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The Word For Today

The path of pressure

'But the gate is narrow (contracted by pressure).' Matthew 7:14 AMPC

If you're at a crossroads in life today, you have two options: (1) Turn right or left. (2) Go forward or back. There's no doubt what way God wants you to go - forward! If you have any doubts about that, read and meditate on these Scriptures: 'Though your beginning was small, yet your latter end would increase abundantly' (Job 8:7 NKJV). 'They go from strength to strength' (Psalm 84:7 NKJV). 'The path of the just is like the shining sun, that shines ever brighter unto the perfect day' (Proverbs 4:18 NKJV). 'Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all' (1 Timothy 4:15 NKJV).

God will give you the grace and strength to go forward and pursue the path ahead, but know this: it's not always an easy path. Jesus said: 'Enter through the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and spacious and broad is the way that leads away to destruction, and many are those who are entering through it. But the gate is narrow (contracted by pressure) and the way is straitened and compressed that leads away to life, and few are those who find it' (Matthew 7:13-14 AMPC).

Here Jesus was preaching his famous Sermon on the Mount, where he outlined how you're supposed to live as a citizen of his Kingdom. It's the difference between the 'many' and the 'few'. The first group chooses the path of ease, but the second chooses the path of 'pressure', realising that tough as it may be, it forms the character of Christ in us.

Soulfood: Gen 28:1 - 30:24, Matt 20:29-34, Ps 136:1-12, Pro 6:30-31


It's yours if you fight for it

'Take possession of the land...God is giving you.' Joshua 1:11 NIV

God told Joshua, 'You will cross the Jordan here to go in and take possession of the land the Lord your God is giving you' (Joshua 1:11 NIV). As far as God was concerned, the 'Promised Land' already belonged to his people. But when he told them to 'take possession', that meant they would have to fight for it. There were thirty-one kings living there - warlords, each with their own tribal armies. There were seven major cities to conquer, and giants to overcome.

So here are the questions: (1) Do you believe God has given you the gifting, resources and strength to fulfil your destiny? (2) Are you willing to fight for it? You won't win in your own strength, but the good news is, you don't have to. God said, 'Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you' (Joshua 1:9 NIV). Whatever God calls you to do, he will give you the ability to do, but you must work to develop that ability. Sometimes he will answer your prayer immediately and give you what you're asking for. Other times, the onus is on you to pursue what he promised - and that calls for passion, patience and persistence.

Has it occurred to you that you may be waiting for God to bring you something, and he's waiting for you to go and get it? He doesn't respond to our wishes, or even to our pleading; he responds to faith-in-action! So the word for you today is - it's yours, if you're willing to fight for it!

Soulfood: Gen 25:19 - 27:46, Matt 20:17-28, Ps 77, Pro 6:29


Lessons from God's creatures 2

'Though you have not seen him, you love him.' 1 Peter 1:8 NIV

In his book, Talking Dogs, Sam Mason continues: 'During the last couple of years of his life, Tigger, one of our dearly loved Italian greyhounds, gradually lost his sight. He'd developed cataracts. They robbed him of his vision, but they couldn't steal his precious relationship with his masters. My wife Carol often referred to Tigger as her "lovey-dovey boy". He would stand (not sit!) on our laps, putting his paws on either side of our necks, then affectionately tuck his head under our chins. It was adorable. Blind though he was, Tigger's desire for the ones he could no longer see was unaffected. In spite of the cataracts that blurred our features, somehow he still managed to look us in the face. His diminished capacities may have hampered his movements, but his love and trust towards his masters remained rock solid. All of us who have placed our trust in the Lord possess handicaps...even spiritual ones. Do we use them as excuses for not pursuing God as intensely as we ought? Do we allow these hindrances to ration our love for him? Or do we, with God's help, find the strength to reach past our limitations to experience the unbounded joy of his presence, and fulfil the calling he's placed on our lives? Yes, we may sometimes grope about in darkness every now and then, even stumbling and falling. But we can trust the one who understands our seasons of blindness. We can open our hearts to his love and love him back...sight unseen!'

Soulfood: Gen 24:1 - 25:18, Matt 20:1-16, Ps 70, Pro 6:26-28


Lessons from God's creatures 1

'My heart says of you, "Seek his face!" Your face, Lord, I will seek.' Psalm 27:8 NIV

In his book, Talking Dogs, Sam Mason discusses how God can use our pets to speak to us.

Looking back on some dogs he has owned and the lessons he learned from them, he writes: 'One such occasion was when Ranger, our eleven-pound Italian greyhound, was sitting on my lap as I relaxed in the recliner. I noticed that familiar, endearing little tilt of the head, as he looked me directly in the face. I found myself wondering what his purpose was. A second later, I warmed to the pleasure of divine inspiration, as the explanation flowed into my stream of thought. Ranger was seeking my face! You see, dogs become students of their owners. Their comprehension of spoken human language is limited to a handful of words. Their capacity to understand a creature of far greater intellect is restricted. So they study our movements: facial expressions, hand gestures and other body language. Likewise, we have limited understanding of our Master. So how do we "seek the face" of someone who is so far our superior? The Lord reveals himself through his Word. That's where our pursuit begins. How sad that so few professing Christians read and study the Bible on any regular basis. But beyond the Scriptures, there are other ways to seek God's face. Pay attention to the ways of God as the Holy Spirit moves upon your heart during church services. Learn from his interventions in your life and those of your fellow believers. Behind his works are his ways! Determine to become a student of the Master at every opportunity.'

Soulfood: Gen 20-23, Matt 19:15-30, Ps 66:13-20, Pro 6:23-25


Be careful who you turn to 2

'I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the Lord." And you forgave the guilt of my sin.' Psalm 32:5 NIV

When you are struggling with a stubborn habit or addiction, you will find strength in the right support group. And when you need help, don't be ashamed to reach for it - but be careful to whom you confess your sins! The psalmist wrote, 'I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the Lord." And you forgave the guilt of my sin' (Psalm 32:5 NIV).

One Bible teacher put it like this: 'Never discuss what you want someone else to forget. Your words make thoughts permanent; they give life and longevity to everything discussed. Arguments would die and conflicts would cease, except your words sustained them. Words breathe life into everything. "Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit" (Proverbs 18:21 NKJV). And words can wound. 'The words of a gossip are like choice morsels; they go down to the inmost parts' (Proverbs 18:8 NIV). You can't stop others from talking about you, but don't give them information you may want them to forget. And never give unnecessary information that requires, demands or inspires the pursuit of more questions. Be cautious when confessing your mistakes. Your attempt to be open may be very sincere, but your mistake may loom larger in their memory than the lesson you've learned and are trying to share with them. Certainly, there are times when additional information and clarification are advisable, beneficial and even necessary, but you must be wise. Focus on your future, not your past. And never say anything you don't want to be repeated for the rest of your life.'

Soulfood: Acts 2:1-21, Joel 2:23-32,


Be careful who you turn to 1

'Pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.' Ecclesiastes 4:10 NIV

God never meant for us to 'fly solo'. We all need help and encouragement from time to time, but be careful who you turn to. (1) Don't go to someone who can't handle your problem. By sharing your situation with them you may experience temporary relief, but what if they're not mature enough to handle it? Jesus said, 'Whoever causes one of these little ones... to sin ...better...a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were drowned in the depth of the sea' (Matthew 18:6 NKJV).

(2) It's okay to turn to a proven friend as long as they're spiritually mature. The Bible says, 'A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity' (Proverbs 17:17 NKJV). But you must know they're a true friend. Peter writes, 'Love covers over a multitude of sins' (1 Peter 4:8 NIV). Someone who truly loves you will pray for you, and walk with you until you have the victory. And when you're on the wrong path, they won't cover up or make excuses for you - they will hold you accountable.

(3) When possible, turn to a spiritual father. Paul says, 'You might have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet you do not have many fathers' (1 Corinthians 4:15 NKJV). Think of a good father's attributes. He corrects, but never condemns you. He won't give up on you. He evaluates you based on your best qualities rather than your worst. Instead of reacting negatively to your failures, he recognises your potential and keeps on working with you. So ask God today for a spiritual father, and stay in regular communication with him.

Soulfood: Gen 17-19, Matt 19:1-14, Ps 66:1-12, Pro 6:20-22


A promise for your unsaved loved one

'He is patient...not wanting anyone to perish.' 2 Peter 3:9 NIV

If you're praying for an unsaved loved one, here is a Bible promise you can stand on today: 'He is patient...not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance' (2 Peter 3:9 NIV). Remove the word 'everyone' and insert the name of your loved one. As long as there's life, there's hope! The last miracle Jesus worked was saving a thief who hung on a cross beside him: 'Today you will be with me in Paradise' (Luke 23:43 NKJV).

In the words of the hymnist, Annie Johnson Flint: 'His love has no limit, his grace has no measure, his power no boundary known unto men; For out of his infinite riches in Jesus - he giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.' No matter how far gone your loved one may be, God's grace and mercy can still reach them - so keep praying for them. Listen: 'The arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear' (Isaiah 59:1 NIV). Jesus said, 'No one can come to me unless the Father...draws them' (John 6:44 NIV).

So ask God to send someone across your loved one's path who will show them the way of salvation. Above all, don't get discouraged and give in to doubt. Remember, it's God's will to save them, and when you know you're praying in accordance with his will, you can approach him with confidence. 'This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us - whatever we ask - we know that we have what we asked of him' (1 John 5:14-15 NIV).

Soulfood: Gen 13-16, Matt 18:21-35, Ps 61, Pro 6:16-19


Reading the Bible works

'The entrance of your words gives light.' Psalm 119:130 NKJV

In December 2005, Brian Hardin says God told him to podcast the Bible. Hardin writes: 'On New Year's Eve when I read my first podcast...I said, "I'm Brian...I have no broadcast experience. I really don't know what I'm doing, but I plan to read through the Bible this year. If you get this, here's my email address." I expected about five people to sign up. On New Year's Day 2006, I had 257 responses, and by June the daily audio Bible had been downloaded 200,000 times. Now, following our sixth anniversary, it's been downloaded more than 51 million times and is still one of the top podcasts on iTunes. With more than 1.5 million downloads monthly, the daily audio Bible is one of the most listened to podcasts in the world. We've become a vast online family that prays and hears the Bible together. When somebody calls or goes into the online prayer line with a request, thousands of people pray for that person...We receive an endless stream of emails from disenfranchised believers who have found the place appealing...Separated couples who had nothing left to do but sign divorce papers...started listening to the Bible and found their marriages restored. I can tell you many stories of people who were hopeless - I mean suicidally hopeless - who found comfort in God's Word and were restored. The Bible has a voice, and if given a chance to speak - in context - it will create amazing things in your heart. The Bible can transform even the most tangled life. I know. It radically changed mine.'

Soulfood: Gen 10-12, Matt 18:10-20, Ps 58, Pro 6:12-15


God's recovery plan

'Pursue, for you shall surely overtake them and without fail recover all.' 1 Samuel 30:8 NKJV

God's Word promises that whatever you are addicted to today, you can be set free from. And there's more! You can get back what you've lost, or something even better. How? By doing what David did when the Amalekite armies destroyed his home and took his family captive:

(1) He turned to God for strength to deal with his problem. 'David strengthened himself in the Lord his God' (1 Samuel 30:6 NKJV). Face it; if you could have solved the problem by yourself, you'd already have done it, right? Don't feel bad about that, feel good. Acknowledging that you are powerless is the first step to victory. 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness' (2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV). Now, acknowledging that you're powerless isn't the same thing as giving in to hopelessness. It means acknowledging that you can't, God can, and that he will when you surrender the problem to him. (2) God gave David a plan to deal with his problem. 'Pursue, for you will surely overtake them and without fail recover all' (1 Samuel 30:8 NKJV). Armed with God's strength and his plan, David went after the enemy and kept attacking until he recovered everything that had been stolen from him. And God wants to do that for you too. He promised, 'I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten' (Joel 2:25 NKJV).

When you turn to God, he can give you more joy and success in the years ahead than in all the years behind you. That's his recovery plan for you!

Soulfood: Gen 7-9, Matt 18:1-9, Ps 53, Pro 6:9-11


Depend completely on God

'Our competence comes from God.' 2 Corinthians 3:5-6 NIV

Jesus told his disciples, 'Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak' (Matthew 26:41 NKJV). What did he mean by that? He meant that without the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit, which he'd just told them they'd soon receive, they weren't equal to the challenges they were about to face. It wasn't a matter of his doubting their devotion and willingness to serve him; he just knew they couldn't do it by themselves. And you can't either. So the sooner you stop trying, the better off you'll be!

God isn't looking for educated, sophisticated, well-meaning flesh, or any other kind of 'flesh', for that matter. He will only bless you when you acknowledge your total dependence on him. That means praying and leaning on him before you start, and continuing to pray and lean on him until you reach the finish line. It also means that if God doesn't send you and you insist on going, or if he tells you to do something and you try to accomplish it in your own strength, you'll surely fail. And what's more, he will allow you to keep failing until you reach the place where you can say like Paul: 'Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. He has made us competent' (2 Corinthians 3:5-6 NIV). It's when we reach the end of our resources that God's power kicks in.

So the word for you today is: instead of leaning on your own strength and resources, depend wholly and solely on God.

Soulfood: Gen 4-6, Matt 17:14-27, Ps 40:9-17, Pro 6:6-8

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