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The Word For Today

THE LIFE GOD WANTS YOU TO LIVE

Here are three important truths to help you enjoy the life God wants you to live: (1) Believe God wants you to succeed. Give up the unscriptural notion that this life has no value. God has a special work for you to do - here and now (Jeremiah 29:11). You ask, 'What defines success?' Answer: the progressive achievement of a God-given goal resulting in feeling good about yourself. 'Carefully follow the terms of this covenant, so that you may prosper in everything you do' (Deuteronomy 29:9 NIV).

(2) Consult God before you set your goals. The Bible says, 'We should make plans - counting on God to direct us' (Proverbs 16:9 TLB). If you're constantly stressed out and confused, you may be on the wrong track. Go back and check with God; what has He told you to do? It's His will for you to succeed in these six areas: (a) spiritual; (b) relational; (c) physical; (d) mental; (e) social; (f) financial. 'Whatever he does shall prosper' (Psalms 1:3 NKJV).

(3) Invest in yourself. 'Though it cost all you have, get understanding' (Proverbs 4:7 NIV). If you're willing to spend money at fine restaurants but not on good books, your future is already determined. And the first book you need to invest in is a Bible. John writes, 'And the Word was God' (John 1:1 NIV). That means each time you read God's Word, you're depositing more of God into you. Wow! Think how that affects your life! Cultivate a teachable spirit. 'Let the wise listen and add to their learning' (Proverbs 1:5 NIV). This is the life God wants you to live!

Soulfood : Ex 16-18, Jn 2:1-11, Ps 23, Prov 26:10-12

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THE IMPORTANCE OF PATTERNS IN MARRIAGE

We focus on individual incidents, but the God of the big picture focuses on patterns. He determined twenty-four hours in each day, seven days in each week, four seasons in each year, two people in each marriage, etc. Birth is followed by infancy, childhood, youth, adulthood, old age. Imagine how different your life would be without these patterns!

God created us to need patterned lives. Patterns provide predictability, and predictability provides comfort, control and security. Simply knowing that Saturday follows Wednesday helps you get through an exhausting work week. Many of our relational issues would be resolved if we paid less attention to our negative patterns and concentrated on establishing positive ones. Does this conversation sound familiar? The husband asks, 'Why do you always bring things up just when I'm falling asleep? Can't you find a better time?' The wife returns fire, 'There's never a better time to get your attention!' The use of words like 'always' and 'never' only intensifies the problem. Until you understand and change your patterns, you'll forever be attempting to put out relational fires. Establishing a simple pattern of spending an hour or two together each week (date night?) assures your wife of a set time to be heard, and your husband an opportunity to listen when he's alert and responsive.

Patterns are God's idea. The predictability and promise they bring help defuse reactive emotions and establish an environment where you both feel loved and valued!

Soulfood : Ex 13-15, Jn 1:43-51, Ps 131, Prov 26:7-9

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TAKING COMMUNION

Taking communion can be a meaningless ritual, or an intimate time spent in the presence of Jesus. Read the story of Cleopas and his companion. They were travelling home to Emmaus when Jesus suddenly appeared and walked along with them. First He opened their eyes to see that the crucifixion wasn't the tragedy they thought, but a fulfilment of prophecy and God's way to redeem a lost world; something to celebrate and not be sad about. Later, as He sat in their home and ate supper with them, 'He took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they [knew] Him' (Luke 24:30-31 NIV).

Are you battling fear and doubt today? Are you wondering if God will keep His promise to you? He will! Earlier that day, Cleopas and his companion met some women who had just been to the empty tomb and reported that Jesus was alive. But try as they might, they couldn't believe it. This story proves that Jesus loves doubters enough to walk with them, take away their fears, and strengthen their faith. And guess when He did it? As they broke bread.

So next time you're taking communion, stop and pray, 'Lord, speak to me. Show me Your will and Your way.' That's a prayer He will answer. Your mind may be confused and your anxiety great, but if you're spiritually hungry He will show up and meet you at the point of your need.

Soulfood : Lev 23:33-44, Jn 7:1-40, Zech 14:16-21

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HOW TO BE HAPPY (3)

Hope brings happiness, but scepticism never can. You may be alive when Christ returns, or you may be resurrected to meet Him in the air. Either way, Jesus is coming again! Don't let doubters or false date-setters dull your sense of hope.

Ray Bakke shares this story: 'I knew an old Glasgow professor named McDonald, who, along with a Scottish chaplain, was put in a prisoner-of-war camp. A high wire fence separated the Americans from the British, and McDonald was put in the American barracks. The Americans had a little homemade radio and were able to get news from the outside. Every day McDonald would take a headline or two to the fence and share it with the chaplain in the ancient Gaelic language, indecipherable to the Germans. One day news came that the German High Command had surrendered. McDonald took the news to his friend, then watched him disappear into the barracks. A moment later a roar of celebration came from inside. Life in that camp was transformed. Men walked around singing and shouting, waving at the guards, even laughing at the dogs. When the German guards finally heard the news three nights later, they fled into the dark, leaving the gates unlocked. The next morning, Brits and Americans walked out as free men. Yet they had truly been set free three days earlier by the news that the war was over.'

The certainty of Christ's soon return sets you free to hope, to rejoice in the worst of circumstances, and to live with purpose. For God's redeemed people, the best is yet to come!

Soulfood : Ex 10-12, Jn 1:29-42, Ps 29, Prov 26:4-6

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HOW TO BE HAPPY (2)

Helping others brings happiness, but selfishness never can. A ragged urchin stood looking into a sweet shop window. A man came along and observed the scene, took him inside and said to the saleslady, 'Fill a bag with every kind of sweet he wants.' The boy couldn't believe his luck. As he filled his mouth with sugary delights, his benefactor asked, 'Is that good, son?' He nodded in the affirmative: 'Uh huh.' Then the man asked, 'Could I have some?' Immediately the boy's look of joy turned to fear, and clutching the bag he ran away shouting, 'Mine, mine!'

Happiness doesn't come by getting; it comes by forgetting yourself and living for others. Job, one of the richest men in his day, lost his health, his wealth, and his family. It's hard to imagine, right? Then an amazing thing happened: 'The Lord restored Job's losses, when he prayed for his friends' (Job 42:10 NKJV). Job actually got back twice what he lost. How? By reaching out to others instead of dwelling on his own problems. And that principle still works today. Jesus warned, 'Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses' (Luke 12:15 NKJV). God blesses you for one reason: to make you a blessing to others. You're not supposed to be a warehouse - but a clearing house. For every verse in Scripture that promises material success, there's another that speaks of the dangers of hoarding.

So the word for you today is: helping others brings happiness, but selfishness never can.

Soulfood : Ex 7-9, Jn 1:14-28, Ps 92, Prov 26:1-3

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YOU CAN BEGIN AGAIN

When you haven't accomplished what you'd hoped for, regret can become a major pastime. The computer analyst wishes he'd become an accountant, the accountant wishes he'd become a doctor, etc. Maybe you planned to leave a legacy, but to date all you've left is a trail of unfilled aspirations.

It's not too late; you can begin again! You just have to be prepared to pursue your dream and pay the price. 'To win the contest you must deny yourselves many things that would keep you from doing your best' (1 Corinthians 9:25 TLB). Don't listen to the critics and complainers who've settled for less. Your goal shouldn't just be to live long, but to make a difference in your world and glorify God. Aviator Charles Lindbergh said, 'I feel I lived on a higher plain than the sceptics on the ground...Who valued life more highly, the aviators who spent it on the art they loved, or these misers who doled it out like pennies through their antlike days?...If I could fly for ten years before I was killed in a crash, it would be a worthwhile trade for an ordinary lifetime.' Look at Moses. Look at Paul. They both began again. Look at Winston Churchill: instead of retiring after World War II, he went on to win the Nobel Prize in literature. When Heinrich Schliemann retired from business to look for Homer's legendary city of Troy - he found it.

Here's a Scripture you can stand on: 'Through the Lord's mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. The Lord is my portion...therefore I hope in Him' (Lamentations 3:22-24 NKJV)! That means you can begin again.

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

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MAKE YOUR TIME COUNT

If there aren't enough hours in your day to get everything done, chances are you can relate to David's lament: 'All our busy rushing ends in nothing.' Mark Roberts writes, 'It's hard to think of a more relevant insight for our time...we're seeing our nest eggs dry up and our economic hopes dashed...We feel as if we've been rushing about "[like] moving shadows" (Psalms 39:6 NLT), without substance.'

To maximise your time, Mary M. Byers says: 'Make lists: what do you want to accomplish this week? List work-related tasks on one side and home-related on the other. That way you won't have to struggle to remember everything. Consult your schedule first: understanding your current workload is essential to maintaining realistic goals. Are you booked solid, or is this a more relaxed week? If it's the latter, you can tackle more than you could during times when you're constantly on the go. Prioritise: highlight what has to be done this week, and put everything else on a secondary list. Focus on your highest priority and work on the rest as time permits. Delegate: is there a colleague who can assist at work? The same applies to home-based activities; let your kids pitch in. It'll help you, and instil a sense of pride and responsibility in them. Identify extenuating circumstances: are you running yourself ragged caring for a loved one, or doing double duty while your spouse is away? At particularly challenging times, give yourself permission to let some things slide without feeling guilty that you're not accomplishing as much as usual. Learn to let go: the longer something is on your list, the less important it's likely to be.'

Soulfood : Ex 1-3, Lk 24:45-53, Ps 51, Prov 25:23-25

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DON'T 'DRIFT AWAY'

'We must give...earnest heed...lest we drift away.' Hebrews 2:1 NKJV

The Bible says, 'We must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away...How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation' (Hebrews 2:1, 3 NKJV)? Note the words 'drift' and 'neglect'. Those words should set off alarm bells! Samson's decline was so gradual that he didn't even realise it was happening. Like flipping a switch, he'd become used to drawing on the power of God and overcoming every enemy and obstacle. But sin and self-indulgence became his undoing. When Delilah said, "'The Philistines are upon you, Samson!"...he awoke from his sleep, and said, "I will go out as before, at other times, and shake myself free!" But he did not know that the Lord had departed from him. Then the Philistines took him' (Judges 16:20-21 NKJV).
When you neglect God you begin to 'drift away'. Your prayers aren't as effective. You're no longer a godly influence on those around you. You slip back into old habit patterns. You refuse to forgive those who've offended you. You fail to make amends to those you've hurt. You start doing what's expedient and comfortable instead of what's right. You harbour attitudes of fear and resentment. You feed your old nature and neglect your new one. These are all signs that you need a spiritual checkup. Ask God today to highlight those attitudes, activities and relationships that need to be dealt with and start weeding them out.
The good news is that when you're obedient to God's Word and the Spirit's leading, you regain your spiritual vitality and God can use you more effectively.

SoulFood: 1 Cor 15-16; Luke 24:36-44; Ps 60; Pro 25:21-22

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LEARN TO ADAPT

Paul's passion was winning souls to Christ. But he understood that people must be reached in different ways, so he constantly adapted his approach to them. Now apply that same principle to your life, career, or calling. Is your outlook fixed, or is it flexible?

General George S. Patton Jr. said, 'Successful generals make plans to fit circumstances, but do not try to create circumstances to fit plans.' When you have a clear plan for reaching your destination, there's a danger of becoming inflexible and trying to stick with it no matter what. Sometimes it's wiser to explore other options. When you're having a hard time moving forward, don't be quick to revise your dream. Revise your plan instead. Peter Drucker said, 'The question that faces the strategic decision-maker is not what his organisation should do tomorrow. It is, "What do we have to do today to be ready for an uncertain tomorrow?"' The best way to face the uncertainty of tomorrow is to put your full faith in God, remain flexible, and consider your options as events unfold. The Psalmist said, 'The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord' (Psalms 37:23 NKJV). Clinton Utterbach said, 'The steps and the stops of a good man are ordered by the Lord.' Paul's plan called for going to a certain place, 'But the Spirit...would not allow them to' (Acts 16:7 NIV). Instead, God opened up new territory for him elsewhere.

A rigid mindset won't serve you well when you're trying to fulfil your God-given assignment. So be open, stay flexible, and learn to adapt.

Soulfood : 1 Cor 12-14, Lk 24:25-35, Ps 68:19-35, Prov 25:17-20

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BE A PEACEMAKER

'Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.' Matthew 5:9 NKJV

Jesus spent much of His ministry tearing down barriers and building bridges. He did it through acts of love such as washing the feet of those who would fail and betray Him, eating with a tax collector everybody in town despised, and giving hope to a fallen woman whom society condemned. The Bible says, 'Peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness' (James 3:18 NLT). Words of peace are like seeds. They don't produce fruit overnight, but slowly and silently they work their way to the surface, changing hearts, minds, attitudes and futures.

Doctor Robert Oppenheimer, the noted physicist who masterminded the first atomic bomb, was asked by a congressional committee if there was any defence against it. Addressing a hushed audience he replied, 'Yes - peace!' Now, if peace can defuse an atomic bomb, think what it can do in the lives of the people you come in contact with!

Jesus said, 'Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the sons of God.' Every day you'll meet frightened, despairing, lonely, angry people who need a word of peace. Do you have one? Solomon offers us three ways to calm strife, defuse a tense situation, and get a better result: (1) Patience. 'A hot-tempered man stirs up dissension, but a patient man calms a quarrel' (Proverbs 15:18 NIV). (2) Self-control. 'Better a patient man than a warrior, a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city' (Proverbs 16:32 NIV). (3) Wisdom. 'A man's wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offence' (Proverbs 19:11 NIV).


SoulFood: 1 Cor 10-11; Luke 24:13-24; Ps 68:1-18; Pro 25:13-16

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