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Dudley 6:00-12:00pm

The Word For Today

God is training you

'It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons.' Hebrews 12:7 NAS

The Hebrew verb for test comes from a word that means 'to take a keen look at, to look, to choose'. Dismiss the notion that God does not see your struggle. On the contrary, he is fully engaged. He sees the needs of tomorrow and, accordingly, uses your circumstances to allow the test of today. Does he not have the authority to do so? He is the potter; we are the clay. He is the shepherd; we are the sheep. He is the gardener; we are the branches. He is the teacher; we are the students. Trust his training. You'll get through this. And remember, all tests are temporary. They are limited in duration. The Bible says, 'In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials' (1 Peter 1:6 NAS).

And here's something else to keep in mind: you can't shorten your testing period, but you can definitely lengthen it by being proud and stubborn, resisting what God wants to teach you. God won't deny you that choice, but neither will he protect you from the consequences of that choice. You wouldn't be the first student who had to repeat a year in school, and you won't be the last. You can go to church on Sunday and pay lip service to God's Word; you can reject the principles of truth and seek the easy way out. But it doesn't work. 'Good understanding gains favour, but the way of the unfaithful is hard' (Proverbs 13:15 NKJV).

Do it God's way, for that's the best way. Always!

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


Why study the Bible 3

'That the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.' 2 Timothy 3:17 NAS

Daily Bible study equips you for your God-given assignment in life. Paul writes: 'All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching...reproof...correction...for training in righteousness; so that the man [and woman] of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work' (2 Timothy 3:16-17 NAS).

According to Paul, all Scripture is profitable - but profitable for what? (1) For doctrine and teaching. It will structure your thinking, and that's crucial, because if you're not thinking correctly, you're not living correctly. What you believe ultimately determines how you behave. (2) For reproof. It will tell you where you're out of bounds. Like an umpire who cries, 'Out!' or 'Safe!' the Bible lets you know what's sinful, and what God wants for your life. (3) For correction. Do you have a cupboard in the house where you store all the rubbish you can't find room for anywhere else? You cram it all in, then one day you forget, open the door, and - whoosh! - it all comes out? You say, 'Good night! I'd better clean this thing up!' The Bible is like that; it opens the cupboard doors in your life and provides a purifying dynamic. (4) For training in righteousness. Having corrected us on the negatives, Paul gives us positive guidelines to follow as we go through life. For what reason? 'That the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.'

Have you ever wished your life was more effective for Jesus Christ? And if so, what have you done to prepare yourself? Bible study is a primary means of becoming an effective servant of Jesus Christ. Nothing can take its place!

Soulfood: Jer 4-6, Luke 3:1-10, Ps 59:9-17, Pro 14:23-24


Why study the Bible 2

'You have become dull of hearing.' Hebrews 5:11 NAS

Paul writes: 'You have become dull of hearing...by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles...you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk...is an infant. But solid food is for the mature, who because of practise have their senses trained to discern good and evil' (Hebrews 5:11-14 NAS).

The key word in this passage is time. The people to whom these words were written had a learning disability: 'You have become dull of hearing,' meaning you are slow to learn. By the time you ought to be entering university, you've got to go back to primary school and learn your alphabet all over again. By the time you should be communicating the truth as teachers, you need to have someone communicate the truth to you. Note the phrase 'solid food is for the mature'. Who are the mature? You're mature if you've trained yourself through constant use of Scripture. The mark of spiritual maturity isn't how much you learn, it's how much you put into practice.

In the spiritual realm the opposite of ignorance isn't knowledge, but obedience. Obeying the Scriptures is the key to spiritual maturity. In the long term, you retain about 10 per cent of what you hear, 50 per cent of what you see, and 90 per cent of what you do. So: 'Don't just listen to God's word...do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves...if you do what it says...God will bless you for doing it' (James 1:22-25 NLT).

Soulfood: Jer 1-3, Luke 2:41-52, Ps 59:1-8, Pro 14:21-22


Why study the Bible 1

'Like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word.' 1 Peter 2:2 NAS

Daily Bible study is essential to your spiritual growth.

Professor Howard Hendricks writes: 'When our kids were youngsters growing up, we set up a growth chart on the back of a closet door. As they grew, they begged us to measure how tall they'd gotten and record it on the chart. It didn't matter how small the increments were, they bounced up and down with excitement to see their progress. One time after I measured one of my daughters, she asked me the sort of question you wish kids wouldn't ask: "Daddy, why do big people stop growing?" How could I explain that big people don't stop growing - we just grow in a different direction? I don't know what I told her, but to this day the Lord is still asking me, "Hendricks, are you growing old, or are you growing up?" How about you? How long have you been a Christian? Nine months? Thirty-nine years? The real issue is how much have you grown up? Step up to God's growth chart and measure your progress. That's what the apostle Peter meant when he wrote, "Like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation." Just as a baby grabs for the bottle, you grab for the Bible. The baby has to have milk to sustain its life physically; and you have to have the Scriptures to sustain your life spiritually. So the first reason for studying the Scriptures is that it's a means of spiritual growth. It is God's primary tool to develop you as an individual.'

Soulfood: Hosea 11-14, Luke 2:34-40, Ps 21, Pro 14:17-20


Rebuild your integrity

'If I have cheated...I will pay back.' Luke 19:8 NIV

Zacchaeus got rich by taking more taxes from people than his Roman masters demanded, and pocketing the difference. But after he met Jesus, he said, 'If I have cheated people...I will give them back four times as much' (Luke 19: 8 NLT). Consequently, Jesus said, 'Salvation has come to this home today' (Luke 19:9 NLT).

Integrity isn't about regret, or seeking to minimise painful consequences, or attempting to do damage control. It's about honest repentance, making amends and living in a way that guarantees you'll do things differently in the future. Writing about integrity, one pastor says: 'People look around them at promiscuity, abortion, sexually transmitted diseases, and mourn its passing. They see officials taking bribes, business leaders demanding kickbacks, investors parlaying inside information into untold wealth, and they lament the demise of integrity. They read about battered wives, jobless husbands, and abused children, and wonder what happened to caring.' The Bible says, 'The integrity of the upright shall guide them' (Proverbs 11:3 NKJV).

Rebuilding your integrity means humbly acknowledging that sometimes your thoughts aren't fit to print, or that you've hurt someone and need to make things right. It's reported that 50 per cent of American Christians cheat on their tax returns; that's roughly the same percentage as those who don't claim to follow Christ! The point is: integrity is who you are when nobody's looking. Job said, 'Does he not see my ways...If I have walked with falsehood, or if my foot has hastened to deceit, let me be weighed on honest scales, that God may know my integrity' (Job 31:4-6 NKJV). Starting today, rebuild your integrity.

Soulfood: Hosea 6-10, Luke 2:21-33, Ps 17, Pro 14:13-16


Focus on what matters

'Don't get sidetracked.' Proverbs 4:27 NLT

Many of us fail to move forward, not because we aren't talented, determined or passionate, but because we get 'sidetracked'. God told the prophet Habakkuk, 'Write the vision and make it plain on tablets, that he may run who reads it' (Habakkuk 2:2 NKJV). Unless you have a clearly defined goal and keep it before you at all times, you won't run in the direction you should. As motivational speaker and author Sam Horn said: 'It's hard to stay on purpose, if we don't know what our purpose is.'

In his book One Big Thing, Phil Cooke writes: 'I've never been a fan of the person who invented the "open door policy". Sure, we want to be accessible to employees and co-workers, but at some point it's time to shut the door and get to work. After your next interruption by a visitor, make a note of how long it takes to get back to your previous level of intensity and focus. You'll be shocked at how much time that steals from your day...Too often other people's needs come before our dream. Obviously we need to care for our children, honour our spouses, and deal with our primary responsibilities around our families or jobs. But the first step in achieving our dream is to take responsibility for it. That means scheduling it, and "unscheduling" the lesser needs of co-workers and friends. These daily commitments chip away at our time, and before long our dream gets lost in the shuffle. Stop doing what other people think is urgent, and start focusing on what matters to you' [and to God!].

Soulfood: Hosea 1-5, Luke 2:8-20, Ps 8, Pro 14:9-12


God will not disappoint

'I called on the Lord in distress; the Lord answered me.' Psalm 118:5 NKJV

At age 26, Thomas A. Dorsey started a publishing company and founded the National Convention of Gospel Choirs and Choruses in America. He worked with some of the greatest singers in the history of gospel music, including Mahalia Jackson. But one night after singing to a Saint Louis audience, he was handed a telegram that said, 'Your wife just died.' She had passed away in childbirth. Thomas hurried back home to Chicago, where his newborn son died the following day. He plunged into depression, avoided people and grew angry with God. 'I felt God had done me an injustice. I didn't want to serve him anymore or write gospel songs.' Then a friend took him to a neighbourhood music school. That evening Thomas sat down at a piano and began to play...and pray. He poured out his heart to God, and what wonderful words they were: 'Precious Lord, take my hand, lead me on, let me stand, I am tired, I am weak, I am worn; through the storm, through the night, lead me on to the light: take my hand, precious Lord, lead me home.' Dorsey testified that the Lord healed him that night as he sat at the piano. He went on to pen more than a thousand songs and become one of the most influential Christian songwriters of all time. All because he reached out to God for help.

The psalmist did that too: 'I called on the Lord in distress, and the Lord answered me' (Psalm 118:5 NKJV). So the word for today is - turn to God; he will not disappoint you.

Soulfood: 2 Kings 24-25, Luke 2:1-7, Ps 144:9-15, Pro 14:5-8


Pray with confidence

'This is the confidence we have in approaching God.' 1 John 5:14 NIV

Sometimes we pray 'Just' prayers. We say, 'Lord, we just ask you to protect us, or provide for us...If you'd just help us in this situation, we'd be so thankful.' It's as if we are saying, 'Lord, I hate to bother you with this, but...' It sounds humble, but in reality it demonstrates a lack of faith and confidence in approaching God. Plus it's not scriptural.

The Bible says, 'Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need' (Hebrews 4:16 NIV). 'If our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him' (1 John 3:21-22 NIV). 'This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us - whatever we ask - we know that we have what we asked of him' (1 John 5:14-15 NIV). 'Now to him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to him be glory...forever and ever' (Ephesians 3:20-21 NKJV). 'If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in Heaven give good gifts to those who ask him' (Matthew 7:11 NIV)!

As a redeemed child of God, you can approach your loving heavenly Father with confidence, knowing that whatever you need, he will provide it - and much more!

Soulfood: Acts 4:8-12, Acts 16:22-34, Matt 1:18-21


Don't learn the hard way 4

'The hair of his head began to grow again.' Judges 16:22 NIV

With regard to Samson, the Bible tells us, 'The hair of his head began to grow again' (Judges 16:22 NIV). The process of renewal was starting. Samson repented, God gave him back his strength, and he ended his life with an inspiring act of heroism.

Maybe you feel like you've messed up so badly that God will never love you and use you again - but remember Samson! God never gave up on him, and he hasn't given up on you. He sees your potential and remembers why he made you: you were created for great things. It's only as you move into the centre of God's will that you discover why you were made. When you do, things will begin to fall back into place. There is something very encouraging about Samson. He's included in God's hall of fame - the panorama of people of great faith detailed in Hebrews 11. Why? Because God can take a person who seems like a total failure and use them to accomplish great things. If he only used people who were perfect, nothing would ever get done. Instead, he uses ordinary people with weaknesses, who sometimes fail in big ways.

So what should you do if you're a Samson? Turn your life over to the Lord. Give him all the pieces and let him put them together. He can give you the power to break loose from the things that are tying you down and preventing him from working in your life. Only God knows your potential, and you will never bring it out on your own. He must do it in his strength - so let him start today!

Soulfood: 2 Kings 21-23, Luke 1:67-80, Ps 144:1-8, Pro 14:1-4


Don't learn the hard way 3

'Our son will belong to God for as long as he lives.' Judges 13:7 CEV

You're asking for trouble when you refuse to take God seriously. The angel who announced Samson's birth said he was to 'be a Nazirite', indicating that he was to be dedicated to doing God's will. But Samson was careless about his spiritual life. He prayed only when he was in trouble. He was impulsive; he did whatever he felt like doing.

The truth is, we'd save ourselves so many problems and spare ourselves so much pain if we'd just stop and ask God for direction. Samson turned to God only when he got into a jam. It's what we call 'foxhole Christianity'. We pray, 'Lord, if you get me out of this dilemma, I promise I'll live for you from now on.' But here's the question: is God just an afterthought, a convenience to you? When things get tough and you're in a tight spot you turn to him in desperation, but when everything's alright you ignore him? Only when Samson was captured by the Philistines, his eyes gouged out, and he was grinding grain at a mill like an ox, do we read that he turned to God and prayed. What kind of history might Samson have had if he'd prayed right from the beginning? Why did he wait until everything fell apart before turning to God?

It doesn't have to be that way in your life! The psalmist said, 'Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in obedience to him. You will eat the fruit of your labour; blessings and prosperity will be yours' (Psalm 128:1-2 NIV).

Soulfood: 2 Kings 18:17 - 20:21, Luke 1:57-66, Ps 139:13-24, Pro 13:25

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