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The Word For Today

SOS prayers

'God is...always ready to help in times of trouble. And so, we won't be afraid!' Psalm 46:1-2 CEV

One day a woman was driving through the countryside when she saw a tornado approaching, so she hid behind her car and watched as it demolished a nearby house. Running over to what was now a hole in the ground, she saw a man hunkered down with his eyes closed. 'Are you ok? Is there anybody down there with you?' she asked. 'No,' he replied. 'Just me and God having an urgent conversation!'

Nothing fuels prayer like real need; in a crisis, even unbelievers will pray. There are some issues in life we simply can't resolve on our own, hence the psalmist wrote, 'When I am in trouble, I pray, knowing you...listen' (Psalm 86:7 CEV). Sometimes our prayers are simply cries for help meant for God's ears only. When you're out of options, your faith develops fast and emergencies become opportunities to experience God's grace and power in a greater way.

So, if you're in an S.O.S. situation today, here's a prayer God will answer: 'Father, it feels like I'm in an impossible position with no way out. Let me feel your presence and the encouragement of your Spirit, reminding me that with you all things are possible to those who believe. Send the answer from Heaven to my earthly situation. From where I stand, things look hopeless. But you are the God who created the earth from nothing, and rolled back the Red Sea so your children could cross over safely. You made the blind to see, the lame to walk, and the deaf to hear. Today I thank you that you're my God, and that you are "always ready to help in times of trouble".'

Soulfood: Hos 6-10 Mt 26:47-56 Ps 116:12-19 Pro 8:10-13,


Life is what you make it

'For the happy heart, life is a continual feast.' Proverbs 15:15 NLT

The story's told of a wise old man. Every day he and his granddaughter would sit outside his petrol station in rocking chairs, waiting to greet tourists as they passed through their small town. One day a tall man with the appearance of a tourist started looking around like he was checking out the area for a place to live. 'So what kind of town is this anyway?' he asked. The old man replied, 'Well, what kind of town are you from?' The man replied, 'One where the people are critical of each other. It's a real negative place to live.' The old man said, 'You know, that's just how this town is too.' Later, a family passing through also stopped for petrol. The father stepped out and asked the old man, 'Is this town a good place to live?' 'Well, what about the town you're from?' he replied. The man said, 'Where I'm from everyone's close, and always willing to lend a helping hand. I really hate to leave it.' The old man smiled and said, 'You know what, that's a lot like this town.' After the family drove off, the old man's granddaughter looked up and asked, 'Grandpa, how come you told the first man this was a terrible place to live, and when the second family asked, you told them it was a wonderful place to live?' The old man looked into her big blue eyes and said, 'Sweetheart, no matter where you go, you take your attitude with you - and that's what makes it terrible or wonderful.'

Yes, life is what you make it! Which is why the Bible says, 'For the happy heart, life is a continual feast' (Proverbs 15:15 NLT).

Soulfood: Hos 1-5 Mt 26:26-46 Ps 116:1-11 Pro 8:8-9,


How to help people 4

'Who, seeing Peter and John...asked for alms.' Acts 3:3 NKJV

Peter and John were willing to let the lame man at the temple gate interrupt their plans, and maybe make them late for 'the hour of prayer' - which raises an important point. Is it possible to be so busy with religious activities that you don't take time for people who are hurting? Selfishness is one of the easiest sins to commit, because when you're busy, you're unaware of committing it.

Paul describes Jesus as 'the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me' (Galatians 2:20 NKJV). It seems counterintuitive, but Jesus taught that we're more blessed when we give than when we receive. Giving fuels us; withholding drains us. Giving requires energy, and that's not always easy, especially in stressful situations. Motivational speaker Trudy Metzger, who had an abusive childhood, became a giver in adulthood. However, she still finds it difficult to maintain the mind-set of a giver when dealing with some of the people from her past. She admits to becoming defensive and trying to control the situation if she feels vulnerable. And when that happens, she goes from being a giver to being a taker. She writes: 'While giving requires energy, I have to say that the situations where I become a taker leave me completely drained and "dead" inside. To be a giver brings life - like watering a plant so that it grows - but to be a taker is like sucking the water and the nutrients from the soil, leaving both the plant and the soil depleted and useless.'

Being a giver is a win-win. It helps others, plus it energises and fills you with joy.

Soulfood: 2 Ki 24-25 Mt 26:1-25 Ps 19 Pro 8:6-7,


How to help people 3

'He gave them his attention, expecting to receive.' Acts 3:5 NKJV

You can't help someone until they're ready. That calls for knowing the difference between those who are looking for solutions, and those who may just be looking for sympathy.

Before the lame man at the temple gate received his healing, 'he gave [Peter and John] his attention, expecting to receive something from them' (Acts 3:5 NKJV). Note two important words: (1) 'Attention.' Have you got the other person's attention? Are they really hearing what you say, or are they so blinded by circumstances and emotion that they can't see a way out, even though you're clearly pointing them to it? (2) 'Expecting.' The most effective thing you can do to help somebody is to build their faith. And that takes patience. One leader writes frankly about his problem with impatience when working with others: 'Early in my career I wanted to do things as quickly as possible and move on to the next thing. If someone didn't want to move at my speed, I breezed right past him or her. But that leadership style hindered my ability to connect with others, and my relationships suffered. The good news was that I moved fast. The bad news was that I often moved alone. Moving at the speed of another person can be exhausting. It obviously takes energy to keep up with someone who's moving faster than we are. But isn't it also tiring to move at a slower pace than we want to?...I find it very frustrating. It tries my patience. However, if I want to connect with people, I have to be willing to slow down and go at someone else's pace.'

And to help people, you must be willing to do the same.

Soulfood: 2 Ki 21-23 Mt 25:24-46 Ps 11 Pro 8:4-5,


How to help people 2

'What I do have I give you.' Acts 3:6 NKJV

Notice two things in this story. First: it's important to know what you have and don't have. 'We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good' (Romans 12:6-9 NIV).

Second: learn to recognise the difference between what people want and what they truly need. Sometimes they need to be strengthened; other times they need to be stretched. Sometimes they need comfort, not correction; other times they need correction, not comfort. This lame man didn't need a handout - he needed a hand up. And that's what Peter gave him. 'He took him by the right hand and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength' (Acts 3:7 NKJV).

So, in order to help people you must love them, recognise what they need, know what you have to offer, and connect with them at the point of their need.

Soulfood: 2 Ki 18:17-20:21 Mt 25:1-23 Ps 115 Pro 8:1-3,


How to help people 1

'Peter...went up...to the temple at the hour of prayer.' Acts 3:1 NKJV

The Bible says: 'Peter and John went up together to the temple at the hour of prayer...And a certain man lame from his mother's womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple...to ask alms from those who entered...who, seeing Peter and John...asked for alms...Peter said, "Look at us." So, he gave them his attention, expecting to receive something from them. Then Peter said, "Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk." And he took him by the right hand and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength' (Acts 3:1-7 NKJV).

Notice two things: (1) Miracles happen in ordinary moments. This man was probably no stranger to Peter and John; they walked past him daily. But this day was different. Peter said, 'Look at us. We have the answer you need.' Supernatural faith rose up in Peter's heart, causing him to see an opportunity to glorify God, and he seized it. (2) You must be prepared when your moment comes. You can't give what you don't have. You can't tell what you don't know. You can't share what you don't feel. You can't give out of a vacuum. The fact is, nothing great is created suddenly; it takes time. Three and a half years of walking with Christ, listening to his messages, and seeing his miracles had prepared the apostles for this moment. So had the ten days they'd just spent in the upper room being filled with the Holy Spirit.

So, the word for you today is: to help people, you must be prepared!

Soulfood: Gal 5:22 1 Cor 13 Eph 3:14-21 John 15:1-17,


Show grace to get grace

'If righteousness came through the law, then Christ died needlessly.' Galatians 2:21 NAS

While grace doesn't give anyone a licence to live as they please, the judgementalism that comes from insisting that others live by our standards has caused untold damage.

Chuck Swindoll writes: 'Legalism spreads a paralysing venom...blinds our eyes, dulls our edge and arouses pride in our heart...love is overshadowed by a mental clipboard with a long checklist requiring others to measure up...soon friendship is fractured by a judgemental attitude and a critical look. And before you conclude that you're not guilty, observe your reaction when you meet another believer who doesn't think, act, or dress the way you do. Even when you think you're sophisticated enough to disguise your real feelings, they come out in the "stony stare" and the "holier than thou" attitude.' Jesus said, 'Don't judge others, and God won't judge you. Don't be hard on others, and God won't be hard on you. Forgive others, and God will forgive you' (Luke 6:37 CEV). A judgmental Christian acts as though blowing someone else's light out will cause their light to shine brighter. But it's not so. Paul writes, 'If we could be saved by keeping...laws, then there was no need for Christ to die' (Galatians 2:21 TLB).

You say, 'But what if someone is getting off track, or sinning intentionally?' The Bible says, 'If another believer is overcome by sin...humbly help that person back onto the right path...be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself' (Galatians 6:1 NLT). When you take it upon yourself to condemn others - you are denying them the same grace you may need before the day is over.

Soulfood: 2 Ki 16:1-18:16 Mt 24:29-51 Ps 26 Pro 7:26-27,


Obedience training

'I delight to do your will.' Psalm 40:8 NKJV

Billy Graham's wife, Ruth, wrote: 'Tonight I sit on the porch, our old German Shepherd dog lying at my feet. Thunder rumbles in the distance. As the storm nears he tears into the front yard to meet it...furiously doing battle. As it passes he returns to the porch, convinced he has driven it away. He's a German guard dog, carefully trained in search and rescue, attack and obedience. Search and rescue in these mountains can come in handy. I can't imagine an occasion on which I'd give the order to attack. But a well-trained dog can sense hostility or spot a weapon (even what resembles a weapon), in which case it's a wise person who freezes in his tracks. But it's the obedience training that gives real joy. To stop, to sit, to lie down, to go away, to search, to stay, to heel. A disobedient dog is not only a headache, he can be a liability. Obedience makes a dog a joy. Is it less so with God and his children? There are some I know who've been trained in attack. We will not mention their names - you may know a few - but they're skilled at it. Then there are those trained in search and rescue. (I put the Salvation Army in this group.) And there are those who've been trained in obedience. I think this more than anything else must give the Lord pleasure. Simple obedience; joyful, eager, unquestioning obedience. To be able to say with the psalmist, "I delight to do your will, O my God" would be the height of training for the Christian. For this is what gives God the greatest pleasure.'

Soulfood: 2 Ki 13-15 Mt 24:3-28 Ps 24 Pro 7:24-25,


The cure for worry

'Offer up your prayers and requests to God.' Philippians 4:6 CEV

The Bible says, 'With thankful hearts offer up your prayers and requests to God. Then...God will bless you with peace that no one can completely understand. And this peace will control the way you think and feel' (Philippians 4:6-7 CEV).

When you pray more, you worry less. That means you have a choice: either pray about it or worry about it. In prayer you give the problem to God, therefore you experience more peace of mind. Does that mean you won't worry about the problem at all? No. It means you'll worry about it less. While your goal is to give it completely to God and not worry about it at all, you'll only get there step by step. God's not asking you to exist in a state of denial. 'Don't worry - be happy!' fails to appreciate the seriousness of the concerns you have. God doesn't expect you to suddenly stop caring. Instead he offers an alternative to the pointless and exhausting habit of worry: 'Pray without ceasing' (1 Thessalonians 5:17 NKJV).

Does that mean a thirty-second prayer will rid you of all anxiety? No. It means start your day with prayer, and continue praying off and on throughout the day. Pray as you drive. Pray at work. Pray before your lunch break. Pray when you get that difficult phone call. Pray when you're disappointed by something. Pray when surprises come. Pray when you triumph. Pray in the midst of painful news. Pray without ceasing - literally. Your heavenly Father, being deeply touched by your struggles, loves it when you come to him asking for help. He's right there, ready to step in. Just invite him to do it.

Soulfood: 2 Ki 11-12 Mt 23:29-24:2 Ps 135 Pro 7:21-23,


Break your alabaster jar 3

'She has done a beautiful thing to me.' Mark 14:6 NIV

Most of us are good actors, but it's difficult to fake a reaction. And when the woman broke the alabaster jar, the reaction of the disciples is telling. 'Why this waste?' They thought she was pouring her perfume down the drain by pouring it at Jesus' feet. They called it a waste, but he called it 'a beautiful thing'. Then he went on to say, 'Wherever the Gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her' (Mark 14:9 NIV). Can you imagine what this one statement did for her self-image? It had probably been years since she'd heard a kind word or a compliment. Those words could be paraphrased, 'You may not believe in yourself, but I believe in you.'

No one can spot potential like Jesus. That's because he's the one who gave it to us in the first place. And that's why God will never give up on you. It's not in his nature (see Philippians 1:6). His 'goodness and mercy shall follow [you] all the days of [your] life' (Psalm 23:6 NKJV). All you have to do is turn around. This woman was desperate enough to crash the party, and Jesus responds to desperate people.

How desperate are you? Desperate enough to make a move, make a change, make a sacrifice? Desperate enough to pray through the night? Read through the Bible? Reconcile the conflict? Plead with a friend who is a lost cause? Give your life savings to a Kingdom cause? The path of least resistance won't get you to where you need to be. But if you go out of your way for God, God will go out of his way for you.

Soulfood: 2 Ki 9-10 Mt 23:15-28 Ps 28 Pro 7:14-20,

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