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Cathy and Peter 6:00-10:00am

The Word For Today

Encouragement for trials

'Do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial.' 1 Peter 4:12 NKJV

The Bible tells us: 'Do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ's sufferings, that when his glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy' (1 Peter 4:12-13 NKJV). In The Message, Eugene Peterson paraphrases Peter's words: 'Friends, when life gets really difficult, don't jump to the conclusion that God isn't on the job. Instead, be glad that you are in the very thick of what Christ experienced. This is a spiritual refining process, with glory just around the corner.'

Times of trial feel 'strange', but they are normal and necessary! They are how you grow in grace. They are how God equips and prepares you to do great things in his Kingdom. God never afflicts us, but he most assuredly allows us to go through tests. And these tests measure us, reveal us, strengthen our faith, purify us and cause us to grow spiritually. To quote the apostle Paul: 'All of this has been done for you, so that more and more people will know how kind God is and will praise and honour him. We never give up. Our bodies are gradually dying, but we ourselves are being made stronger each day. These little troubles are getting us ready for an eternal glory that will make all our troubles seem like nothing' (2 Corinthians 4:15-17 CEV).

If you could see the blessing that's waiting for you on the other side of this fiery trial, you'd cancel your pity party and start planning your promotion party.

Soulfood: Job 40-42, Matt 26:47-56, Ps 72:1-11, Pro 9:1-6


Stand up to the enemy

'An enemy has done this.' Matthew 13:28 NKJV

The Bible says: 'Another parable he put forth to them, saying: "The Kingdom of Heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and...when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop...the tares also appeared. So the servants of the owner came and said to him, 'Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?' He said to them, 'An enemy has done this'"' (Matthew 13:24-28 NKJV).

We all need a spiritual wake-up call from time to time. Sometimes the problem we are dealing with isn't of human origin. Jesus said, 'While men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way.' Yes, it's foolish to blame everything on the devil, but it's even more foolish not to recognise when he is at work. Paul writes: 'Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but...against the powers of this dark world and...spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground' (Ephesians 6:11-13 NIV). He goes on to say, 'Take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one' (Ephesians 6:16 NIV).

So the word for you today is: recognise when Satan is at work, stand up to him, and he will flee (see James 4:7)!

Soulfood: Job 38-39, Matt 26:36-46, Ps 31, Pro 8:34-36


Let God comfort you

'God is...the source of all comfort.' 2 Corinthians 1:3 NLT

When you lose someone you love, you go through a grieving process. And God will comfort you and walk you through it. Jesus said, 'Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted' (Matthew 5:4 NIV). Grieving is the healthy way to process your emotions, to express your pain and move beyond it. Recovery doesn't happen overnight; it happens in proportion to the size of your loss. Only small losses are healed quickly.

Zig Ziglar says: 'The longest twenty hours of my life were those right after my daughter's death. When making her funeral arrangements, I had to listen to a salesman who was an incessant talker, and who told me thirty times that he wasn't a salesman. Twice I had to leave the room; I simply couldn't handle him. The night before, half asleep and half awake, I kept thinking my daughter was wondering when her daddy was coming to get her. The next morning I took a walk, praying and crying the whole way. When I returned, the Lord spoke to me in such a distinct way: "She's fine. She's with me, and you're going to be fine too. I'm all you need. Keep walking. Keep talking. Keep praying. Keep crying."'

Grief and loss can't be solved, but they are experiences you don't have to go through alone. The best-known Psalm in Scripture says, 'Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for you are with me' (Psalm 23:4 NKJV). The sun will shine again. 'Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning' (Psalm 30:5 NKJV). Your joy will return - God promises it!

Soulfood: Job 35-37, Matt 26:26-35, Ps 6, Pro 8:32-33


Live by your convictions 2

'My conscience is clear...It is the Lord who judges me.' 1 Corinthians 4:4 NIV

Daniel was forced to decide if he was going to be a conformer or a transformer. What's the difference? Pressure controls a conformer. If you place enough pressure on them, they'll cave. If you put enough pressure on them, they will smoke the first joint, they will take the first drink, they will do what everybody else is doing. But principle governs a transformer. You say, 'Living that way is very demanding.' Yes; and it's very protective. God knows better than we do how to avoid pain, frustration and destruction in our lives. Because he sees the cliff's edge clearer than we do, he places guardrails next to the drop-off. And when we follow his commands we avoid heartache, pitfalls and the loss of our reputation. Daniel refusing to eat the king's meat was not a matter of his diet, but of his dedication to God.

Now, we're not advocating the idea: 'let conscience be your guide'. Your conscience is not always a good guide. Just because you don't think something's wrong doesn't mean you shouldn't think it's wrong. Your conscience can be damaged and it can be burned. The Bible speaks of 'having [your] conscience seared with a hot iron' (1 Timothy 4:2 NKJV). Paul writes, 'My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me' (1 Corinthians 4:4 NIV).

Nevertheless, the conscience question is the first you should ask when faced with a difficult decision. Rarely do you make a good choice to do something if you know doing so will take your conscience on the dreaded guilt-trip. So, live by your convictions.

Soulfood: Matt 5:6, Isa 55:1-7, Ps 63:1-5, John 4:1-34


Live by your convictions 1

'Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself.' Daniel 1:8 NKJV

The Bible says, 'Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king's delicacies, nor with the wine which he drank' (Daniel 1:8 NKJV). This particular food and wine was offered to pagan gods as an act of worship, and for Daniel that was unacceptable. He was being asked to compromise his character, and he wouldn't do it. Daniel had good reasons if he had chosen to say yes. He was far from home and could do as he pleased. Nobody back home would ever know it. Plus, if he didn't eat it, he would be insulting the king - not a good career move!

But, Daniel knew God's Word was clear when it came to idol worship, and God blessed him for it. He ended up being protected, preserved, promoted and prospered in unthinkable ways. His philosophy was: 'When God says yes, I say yes. And when God says no, I say no.' And he had established his convictions before he got to Babylon. Question: have you decided what your core convictions are? Have you spent the good times determining what you will and won't do during the hard times? If not, you need to. Daniel's friends probably told him, 'Nobody will know.' But his thinking was: 'God will know, and so will I. I don't have to live with you, but I've got to live with me.' Your thoughts and ideas must always be open to change and improvement, but your core convictions must be non-negotiable.

So, live by your convictions.

Soulfood: Job 32-34, Matt 26:14-25, Ps 69:19-36, Pro 8:30-31


Focus on what matters

'I press towards the goal for the prize.' Philippians 3:14 NKJV

Part of Paul's amazing success was because he was so focused. 'I press towards the goal for the prize of the upward call' (Philippians 3:14 NKJV). Focus can bring energy and power to almost anything, whether spiritual, mental or physical.

Sociologist Robert Lynd observed that 'knowledge is power only if a man knows what facts not to bother about'. The birthing of a potential breakthrough often results from sharing many good ideas. But to take ideas to the next level, you must shift from being expansive in your thinking to being selective. A good idea becomes a great idea when it's given focused time. It's true that focusing on a single idea for a long time can be very frustrating, but your perseverance will pay off. The mind will not focus until it has a goal. But the purpose of your goals is to focus your attention and give you direction, not identify a final destination.

As you think about your goals, make sure that they are: (1) clear enough to be kept in focus; (2) close enough to be achieved; (3) helpful enough to change lives. Paul described his goal as 'the upward call'. When you think only of yourself, you're thinking 'downward', but when you think of others, you're thinking 'upward'. These three guidelines will get you going. And be sure to write down your goals. If they're not written, you can almost be guaranteed that they're not focused enough. And if you really want to make sure they're focused, take the advice of theatrical producer David Belasco, who said, 'If you can't write your idea on the back of my business card, you don't have a clear idea.'

Soulfood: Job 29-31, Matt 26:1-13, Ps 69:1-18, Pro 8:27-29


Work on your selfimage

'You saw me before I was born.' Psalm 139:16 TLB

Inspirational speaker Iyanla Vanzant said, 'Everything that happens to you is a reflection of what you believe about yourself. We can't...draw to ourselves more than we think we are worth.' That means how we see ourselves determines the kind of relationships we establish. Many of us harbour a low sense of self-esteem. We deem everyone else as being more important than ourselves and think meeting their needs is more important than meeting our own needs. We compare ourselves and allow others to determine who we are, and become dependent on their approval to prop up our identity.

But it's a slap in the face to God to look at another person and say, 'I wish I were like them.' God made you for his own purpose, that you might reflect a unique aspect of his glory. As believers in Christ, we've been given a new identity as children of God. We weren't created to live dependently on any other person. Rather, God is restoring us to the image of his Son and making us whole (see 2 Corinthians 3:18). In him we don't ever need to be afraid to be who we really are. It's time to develop a true opinion of yourself based on the truth that God made you exactly, precisely, intricately, wondrously and uniquely you - a one-of-a-kind creation for which there's no comparison.

The psalmist wrote: 'You...scheduled each day of my life before I began to breathe...How precious it is, Lord, to realise that you are thinking about me constantly' (Psalm 139:16-18 TLB)!

Soulfood: Job 24-28, Matt 25:31-46, Ps 38:13-22, Pro 8:24-26


Don't go there

'Sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.' James 1:15 NKJV

When God says no to sin, he's not being demanding - he's being protective. The Bible explains the dangers and subtleties of sin this way: 'Each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren' (James 1:14-16 NKJV).

Today some people are advocating the idea of legalising certain drugs, such as marijuana, for recreational use. But the idea has already been tried, and it failed disastrously. In the late 1980s, the Swiss set aside city property in Zurich, where addicts could legally shoot up and where free needles were provided, hoping to slow the spread of AIDS. The area of Platzspitz became known as 'Needle Park'. So how did the experiment work out? Almost overnight the number of drug users visiting the park soared from 200 to 20,000. Ten thousand 'consumption events' occurred per day, as users from all over Switzerland came to get in on the fun. They soon outnumbered the local population. The death rate went through the roof, as health officials sought to resuscitate as many as fifty overdose cases per day. And the crime rate, instead of decreasing, went through the roof too. City officials finally called off the experiment and closed the park. Almost immediately the crime rate dropped to its former levels, and the programme ended in total failure.

When God says to you, 'Don't go there,' it's because he loves you and wants only the best for you. So be wise, listen to him and don't go there!

Soulfood: Job 21-23, Matt 25:14-30, Ps 38:1-12, Pro 8:22-23


Made righteous by faith 2

'Their faith is credited as righteousness.' Romans 4:5 NIV

There are two ways people think they can become 'righteous'. The first is through trying, and the second is through trusting. When you try to earn God's approval by your performance, you can never rest because you can never really be sure you've done enough to please him. But when you place your trust in Christ's finished work on the cross, the Bible says you enter into God's 'rest' (see Hebrews 4:3).

Paul writes, 'If anyone is in Christ, the new creation (something that didn't exist before) has come: The old (appetites and actions) has gone, the new (appetites and actions) is here' (2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV)! You don't have to struggle to be seen as righteous in God's eyes. The moment you placed your trust in Jesus, God made you 'the righteousness of God [in Christ]' (2 Corinthians 5:21 NIV). Why did he do it that way? Because any righteousness you could achieve through good works and keeping rules falls so far short of what he requires that he sees it as 'filthy rags' (see Isaiah 64:6). So God credited his righteousness to you (see 2 Corinthians 5:18). Paul writes: 'David also spoke of this when he described the happiness of those who are declared righteous without working for it: "Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sins are put out of sight...whose record the Lord has cleared of sin"' (Romans 4:6-8 NLT). Hymnist Edward Mote wrote these words: 'Dressed in his righteousness alone, faultless to stand before the throne. On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand; all other ground is sinking sand.'

Rejoice! That's how God sees you - made righteous by faith!

Soulfood: Job 18-20, Matt 25:1-13, Ps 55:12-23, Pro 8:19-21


Made righteous by faith 1

'He made him who knew no sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.' 2 Corinthians 5:21 NKJV

Here's an amazing and life-changing truth. The God who made his sinless Son to 'be sin' takes unrighteous people like us and makes them 'righteous'. How does it happen? By works? No, by faith! 'People are counted as righteous, not because of their work, but because of their faith in God who forgives sinners' (Romans 4:5 NLT).

This righteousness isn't about behaving the right way - it's about believing the right way. You can't become righteous in God's eyes through human effort or keeping the law. You become righteous only through faith in Christ, and trusting in his finished work on the cross. You say, 'But I feel so guilty when I sin.' And you should; it's a good deterrent! But Christ took away all your sins; therefore he took away all your guilt. So what are you feeling? Inner conflict! Your regenerated spirit lives in your unregenerated body, and it reacts the same way your natural body reacts to something harmful. Sin feels foreign to the new you, and when you indulge in it, the pleasure is brief and the aftermath is bad. In essence, your spiritual boundaries have been violated, and your regenerated spirit is telling you that you can't indulge in sin anymore. The old you could have indulged in sin and enjoyed it, but the new you can't, because you are 'a new creation in Christ' (see 2 Corinthians 5:17).

So rejoice! Today God sees you as 'righteous', therefore you can approach him at any time with complete confidence (see Ephesians 3:12).

Soulfood: Job 15-17, Matt 24:36-51, Ps 55:1-11, Pro 8:17-18

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