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The Word For Today

THE WORD FROM THE TOP (4)

The sixth commandment says, 'You shall not murder.' Now, most of us don't need a lecture on murder, so let's address the real issue: the tongue, which kills by destroying a person's self-worth and future hopes. Paul writes: 'All the law is fulfilled in...this: "You shall love your neighbour as yourself." But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another!' (Galatians 5:14-15 NKJV).

Who can forget the 1994 tabloid headline, 'Killer bug ate my face'? The reporting was sensational, but the stories were based on factual cases of invasive streptococcal bacteria found in Gloucestershire. When invasive Strep A (which isn't the same as strep throat [Bacterial tonsillitis]) takes hold, necrotising fasciitis can begin, which causes the victim's flesh to die at the rate of several centimetres per hour. Meanwhile toxic shock sets in, shutting down organs and causing death. Dr Jeffrey Crowley describes what happens after the deadly microbes take hold: 'The bacteria multiply rapidly, producing toxins...For three days the patient may suffer swollen lymph nodes, rising fever, and excruciating pain at the site of infection. Penicillin can stop the attack at this stage, but by day four, infected tissues start dying. Bacteria saturate the bloodstream, destroying muscles and organs, sending the body into shock, and death can follow within hours... invasive streptococcus is rare, but unforgiving.'

You say, 'That's gruesome!' Yes, and so is gossip, and slander! They're deadly. They make people feel worthless by destroying their self-esteem and undermining them to the point where life doesn't seem worth living. Learn to guard your tongue and speak words that bring life, not death.

Soulfood : Ex 36-38, Jn 4:39-54, Ps 87, Prov 27:4-6

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THE WORD FROM THE TOP (3)

In the fifth commandment, God says, 'Honour your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.' That means children must respect their parents, and parents must prove worthy of respect.

Abraham and Lot were from the same family, but there was a big difference in their parenting styles. And it showed up dramatically at the destruction of Sodom. Concerning Abraham, God said, 'I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him' (Genesis 18:19 NIV). Before God destroyed Sodom, we read: 'The two men (angels) said to Lot, "Do you have anyone else here...Get them out ...because we are going to destroy this place"...So Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law...He said, "Hurry and get out of this place, because the Lord is about to destroy the city!" But his sons-in-law thought he was joking' (Genesis 19:12-14 NIV).

Do you have credibility with your children? Do they take you seriously? Here are two quotes from history every parent needs to think long and hard about. The first is from evangelist Billy Sunday: 'The tragedy of my life is that although I've led thousands of people to Jesus Christ, my own sons are not saved.' The second is from Lord Houghton: 'The Christian home is the Master's workshop where the processes of character moulding are silently, lovingly, faithfully and successfully carried on.'

Soulfood : Acts 13:21-22, 1 Sam 16, 1 Sam 17:32-51, 1 Sam 24:1-17

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THE WORD FROM THE TOP (2)

The fourth commandment says, 'Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.'

This commandment wasn't meant to be interpreted in: (a) A legalistic way. In Jesus' day there were over fifteen hundred things the Law of Moses said you couldn't do on the Sabbath, such as bathing, walking too far, or scratching a flea bite. (b) A loose way. The flip side of legalism is licence. We go everywhere on Sunday except to church, then excuse ourselves by saying, 'I'll be there in spirit,' or 'I feel closer to God on the golf course or the beach.' That doesn't wash with God! (c) A limited way. You can't attend church on Sunday and ignore God the rest of the week. He's not just Lord of the Sabbath, He's Lord of your life.

Here's what the Sabbath was designed to be: (1) A day of rest. Restoration begins with rest. Somebody said, 'When you love what you do, it's not work.' That may be true, but that philosophy can lead to burnout and breakdown. David said, 'He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul' (Psalms 23:2-3 NKJV). Note the word 'still'. Every seventh day God calls 'time out'. (2) A day of restoration. Toward the end of his life, Bible commentator William Barclay said, 'I'm old, and I've learned that there are very few things in life that really matter - but those few things matter intensely.' Worshiping with other believers matters because it highlights those things which are important to God, like His Word, His will, His worship, His call, His grace and His family.

Soulfood : Ex 33-35, Jn 4:27-38, Ps 32, Prov 27:1-3

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THE WORD FROM THE TOP (1)

When God gave the Ten Commandments to His people, He said, 'I have talked with you from Heaven.' In other words, you have 'the Word from the top'. End of discussion. Just do it! That being said, let's spend the next few days looking at how the Ten Commandments apply to you. (1) 'You shall have no other gods before Me' (Exodus 20:3 NIV). Have you seen the new all-purpose greeting card? The front says, 'Generic card' and the inside reads, 'Happy whatever!' The first commandment was designed to stop us from going through life doing whatever we feel like. It grabs us by the collar and says, 'Hold on, Jesus is supposed to be Lord of your life, so put Him first!'

(2) 'You shall not make for yourself an idol' (Exodus 20:4 NLT). Now, most of us wouldn't dream of worshiping an idol. But how about your loyalty to things that have no eternal value, like pleasure, power, position and possessions? Isn't that idolatry too? Anything that comes before God is an idol.

(3) 'You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God' (Exodus 20:7 NIV). But just because you don't use profanity doesn't mean you honour the name of the Lord. As a believer you must honour God in your speech, your conduct and your attitude. The truth is, you are the only Bible many people will ever read. Paul writes, 'Clearly, you are a letter from Christ showing the result of our ministry among you. This "letter" is written not with pen and ink, but with the Spirit of the living God' (2 Corinthians 3:3 NLT).

Soulfood : Ex 30-32, Jn 4:13-26, Ps 100, Prov 26:27-28

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THE EYE-OPENING CHRIST

'Jesus himself came up and walked along with them.' Luke 24:15 NIV

Following the crucifixion, Cleopas and his companion were on the road that led home to Emmaus. That's when 'Jesus himself came up and walked along with them.' Their hopes lay buried in a tomb; their faith had turned to doubt. So what did Jesus do? He held a Bible study! 'Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself' (Luke 24:27 NLT).

Jesus knows that when you're walking the road of doubt, you need to get into His Word and get it into you. When you do, three things happen: (1) Your eyes will be opened. 'Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him' (Luke 24:31 NKJV). There are things you will only see when God reveals them to you through His Word. That's why Bible reading must be one of your highest priorities. (2) Your heart will burn. 'They said to one another, "Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us"' (Luke 24:32 NKJV)? When you put God's Word to work and begin to walk out its precepts, it will energise you and change your life. (3) You'll want to tell everybody. 'They rose up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, saying, "The Lord is risen indeed"' (Luke 24:33-34 NKJV).

You say, 'But I'm timid, and not very good with words.' When you truly fall in love, you'll find a way to express it. So today look for an opportunity to tell someone what Jesus has done for you.


SoulFood: Exo 28-29; John 4:1-12; Ps 89:38-52; Pro 26:23-26

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BE FLEXIBLE

The Psalmist writes, 'The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delights in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; for the Lord upholds him with His hand' (Psalms 37:23-24 NKJV). Observe: (1) God delights in the fact that you're willing to step out in faith and try. (2) He doesn't guarantee that you won't stumble, but that ultimately He won't let you fail. (3) When you feel like you can't go on, He will uphold and strengthen you. What more could you ask for?

Now, God never changes, but life does. So you must be ready to adapt to unforeseen circumstances. Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart, is credited with having been a visionary leader. His dream was to provide value to customers in order to improve their lives. But he was notorious for changing plans and abandoning strategies that didn't work. Sam's son Jim Walton admitted, 'We all sniggered at some writers who viewed Dad as a grand strategist who intuitively developed complex plans and implemented them with precision. Dad thrived on change, and no decision was ever sacred.' What good is a well-planned strategy if it doesn't yield good results? To quote Winston Churchill: 'However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.'

God is more committed to the vision He's given you than you are. But when He leads you in a new direction, you must be ready to follow Him. Like Israel in the wilderness, when the guiding cloud moved they had to move with it. The same goes for you. So, be flexible.

Soulfood : Ex 25-27, Jn 3:22-36, Ps 89:15-37, Prov 26:20-22

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GROWING THROUGH DISCOURAGEMENT

Here are four suggestions to help you survive and grow through upheavals such as an unexpected job loss, the death of a loved one, a failed marriage or a serious health issue:

(1) Admit how you feel. That doesn't mean sitting around wallowing in negativity; it means trusting God enough to acknowledge how you really feel. Pretending things are fine when they're not makes it harder to get back up. We all have down times. The Psalmist asked God to help him cope with despondency (Psalms 42-43). And at one point Paul was under so much pressure he 'despaired even of life' (2 Corinthians 1:8 NKJV). (2) Identify the source. Discouragement often comes on the heels of a setback or disappointment. Did something you set your heart on fall apart? Were your hopes unrealistic to start with? Did somebody let you down? Or is your dejection coming from a generalised feeling of burnout?

(3) Talk with a trusted counsellor. Solomon said, '...there is safety in having many advisers' (Proverbs 11:14 NLT). Don't let pride prevent you from opening up to those who will listen empathetically and respond wisely. Talking to the right people can lessen your sense of isolation, and also pave the way for others who are hurting to do the same. (4) Be open before God. He, not fate or circumstances, gets to write the last chapter. Maybe He's trying to teach you something or redirect your energies. David said, 'Lord, where do I put my hope? My only hope is in You.' When your hope is in God, He replaces discouragement with confidence so that what you're going through can become a path to spiritual growth.

Soulfood : Ex 22-24, Jn 3:1-21, Ps 89:1-14, Prov 26:17-19

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WHEN PRAYER IS HARD WORK (2)

We all want what successful people have; we're just not willing to pay the price they paid to get it. When you see someone with sculpted abs and a well-toned body, they probably spend time sweating in a gym.

There's a reason Paul talks about 'labouring...in prayers' (Colossians 4:12 NKJV). When you pray, you must be passionate, persistent and positive, expecting good things from God. You've got to put your heart into it and believe God will do what He promised. It's not easy to fight off distractions and focus on Him. Don't expect your fleshly nature to co-operate; it comes to the place of prayer kicking and screaming. And don't expect your intellect to cheer you on; your self-sufficient nature will always choose prayer as a last resort. But God will urge you, and draw you into His presence. 'If you draw near to Me, I will draw near to you.' An unknown poet wrote: 'I got up early one morning, and rushed right into the day. I had so much to accomplish, I didn't have time to pray. Troubles tumbled about me, and heavier came each task; "Why doesn't God help me?" I wondered. He answered, "You didn't ask."...I woke up early this morning, and paused before entering the day. I had so much to accomplish that I had to take time to pray.'

Many problems can be resolved, or avoided altogether, when you take time to pray and include God in every part of your day. 'Oh what peace we often forfeit; oh what needless pain we bear; All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer' (Joseph M. Scriven: 1855).

Soulfood : Ex 19-21, Jn 2:12-25, Ps 110, Prov 26:13-16

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WHEN PRAYER IS HARD WORK (1)

Paul writes, 'Epaphras, who is...always labouring fervently for you in prayers.' Sometimes praying for others feels like 'labouring'. Once you understand and accept that, not having 'tingling sensations' when you pray won't discourage you. You can smile and tell yourself, 'This is the way the Bible says it will be sometimes.'

G. Campbell Morgan said, 'A man may offer a prayer, beautiful in diction and perfect in the number of its petitions. But if it gives him gratification afterwards, that prayer cannot have been truly prayed.' What did he mean? Simply this: you'll feel good after you've prayed, but your goal isn't to feel good about the fact that you have prayed, or that you felt particularly good during the process.

Observe: (1) Prayer is a duty. It's like going to work. You do it because it's a commitment, and because of the rewards it brings. (2) Prayer is a discipline. The old-timers used to talk about 'praying through'. Through what? Through wandering thoughts, through fatigue, through fears, and every other form of resistance and distraction. When you enter the 'prayer zone', Satan will fight you at every turn. But when you stand in the name of Jesus, the powers of darkness will retreat and you'll prevail (John 14:13-14). (3) Prayer is a delight. It won't happen every time, but if you're faithful to the place of prayer there'll be times when your whole being will be conscious that God is present, answering your prayer and giving you guidance. And even when the answer isn't completely clear, you'll leave His presence saying, 'Now I have peace about it.'

Soulfood : Heb 11:22, Gen 39:1-23, Gen 45:1-11, Gen 50:15-26

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THE LIFE GOD WANTS YOU TO LIVE

Here are three important truths to help you enjoy the life God wants you to live: (1) Believe God wants you to succeed. Give up the unscriptural notion that this life has no value. God has a special work for you to do - here and now (Jeremiah 29:11). You ask, 'What defines success?' Answer: the progressive achievement of a God-given goal resulting in feeling good about yourself. 'Carefully follow the terms of this covenant, so that you may prosper in everything you do' (Deuteronomy 29:9 NIV).

(2) Consult God before you set your goals. The Bible says, 'We should make plans - counting on God to direct us' (Proverbs 16:9 TLB). If you're constantly stressed out and confused, you may be on the wrong track. Go back and check with God; what has He told you to do? It's His will for you to succeed in these six areas: (a) spiritual; (b) relational; (c) physical; (d) mental; (e) social; (f) financial. 'Whatever he does shall prosper' (Psalms 1:3 NKJV).

(3) Invest in yourself. 'Though it cost all you have, get understanding' (Proverbs 4:7 NIV). If you're willing to spend money at fine restaurants but not on good books, your future is already determined. And the first book you need to invest in is a Bible. John writes, 'And the Word was God' (John 1:1 NIV). That means each time you read God's Word, you're depositing more of God into you. Wow! Think how that affects your life! Cultivate a teachable spirit. 'Let the wise listen and add to their learning' (Proverbs 1:5 NIV). This is the life God wants you to live!

Soulfood : Ex 16-18, Jn 2:1-11, Ps 23, Prov 26:10-12

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