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The Word For Today

Work for unity

'Accept other believers who are weak in faith.' Romans 14:1 NLT

During the first century cities like Rome attracted people of many cultures, languages, religions and customs. Consequently, the early church's mission to 'make disciples of all the nations' sometimes led to conflict and confusion. For example, some believers continued to observe a seventh-day Sabbath, while others who didn't eat meat wanted to remain vegetarians. It's why Paul wrote, 'Accept other believers who are weak in faith, and don't argue...about what they think is right or wrong' (Romans 14:1 NLT). Note, he didn't tell us to just put up with them, but to 'accept', welcome, receive, acknowledge, and make allowance for those who aren't carbon copies of us.

Even though the issues we deal with nowadays are different from those of the early church, it's easy to become divisive and judgmental. But remember, 'Each of us will give a personal account to God. So let's stop condemning each other...instead...live in such a way that you will not cause another believer to stumble' (Romans 14:12-13 NLT). When legitimate differences arise on fundamental issues and there's no wiggle room for negotiation, behave in a Christlike way without picking fights, criticising and looking down on people. Satan's goal is to sidetrack us into splitting hairs while God's Kingdom suffers. Instead, 'Be devoted to one another in...love. Honour one another above yourselves' (Romans 12:10 NIV).

Learn to respect your fellow believers not because of who they are, but whose they are! Paul writes, 'May God, who gives this patience and encouragement, help you live in complete harmony with each other... Then all of you can join together with one voice' (Romans 15:5-6 NLT).

Soulfood: 1 Ki 21-22 Mark 10:1-12 Ps 82 Pro 12:18-19,


Everything you need is in God's Word

'If the Son sets you free, you are truly free.' John 8:36 NLT

Sometimes we tell new believers to clean up their act, without telling them how! Jesus said, 'If the Son sets you free, you are truly free' (John 8:36 NLT). The Amplified Bible puts it like this: 'Then you are really and unquestionably free.' The key to victory in life doesn't lie in exercising more willpower, but in drawing on God's power moment by moment. Paul writes, 'Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh' (Galatians 5:16 NKJV).

Lasting change comes from the inside out. Your biggest battle will always be in the area of your thoughts and impulses. If Satan can get your mind off God's Word and into the carnal realm, he can swing you towards sin and defeat every time. Understand this: God's Word is the language of God's Spirit. That means when you read it and meditate on its principles, you are allowing the Holy Spirit to speak to you, and as a result you can keep your flesh under control. But when you dwell on sinful thoughts, you're operating in the enemy's language and letting him dictate to you.

So get back into God's Word today. It's 'the sword of the Spirit' and the only weapon sharp enough to cut you loose from sin. Peter says, 'By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life...he has given us great and precious promises...[so we can] share his divine nature and escape the world's corruption' (2 Peter 1:3-4 NLT). Everything you need is in God's Word.

Soulfood: Exo 20:15 Exo 22:1-4 Pro 6:30-31 Luke 19:1-10,


Keep trusting God

'He who has begun a good work in you will complete it.' Philippians 1:6 NKJV

When Mark Matousek told people that a potentially fatal disease had saved his life, they didn't understand. He wasn't glad he got sick. But without it, he'd never have discovered and tapped into the strength to confront and overcome some of his core fears. He writes: 'Hardship can be the blood in muscles that pushes us forward. Crisis takes us to the brink and forces us to keep moving. When people call it a blessing, they're describing a paradox...[Crisis can make us] come alive as never before.'

The truth is, God is committed to your spiritual growth: 'He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Christ' (Philippians 1:6 NKJV). And along the way you'll be tested, sometimes to your limits.

One author writes: 'Spiritual tests try our faith and commitment. Remember Abraham and Isaac? Nothing makes us prouder than seeing our children succeed, and God had great plans for Isaac. What could possibly go wrong? A lot! We've stood in Abraham's sandals and clung to God's promises, yet sickness lingers, financial troubles invade, friends betray us, and death calls. Abraham responded with trust and commitment. It wasn't easy for him...we know the outcome; he didn't. Yet he was prepared to take his son's life. God never wanted Isaac's death...He wants our whole and committed hearts. When trials don't make sense...He promises to set limits...to walk with us and bring forth good.'

Soulfood: 1 Ki 18:16-46 1 Ki 19 1 Ki 20:1-43 Mark 9:38-50 Ps 113 Pro 12:15-17,


The word for multitaskers

'But Martha was very busy and distracted.' Luke 10:40 AMP

One of the great buzzwords of this generation is multitasking. Used properly, it can make you more productive. Used wrongly, such as trying to text someone while you're driving, it can kill you. You will not enjoy today, or the gifts it contains, if you don't have a balanced attitude towards work.

One day Jesus visited the home of two sisters, Mary and Martha. What a contrast! Martha was 'very busy and distracted', while Mary sat at the feet of Jesus and soaked up everything he had to say. She was determined not to miss this precious moment. And Jesus said Mary made a better choice than Martha did. Now, he didn't tell Martha not to work; he told her to stop getting frustrated and having a bad attitude while she worked. Jesus wants you to work hard, but he also wants you to be wise enough to realise when you should stop all activity and not miss the miracle of his presence in the moment.

The Bible says, 'focus on what you are doing' (Ecclesiastes 5:1 AMP). In other words, train yourself to focus your full attention on what you are involved in at any given time. Then finish it before starting something else. This kind of concentration requires discipline, but it's worth it because being able to focus helps you enjoy the present moment. Breaking the bad habit of excessive multitasking may sound easy, but it's actually quite difficult. So be determined to form new, balanced habits in this area. When you do, the quality of your life will improve.

Soulfood: 1 Ki 16:1-34 1 Ki 17 1 Ki 18:1-15 Mark 9:30-37 Ps 108 Pro 12:14,


Everybody you meet has potential

'Whenever we have the opportunity, we should do good to everyone.' Galatians 6:10 NLT

Have you ever watched a train switch on to the same track as several disconnected carriages, hook up and together move forward? The truth is if you want to help people you've got to get on the same track, connect with them and help move them forward.

But before you can do that there are two rules you need to observe: (1) Never take anyone for granted. Tip O'Neill, former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, said that during an election one of his elderly neighbours told him, 'I voted for you again today even though you didn't ask me to.' Surprised, O'Neill replied, 'But I've known you all my life, Mrs O'Brien. I took out your garbage and mowed your lawn - I didn't think I had to ask.' In a motherly tone she replied, 'It's always nice to be asked!' (2) Believe that everyone has potential. Mother Teresa said, 'We don't have to be extraordinary in any way. I can do what you can't do, you can do what I can't do, and together we can do great things.' You may not be able to help everybody, but you can help somebody. The thing Andrew is most noted for in Scripture is introducing his brother Peter to Jesus. But Peter ended up bringing multitudes to Jesus. In the New Jerusalem you'll see the name of each of the apostles written above its twelve foundations (see Revelation 21:14). And Andrew's name will be there. How come? Because he believed everybody has the potential to make a difference once they know Jesus.

Soulfood: 1 Ki 14-15 Mark 9:14-29 Ps 101 Pro 12:12-13,


God will forgive you

'But with you there is forgiveness' Psalm 130:4 ESV

The psalmist wrote: O Lord, out of the depths I call to you... hear my voice. Let your ears be open to my pleas for mercy. O Lord, who would be able to stand if you kept a record of sins? But with you there is forgiveness' (Psalm 130:1-4 GWT).

But God's forgiveness is worthless unless you receive it by faith - and then forgive yourself! You say, 'But what about my past?' The moment you receive God's forgiveness you no longer have a past - you only have a future.

However, you must do three things: (1) Realise that everybody fails. Samson failed by getting too close to the wrong woman (see Judges 16). Jonah failed by trying to run from the assignment God gave him (see Jonah 1:3). Peter failed when he denied Jesus (see Matthew 26:34). Yet God forgave and used each of them for his glory. (2) You must process your emotions. Regret: 'If only I hadn't done it.' Frustration: 'I did my best. Why wasn't it good enough?' Self-pity: 'Nobody loves me so I'll just sit here and lick my wounds.' Paralysis: 'I've done it too often. My mistake is too big. I'll never get beyond it.' Your emotions are lying to you - don't believe them! (3) When you fall, get back up again. 'A righteous man falls seven times, and rises again' (Proverbs 24:16 NAS). Notice, the righteous as well as the unrighteous fall. So be like the lady who said, 'I'm never down. I'm either up, or I'm getting up!' How about it - are you ready to get up and try again? If so, God will work with you.

Soulfood: 1 Ki 12-13 Mark 9:1-13 Ps 128 Pro 12:10-11,


Recognise your gift know your goal

'Do not turn aside; for then you would go after empty things which cannot profit.' 1 Samuel 12:21 NKJV

In order to succeed in what God has called you to do in life, you must recognise your gift and know your goal. When you're clear about and committed to these two things, you need to demonstrate two qualities: discipline and determination.

Fritz Kreisler, one of the greatest violinists of all time, had them. Crowds packed Carnegie Hall in New York to hear him. But the road to success was a bumpy ride. As a boy he wanted to do nothing more than play the violin, so his parents paid for him to have music lessons. But he didn't make as much progress as they hoped, and after a few years he quit the lessons. Over the next several years, through college and early adulthood, he studied medicine but failed to complete medical school. He joined the army and failed to be promoted. He tried and quit many other pursuits. Realising that the one piece of success he had enjoyed in life related to the violin, he went back to his instructor and said, 'I want to play.' She said, 'Fine, I'll take you back as a student, but only if you acquire the irreplaceable quality that is necessary for you to become a great violinist. You must exhibit undefeatable determination.'

So once again, here are your steps to success: (1) Recognise your gift. (2) Know your goal. (3) Dedicate yourself to the process no matter how long it takes. (4) Trust God to bless your efforts.

Soulfood: 1 Ki 10-11 Mark 8:27-38 Ps 45 Pro 12:7-9,


God has set a time to favour you

'You will arise and have compassion on Zion, for it is time to show favour to her; the appointed time has come.' Psalm 102:13 NIV

All of your life can be training for one season, one God-given assignment, one purpose. You may determine the number of years required to graduate from university with your degree. You may know the amount of effort and the approximate timeline required to rise to the top of your profession. But when it comes to experiencing the favour of God, he sets the time. 'But you, Lord, sit enthroned for ever...You will arise and have compassion on Zion, for it is time to show favour to her; the appointed time has come' (Psalm 102:12-13 NIV). One moment of God's favour will do more for you than a lifetime of striving.

In his book Still Standing: 8 Winning Strategies for Facing Tough Times, Dr James Merritt writes: 'In a meeting that took less than twenty minutes, Pharaoh made Joseph prime minister of the entire country - second in authority only to him! Pharaoh's act catapulted Joseph from the pit to the palace. God works, in hindsight, through a beautiful story arc. His way of getting Joseph to the palace was through the pit and the prison. As with Joseph, what we so often see as stumbling blocks are really stepping stones God uses to accomplish his plan and fulfil his purpose in our lives.'

It's your obedience to God that brings his favour, and your faithfulness in difficult times: 'For better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health.' So be faithful and press on; God has set a time to favour you!

Soulfood: 1 Ki 8-9 Mark 8:14-26 Ps 47 Pro 12:4-6,


Being there in the crisis 4

'I will bless you with a future filled with hope.' Jeremiah 29:11 CEV

Here are three more helpful steps for people in crisis: (1) Encourage action. Sometimes we over-function in crises, making the needy person dependent and undermining the very self-reliance that can strengthen them. One psychiatrist says, 'We must do for others what they cannot do for themselves, but we must not do for them what they will not do for themselves.' Becoming proactive in a crisis arms people against despair and powerlessness. Encouraging manageable action steps builds emotional and spiritual muscle. Helping them evaluate their actions and validating their efforts rebuilds their confidence. When the crisis involves irreversible losses (like death or divorce), the work of getting through each day and gradually adjusting to the changes is action enough.

(2) Impart hope. Often there appears to be no light at the end of the tunnel and a sense that the suffering will go on endlessly. What people need at that moment is hope. Hope brings relief based on the conviction that things will improve, and provides energy to deal with the crisis. The Bible is a book of hope. It energises us when we feel like, 'This is the worst thing imaginable. It will never get better.'

(3) Do the follow-up. Crises are seldom resolved instantly. Life may soon return to a semblance of normalcy, but there may be episodes of relapse into sadness, helplessness or loneliness. Your words may bring comfort and hope, but it's your abiding interest that helps people to maintain their faith and progress!

Soulfood: Exo 20:14 Pro 6:23-35 Matt 5:27-28 John 8:1-11,


Being there in the crisis 3

'He helps us in all our troubles, so that we are able to help others.' 2 Corinthians 1:4 GNT

In a crisis people often fail to see the resources that God has made available to them.

Here are three types: (1) Spiritual resources. 'God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble' (Psalm 46:1 NKJV). This 'very present' God illuminates our darkness and confusion. His love is the source of all comfort (see 2 Corinthians 1:3). His presence addresses our loneliness and his power addresses our helplessness. (2) Personal resources. People in crisis forget that God has given them strengths and abilities which include faith, skills, memories of past triumphs, empowering attitudes and motivations. Reminding them of these encourages them to 'take back their power'. (3) Interpersonal resources. Most people already have support networks; they just need to be activated. There are family members, friends, business associates and neighbours willing to pitch in when asked. Community resources are also available for medical, financial and material assistance. And the church can find ways to apply the 'great commandment' in crisis times (see Matthew 22:36-39). Members can be invited to pray, give money, and provide practical assistance like meals, help with the children, transportation, etc.

People are reluctant to ask for help because they're embarrassed and feel they should be able to handle their own problems, or think they're failing by 'accepting charity'. Help them to understand that others are happy to help, and that one day they can 'return the blessing'.

Soulfood: 1 Ki 6-7 Mark 8:1-13 Ps 97 Pro 12:1-3,

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