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The Word For Today

Don't Lose Your Compassionate Edge (2)

'...Faith...if it does not have works, is dead.' James 2:17 NKJV

Mother Teresa said, 'The biggest disease today isn't leprosy or cancer. It's the feeling of being uncared for, unwanted - of being deserted and alone.' As a result, she spent her life rescuing sick babies and giving dignity to the dying. Asked why she did it, she replied, 'Because Jesus did.' What a great answer! When simultaneous disasters hit different countries around the world, humanitarian organisations say we suffer from 'donor fatigue'. Let's add one more: 'compassion failure.' Philosopher Miguel de Unamuno wrote, 'Warmth, warmth, more warmth! For we are dying of cold and not of darkness. It is not the night that kills, but the frost.'
Think about this: of the 1,189 chapters in the Bible, 250 contain the words of the prophets. That's roughly 21 percent. Half of what they say denounces sin and the other half condemns those who see human suffering and do nothing about it. Yet events that horrified those same prophets take place in our world every day, and we're immune to them. Like wearing a watch, you get used to it and after a while you don't even notice it. But the prophets noticed! They never became desensitised to sin - or human suffering. And you mustn't either.
You say, 'But my main focus at the moment is on building up my faith.' That's a good thing; but never forget that 'Faith by itself, if it does not have works [of compassion], is dead.'

SoulFood: Hab 1-3, Luke 8:26-39, Ps 65, Pro 19:5-8

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Don't Lose Your Compassionate Edge (1)

'...When He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them...' Matthew 9:36

Christ's concern for a hurting world revealed itself in two ways: condemnation towards those who took advantage of others and compassion towards those who couldn't help themselves. One time He took a whip and threw the money changers out of the temple; another time He healed the sick and fed the hungry.
There's a lesson here: you can become complacent and say, 'I know there's trouble in the world. It's regrettable. But as long as it doesn't touch me personally, I'd prefer not to think about it. Cheating goes on every day in business and politics. That's just the way things are.' Like the priest and the Levite in the story of the Good Samaritan, you 'pass by on the other side' (Luke 10:30-36). The sad fact is that even churches that faithfully preach the Word and win souls (two all-important missions) fail in this area. Why? Because they're afraid of being identified with those who promote a 'social gospel'. But the opposite should concern us! 'If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity...how can the love of God be in him?...Let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth' (1 John 3:17-18 NIV).
What moves you? Success in business? Building a great family? Excelling in ministry? Those are worthy goals, but if you want to know what moved Christ, read this: 'When He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion.' So don't lose your compassionate edge.

SoulFood: Nah 1-3, Luke 8:16-25, Ps 14, Pro 19:1-4

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Encouragement - It's a Powerful Thing

'If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging.' Romans 12:8 NLT

Many a man and woman who quit would have kept going if they had just received a word of encouragement from someone. Encouragement is so vital that the Scriptures rank it up there with gifts like teaching and leadership (Romans 12:6-8).
Here are two stories that illustrate the power of encouragement. Story one: Not long ago, the world watched as three grey whales, icebound off Point Barrow, Alaska, floated battered and bloody, gasping for breath at a hole in the ice. The whales' only hope was to be somehow transported eight kilometres past the ice pack to the open sea. Rescuers began cutting a string of breathing holes about 20 metres apart in the 15cm thick ice. For eight days they painstakingly coaxed the whales from one hole to the next, kilometre after kilometre. Along the way, one of the trio vanished and was presumed dead. But finally, with the help of Russian icebreakers, the other two whales, Putu and Siku, swam to freedom. Story two: Jackie Robinson was the first black player in the US to play major league baseball. While breaking baseball's colour barrier, he faced jeering crowds in every stadium. Playing one day in his home stadium in Brooklyn, he made an error and his own fans began to boo him. As he stood, humiliated, at second base, 'Pee Wee' Reese came over and stood next to him. He put his arm around Robinson and they faced the crowd together. The fans grew quiet; the game continued. Robinson later said that arm around his shoulder saved his career!
Encouragement - it's a powerful thing. So who can you encourage today?

SoulFood: 2 Pet 1-3, Luke 8:1-15, Ps 146, Pro 18:23-24

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Live Till You Die!

'...When he died...his eyes were not weak nor his strength gone.' Deuteronomy 34:7 NIV

Don't listen to those who tell you you're 'too old'. God's promise is, 'They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh...' (Psalms 92:14 NIV). For 20 to 30 years the century plant spreads out but produces no flowers. Then in one year, without warning, a bud sprouts. The bud, which resembles a huge asparagus spear, shoots into the sky at a rate of nearly 20 cm per day, and reaches an eventual height of 8 to 10 metres. Then it crowns itself with several clumps of yellowish blossoms that last almost a month.
Some of God's oldest are among His finest! The older, mellower Abraham was wiser than the brash, younger one. Caleb was still defeating giants and climbing mountains at 85. Anna, an elderly widow, didn't just pray for the Messiah; her vision kept her alive until He came. In his nineties, imprisoned on the Isle of Patmos, John wrote the Book of Revelation. Jesus said, 'Those who try to make their life secure will lose it, but those who lose their life will keep it' (Luke 17:33 NRS).
You can approach life in two ways: protect it or pursue it. When the voice of safety says, 'Build a fire in the hearth and stay in where it's warm,' the voice of faith says, 'Build a fire in your soul, then go out and pursue your vision with a passion.' Asked why he was still studying Greek in his nineties, Oliver Wendell Holmes is reported to have said, 'My good sir, it's now or never!' What matters is not the years in your life, but the life in your years. So, live till you die!

SoulFood: 2 Sam 22:31 - 24:25, Luke 7:36-50, Ps 140, Pro 18:21-22

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Looking Good, or Doing Good?

'...Jesus...went about doing good...' Acts 10:38 NKJV

The Bible says, 'God anointed Jesus...with the Holy Spirit and with power, Who went about doing good...' When you're led by God's Spirit, your focus won't be on looking good, but on doing good.
You say, 'But I'm so busy!' Nobody was busier than Jesus, yet He always responded to those in need. In Luke chapter 10 He tells of a Jewish traveller who was attacked by a gang and left to die by the road. First a Levite, then a priest passed by. But each had important appointments to keep, so they didn't stop. Then a Samaritan came along. Now, he had every reason to look the other way, because the Jews and the Samaritans were long-standing enemies. Instead, '...He...came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion' (Luke 10:33 NKJV). Compassion will make you stop and rearrange your priorities. This Samaritan realised that where he was at that moment was more important than his next appointment. What would you have done that day? Do you think you'd have acted like him? How about when God tries to interrupt your inflexible, tightly-organised, written-in-concrete schedule and asks you to make time for someone who's hurting? Are you willing to forgo your plans and do what He wants? If you're too busy to reach out to those who are hurting, you're too busy!
You say, 'But I'm shy around people.' Then start with the people you know in your local church. 'Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith' (Galatians 6:10 NKJV).

SoulFood: 2 Sam 17:14 - 19:43, Luke 7:11-23, Ps 123, Pro 18:13-16

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Are You a 'Stephen'? (4)

'...Stephen, a man full of faith...' Acts 6:5 NIV

Another quality that opened the door to leadership in the church for Stephen was: faith. Oswald Chambers said, 'Faith that is sure of God, is the only kind of faith there is.' When drought hit some farming communities, faith made a little girl take her umbrella to a prayer meeting called especially to pray for rain, while all the grown-ups wore sunglasses. Faith isn't just what you say, it's what you do. And it's not just about what you can do, but what you can trust God to do.
When it comes to faith you must: (1) Feed your faith. The Bible is faith food. '...Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God' (Romans 10:17 NKJV). Note the word 'hearing'. When you read God's Word out loud, it enters your spirit through both the eye-gate and ear-gate, doubling its impact. (2) Protect your faith. When terrorists attack, they have more in mind than just blowing up a few buildings and killing some people. Their goal is to strike fear into hearts and cause others to capitulate. Jesus warned Peter that his faith was about to come under attack (Luke 22:31-32). It's not just your finances or your health or your relationships that are under attack; it's your faith! (3) Use your faith. Faith is like money; it's the currency of God's Kingdom. You must have it in order to do business with God. When Christ encountered someone who demonstrated real faith, He was ecstatic. And He always responded to them. So you must 'exercise' your faith daily, until it becomes your 'reflex action' in any given situation.

SoulFood: 2 Sam 14:21 - 17:13, Luke 6:43 - 7:10, Ps 118:19-29, Pro 18:10-12

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Are You a 'Stephen'? (3)

'Choose...men...full of...wisdom.' Acts 6:3 NIV

Another leadership qualification Stephen possessed was: wisdom. 'Seek out...men ...full of...wisdom' (Acts 6:3 NKJV). Charles Spurgeon said, 'Wisdom is the right use of knowledge.' You can have a head full of knowledge, but if you don't have the wisdom to use it properly, you can't lead people.
Just as a stream rises no higher than its source, an organisation can rise no higher than its leadership. Dr John Maxwell refers to this as the 'Law of the Lid'. In his book The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, he writes: 'Leadership ability is the lid that determines a person's level of effectiveness. The lower an individual's ability to lead, the lower the lid on his potential. The higher their leadership, the greater their effectiveness. To give you an example, if your leadership scores an eight, then your effectiveness can never be greater than a seven. If your leadership is only a four, then your effectiveness will be no higher than a three. Your leadership ability - for better or for worse - always determines your effectiveness and the potential impact of your organisation.' Paul told Timothy, '...Give attendance to reading...' (1 Timothy 4:13 NKJV). Someone who won't read is more to be pitied than someone who can't read. The difference in what you are right now and what you'll be 25 years from now will always be in direct proportion to your reading habits, the relationships you cultivate and the time you spend with God.
Obviously Stephen was the right choice. 'Then the word of God spread and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem and a great many of the priests were obedient to the faith' (Acts 6:7 NKJV).

SoulFood: 2 Sam 12:1 - 14:20, Luke 6:27-42, Ps 118:10-18, Pro 18:7-9

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Are You a 'Stephen'? (2)

Stephen was also chosen for leadership in the New Testament church because he was 'full of...the Holy Spirit' (Acts 6:5 NIV). Why is that important? Because Jesus said to His disciples: '...You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem (your home base), and in all Judea (those within driving distance) and Samaria (places where you won't necessarily be welcomed) and to the end of the earth' (Acts 1:8 NKJV). Paul writes, '...Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit...' (Ephesians 5:18 KJV).
The story is told of a pastor who was seen drinking a glass of wine at dinner. Seizing on Paul's words, 'Be not drunk with wine,' the deacon board called for his immediate resignation. Whereupon the pastor responded, 'Then let's all resign. You say I failed the first half of the commandment, "Be not drunk with wine." But you've all failed the second half, "Be filled with the Spirit".' Understand this: you need to be continually filled with God's Spirit. After all, you're not still running your car on the first tank of petrol you put in it, are you? There was once an advert for Brylcreem hair gel for men that said, 'A little dab'll do ya!' That doesn't work when it comes to leadership in God's Kingdom! You're either being led by the Holy Spirit - or your own spirit.
'But I have talent,' you say. Yes, and God will use it. But when it comes to building what He wants built, it's, 'Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord' (Zechariah 4:6 NKJV).

SoulFood: 2 Sam 7:18 - 11:27, Luke 6:17-26, Ps 118:1-9, Pro 18:4-6

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Are You a 'Stephen'? (1)

'...And they chose Stephen...' Acts 6:5 NKJV

The New Testament church grew so fast that the administrative aspect of it became overwhelming. The apostles weren't getting enough time to pray and study the Scriptures, so they picked seven men to handle the business side of things.
Stephen was one of them. For the next few days let's examine his qualifications: financial integrity. '...Seek out from among you seven men of good reputation...whom we may appoint over this business' (Acts 6:3 NKJV). Now, it goes without saying that if you're going to handle the church's finances, you must first have a proven track record in handling your own. That calls for saving, sowing and spending wisely. It also means putting God first in your finances. Here's a Biblical question you need to think about: 'Will a man rob God?' Apparently, yes. God said, '...You have robbed Me! But you say, "In what way have we robbed You?" In tithes and offerings' (Malachi 3:8 NKJV). Tithing isn't a matter of money, but of priorities. God doesn't want your leftovers, He wants your 'first-fruits' (Proverbs 3:9). Tithing is also a matter of obedience. 'If they obey and serve Him, they shall spend their days in prosperity...' (Job 36:11 NKJV). When it comes to leadership in God's work, if you're not 10% behind it, how can you be 100% behind it?
If you're not already doing it, try tithing on your income for one year. It's like going into partnership with God. Loving the Lord our God with all our heart and mind and soul and strength (Mark 12:30) must impact the priorities we display with our money.

SoulFood: 2 Sam 3:22 - 7:17, Luke 6:1-16, Ps 109:16-31, Pro 18:1-3

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Like Water off a Duck's Back

'...If you suffer for doing good...this is commendable...' 1 Peter 2:20 NIV

Have you ever watched water run off a duck's back? That's how you should treat unkind comments. 'But they hurt my feelings,' you say. Stop and think about that: if they are really your feelings, others have no control over them, other than what you give them. The truth is, almost everybody is more preoccupied with themselves than with you; therefore, you know more about yourself than they will ever know. It's not what others say about you that counts. It's what God says about you and what you say about yourself that counts. When you know who you are, you won't allow others to define your worth.
Jesus knew that His accusers were ignorant; that's why they feared Him. People fight what they don't understand. The mind tends to resent what it cannot master. Jesus never begged anyone to believe in Him. Why? Because He knew that integrity cannot be proven, it must be discerned. So He stayed focused on His goal. His enemies accused Him of being possessed by devils, but He paid no attention. He just continued to cast out devils. He didn't try to look good, He was good. He didn't try to be truthful, He was truthful.
It's human to want to be loved, valued and admired, but your enemies will never leave your reputation untarnished. You must rise above that and not allow what others say about you to change your opinion of yourself. Be like the New Testament believers. 'The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name [of Jesus]' (Acts 5:41 NIV).

SoulFood: Eph 4:17 - 6:24, Luke 5:12-26, Ps 79, Pro 17:24-26

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