk

'Love...ties everything completely together.' Colossians 3:14 CEV

If you're the kind of person who harbours grudges and holds on to past mistakes, even your own, you know what it feels like to be weighed down by mental junk. It's hard for a relationship to survive when neither party has processed what happened in the past. Like blame, mental junk keeps you stuck. For example, if someone in a past relationship has hurt you and you've never let go of it, every time your mate does something similar it's likely you'll react with unwarranted fervour, as if he or she was the original person who hurt you. When this happens, your mate is left feeling upset and confused by your over-the-top reaction to a minor infraction that on the surface appears insignificant.

Just as you clean house to get rid of physical junk, you need to keep your mental, emotional and spiritual house clean and in order. Praying, reading, counseling, journaling, meditation and exercise are all good ways to help ensure that past issues don't seep into your current relationships. And when they do come up from time to time, it's best to talk to the people you're in relationship with. Just be sure to do it in kindness, truth and honesty.

The old adage - 'Love means never having to say "I'm sorry"' - is wrong! A more scriptural motto for keeping mental and emotional junk in the trash where it belongs, is: 'Don't go to bed angry' (Ephesians 4:26 GWT). The Bible says, 'Be gentle, kind...meek, and patient. Put up with each other, and forgive anyone who does you wrong, just as Christ has forgiven you. Love... ties everything completely together' (Colossians 3:12-14 CEV).

Soulfood: 1 Sam 16-17, Matt 23:1-12, Ps 102:12-17, Prov 17:7-10


Don't let fear stop you

'Kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you.' 2 Timothy 1:6 NAS

Don't let fear make you hide your talents and abilities.

One Christian author says: 'God expects us to make the most of what he gives keep our hearts aflame, grow our character and personality, and broaden our experiences so we'll be increasingly more effective. Paul told the Philippians, "Keep on growing in knowledge and understanding" (Philippians 1:9 NLT). And he told Timothy, "Be sure to use the abilities God has given you...Put [them] to work" (1 Timothy 4:14-15 TLB); "Kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you" (2 Timothy 1:6 NAS). When you don't exercise your muscles, they weaken and atrophy, and when you don't utilise the skills God gave you, the same thing happens. Referring to the servant who because of fear hid his talent in the ground, Jesus said, "Take the talent from him and give it to the one who has the ten talents" (Matthew 25:28 NIV). Don't be afraid. Put your gifts and abilities to work and they'll become enlarged and developed through practice. No one reaches full development all at once. But with study, feedback, and practice, a good teacher can become a better teacher, and in time grow to be a great teacher. Stretch yourself. Learn all you can. "Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive His approval" (2 Timothy 2:15 NLT). Take advantage of every opportunity to develop and sharpen your skills. Remember, in Heaven we're going to serve God forever, and we prepare by practicing here on earth. Like athletes getting ready for the Olympics, we're training for the big day.'

Soulfood: Exod 34:29-35, Mk 9:2-27, 2 Cor 3:7-18, 2 Cor 3:7-18


You're called to a 'special work'

'Each part...helps the other parts grow.' Ephesians 4:16 NLT

Paul writes: 'As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body [church] is healthy and growing and full of love' (Ephesians 4:16 NLT).

Let's look at two different kinds of growth - symbiotic growth and parasitic growth. Symbiotic growth is a give-and-take relationship in which both sides benefit. Parasitic growth is when one side feeds off another but gives nothing back. So when you come out of church and say, 'I didn't get anything out of that service,' you may be practicing parasitic growth. Parasitic growth is characterised by such words as 'pray for me, preach to me, counsel me, help me, but expect nothing from me.' Symbiotic growth is characterised by such words as, 'Yes, I have needs, but I'm willing to give too because everyone needs to benefit.' Your body is made up of systems. These include the nervous system, circulatory system, muscular system, lymphatic system, skeletal system, immune system, etc. These systems rely on one another. They are interdependent. So when one of them goes down, the rest of the body is negatively impacted by it.

Instead of saying, 'I'm going to church,' remind yourself, 'I am the church.' Paul writes: 'The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ...and God has put each part just where he wants it' (1 Corinthians 12:12, 18 NLT). God wants you to be a fully functioning part of his church. And if you're not sure what your 'part' is, ask him and he will show you.

Soulfood: 1 Sam 14-15, Matt 22:34-46, Ps 102:1-11, Prov 17:4-6


When Jesus prayed 5

'He...prayed..."Not my will, but yours be done."' Luke 22:41-42 NIV

Jesus prayed before he faced the greatest crisis in his life. The Bible says: 'Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. On reaching the place... he withdrew about a stone's throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done." An angel from Heaven appeared...and strengthened him' (Luke 22:39-43 NIV). Jesus didn't wait until the hour of his greatest crisis before he prayed. For three and a half years during his earthly ministry, he had built a life of prayer. Before he raised Lazarus from the dead, we read, 'Jesus looked up and said, "Father, I thank you that you have heard me...that you always hear me"' (John 11:41-42 NIV).

Jesus had such an intimate relationship with his Father that in times of pressure and pain he could go to God, confident he would receive his sustaining grace. Can you do that? Until you do, you'll be vulnerable to people and situations beyond your control. Consider this question: Do you think Jesus prayed so much because he wanted to, or because he thought he should? The answer is - he wanted to! And if you want to follow in his footsteps and enjoy God's richest blessings, you need to move from 'should' to 'want to.'

Here's a truth that people who pray know: The less you pray, the less you want to pray. And the more you pray, the more you want to pray. The power behind Christ's amazing success in life was the power of prayer. Starting now, commit to praying each day.

Soulfood: 1 Sam 11-13, Matt 22:23-33, Ps 98, Prov 17:1-3

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