Breakfast with Cathy
6-10am

The Word For Today

God Can Lift You Up (2)

In order to access power, you have to go to the outlet and plug in to the source of it. That's what happens when you pray in faith; you plug in to God's power. Picture a boat trapped in mud and stuck on the bottom. If you can get it to the dock, you can repair it and send it back out to sea. The trouble is you can't move it. So what's the answer? Bring in high-powered tugboats, connect steel cables to the sunken craft and wait for the tide to rise. Are you getting the idea? When you feel so low that you can't lift yourself up, tap into God's power and let Him lift you up to the place where He can repair, restore and re-commission you.

If you keep that picture in mind, you'll never think about prayer the same way again. Instead of seeing it as an obligation, you'll start seeing it as an awesome power that works for you in all circumstances of life. And you'll see reading the Bible in a different light as well. Paul says, 'So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up' (Acts 20:32 NKJV). Your problems may be great, but the tide of God's Spirit is greater, and if you let it, it'll lift you out of your troubles. Will they suddenly vanish overnight? No, but you'll be above them looking down instead of underneath them looking up. At that point you'll be operating from a position of faith instead of a position of fear.

It can happen for you. God can lift you up: 'All things are possible to him who believes.'

Soulfood : Job 35-37, Mt 2:9-15, Ps 139:1-12, Ecc 11:4-6

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God Can Lift You Up (1)

The Bible says, 'Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.' It works this way: when you try to exalt yourself, God brings you down, but when you humble yourself in His sight, He lifts you up. He does it because you're His child and He loves you. You may feel like a nobody right now, but in God's eyes you're a somebody.

Who but God could reach behind a hedge, find a Rodney 'Gipsy' Smith and use him to win multitudes to Christ? Who but God could go to Old Comiskey Park in Chicago, find a baseball player called Billy Sunday and use him to impact the world? Who but God could look in a Galilean fishing boat and find Peter, call him, transform him and use him to build the church? God loves to do things like that. And since He 'does not show favouritism' (Romans 2:11 NIV) you've every right to believe He will do it for you too. The Bible says, 'the kind of person...always thinking about the cost...but his heart is not with you' (Proverbs 23:7 NIV). When that little voice inside you whispers, 'You've no talent and you'll never amount to anything in life,' that's not God. It's Satan - and the Bible says he's a liar (John 8:44)! That's why you need to tell him, 'I don't believe a word you're saying. You can't put me down because God is raising me up.'

God's plan for you was established long before you were born, and He hasn't changed His mind. So you need to discover His plan, then make sure your feelings, thoughts, actions and words line up with it.

Soulfood : Mt 6:5-15, Mt 26:36-46, Jas 5:13-18, 1 Th 5:16-18

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Accepting Yourself

Studies show that many of us don't like ourselves. A poll of college students confirmed that over 50 per cent suffered from low self-acceptance, with the majority citing their looks as the source of their unhappiness. 'My nose is too long. My eyes are too small. I'm too fat here - too thin there. I'm too short - too tall. I've got freckles.' And the beauty industry is more than willing to darken it, lighten it, accentuate it, lift it, tuck it and cover it up in an attempt to sell us a self-image we can accept. A little improvement might indeed be beneficial, but not as a basis for self-worth.

Here's how God sees the issue: 'Does the clay dispute with the one who shapes it, saying, "Stop, you're doing it wrong!" Does the pot exclaim, "How clumsy can you be"' (Isaiah 45:9 NLT)? You are God's personal creation. And He makes no mistakes, overlooks no details and leaves nothing unfinished. You need to accept yourself because He created, redeemed and accepts you. In an age of media overload, we're bombarded by images of perfect-looking people, with the inference that we need to look like them if we hope to amount to anything. But Paul says: 'We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise' (2 Corinthians 10:12 NIV)?

The God Who made you who you are has a plan for perfecting you. You're perfectly acceptable, if not yet acceptably perfect. You're 'predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son.' So you're a work in progress!

Soulfood : Job 32-34, Mt 2:1-8, Ps 97, Ecc 10:20 - 11:3

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Accepted by God!

There's no pain worse than rejection and no pleasure greater than acceptance, which helps explain the length some people go to in order to avoid rejection and earn acceptance. But the good news is, with God you're already accepted. J.B. Phillips translates Ephesians 1:6 like this: 'He...has made us welcome in the everlasting love He bears towards the Son.' And that's not limited to those who appear worthy because of their good deeds and a flawless moral record; it's for every believing child of God!

Cromwell once commissioned a self-portrait. The artist, courting Cromwell's favour, portrayed him without his obvious imperfections. Cromwell was livid. 'I said paint me, man - me, warts and all!' You're accepted by God, 'warts and all'.

But note: (1) God's acceptance doesn't equal His approval. He accepts sinners, but He can never accept our sin. Indeed, His free gift of acceptance is our greatest motivator to renounce our sin and live to please Him (Titus 2:11-12). (2) God's acceptance is unconditional. He doesn't say, 'You're accepted if you clean up your act.' In the words of Jeremiah, 'Can a leopard take away its spots? Neither can you start doing good, for you have always done evil' (Jeremiah 13:23 NLT). God's acceptance has to be unconditional, because it's impossible for us to merit it. (3) God's acceptance is because of Jesus. You're 'accepted in the Beloved'. The doomed Mephibosheth was accepted because of David's relationship to his beloved friend Jonathan (2 Samuel 9). And as long as God accepts Jesus, and you trust in Jesus, you're accepted as well.

Soulfood : Job 29-31, Lk 2:8-20, Ps 117, Ecc 10:15-19

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Seeking God (2)

Notice two more things about the wise men: (1) How God guided them. 'The star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was...And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshipped Him' (Matthew 2:9-11 NKJV). Never limit God. And don't lock Him into a personal experience you had in the past where He guided you in a certain way. If God can move a star, He can rearrange any circumstance in your favour. How did the wise men know about the birth of Christ? Maybe because of an alignment of the planets, or because they were students of Old Testament prophecy. We don't know. But one thing is certain: they were seeking God - and that's the point at which we must all begin.

(2) How God protected them. Herod wasn't happy about the news these men brought. Indeed, he was downright enraged. Think: if he was willing to kill every Jewish baby boy under the age of two in order to get at Jesus, what were the chances that these men would get out of town alive? Not great - until God stepped in! 'Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way' (Matthew 2:12 NKJV). The devil is real, but you don't have to be afraid, because Jesus has already defeated him.

The main thing is: when your heart is set on seeking God, He will guide you, protect you and reward you.

Soulfood : Is 7:14, Mt 1:18-25, Mic 5:2-5, Is 9:6-7

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Seeking God (1)

Notice two things about the wise men: (1) Who they were. Astrologers. Jews considered astrology to be a counterfeit to true prophecy. Be careful; there are people whose lifestyles you may disapprove of, who are honestly seeking God. So be gracious in your dealings with them. The Greek philosophers on Mars Hill had a pantheon of gods. Was Paul shocked or put off? No. He commended them for being willing to search for God, adding, 'He is not far from each one of us' (Acts 17:27 NKJV). Don't jump to conclusions and write people off. In God's eyes every weed is a potential rose and every loser is a potential winner. And you should be glad about that!

(2) How far they travelled. They left their families and the comforts of home to travel thousands of kilometres in order to find God. Their round-trip journey took two years, and ended in a Jewish village where they were cultural outcasts. Meanwhile, leaders who had access to the prophecies of Christ's birth wouldn't expend the time and effort to check them out. We often quote Jeremiah 29:11, "'The plans I have for you," says the Lord... "are plans for good...to give you a future and a hope."' But don't stop there, read on: 'When you pray, I will listen. If you look for Me wholeheartedly, you will find Me' (Jeremiah 29:12-13 NLT).

Poet Julie Carro wrote, 'Now wise men still seek His face as they did in days of old; to give the Lord their hearts, more precious than silver and gold.' How far are you prepared to go in your search for God?

Soulfood : Job 24-28, Jn 1:6-18, Ps 113, Ecc 10:10-14

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Brokenness

If your goal is to be used by God, don't be surprised when He permits seasons of adversity and brokenness. Jesus experienced it, and He said, 'A servant is not greater than his master' (John 15:20 NKJV).

Jon Walker points out: 'God's intent isn't to hurt us, but to expand our capacity to carry His love to a world in need of compassion... Sorrow clarifies our thinking. In the school of Christ, brokenness is a good thing. It's impossible to become intimate with God unless we're broken of independence, pride and our insistence that our way is better than God's. Brokenness is the last stop before we finally confess, "I can't; God can." It's Paul confessing, "What a wretched man I am. Who will rescue me from this body of death" (Romans 7:24 NIV)? It's the Prodigal fighting with the pigs over food (Luke 15:11-32). It's Joseph, still in prison, forgotten by the cupbearer (Genesis 40:23). It's Jonah in the whale's belly confessing the consequences of running from God (Jonah 2:1-9). It's Peter weeping bitterly outside Jesus' trial (Luke 22:62). It's Jesus abandoning everything to God, praying, "Father...not My will, but Yours be done" (Luke 22:42 NIV) ...God in His ruthless, loving pursuit will break us of pride, sin, folly and independence (Matthew 21:44). Like Jesus serving bread at the Last Supper, God takes us, breaks us, blesses us and uses us.'

Are you going through a season of brokenness? Be encouraged; in God's Kingdom brokenness is the path to blessing. Watchman Nee put it this way: 'To have God do His own work through us, even once, is better than a lifetime of human striving.'

Soulfood : Job 21-23, Lk 2:1-7, Ps 128, Ecc 10:5-9

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Stop Fighting in Your Own Strength

During World War II, Allied bombers carried machine guns in the nose, under the belly, on top and in the rear. B-17s, better known as 'flying fortresses', carried thirteen .50 calibre machine guns. At one point scientists suggested the planes might actually be safer without them. Without the extra weight needed to operate the guns, they could fly faster and higher, increasing their odds of survival. The pilots, however, thought differently. They wouldn't even consider embarking on a mission without guns to shoot back and defend themselves.

With that thought in mind, Jon Walker says: 'We make the same choice when it comes to fighting our own battles.' God says we don't need the guns... we can soar higher and faster with Him. 'For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.' The weapons He gives 'have divine power to demolish strongholds'; we don't need the 'weapons of the world' (2 Corinthians 10:3-4 NIV). But we say 'No thanks'; we have to shoot back and defend ourselves with arsenals of angry words, demanding attitudes, manipulative manoeuvres, excessive excuses, and bombs of blame. It takes courage to stop using weapons of the flesh, 'take up the shield of faith', and arm ourselves with the weapons of God (Ephesians 6:16 NIV). It's the kind of faith David showed when he [told] Goliath, 'You come against me with sword and spear...but I come against you in the name of the Lord' (1 Samuel 17:45 NIV).

Stop fighting in your own strength and let God's spiritual arsenal defend you; 'He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him' (Proverbs 30:5 NIV).

Soulfood : Job 18-20, Mt 1:1-17, Ps 47, Ecc 10:1-4

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Spiritual Adventures

Think being a Christian isn't exciting? Check out these headlines: 'Man in desert discovers burning bush that can't be extinguished'; 'Sea opens and thousands walk through on dry land'; 'Giant who threatened a nation killed by teen with slingshot'; 'Jewish girl saves her people from destruction'; 'Three young rebels survive blazing furnace'; 'Man brought back from the dead after four days'; 'City walls mysteriously fall'; 'Preacher swallowed by giant fish and lives to tell the tale'; 'Prophet caught up to Heaven in a fiery chariot'. These aren't from the tabloids; they're from Scripture.

Adventure means 'exciting and dangerous undertakings'. When you embark on the spiritual adventure Paul mentions, you can expect God to test your faith in ways you never imagined. The Bible talks about those 'who through faith conquered kingdoms... shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength' (Hebrews 11:33-34 NIV). John Eldredge says: 'Adventure, with all its requisite danger and wildness, is a deeply spiritual longing written into the soul of man... Moses doesn't encounter the living God at the shopping centre. He finds him in the deserts of Sinai... Deep in a man's heart are fundamental questions that cannot be answered at the kitchen table... it's fear that keeps [him] at home where things are neat and orderly and under his control.'

When God wants to do something wonderful through you, He has to get you from where you are to where He is. How about it: Are you ready to embark on a spiritual adventure with God?

Soulfood : Jn 14:6-11, Acts 4:8-12, Acts 16:22-34, Mt 1:18-21

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Words or Actions?

We must care about people's spiritual and practical needs. It's hard for someone to grasp the concept of God's love when they don't know where their next meal is coming from, or where they'll sleep tonight.

Food banks worldwide are seeing a dramatic upsurge in emergency requests. Volunteer Cindy Crosby writes: 'Each client is as different as the patterns in a kaleidoscope: the retired, the mentally ill, single mothers, young men fallen on hard times... And not everyone is grateful. Some are angry...some refuse eye contact...some leave without saying more than a few words... If you volunteer just to feel good about yourself, you'll give up. Lofty ideals shatter like stained glass pelted by rocks... It's the success stories that stick... The refugee mother whose son went on to Harvard on a scholarship...the woman who thanked me more times than I could count...the mother of six who showed palpable relief because that month she could feed her family...I remember Jesus' words, "I was hungry...you gave Me something to eat...I was a stranger...you invited Me in" (Matthew 25:35 NIV). Now when I think of hunger, I see faces. And that has made all the difference.'

It's easier to love in theory than reality, especially when it comes to people who are difficult or different. But genuine love isn't defined by what feels good or bad; God's already set the standard. 'If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?...Let us not love with words...but...actions' (1 John 3:17-18 NIV).

Soulfood : Job 15-17, Lk 1:67-80, Ps 12, Ecc 9:17-18

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