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The Word For Today

TODAY, SHOW THAT YOU CARE

Take a deep breath and hold it for a moment. Now exhale it. Where did it go? The air that you just exhaled will circle the globe in the next twelve months, during which time each of the molecules you exhaled will be breathed in by someone else only to be exhaled again. In this way we are all linked to each other, we are all connected by our breath to each other and to the One who first breathed life into us.

Just as we all share our chemistry with other members of the human family, so we are all interdependent. We're affected positively or negatively by the actions of each other. During the self-centred days of what used to be called the 'Me Generation', it was common to hear people say, 'As long as I'm not hurting anyone, it's nobody's business what I do.' Unfortunately, everything we do affects other people and there's no such thing as a completely independent act.

The poet John Donne wrote, 'No man is an island, entire of itself, every man is a piece of a continent, a piece of the main.' With that in mind, read these two Scriptures: (1) 'A new commandment I give you, that you love one another; as I have loved you' (John 15:12 NKJV); (2) 'Owe nothing to anyone - except for your obligation to love one another...' (Romans 13:8 NLT). That means you have an obligation today to show your care for others in some practical way.

Soulfood : Ezek 27:25 - 30:26, Matt 18:10-20, Ps 80:1-11, Prov 15:11-14

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GET YOUR SPENDING UNDER CONTROL

If you think winning the lottery would solve all your problems, you couldn't be more wrong! Almost half of those who become overnight millionaires end up bankrupt within a few years. Why? For a variety of reasons: bad business deals, extravagant living, crazy schemes and fast-talking relatives. And here's another one - a big one: believing that they now have the Midas touch and that Lady Luck is on their side, they continue to gamble at an even higher level, and end up losing it all.

Try to understand this: unless you spend less than you earn no amount of income will ever be enough! So if you're wise, when you get a salary increase or an unexpected windfall you won't adopt a more extravagant lifestyle. You'll reduce your debt before it becomes an albatross around your neck that drowns you. No amount of income will be sufficient if your spending is not brought under control. The only way to get ahead financially is to deny yourself some of the things you want and save for the future. If you don't have the discipline to do that, you'll always be in debt. Now, when the government gets into debt, they simply tax you. But when you get into debt - you're on your own. That's not how God wants you to live.

True contentment doesn't come from getting all you want, but by discovering the blessings you have been given and learning to enjoy them. This should be your goal: 'Owe no one anything - except for your obligation to love one another.'

Soulfood : Ezek 24:1 - 27:24, Matt 18:1-9, Ps 143, Prov 15:8-10

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COMMIT TO IT!

After arriving in the New World, the Spanish explorer Cortez took his crew off their ships and set the ships on fire as the sailors watched in confusion and horror. By that one act, Cortez sealed their commitment to explore new territory and ensured they'd never give in or go back. Guess what? Having no alternative clears your perception, does away with procrastination and helps you make up your mind. When you're in a corner, you learn to reach deeper inside yourself, and in so doing you discover God-given strengths you never knew existed.

When you're up against a deadline, it releases a creative flow within you. For example, nothing increases your commitment like the threat of failure or the risk of embarrassment. In The Tyranny of E-mail, John Freeman says, 'Attention is one of the most valuable modern resources. If we waste it on frivolous communication, we will have nothing left when we really need it.' Distractions drain your energy, blur your focus and disrupt your momentum. Projects fail, companies collapse and marriages are damaged because of the way distractions deplete our resources and destroy our relationships. Don't get to the end of your life only to look back and discover you forfeited things which were truly significant to make way for things that added nothing of value.

Jephthah made a vow to God that resulted in great victory for Israel and led to his promotion as their leader. It's a commitment you need to make today: 'I have opened my mouth unto the Lord, and I cannot go back.'

Soulfood : Ezek 22-23, Matt 17:14-27, Ps 132:11-18, Prov 15:5-7

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UNDERSTANDING YOUR TEMPTATIONS (3)

Satan knows that when you recognise him as the source of your temptation, he loses his advantage. He knows that when you understand he initiated the temptation, you'll recoil from it faster than if you think you yourself are the source of it.

If Satan approached you and said, 'I've come to make you sin and feel condemned,' your vulnerability to his temptations would evaporate! He won't tell you that - but if you remember it you'll have the advantage over him. As Paul puts it, '...we are not ignorant about Satan's scheming' (2 Corinthians 2:11 GWT).

Another misperception is that temptation is time lost and effort wasted. In long periods of temptation we feel like we've lost ground rather than gained it. No! Withstanding temptation is '[fighting] the good fight of faith...' (1 Timothy 6:12 NKJV), and that's when God develops your character. 'When all kinds of...temptations crowd into your lives...Realise that they come to...produce in you the quality of endurance...' and when that happens, '...you will find you have become men [and women] of mature character...' (James 1:2-4 PHPS). Indeed, your compensation goes far beyond your present development to the reaping of eternal rewards. '...though now for a season...ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith...might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ' (1 Peter 1:6-7 KJV). Add to this God's glorious guarantee: 'Blessed is the man that endureth temptation...he shall receive the crown of life...' (James 1:12 KJV).

Soulfood : Ezek 20-21, Matt 17:1-13, Ps 132:1-10, Prov 15:1-4

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UNDERSTANDING YOUR TEMPTATIONS (2)

The second misperception is: temptation is sin. The devil wants you to blame yourself for the temptations you experience. Why? Because when you believe that you are the source of it, you feel condemned and discouraged. As you indulge in feelings of discouragement, you become an easy prey and Satan convinces you to go ahead and yield to the temptation. Ironically, you yield to sin through the fear of having already fallen. No, the temptation itself isn't sin; the sin only occurs when you yield to it!

Many of us feel like we're spiritually deficient or distant from God, because we think we initiated the temptation ourselves. Imagine a burglar in your house, and when you detect him he accuses you of being the burglar! Would you believe him? Of course not! Yet that's Satan's approach. After he tempts us, he accuses with thoughts like, 'A real Christian would never have such thoughts!' Knowing our own weakness, his accusations sound plausible and we believe him. Then we feel condemned, spiral into discouragement and yield to the temptation. Understand this: condemnation comes from Satan (1 Tim 3:6 NKJV). The Bible says, 'Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus' (Rom 8:1 NIV). When Satan sends temptation, the Holy Spirit goes to work in us, helping us to reject his suggestions and reminding us of Jesus' availability to help us triumph. 'Because He Himself suffered when He was tempted...He is able to help those who are being tempted' (Heb 2:18 NIV).

So when you're tempted, reject Satan's condemnation and reach for Christ's overcoming assistance.

Soulfood : Ezek 16:53 - 19:14, Matt 16:13-28, Ps 48, Prov 14:33-35

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UNDERSTANDING YOUR TEMPTATIONS (1)

Many of us suffer unnecessarily because of our misperceptions about temptation. The first one is: expecting your temptations to cease - or at least decrease. When the Israelites entered the Promised Land they had the same expectation. They were surprised that the Canaanites were still in the land. So they got discouraged, thinking they must have gone the wrong way. 'Surely this couldn't be the land of promise.' God's Word makes it clear that the Christian life, from start to finish, is warfare. Paul says we are called to '...wrestle...against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places' (Eph 6:12 KJV), and your level of temptation increases as you draw closer to God. Notice: when Israel first left Egypt, God didn't lead them through Philistine territory 'though that was shorter. For God said, "...If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt"' (Exo 13:17 NIV). God understood their fledgling faith and protected them from their enemies. But later, when their faith had grown, He permitted them to face seven powerful nations.

Just like the Promised Land, the promised life of victory requires you to deal with temptation and wrestle your way through to victory, believing that '...greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world' (1 John 4:4 KJV). Indeed, their enemy's attack proved that Israel was in the Promised Land. So experiencing temptations is proof you are truly abiding in Christ.

Soulfood : Gen 1:1 - 2:3, John 1:1-18

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WHAT KEEPS US FROM SERVING? (4)

Control. While it's important to focus on understanding others, you must also be authentic and open so that they can understand you. Many of us are unwilling to be transparent. Author and former U.S. Navy Captain Mike Abrashoff observes: 'Some leaders feel that by keeping people in the dark, they maintain a measure of control. But that is a leader's folly and an organisation's failure. Secrecy spawns isolation, not success. Knowledge is power, yes, but what leaders need is collective power, and that requires collective knowledge. I found that the more people knew what the goals were, the better buy-in I got - and the better the results we achieved together.'

Any time people sense information is being withheld from them, it creates distance. They feel like outsiders and, as a result, morale drops along with their performance. In his book Lead, Follow, or Get Out of the Way, Jim Lundy writes about what he calls the 'Subordinates' Lament'. It says, 'We, the uninformed, working for the inaccessible, are doing the impossible for the ungrateful!' Ever feel like that? Then there's the 'Mushroom Farm Lament' which goes like this: 'We feel we're being kept in the dark. Every once in a while someone comes around and spreads manure on us. But when our heads pop up, they're chopped off and then we're canned.'

Good leaders don't isolate themselves, and they don't deliberately keep people in the dark. They inform them and include them in the decision-making process whenever possible. If you're serious about serving others, open up. Let people know who you are and what you believe.

Soulfood : Ezek 14:1 -16:52, Matt 16:1-12, Ps 1, Prov 14:29-32

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WHAT KEEPS US FROM SERVING? (3)

Indifference. A well-known comedian quipped, 'Scientists announced today that they'd found a cure for apathy. However, they claim no one has shown the slightest bit of interest in it.' When it comes to communicating, that could be said of many of us; we're indifferent to how we come across. We may not necessarily feel superior to others, but we don't go out of our way to get to know them either. Why? Because it's hard work! In reality, indifference is another form of selfishness that keeps you from connecting with people. English novelist George Eliot put it like this: 'Try to care about something in this vast world besides the gratification of small selfish desires. Try to care for what is best in thought and action - something that is good apart from the accidents of your own lot. Look on other lives besides your own. See what their troubles are, and how they are borne.' People truly appreciate it when you make the effort, no matter how small, to try and see things from their point of view. Paul writes, 'Be kindly, affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honour giving preference to one another' (Romans 12:10 NKJV).

Everybody you meet is wrestling with a fear or fighting a battle, and if you're caring and sensitive God will give you a word that can lift them. Isaiah said, 'The Lord God has given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him who is weary...' (Isaiah 50:4 NKJV). What a gift - to be able to lift someone who is struggling.

Soulfood : Ezek 10-13, Matt 15:29-39, Ps 129, Prov 14:25-28

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WHAT KEEPS US FROM SERVING? (2)

Another thing that'll keep you from serving others is arrogance. What others think and feel isn't important. Arrogant people seldom meet people on common ground. They don't believe they should have to because by their own estimation they live on higher ground and shouldn't have to descend to anyone else's level. They expect others to come to them.

Justice Louis D. Brandeis observed: 'Nine-tenths of the serious controversies that arise in life result from misunderstanding, from one man not knowing the facts which to the other man seem important, or otherwise failing to appreciate his point of view.' There's merit to the old Beatles' song, I Get By with a Little Help from My Friends. It's ridiculous for anyone to think they have all the answers. Such people can become opinionated, narrow- minded and arrogant, listening only to their own thoughts and ignoring advice and suggestions from others. When your overriding goal is to build a case for your own viewpoint, people get turned off if you have a 'my way or no way' attitude. To win them you must be willing to build a relationship.

The letters in the word 'silent' also form the word 'listen'. Relationships are built by listening to people, loving them, learning from them and leaving them better off than you found them. 'A wise man will hear and increase learning, and a man of understanding will attain wise counsel' (Proverbs 1:5 NKJV).

Soulfood : Ezek 5-9, Matt 15:15-28, Ps 124, Prov 14:21-24

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WHAT KEEPS US FROM SERVING? (1)

To serve others effectively, you must be attuned to what they need. What keeps us from doing that? Assumption. A lady in an airport lounge bought a packet of biscuits and sat down to read the newspaper. She heard a rustling noise and looked up to see the man beside her helping himself to the biscuits. Not wanting to make a scene, she leaned over and took one herself, hoping he'd get the message. Then she heard more rustling. She couldn't believe it. The man was helping himself to another biscuit! There was only one left! She watched in disbelief as he broke the remaining biscuit in two, pushed half across to her, popped the other half in his mouth, and left. She was still furious when her flight was announced. Imagine how she felt when she opened her handbag to get her ticket out - and found her unopened packet of biscuits!

Now be honest, didn't you assume the stranger was helping himself to her biscuits? Of course you did, and that tells you a lot about yourself! Too often we're guilty of making assumptions about people, and once you put someone in a box it's hard to think of them any other way. Do you agree? Every time a good tailor sees a client, he takes new measurements. He never assumes they're the same size as they were the last time. That's a good policy.

Never make assumptions about someone's background, profession, race, gender, age, nationality, politics, faith or other factors. Once you do, you stop paying attention and miss clues that can help you to know what they really need.

Soulfood : Ezek 1-4, Matt 15:1-14, Ps 4, Prov 14:17-20

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