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The Word For Today

The Three Thorns (2)

'It will produce thorns...for you.' Genesis 3:18 NIV

Heaven's answer to a thorn-cursed creation was a thorn-crowned Saviour. But notice something important. God didn't remove the thorns; He decided to use them for His redemptive purposes. That's why we each get the third thorn of redemption: a custom-designed thorn. Here's how Paul describes his thorn: '...Lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me...Concerning this thing I pleaded the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you: for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly will I boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong' (2 Corinthians 12:7-10 NKJV).
The word 'buffet' means 'to render blow, after blow, after blow'. Does that describe your life at the moment? If Paul's experience is anything to go by, the Christian life is a series of blessings and buffetings. And the God Who promises the first, permits the second. Why? To make sure we live our lives dependent on Him. Look what God used to make sure Paul relied totally on Him: 'infirmities, reproaches, necessities, persecutions, distresses.' Where do you find strength to handle such a catalogue of complaints? From God - and God alone.
You say, 'I want to be more fruitful in the service of the Lord.' That happens when the thorny situations in life drive us closer to God!

SoulFood: Ezek 37:1 - 40:9, Mark 14:43-52, Ps 73:1-16, Pro 15:18-21

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The Three Thorns (1)

'It will produce thorns...for you.' Genesis 3:18 NIV

In Scripture there are three thorns that paint a picture of redemption. Today, let's look at the first two and see what we can learn.
(1) A thorn-cursed creation. When Adam and Eve sinned, God said, 'Cursed is the ground because of you... It will produce thorns... By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground' (Genesis 3:17-19 NIV). Everything changed for us in that moment. Roses began to grow thorns, fellowship with God was broken - and man, who was born to live forever, began to die. It was tragic, but God had a solution.
(2) A thorn-crowned Saviour. 'When they had twisted a crown of thorns, they put it on His head...' (Matthew 27:29 NKJV). The curse that fell in a garden was lifted in a garden! When God drove Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden, He placed an angel with a flaming sword at the gate to prevent them from ever re-entering it. But at the cross Christ, the last Adam, was cut down outside the gates to become our Saviour and substitute, and secure our salvation. Now we can re-enter God's presence. What did Adam lose? Fellowship with God, immortality and sinless perfection. At the cross Christ reclaimed and restored all these to us. 'Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new' (2 Corinthians 5:17 NKJV). Notice the words, 'in Christ' - keep them close to your heart each day this month. Rejoice! God loves and accepts you 'in Christ'.

SoulFood: Ezek 34-36, Mark 14:27-42, Ps 80:12-19, Pro 15:15-17

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Cool Thoughts for Hotheads (2)

'Saul looked at David with suspicion from that day on.' 1 Samuel 18:9 NAS

A hot temper: (1) Drives a wedge between you and your loved ones. Esau resented his brother Jacob so much that he wanted him dead. When his mother Rebekah heard this, she sent Jacob away to live in Haran (Genesis 27:41-43). As a result, the family was separated and they suffered. Angry people intimidate others and rob them of their sense of security and peace of mind. Psychologists say anger is a leading cause of divorce, child abuse and addiction. What a terrible price to pay!
(2) Undermines a life that pleases God. 'Understand this...[be] slow to get angry. Human anger does not produce the righteousness God desires' (James 1:19-20 NLT). Your anger isn't just 'your own business', it's God's business, too, because it hinders your ability to live the life He intended. You can't be right with God until you are right with others.
(3) Blinds you to reality. Looking through the lens of misguided anger, you see only what you choose to see. It causes you to focus on options like revenge and retribution. Saul saw David as a threat, someone who planned to take his kingdom and throne. So he 'looked at David with suspicion from that day on.' His anger made him see David as someone who deserved to die because he was God's choice to succeed him as Israel's next king. Sadly, it also kept him from seeing that David was actually his best friend. Don't let that happen to you.

SoulFood: Ezek 27:25 - 30:26, Mark 14:1-11, Ps 143, Pro 15:8-10

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Cool Thoughts for Hotheads (1)

'...A hot-tempered person commits all kinds of sin.' Proverbs 29:22 NLT

Righteous indignation is the capacity to get aroused when it matters. When you see people mistreated and don't feel concerned, you're either in denial or lacking compassion. God designed anger to move us to action. The Bible says, '...God is angry with the wicked every day' (Psalms 7:11 NKJV); it motivates His actions against man's wickedness. When Jesus saw His Father's house being desecrated His anger drove Him to make a whip, overthrow the money tables and chase out the loan sharks. His '...passion for God's house [consumed Him]' (John 2:17 NLT). He couldn't remain passive or be part of compromise. The world needs people who'll take action when the weak and vulnerable are 'used and abused'.
Hot temper, however, isn't the fruit of godly motivation. It's driven by our lower nature. Like Balaam who got angry when he was challenged by the truth, our pride gets hurt (Numbers 22:29). Or like Cain, who was jealous because his brother's gift was accepted and his wasn't, we get resentful when someone else seems blessed more than us (Genesis 4:3-7). Like Haman, who was enraged that Mordecai wouldn't bow before him, we selfishly desire to have our way (Esther 3:1-6). Like King Saul, who was envious over David's popularity, we get jealous when someone else has accomplished more than us (1 Samuel 18:8). Like King Ahab, who was confronted with the truth he'd rather not hear, we refuse to face our sinful ways and failures (1 Kings 22:15-27).
The Bible cautions us: 'When you are angry, do not sin...do not give the devil a way to defeat you' (Ephesians 4:26-27 NCV).

SoulFood: Ezek 24:1 - 27:24, Mark 13:24-37, Ps 132:11-18, Pro 15:5-7

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Serving Requires Faithfulness

In His dealings with people, the Bible says of Christ: 'Having loved His own...He loved them unto the end' (John 13:1 KJV). And when it came to His dealings with God, He could say, 'I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me' (John 5:30 NKJV).

Can God count on you? Can others? When you make a commitment, do you keep it? Do you quit on a whim, or break your word because you get a better offer? 'In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called him in a vision, "Ananias!" "Yes, Lord," he answered' (Acts 9:10 NIV). God knew where to find Ananias. Does He know where to find you? Pastor Eric Hulstrand was preaching one Sunday when an elderly woman, Mary, fainted and struck her head on the end of the pew. They called for an ambulance and, as they put her on the stretcher, she regained consciousness and motioned for her daughter to come near. Everyone thought she was summoning her strength to convey what would be her final words. Her daughter leaned over until her ear was at Mary's mouth. 'My offering is in my purse,' she whispered. God's work shouldn't go lacking because you've gone on holiday and taken your tithes and offerings with you. 'Honour the Lord with your wealth and with the best part of everything you produce' (Proverbs 3:9 NLT).

Your faithfulness shouldn't be contingent upon economic conditions, but upon your commitment to Christ. Remember the US Marine Corps motto, 'Semper Fidelis', the Latin for 'Always Faithful'.

Soulfood : Ezek 22-23, Mk 13:12-23, Ps 132:1-10, Prov 15:1-4

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Serving Requires Obedience

'I desire to do Your will, my God.' Psalms 40:8 NIV

If you're upset over giving up your 'rights' and 'privileges' to serve others, consider what Christ gave up to serve you. '...He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death...' (Philippians 2:8 NKJV). When you're tempted to remind others of the sacrifices you've made, hear Christ's Words: '...When you have done all things which you are commanded, say, "We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do"' (Luke 17:10 NKJV).
Have you ever observed a dog that graduated from obedience school? It's a source of pleasure to its master because it has learned to respond to a word, sometimes even a look. God says, 'I will guide you with My eye' (Psalms 32:8 NKJV). God wants to bring you to the place where you don't have to be begged, badgered or browbeaten to serve. One look from Him and you do it without question. As a servant you can't change your master's orders! Dr JR Miller said, 'It is a great deal easier to do that which God gives us to do, no matter how hard it is, than to face the responsibilities of not doing it.' God doesn't want foot-dragging compliance, He wants willing obedience. And when He gets it, He blesses it. 'If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land' (Isaiah 1:19 NIV).
God's best is reserved for those who say yes. You ask, 'How will I know when I arrive at that place?' Because you'll be able to say, 'I desire to do Your will, O my God.'

SoulFood: Ezek 20-21, Mark 13:1-11, Ps 48, Pro 14:33-35

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Serving Requires Humility

'Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.' Philippians 2:5 NIV

Paul writes: 'You must have the same attitude that...Jesus had. Though He was God, He did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, He gave up His divine privileges...took the...position of a slave...humbled Himself in obedience to God and died a criminal's death on the cross. Therefore, God elevated Him to the place of highest honour and gave Him the name above all other names...' (Philippians 2:5-9 NLT).
The world teaches an expectation that others are to serve us, but being a Christ follower means we are called to serve others. There's a big difference, isn't there? Christ modelled servanthood before His disciples. On the social totem pole, the lowest servant in the house washed feet. Try to picture God washing the feet of common fishermen, then saying, 'As I have served you, now go and serve one another.' Download that picture the next time you view somebody as a burden, or beneath you or an obstacle to your success. You'll never serve as Christ served if your focus is on building your own image. 'Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands and that He had come from God and was going to God ...began to wash the disciples' feet' (John 13:3-5 NKJV).
Jesus had settled three big issues: (1) He knew Who sent Him. (2) He knew Who sustained Him. (3) He knew Who was going to reward Him. Therefore He was liberated from the fear of people, the fear of failure and the fear of rejection. JL Massed said it so well: 'Service can never become slavery to one who loves.'

SoulFood: Ezek 16:53 - 19:14, Mark 12:28-44, Ps 1, Pro 14:29-32

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Hope

'Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope...' Hebrews 10:23 NLT

Some of the people around you today are living without hope. Look at them; they smile, but their eyes are dead. They talk, but the music has left their voice. They're like mannequins: all dressed up and going nowhere because they feel hopeless. But as a follower of Christ, you don't have to live that way. 'Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep His promise.'
Our hope isn't luck, like winning the lottery. No, it's confidence that God will do what He said. No one knew the truth of this better than David. He had every reason to lose hope. After Samuel anointed him to be Israel's next king, he had to wait for seven years while a paranoid ruler occupied the throne. He had to flee for his life and hide in caves, surrounded by enemies. He saw Israel devastated, his friends killed and his family taken captive. But he never wavered or threw in the towel. Faced with circumstances that would wipe many of us out, he sang, '...My hope is in You' (Psalms 39:7 NKJV). '...Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning' (Psalms 30:5 NKJV). In other words, 'It's going to get better!' You can't lose with an attitude like that. David became king because he never lost confidence in the promises of God. They kept him focused; they kept him on top of the circumstances; they kept him going!
What has God promised you? Stand on His Word and declare, 'If God promised it, I believe it, and that settles it!'

SoulFood: Ezek 10-13, Mark 12:1-12, Ps 124, Pro 14:21-24

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We Must Be Christ-Centred!

'You are worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power.' Revelation 4:11 NJKV

In the book of Revelation, Christ stands knocking on the door of the last of the seven churches, asking them to let Him in. Amazing! Did the people inside not miss Him? Here's a frightening thought: it's possible to build a large institution, call it a church, and yet for Jesus to be marginalised in its emphasis and activities.
The measure of a ministry is how it treats Christ. Even in emphasising the importance of Spirit-filled living, we can produce believers who are Spirit-filled but not Jesus-thrilled! We can reduce Christianity to principles that work as effectively in the secular marketplace as they do in the church. John the Revelator saw Christ sitting upon a throne. Next he heard the voices of a multitude singing, '...Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honour and glory and blessing' (Revelation 5:12 NKJV)! And it was a mixed multitude. 'Every creature which is in Heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: "Blessing and honour and glory and power be to Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb, forever and ever"' (Revelation 5:13 NKJV)!
London once had two great preachers. When a lady went to hear the first, Dr Joseph Parker, she left saying, 'What a preacher!' When she went to hear the second, Charles Spurgeon, she left saying 'What a Christ!' Do you love the Lord supremely? Is His name written on your heart?

SoulFood: Ezek 5-9, Mark 11:27-33, Ps 4, Pro 14:17-20

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What Has God Said About You? (4)

'...He did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise...' Romans 4:20 NIV

If your vision is simply to be a great parent, that doesn't mean your faith is inadequate. It just means you understand your calling. All Moses' mother did was give birth - but what a baby! God protected her son when she couldn't do a thing to help him. Then He arranged to have him raised in Pharaoh's royal courts. And when you discover God's purpose for your life, He will provide for you, too!
Some days your vision won't look like it's coming together. As a child, Joseph dreamed of being a great leader, but before he could get to the palace, he had to go through the prison. Pastor James Petrow says, 'You can't build a foundation in a storm, so God will prepare you in advance.' Sometimes your vision will seem to die before it springs to life. That happened to Abraham. 'Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations...he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead - since he was about a hundred years old - and that Sarah's womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what He had promised' (Romans 4:18-21 NIV).
Paul wrote, 'We are fools for Christ...' (1 Corinthians 4:10 NIV). God uses radical people who don't care how they look: people who've survived difficult pasts, defied the odds, held onto their vision, and declared, 'My God is able!' And you can be one of those people!

SoulFood: Ezek 1-4, Mark 11:12-26, Ps 121, Pro 14:13-16

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