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The Word For Today

Retrain your brain

'Be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him.' Colossians 3:10 NLT

Lasting change happens gradually on the inside, often before there's any outward evidence of it.

Pastor Jim Penner says: 'A friend of mine recently went through hip-replacement surgery...the joint had worn to the point where he walked with a limp and had to use a crutch. Thanks to the skill of a modern-day surgeon he was quickly up and around again. Yet for months after the surgery his limp remained...I ran into him this morning and the limp was gone. Where did it go? It had been there the day before. Had it vanished in the night? "You're walking great," I said. "What happened?" His response was priceless. "My physical therapist told me I had to retrain my brain." His brain had been trained to expect pain so he limped in anticipation. Even when he didn't feel the pain his brain said, "Hang on. It's coming!" The Bible says in Christ you become "a new creation: old things have passed away...all things have become new" (2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV). But you have to change your thinking by believing, accepting, and acting on it. Christ has already done the restoration "surgery". Just like my friend was given a new hip, God has given you a new life. The old one is gone along with all the bad things you've done, thought, or said. You're a brand-new creation. But you have to retrain your brain to accept God's forgiveness and the restorative work Jesus has done in your life.'

So: retrain your brain.

Soulfood: Zech 1-4 Lk 22:63-71 Ps 3 Pro 24:23-25,


Friends in disguise

'I take pleasure...in the insults...I suffer for Christ.' 2 Corinthians 12:10 NLT

When you're insulted, you can retaliate with a stinging comeback or see it as a growth opportunity. David said, 'It is good...that I have been afflicted, that I might learn your statutes' (Psalm 119:71 NKJV).

Psychologist Dr Brenda Shoshanna says: 'The person who insults us is a teacher...come to help us reduce our ego, develop patience and compassion, practise unconditional forgiveness, and teach us about life and relationships. If you don't perceive an insult as an insult, but as a teaching or a gift, it loses its power to hurt you. On a practical level, if you're insulted, say nothing. Give yourself time. Much harm is created by lashing back, escalating the situation, and saying things you may not mean. Recognise it's your ego - that false sense of pride acting up - and don't go along with it.'

Paul reached a place where he actually took 'pleasure in...insults' (2 Corinthians 12:10 NLT). Most of us aren't quite there yet, but with time and practise it can happen. Speaking of Judas, one author writes: 'God sometimes manipulates the actions of our enemies to make them work as friends in order to accomplish his will in our lives. He can bless you through the worst relationships, ones that are painful or negative. The time, effort, and pain we invest in them aren't wasted because God knows how to make adversity feed destiny into your life. I can't stop hurts from coming, or promise that everyone who sits at your table will be loyal. But the sufferings of success give us direction, build character, and in the end you find grace to re-evaluate your enemies and realise that like Judas, they are friends in disguise.'

Soulfood: 1 Ki 17:1-6 1 Ki 18:16-39 1 Kings 19:9-18 2 Kings 2:1-12,


Stand against discrimination

'Their widows were being discriminated against.' Acts 6:1 NLT

The Bible says: 'As the believers rapidly multiplied, there were rumblings of discontent. The Greek-speaking believers complained about the Hebrew-speaking believers, saying that their widows were being discriminated against in the daily distribution of food.' Why? Because they were outsiders. These women didn't grow up in Judea or Galilee. They hailed from the distant lands of Greece, Rome and Syria. If they spoke Aramaic at all, they did so with an accent. Consequently, they were 'neglected' (NKJV). The manager of the food pantry gave Hebrew women the first pick. The food bank director separated requests into two stacks: locals and immigrants. How did the church respond? 'The Twelve [apostles] called a meeting of all the believers' (Acts 6:2 NLT).

Have you ever been in a meeting of 'believers' called to deal with those 'being discriminated against'? Why did the apostles call such a meeting? Because of the example Jesus set from the very outset of his ministry: 'And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written...' (Luke 4:17 NKJV). That day he announced the six things that God had sent him to do: (1) Preach the gospel to the poor. (2) Heal the broken-hearted. (3) Proclaim liberty to the captives. (4) Proclaim recovery of sight to the blind. (5) Set at liberty those who are oppressed. (6) Proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord. That was the year of Jubilee when all prisoners were set free, all debts forgiven, and all that was taken from you was restored.

Jesus meets every need: body, soul and spirit. And that's the message you've been called to share with others.

Soulfood: 2 Tim 1-4 Lk 22:54-62 Ps 19 Pro 24:19-22,


Check the soil of your heart

'The farmer plants seed by taking God's word to others.' Mark 4:14 NLT

In Jesus' parable of the sower, the seed landed on four types of ground, producing four different results. 'The seed that fell on the footpath represents those who hear the message, only to have Satan come at once and take it away. The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. But since they don't have deep roots, they don't last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God's word. The seed that fell among the thorns represents others who hear God's word, but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life, the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things, so no fruit is produced. And the seed that fell on good soil represents those who hear and accept God's word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted' (Mark 4:15-20 NLT). The seed of God's Word cannot fail: 'It always produces fruit' (Isaiah 55:11 NLT).

So if God's promises aren't being fulfilled in your life, ask yourself, 'What kind of soil am I?' Are you a surface person - thin-skinned and easily offended? A shallow person with no spiritual root system? Are you thorny ground? Are 'the worries of this life, the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things' choking the spiritual life out of you? Or are you rich, fertile ground that produces results? Check the soil of your heart.

Soulfood: Mic 5-7 Lk 22:39-53 Ps 24 Pro 24:15-18,


The blessings of obedience

'All these blessings will come upon you...if you obey the Lord.' Deuteronomy 28:2 NIV

In a survey hundreds of people were asked, 'What's the best thing that's happened to you in the last five years?' Amazingly, many answered, 'Nothing.' God's Word promises us daily bread, daily benefits and daily blessings, yet these people couldn't even think of one good thing that happened to them in half a decade! What a sad way to live! Author John Mason observes: 'We typically see things not as they are, but as we are. By how we position ourselves, we'll see the evidence of God everywhere or nowhere. Too often our minds are locked on one track. We're looking for red, so we overlook blue; we're thinking tomorrow and God's saying now. We're looking everywhere, and the answer is under our nose. When a person is positioned correctly, he's ready to receive all God has for him.'

The Bible says, 'All these blessings will come upon you...if you obey the Lord your God: You will be blessed in the city and...in the country. The fruit of your womb will be blessed...You will be blessed when you come in and blessed when you go out. The Lord will grant that the enemies who rise up against you will be defeated...They will come at you from one direction but flee...in seven...The Lord will grant you abundant prosperity...The Lord will make you the head, not the tail' (Deuteronomy 28:2-13 NIV). Notice the words, 'if you obey the Lord'. God's love is guaranteed and unconditional. But his blessings require cooperation on your part.

So today, walk in obedience.

Soulfood: Lev 16 Lev 23:26-32 Heb 9:1-14 Heb 13:11-16,


In harness with Jesus

'You will find rest for your souls.' Matthew 11:29 NIV

One of the greatest promises Jesus ever gave us was, 'Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls' (Matthew 11:28-29 NIV). How could Jesus talk about being yoked in a harness, which suggests hard work and about rest in the same breath?

To most of us, rest means kicking back in the recliner. That's not the kind of rest Jesus was thinking about. A yoke is a harness that goes around the necks of two oxen so they can pull a load. Accepting Jesus' yoke is a picture of submission. It's also a picture of help because you're not pulling the load alone. In each team of oxen, one is the leader and the other follows. Jesus will take the lead but you must be yoked to him to get the benefit.

So to enjoy intimacy with Christ, you have to bow before him and accept his will. Jesus promises that his yoke won't choke you, it won't be wearisome or confining; you won't chafe under it. In fact, the irony is, if you want to be truly free you must allow yourself to be yoked to Jesus by submitting your will to his. Now it's possible to accept Christ's yoke, then start pulling against it when life doesn't go the way you want it to. Peace and rest come only when you relax in the yoke, and let Christ lead the way.

Soulfood: Mic 1-4 Lk 22:24-38 Ps 78:65-72 Pro 24:11-14,


Welcome this change

'Things we cannot see will last forever.' 2 Corinthians 4:18 NLT

We enjoy the blessings of change, but not the process of change. We're creatures of habit. We form our habits, and our habits form us. Then we start to see things exclusively from our own perspective. And when that happens - we stagnate. The truth is, without change there is no growth. When you have the right attitude every experience - positive and negative - becomes an opportunity for progress. Think about it: trees need more than sunshine to produce fruit. Rainy seasons are productive seasons too, and they always precede the harvest. You don't have to like rain, you just have to understand its purpose and benefits.

The Bible says that every day 'the Lord...makes us more and more like him...we are changed into his glorious image' (2 Corinthians 3:18 NLT). But to become like Jesus you must follow wherever he leads. That means following him through the wilderness of temptation, the pain of rejection, the forfeiting your reputation, the surrendering your will, and being ready to go to the place of crucifixion where you die to all forms of self-centred living. Following Jesus may mean being in a different location tomorrow than you are today. Once you grasp this principle, you'll stop fearing and resisting the changes taking place in your life and start seeing God at work in them.

Paul says: 'Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day...things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever' (2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NLT).

Soulfood: Neh 11-13 Lk 22:14-23 Ps 78:56-64 Pro 24:6-10,


If you persist you'll win

'We never give up.' 2 Corinthians 4:8 CEV

Before you quit and walk away, read the story of how Nehemiah rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem in just fifty-two days: First, he sought God's help. 'We prayed to our God' (Nehemiah 4:9 NIV). Second, he protected his vision. 'We...posted a guard day and night to meet this threat' (Nehemiah 4:9 NIV). Third, he refused to quit. 'Should a man like me run away?...I will not' (Nehemiah 6:11 NIV).

Gandhi said, 'You may never know what results come from your action, but if you do nothing there will be no results.' In spite of the obstacles, the enemy, and the pressure - Nehemiah refused to give up. And God honours people with such a spirit. Paul said, 'Even when we don't know what to do, we never give up. In times of trouble, God is with us' (2 Corinthians 4:8-9 CEV).

Thomas Edison gave the world electric light, microphones, storage batteries, sound films, phonographs, and a thousand other inventions. Here are the principles he lived by: (1) Work to obtain all the knowledge you can about what you want to achieve. (2) Fix your mind on your purpose. Persist! Seek! The trouble with most people is they quit before they start. (3) Keep searching, no matter how many times you meet with disappointment. (4) Refuse to be influenced by the fact that someone else tried the same thing and failed. (5) Stay 'sold' on the idea that somewhere a solution to the problem exists, and you'll find it.

Soulfood: Neh 8-10 Lk 22:1-13 Ps 78:40-55 Pro 24:1-5,


Don't rush to judgment

'Do not make...premature judgements.' 1 Corinthians 4:5 AMP

Prejudice - is pre-judging. It makes you see those who don't endorse what you believe as enemies. You attribute commendable qualities to the circle you move in, and negative ones to those outside it. That's not what Jesus did. He befriended and fellowshipped with sinners and societal outcasts - without compromising who he was or endorsing their lifestyle. The Bible cautions against 'hasty...premature judgments', and reminds us that 'the Lord...will...bring to light...things that are [...hidden]...aims, (motives and purposes) of hearts' (1 Corinthians 4:5 AMP). He's the only one qualified to discern 'the thoughts and intents of the heart' (Hebrews 4:12 NKJV).

So if you're inclined to 'judge before the right time' (1 Corinthians 4:5 NCV), here's some food for thought: (1) Face your prejudice. List all the people you don't count as friends, people you actually go out of your way not to have a relationship with, and start loving them 'by...actions and true caring' (1 John 3:18 NCV). (2) Drop the mask. Look inside your heart and ask yourself what it is about the other person that bothers you. Are there similarities between you? Are they expressing something you're hiding from? (3) Get to know the other person. Paul said, 'I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some' (1 Corinthians 9:22 NLT). Whether or not you decide to continue the relationship, you'll discover the power of your mind to obstruct, delude, and turn something into what it's not. Plus you'll have a better chance of winning others to Christ, because 'love never fails' (1 Corinthians 13:8 NKJV).

Soulfood: Heb 11:23-28 Ex 3:1-22 Exo 33:7-23 Exo 34:29-35,


You have the power use it

'I pray that...he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being.' Ephesians 3:16 NIV

Until you realise the power of God that's within you, you won't use it. One of the greatest healing forces in the world is God's Word, and it's at your fingertips! For example, when you or a loved one gets sick, the Bible says, 'These signs will follow those who believe: In my name they will...lay hands on the sick, and they will recover' (Mark 16:17-18 NKJV). That's a power-filled promise. When Jesus returned to Capernaum, the Bible says, 'It was heard that he was in the house' (Mark 2:1 NKJV). And before he left there, a paralysed man got up and walked.

So: if Christ lives in you, shouldn't people feel his presence when they're in your presence? If you're on the church board, shouldn't the church be blessed? Shouldn't you be a change agent solving problems and helping the church grow? The church isn't perfect. Nobody said it was. It's a hospital, not an elite club. But whatever is wrong with the church is man's doing, not God's. When God is behind even the smallest thing it becomes mighty; it must succeed because his power is absolute, unchanging, and available!

It's time to 'use God's mighty weapons...to knock down the strongholds' (2 Corinthians 10:4 NLT). It's time to force the issue by telling the devil to take his hands off everything that concerns you! Jesus said, 'All power has been given to me...Go therefore' (Matthew 28:18-19 NKJV). He has given you the power - use it!

Soulfood: Neh 5-7 Lk 21:25-38 Ps 78:32-39 Pro 23:29-35,

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