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The Word For Today

Find contentment in your work

'Enjoy your work...this is indeed a gift from God.' Ecclesiastes 5:19 NLT

Two-thirds of most adult lives will be spent earning a living, and God wants work (whatever we put our hand to) to be enjoyable: 'To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life - this is indeed a gift from God' (Ecclesiastes 5:19 NLT).

God has a purpose for your being wherever you are. 'The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord' (Psalm 37:23 NKJV). When you understand that, you begin to rejoice 'on the job' rather than resent it, and believe that God has a plan for your future. It may be a different task or job, a promotion in your present job, or improving your skill set, which will result in your feeling fulfilled, knowing you are a valued and contributing team member. So with one eye on the present and another on the future, your goal should be to perform your responsibilities with efficiency and professionalism, and glorify the one whose name you carry. Learn all you can from your current position - both in skill building and in character building. Prepare yourself for what God has in mind.

So what if others overlook or undervalue you? David's family didn't think he was qualified to be Israel's next king, but God had a different opinion. He also had the last word. There's an important lesson here for you. Be faithful and seek to excel where God has placed you, and when the time is right he will bless you and promote you. 'It is God alone who judges; he decides who will rise and who will fall' (Psalm 75:7 NLT).

Soulfood: Isa 49-52, Matt 13:1-9, Ps 67, Pro 4:1-2


Love without strings attached

'Walk in love, as Christ also has loved us.' Ephesians 5:2 NKJV

In America you will sometimes see cars with bumper stickers announcing that their child is an 'honour student' at a particular school. And while we all feel good about the successes of our children, two potential problems can arise. First, there's a natural irritation on the part of parents whose children struggle or are less gifted. One mother put this bumper sticker on her car: 'My kid can beat up your honour student.' A second problem arises when the pride of the family is riding on the shoulders of an immature child. Your child is not designed to handle that level of pressure! They need to know that they are loved and accepted because of their own unique worth.

John McKay, the great football coach at the University of Southern California, had a son who was also a successful football player on the USC team. When an interviewer asked Coach McKay to comment on the pride he felt over his son's accomplishments, this is what he said: 'Yes, I'm pleased that John Jr had a good season this year. He does a fine job, and I'm proud of him. But I would be just as proud if he had never played the game at all.' Great answer! His son would not lose his father's respect if the next year brought failure and disappointment, because his place in his father's heart was secure and independent of his performance. That's the kind of love your children need from you.

'Walk in love, as Christ also has loved us' (Ephesians 5:2 NKJV). Christ's love is not performance based; it's unconditional, unbreakable and unending. Yours must be too!

Soulfood: Isa 45-48, Matt 12:38-50, Ps 120, Pro 3:33-35


God has gone ahead

'The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you.' Deuteronomy 31:8 NIV

Are you feeling anxious today because you don't know what you're walking into? Israel was going into a good situation, the Promised Land. They had just come out of a bad one: a back-breaking, soul-destroying, hope-extinguishing 430 years of slavery. Now they were going to be free to own their own homes, raise their own families, work at jobs they liked, and be well paid for it. But the Promised Land wasn't problem-free. There were enemy strongholds that had to be conquered one by one, and it would take time. 'The Lord your God will drive out those nations before you, little by little. You will not be allowed to eliminate them all at once, or the wild animals will multiply around you' (Deuteronomy 7:22 NIV).

Question: is this a similar situation to the one you find yourself in today? You're embarking on a new relationship, a new job, a new ministry, or an unfamiliar area where you don't have all the answers? And because you don't know exactly what's involved, you're anxious? Don't be! Here's the word for you today: 'Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you...The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged' (Deuteronomy 31:6-8 NIV).

Carry these promises with you. And when your confidence starts to falter and your faith fluctuates, read them, stand on them, and count on God to honour his Word.

Soulfood: Isa 42-44, Matt 12:22-37, Ps 108, Pro 3:31-32


How's your marriage 2

'Live joyfully with the wife whom you love.' Ecclesiastes 9:9 NKJV

Three things happen in a good marriage: (1) You get to know yourself. To grow, you must be able to look at yourself realistically, and the best place to do that is in a home filled with love. It lets you be open about your mistakes and shortcomings. It's a safe place to fail. It creates a listening environment filled with understanding and support. The people closest to us form us. When Mother Teresa received the Nobel Peace Prize, she was asked, 'What can we do to promote world peace?' She replied, 'Go home and love your family.' If you want to change your world, start at home.

(2) You get to know your character. A Christ-centred home not only helps form your children's character, it strengthens yours too. Character is built on the choices you make and habits you cultivate. And since your family creates your primary environment, it influences those choices and habits. Strong families encourage us to make good choices, develop the right disciplines, and pay the price today for success tomorrow.

(3) You have a safe haven. It seems like the pace of life gets more hectic every day. Driving on overcrowded roads is stressful. The workplace is demanding. The playground is an increasingly hostile environment. Where can you find shelter? If not at home, then probably nowhere. Theodore Roosevelt said, 'I'd rather spend time with my family than with any of the world's notables.' His home was his safe haven in the midst of life's storms - and yours can be too. The question is: what are you doing to make it that way?

Soulfood: Isa 38-41, Matt 12:15-21, Ps 111, Pro 3:29-30


How's your marriage 1

'He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favour from the Lord.' Proverbs 18:22 NKJV

If you're over sixty, chances are you grew up in an era where you didn't know too many divorced couples and the subject was taboo. Now your children are growing up in a world where marriages fail every day. If you don't want yours to be one of them: (1) Learn to show your love. Psychologist William James says, 'The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.' And if we don't feel appreciated at home, there's a good chance we won't feel appreciated at all because, generally speaking, the world doesn't fulfil that desire. The best thing you can do for your spouse and your children is appreciate them and love them - not based on their performance, but simply because they're yours.

(2) Pay attention. The Reverend Theodore Hesburgh, President Emeritus of the University of Notre Dame, said, 'The most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother.' And that works both ways. A successful marriage is one that can go from crisis to crisis and keep getting stronger. Commitment, not emotion, is what carries you through. If you only intend to stay married as long as you feel like you're in love, you might as well quit now. Like anything worthwhile, a good marriage requires constant attention.

(3) Protect your time together. If you feel like you ought to be at work when you're with your family and vice versa, something's wrong. Call a family conference and agree on how much time you should spend together. If you prioritise and protect those times, your marriage will thrive.

Soulfood: Isa 34-37, Matt 12:1-14, Ps 107:33-43, Pro 3:27-28


Believe God for healing

'I am the Lord, who heals you.' Exodus 15:26 NIV

Why isn't every sick person who is prayed over healed? We don't know, and God doesn't tell us. We know that doubt and unbelief can hinder his miracle-working power in our lives. When Jesus returned to his hometown to those who knew him best, we read: 'He did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith' (Matthew 13:58 NIV).

But there are aspects of healing we will never fully understand. Paul writes, 'I left Trophimus sick in Miletus' (2 Timothy 4:20 NIV). Why would Paul, who had raised the dead, leave a friend sick instead of praying and seeing him healed? There are many things about God we don't know, but here's one thing we do know: 'I am the Lord, who heals you' (Exodus 15:26 NIV). And since he said, 'I am the Lord, and I do not change' (Malachi 3:6 NLT), and 'Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever' (Hebrews 13:8 NIV), we can go to him for healing based on his Word. One of the last statements Jesus made before leaving earth was: 'These signs will follow those who believe...they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover' (Mark 16:17-18 NKJV).

Do you believe God still heals people today? If you do, then obey this Scripture: 'Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up' (James 5:14-15 NKJV). The word for you today is: don't give up - believe God for your healing.

Soulfood: Luke 6:27-36, Exo 23:1-9, Rom 12:14-21


Pray before temptation

'Pray that you will not fall into temptation.' Luke 22:40 NIV

You can put on your best game face in an attempt to convince others you're doing better than you are, but deep inside you know the areas where you're most often tempted and fail. In fact, if you are gut-level honest, chances are you keep a mental scorecard. Others may give you an A or B on your report card, but you give yourself a failing grade. And when that happens often enough, you reach the place where you start thinking, 'What's the point in asking God for forgiveness? I'm just going to repeat the same sins over and over and have to go back to him again.'

There's a solution. Jesus told his disciples, 'Pray so that you will not fall into temptation' (see Luke 22:40 NIV). In other words, pray before the temptation comes and you'll be strengthened and fortified to handle it. 'But I have prayed!' you reply. Then increase the dosage and pray more! Before Jesus calmed the storm on Galilee, he spent the whole night in prayer. Turn off your TV, your computer, your phone, and any other outside connections, and spend time with God. What did the old-timers mean when they talked about 'praying through'? Simply this: you can reach a point in prayer where you 'know' God has given you the strength you need and victory is assured.

Paul said, 'Let us...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). What do you need when you keep failing? God's grace to forgive you - and his help to overcome temptation. So pray before temptation comes, and God will make you an overcomer.

Soulfood: Isa 30-33, Matt 11:20-30, Ps 107:23-32, Pro 3:25-26


Your forgiveness is guaranteed

'If we [freely] admit that we have sinned and confess our sins.' 1 John 1:9 AMP

In spite of our best intentions and efforts, we all 'fall short' of God's requirements (see Romans 3:23 NKJV). So what's the answer? 'If we say we have no sin [refusing to admit that we are sinners], we delude ourselves and the truth is not in us. [His word does not live in our hearts.] If we [freely] admit that we have sinned and confess our sins, he is faithful and just [true to his own nature and promises], and will forgive our sins and cleanse us continually from all unrighteousness [our wrongdoing, everything not in conformity with his will and purpose]' (1 John 1:8-9 AMP).

When it comes to God's forgiveness, knowing is better than feeling. Here's how God's forgiveness works: consciousness of sin leads to conviction of sin, and conviction of sin leads to confession of sin, and confession of sin leads to cleansing of sin, and cleansing of sin leads to confidence before God (see 1 John 3:21-22). You say, 'I don't feel worthy of God's forgiveness.' You will never be worthy of it! God's forgiveness is not based on your worthiness, but on Christ's! Furthermore, God is not like your parents; he doesn't insist you squirm and be miserable for a few days so that you will 'learn your lesson' before he forgives you. That would mean you play a part in earning his forgiveness. It's by grace, and grace alone (see Ephesians 2:8-9)! 'Grace' means 'undeserved favour'.

So when God forgives you, honour him by forgiving yourself and moving on.

Soulfood: Isa 26-29, Matt 11:10-19, Ps 107:17-22, Pro 3:21-24


When you worship God feels right at home

'You are holy, enthroned in the praises of Israel.' Psalm 22:3 NKJV

The place where you live is your home, or 'habitation'. So when you praise God, you're saying, 'Make yourself at home, Lord.' Where does God dwell? He has many different addresses and one of them is 'praise'. Just as we enjoy a deeper level of intimacy with those we share our lives with at home, praise creates a sense of intimacy between God and us. Just as words spoken in love and appreciation draw two people together, words of praise draw you closer to God.

The New King James Bible says, 'You are holy, enthroned in the praises of Israel' (Psalm 22:3 NKJV). Note the word 'enthroned'. The Japanese have a wonderful way of translating this. Recalling how their emperor was once carried on a throne and those around him would stop and bow down, they say, 'When we worship God we create a seat, and he comes down and sits in it.'

Five times in two back-to-back Scriptures we are commanded to 'sing praises' to God. 'Sing praises to God, sing praises! Sing praises to our King, sing praises! For God is the King of all the earth; sing praises with understanding' (Psalm 47:6-7 NKJV). When God repeats the same thing five times in two verses, it's because he wants to be sure you get the message. You say, 'But I couldn't carry a tune in a bucket.' Listen to a praise song and hum along. The psalmist wrote, 'Because your loving-kindness is better than life, my lips shall praise you. Thus I will bless you while I live; I will lift up my hands in your name' (Psalm 63:3-4 NKJV).

Soulfood: Isa 22-25, Matt 11:1-9, Ps 107:10-16, Pro 3:19-20


Be devoted to Christ

'Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress.' 1 Timothy 4:15 NIV

One day a friend of Chuck Swindoll's stopped by his study to 'speak the truth in love' to him (see Ephesians 4:15). The man said, 'I don't think you'll fall morally or ethically. What does worry me is that you could be tempted to let your time with God and your time in the study of the Scriptures become less and less important to you. I want to urge you, do not let that happen.'

Swindoll took his words to heart and wrote down these five promises to himself. If you're serious about being devoted to Christ, you may need to make these same promises to yourself: '(1) I promise to keep doing original and hard work in my study. Those to whom I am called deserve my best efforts. (2) I promise to maintain a heart for God. That means I will pray frequently and fervently, and stay devoted to him and to my calling. (3) I promise to remain accountable. Living the life of a religious lone ranger is not only unbiblical, it's dangerous. (4) I promise to stay faithful to my family. My wife deserves my time, affection and undivided attention. Our now-grown children deserve the same. (5) I promise to be who I am, just me. To keep laughing and saying things a little "off-the-wall". To be a friend and make a few mistakes each month.'

On that second promise: being devoted to Christ doesn't make you weird, judgmental, antisocial or isolated from the world. No, it makes you the best version of yourself you can be - and the one God wants you to be.

Soulfood: Isa 17-21, Matt 10:32-42, Ps 107:1-9, Pro 3:13-18

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