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The Word For Today

A truly challenging commandment



'Love each other in the same way I have loved you.' John 15:12 NLT

Jesus said, 'I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow' (John 15:11 NLT)! What are these 'things' that you must do to have his joy in life? Jesus tells us in the next verse: 'This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you' (John 15:12 NLT). You say, 'That's a truly challenging commandment!' Yes, and you'll have to do a lot of growing and maturing in order to keep it. But to enjoy the life Jesus wants you to have, you must commit yourself to doing it!

God created all kinds of people with different temperaments and personalities, so clearly he loves variety. When God made the first person he said, 'It was good.' So not only are there varieties of people, but there's 'good' in everybody and you're supposed to look for it. Much of our unhappiness in life is caused by people not being what we want them to be or doing what we want them to do. What's the answer? How can you enjoy each day if you're going to have to deal with annoying people? By making up your mind to love them. You don't have to like their ways, but you have to love them in spite of their ways. When you think about it, that's how God treats you, right?

Here's a key to loving annoying people: annoying people are usually annoyed about something in their life. When you treat the source of their pain, they'll begin to feel better and treat you better.

Soulfood: Deut 1-2 Matt 11:20-30 Ps 42:6-11 Pro 16:17-19,

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Reasons to be thankful



'In everything give thanks; for this is the will of God...for you.' 1 Thessalonians 5:18 NKJV

Gratitude doesn't come naturally to us, but grumbling does. No one had more cause to grumble than Joseph. Abandoned, enslaved, betrayed and estranged. Those are the chapter titles for his life story. Yet when he talks about it you won't hear a tinge of bitterness. Instead, you'll hear the opposite. In naming his two sons, he makes them living, breathing, lifelong testimonies of his gratitude to God. 'Joseph named his older son Manasseh, for he said, "God has made me forget all my troubles and everyone in my father's family." Joseph named his second son Ephraim, for he said, "God has made me fruitful in this land of my grief"' (Genesis 41:51-52 NLT).

Notice two things. First, Joseph looked at the past and gave God thanks for what he had brought him through. And you need to do that too. Whether it's stuff others did to you, or stuff you did to them, God's grace brought you through it. There's only one good reason to bring up the past, and that's to remember how God guided, protected and blessed you in it. Second, Joseph looked at the present. 'God has made me fruitful in this land of my grief' (Genesis 41:52 NLT). Do you remember a time when you thought you wouldn't make it? And when others thought you wouldn't make it, too? Look what the Lord has done in your life! In spite of the obstacles and the opposition he has blessed and taken care of you. Turn off the complaining tap and turn on the thanksgiving tap.

'In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God...for you' (1 Thessalonians 5:18 NKJV).

Soulfood: Acts 27-28 Matt 11:10-19 Ps 42:1-5 Pro 16:16,

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Through the wilderness



'Which way shall we go up?'... 'By way of the wilderness.' 2 Kings 3:8 NKJV

The Israelites discovered that, for them, the way into the Promised Land was through the wilderness. One Bible teacher refers to it as 'God's killing field'. He says: 'In the wilderness experiences of life, the things that cause you to stumble in your walk with God are permitted to die. There he weeds out those who want only a superficial relationship from those who long to know him intimately. It's where you learn to stand in faith and to cast all your cares on him, because there's nowhere else to turn. It's where God says, "I finally have you where I want you." Sometimes he will lead you into the wilderness abruptly. This is especially so when he's been trying to get your attention and talk to you about a calling he's placed on your life, and until now you haven't had time to listen. Suddenly you realise that God is the only one who can get you through the situation you're in. He permits you to be stripped of pride so you can be clothed with humility; stripped of self-sufficiency so you can be brought to the place of total dependence on him.'

If you're going through a wilderness experience, don't think God is punishing you or that he has forsaken you. He's just allowing some things to die so that other things can be born in you and grow into fruitfulness. Be encouraged; you will come through this! By God's grace you'll get to your destination. The truth is, sometimes the only way to reach the destination God has planned for you is through the wilderness.

Soulfood: 1 Sam 5:1 - 6:16 Rev 11:15-19,

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Stay focused 2



'I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down.' Nehemiah 6:3 NIV

When it came to rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, Nehemiah discovered that not everyone around him wanted him to succeed. To stop the work, his enemies used two things - threats and rumours. Nevertheless he rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem in less than two months. How did he do it? He stayed focused on what mattered and refused to be distracted. 'They were scheming to harm me; so I sent messengers to them with this reply: "I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?" Four times they sent me the same message, and each time I gave them the same answer' (Nehemiah 6:2-4 NIV). In the parlance of today, they emailed him. They tagged him in tweets. They left messages on his mobile phone. Over and over they tried to distract and detour him with dialogue. But he refused to fight. His voicemail greeting sounded something like this: 'You have reached the home of Nehemiah. I'm not here. I'm carrying on a great project right now. If this is Sanballat, Tobiah, or Geshem, you're wasting your time. If it's anybody else, please leave a message after the beep.'

When you decide what your life's priorities are, they will help you decide everything else. They will help you keep your eye on the ball. When life seems to be against you, ask yourself, 'What are my biggest priorities for this day? For this week?' Settle those in your mind and be laser-beam focused on them as you pursue the assignment God has given you.

Soulfood: Acts 24-26 Matt 11:1-9 Ps 1 Pro 16:10-15,

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Stay focused 1



'Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you.' Proverbs 4:25 NIV

Years ago an airliner crashed into the Florida Everglades. On its approach to the Miami airport, the light indicator for proper deployment of the landing gear failed. They flew circles over the swamps of the Everglades while the cockpit crew checked to see if the gear truly had not deployed, or if the bulb in the signal light was defective. When the flight engineer tried to remove the signal light assembly it wouldn't budge, so the other members of the crew joined in and tried to help him. As they struggled with the light assembly, none of them noticed that the aircraft was losing altitude. As a result the plane flew right into the swamp, killing 101 people on board. All was lost because the crew fiddled with a cheap light bulb and took their eyes off what mattered most.

In life you'll be tempted to choose what seems urgent over what seems important. As you try to keep your eye on the ball, this dilemma will constantly threaten your focus: 'How do I choose what is best over what is merely good? Or the long-term perspective over the short-term one?' You must not lose focus; your task is too important.

Solomon bottom-lines it: 'Keep looking straight ahead, without turning aside. Know where you are headed, and you will stay on solid ground. Don't make a mistake by turning to the right or the left' (Proverbs 4:25-27 CEV).

Soulfood: Acts 22-23 Matt 10:32-42 Ps 65 Pro 16:8-9,

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Hard work and integrity



'A hard worker has plenty of food, but a person who chases fantasies has no sense.' Proverbs 12:11 NLT

In The Finishing Touch, author Chuck Swindoll tells about a man he met who made a great impression on him: 'With a grin and a twinkle, he whipped out his hand. It was a hand you could strike a match on, toughened by decades of rugged toil. "You look like a man who enjoys life. What do you do for a living?" I asked. "Me? Well, I'm a farmer from back in the Midwest." I asked him, "What did you do last week?" He said, "Last week I finished harvesting ninety thousand bushels of corn." I then blurted out, "Ninety thousand! How old are you, my friend?" He didn't seem at all hesitant or embarrassed by my question. "I'm just a couple of months shy of 90." He laughed again as I shook my head. He had lived through four wars, the Great Depression, sixteen presidents, ninety Midwest winters, who knows how many personal hardships, and he was still taking life by the throat. I had to ask him the secret of his long and productive life. "Hard work and integrity" was his quick reply. As we parted company he looked back over his shoulder and added, "Don't take it easy, young feller. Stay at it!" Hard work and integrity! Those two qualities go together, and are the essence of a life well-lived. And when you practise them faithfully, you experience the highest level of joy and fulfilment in life.'

The Bible puts it this way: 'A hard worker has plenty of food, but a person who chases fantasies has no sense' (Proverbs 12:11 NLT).

Soulfood: Acts 20-21 Matt 10:21-31 Ps 14 Pro 16:6-7,

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How 'hungry' are you



'He satisfies the...hungry with good things.' Psalm 107:9 NIV

Successful people are often just people who were a little hungrier and thirstier for success than the rest of us. What we desired, they pursued. Napoleon was born in poverty. His classmates made fun of him in school. But he devoted himself to his books, excelled in his studies and became the brightest student in class. Before his life was over, he conquered much of the world! If a seedling tree has to fight its way up through rocks to get to sunlight and air, then wrestle with storms and frost to survive, you can be sure of one thing: its root system will be strong and its timber resilient. Nature itself teaches us that it's impossible to succeed without going through adversity.

If you're successful and haven't experienced hardship, you can be sure someone else has experienced it for you. And if you're experiencing adversity without succeeding, there's a good chance somebody else will succeed because of the price you paid. Either way, there's no achievement without adversity. The acid test of character is determined by what it takes to discourage you and make you quit. Dr G. Campbell Morgan tells of a man whose shop burned to the ground in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Next morning he arrived at work carrying a table which he set up amid the charred ruins. On it he placed a sign that read, 'Everything lost except wife, children and hope. Business as usual tomorrow morning.'

Solomon said, 'Do you see a man who excels in his work? He will stand before kings' (Proverbs 22:29 NKJV). You say you want to succeed? The question is - how 'hungry' are you?

Soulfood: Acts 18-19 Matt 10:11-20 Ps 146 Pro 16:4-5,

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Choose your battles wisely



'If you follow this advice...then you will be able to endure the pressures.' Exodus 18:23 NLT

A good general knows it's a mistake to try and fight on too many fronts at once; that when you're 'spread out too thin' you're vulnerable! And the same is true in life. To avoid undue stress, you must refuse to let every little thing upset you. In other words, choose your battles wisely. Don't make mountains out of molehills. Before you devote time, energy and emotion to an issue, ask yourself how important it is, and how much of your time, effort and energy is appropriate. Try to discern what really matters and focus on those things. Learn the difference between major matters and minor matters.

Moses was becoming exhausted because he personally handled every problem, dispute and crisis that arose among the Israelites. Perhaps he thought he had to do so, since he was the leader of the nation. But his father-in-law said to him, in essence, 'You take care of the big things and leave the small stuff to someone else.' He went on to say, '"If you follow this advice...you will be able to endure the pressures"...Moses listened to his father-in-law's advice and followed his suggestions' (Exodus 18:23-24 NLT).

Stop and think about it: your life already has plenty of stress and strain, so why add more if you can avoid it? When you're tempted to take on a 'battle', step back and decide if it's worth it and what it will require from you. Don't go to war when there are no spoils.

Soulfood: Acts 16-17 Matt 10:1-10 Ps 140 Pro 16:3,

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Approach God as a child



'Unless you... become as little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven.' Matthew 18:3 TLB

Matthew writes: 'The disciples came to Jesus and asked, "Who is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?" Jesus called a little child to him...He said..."Unless you... become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven"' (Matthew 18:1-4 NLT). To do great things for God, you must approach him with a childlike attitude.

You can learn a lot from watching little children. Wherever they are, they find a way to enjoy whatever they're doing. They're quick to forgive an offence. One moment they're fighting over something, the next moment they're playing happily together. And trusting comes easily to them. Your children don't worry about mortgage payments, meals or making ends meet because they implicitly trust that you will provide what they need.

What was Jesus teaching us? (a) To have simple faith. (b) To pray simple prayers. (c) To be quick to repent. (d) To reach regularly for God's help. (e) To believe that your heavenly Father is good and that 'no good thing will he withhold from those who walk uprightly' (Psalm 84:11 NKJV). Plus, when you forgive children, they don't run around feeling guilty and condemned. With this kind of simplicity in your relationship with God, you'll find yourself growing spiritually and enjoying him more than ever. And that should be your goal.

Soulfood: Acts 14-15 Matt 9:27-38 Ps 133 Pro 16:2,

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Ask God for a strategic plan



'Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, "This is the way, walk in it."' Isaiah 30:21 NKJV

Jesus understood God's strategic plan for his life - the redemption of humankind - and lived each day of his life in the light of it. At the end of his life he could pray, 'I have glorified you on the earth. I have finished the work which you have given me to do' (John 17:4 NKJV).

Strategic planning is critical to success in any undertaking. And as a redeemed child of God, your strategy should come from God, otherwise pressures and people can take you in the wrong direction. Jesus could easily have been sidetracked by the demands of the crowd and the misguided thinking of his disciples. How did he avoid that? By nights spent in prayer, and predawn meetings with his Father seeking guidance. Jesus lived by this principle: 'The Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does...I judge as God tells me. Therefore, my judgment is just, because I carry out the will of the one who sent me, not my own will' (John 5:19, 30 NLT).

When seeking a plan for your life, the first book you should read is the Bible. Don't adopt someone else's plan unless God told you to do the same thing, or you'll end up frustrated. You ask, 'You mean God has a strategy and a plan for my life and that he will reveal it to me?' Yes. 'Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, "This is the way, walk in it"' (Isaiah 30:21 NKJV).

Soulfood: 1 Sam 21:1-6 Hosea 6:4-6 Matt 12:1-14,

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