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Lizzie 10:00-3:00pm

The Word For Today

Responding to gossip 1

'It is reported...and Geshem says it is true.' Nehemiah 6:6 NIV

The only way to avoid criticism is to say nothing, do nothing and be nothing. When you attempt anything of value or significance, people are going to talk about you.

Nehemiah's enemies tried to stop him from rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem by using gossip and innuendo: 'It is reported among the nations - and Geshem says it is true...Moreover, according to these reports you are about to become their king and have even appointed prophets to make this proclamation about you in Jerusalem: "There is a king in Judah!"' (Nehemiah 6:6-7 NIV). Notice, no source was given of the accusations against Nehemiah. 'It is reported.' Always be prepared when someone comes to you and says something like this: 'I heard...' or 'somebody said...' or 'the word on the street is...' Never receive a criticism from someone who is bringing it on behalf of someone else, someone they won't even name or someone who won't say it to your face. Not even slander could keep Nehemiah from the work he was doing. Note how he responded: 'I sent him this reply: "Nothing like what you are saying is happening; you are just making it up out of your head"' (v. 8 NIV). In other words: 'I don't care what you think, or say, or like. I'm going to keep building this wall until the job is done.'

And that must be your attitude too. Most of the time your friends don't need an explanation, and your enemies wouldn't believe one if you held them at gunpoint. So stay focused and get the job done.

Soulfood: 2 Sam 1 2 Sam 2 2 Sam 3:1-21 John 1:29-42 Ps 131 Pro 23:1-3,


Heartfelt prayer

'When you pray, don't babble on and on.' Matthew 6:7 NLT

Here's what Jesus taught about prayer: 'When you pray, don't babble on and on as the Gentiles do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again' (Matthew 6:7 NLT). He gave us two specific instructions. First: 'Shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private' (Matthew 6:6 NLT). Second: 'Your Father knows exactly what you need...before you ask him' (Matthew 6:8 NLT).

Heartfelt prayer isn't meant for human ears. In The Message, Eugene Peterson paraphrases it this way: 'Find a quiet, secluded place so you won't be tempted to role-play.' In heartfelt prayer the Holy Spirit brings to the surface things you've carefully hidden from others, and even yourself. Like a mirror, he confronts you with the truth and demands that you confess 'underhanded methods' (2 Corinthians 4:2 NLT). Once you've done that you can leave God's presence cleansed, corrected, confident and clear as to his will. Nothing fuels heartfelt prayer like real need. It causes both the prominent and obscure to acknowledge, 'Lord, without you I can do nothing. Indeed anything I could accomplish without you would mean nothing!' This is the place of naked prayer. Hannah was there when she cried to God for a child. She was so passionate that Eli the high priest thought she was drunk (see 1 Samuel 1:13). But God heard her cry. That day, Samuel was conceived in her heart, and shortly thereafter he was conceived in her womb.

So don't leave the place of prayer until you conceive, until the embryo of God's purpose for your life starts to take form within you, and your vision is born.

Soulfood: Eph 4:17-32 Eph 5 Eph 6:1-24 John 1:14-28 Ps 29 Pro 22:26-29,


God wants to tell you something

'God called to him from the...bush.' Exodus 3:4 NLT

Never judge a person's potential by what they appear to be right now. Moses, one of history's greatest leaders, was tending sheep when God called him. There's not a corporate head hunter who would have hired him. But don't judge him yet - he's just between jobs. God is about to talk to him and change his life. If you're tired of listening to everybody else's opinions, get alone with God. He will show you things that can change your future (see Jeremiah 33:3).

At age 65, after running a restaurant for several years, Colonel Sanders found himself penniless. All he had was a Social Security cheque of $150 (equivalent) a month, a recipe for fried chicken and a vision he refused to give up on. As a result he built the Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise, became a multimillionaire and a devoted Christian philanthropist. The point is: it's not over until God says it's over! Moses nearly burned out trying to do things his own way. Then God showed up in a fire that Moses neither started nor maintained. In essence God said, 'Look at this burning bush; it's going to be you. In my strength you'll stand before Pharaoh. The Red Sea will give way before the power that's at work in you. I'll give you manna in the wilderness. I'll strengthen and sustain you all the way to your destiny.'

Whatever you're doing today, stop! Get alone with God and say, 'I will now turn aside and listen to you,' (see Exodus 3:3). Once you've heard what he wants to tell you, your life will never be the same.

Soulfood: Eph 1 Eph 2 Eph 3 Eph 4:1-16 John 1:1-13 Ps 92 Pro 22:24-25,


Serving 'Jesusstyle'

'We serve God whether people...despise...or praise us.' 2 Corinthians 6:8 NLT

Kelli B. Trujillo writes: '"I'm not your servant!" I half-grunted, half-spoke to one of my kids as I got on my hands and knees to pick up pasta he'd decided to deposit on the floor...Then a thought struck me: I sure hope Jesus didn't hear me say that! Unfortunately, this attitude towards servanthood extends beyond cleaning the floor. Most of the time, serving others just rubs me the wrong way. If it's some extra-meaningful project where you can practically hear the soundtrack of inspirational, feel-good music...and experience a rush about how great you are...it's not difficult. But what about the service Jesus talked about...that involves getting no credit...and waging a battle against your selfish impulses?'

Harry E. Fosdick said, 'No steam drives anything until it's confined. No Niagara is turned into power until it's tunnelled. No life grows great until it's focused, dedicated and disciplined.' Serving 'Jesus-style' means saying, 'I no longer live, but Christ lives in me' (Galatians 2:20 NIV). Paul was jailed, whipped, stoned, shipwrecked and robbed, yet he said: 'We serve God whether people honour...despise...slander...or praise us. We are honest, but they call us impostors. We are ignored, even though we are well known. We live close to death, but we are still alive. We have been beaten, but we have not been killed. Our hearts ache, but we always have joy. We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others' (2 Corinthians 6:8-10 NLT).

The Bible says Jesus 'for the joy set before him he endured the cross...and sat down at the right hand...of God' (Hebrews 12:2 NIV). And that same Spirit enables you to serve others by drawing on his strength.

Soulfood: Num 29:1-6 Matt 24 Rev 11:15-19 1 Cor 15:50-58,


Protect the 'new shoots'

'There is hope for a tree.' Job 14:7 NIV

It takes God's wisdom to find a mate who can fit where you are and go where you're going. If you choose to use only your own wisdom, you might not make the best choice. And when a family shatters, the wounds can last a lifetime even though the war is over. Please hear this: never use your children as ammunition to hurt one another! Ammunition doesn't just destroy the target, it also gets destroyed in the process. Your monologue of bitterness may be true, but it can destroy your child's ability to build healthy relationships of their own. After all, if they can't trust a parent, who can they trust? Even if you can't save the relationship, save them.

Job says, 'There is hope for a tree: if it is cut down, it will sprout again, and its new shoots will not fail' (Job 14:7 NIV). How wonderful - new shoots born out of a dead tree! There is life after death! He's the God of second chances and new beginnings. Just because your dreams didn't come true doesn't mean your children's dreams won't. If the only thing that comes from your relationship is a healthy, well-adjusted child, you're still a winner! Solomon says without a vision we perish (see Proverbs 29:18). And your children are your vision. They speak of your future, so give them extra love and stability. Teach them what God says about life. Work at it for their sakes. If the 'new shoots' are lost along with the tree, all those years are wasted.

So, protect the 'new shoots'.

Soulfood: Ezek 37:1-14 Matt 27:50-53 1 Thes 4:13-18,


Living successfully

'Accept...authority...humble yourselves...Give all your worries...to God.' 1 Peter 5:5-7 NLT

Somebody quipped, 'The trouble with success is that the formula is the same as the one for a nervous breakdown.' The Bible gives us the real formula for successful living. It encompasses three areas: authority, attitude and assurance. 'Accept the authority of the elders...humble yourselves under the mighty power of God...Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you' (1 Peter 5:5-7 NLT).

Let's look at each of the three areas: (1) Submit yourself to those who are wise. Listen to their counsel, become accountable, accept reproof, take suggestions, respect experience and follow a worthy example. Only when you can take advice will you be qualified to give it. Only when you respect and submit to leadership will you be qualified to lead others. (2) Humble yourself. In Scripture the 'hand' of God symbolises two things: his discipline and his deliverance. When you humble yourself before him, you're accepting his discipline as being for your good. You're also acknowledging his willingness to answer your cry for help and deliver you by whatever means he chooses. (3) Throw yourself on God's mercy and care. Trouble and disappointment will surely come, and when they do you need to throw yourself on the Lord. The situation may be too big for you, but it's never too big for him. Does that mean there's no place for planning, goal-setting and hard work? No, it just means you're willing to do things God's way, which is always best.

Soulfood: 1 Sam 27-31 Matt 28:11-20 Ps 63 Pro 22:17-23,


Pull down that stronghold

'The weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds.' 2 Corinthians 10:4 NKJV

The story of Joseph the prisoner becoming Joseph the prime minister teaches us that we can rise above the circumstances, overcome the challenges and live in the fullness of our God-given potential. His journey was a long one, and yours may be too. But if you don't take the first step, you'll remain stuck where you are.

Sometimes your 'stronghold' was established early in life. Family pain is the deepest pain, because it's inflicted so early and involves people who should have been trustworthy. You were too young to process the mistreatment. You didn't know how to defend yourself. Your dad, mum, uncle, big brother - they towered over you, usually in size, always in rank. When they judged you falsely, you believed them. All this time you were operating on faulty data: 'You're stupid...slow...dumb like your father...fat like your mother...' Decades later those voices of defeat still echo in your subconscious. But they don't have to!

'For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds' (2 Corinthians 10:4 NKJV). Use the 'reject and repeat' strategy and you'll win the victory in your thinking. When negative, fearful, guilt-ridden, inferior, condemning thoughts arise, reject them and begin to repeat what God says about you in his Word. As God's Word comes to life within you, your old thoughts will begin to die and lose their control over you. Today pull down that stronghold and let your healing begin.

Soulfood: 1 Sam 24-26 Matt 28:1-10 Ps 51 Pro 22:12-16,


Take time to rest

'"Let's go to a quiet place and get some rest."' Mark 6:31 CEV

There's an ancient legend that says the apostle John had a partridge he enjoyed feeding and tending. One day a hunter visited him and was astonished to see him playing with the bird. 'I'm surprised to see you engaged in such amusement when there are great matters related to the Gospel with which you could be busy.' John replied, 'Do you always keep your bow bent?' The hunter said, 'No, that would render it useless. I loosen the string unless I am hunting.' The apostle nodded and said, 'Me too; I unbend my mind for the same reason.'

Guess who said, 'Let's get away from the crowds for a while and rest.' Jesus, the most-in-demand person who ever lived. Why did he say it? The Bible tells us, 'There were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles didn't even have time to eat' (Mark 6:31 NLT). And Jesus is our example. One summer a pastor announced he wasn't going to take a holiday, since the devil never goes on holiday. Some of his congregation laughed; others thought he was very 'spiritual'. One man went home, however, to see if Jesus had the same attitude. He found that in his three years of active ministry Jesus had ten periods when he got away from the crowds, in addition to his nightly rest and Sabbath day rest. Next Sunday he asked his pastor, 'Are you following the devil's example or the Lord's example?'

Recreation is just that: re-creation, a time to renew your energy and nurture your most valuable relationships. So, take time to rest.

Soulfood: 1 Sam 20:30-42 1 Sam 21 1 Sam 23:1-29 Matt 27:57-66 Ps 60 Pro 22:7-11,


Leadership pressures

'I have the constant worry of...the churches.' 2 Corinthians 11:28 TLB

Preachers prepare sermons, teachers plan lessons, accountants crunch numbers and mechanics fix engines. But there's no institution of higher learning that can fully prepare you for the pressures of leadership. That only comes through on-the-job training. Paul lists the pressures of leadership along with being whipped, beaten, stoned, betrayed and shipwrecked. It's one of the reasons why more than 21 per cent of pastors say they wouldn't go into ministry if they had their time over.

As author Zig Ziglar said, 'It's lonely at the top.' If you're a leader in any area of life - and most of us are whether we realise it or not - the buck not only stops at your door, but you can't move it with a bulldozer. As a leader you will hear little when things go according to plan, but when they don't go well, watch out. Leaders draw criticism as surely as a picnic draws flies. Influencing others always comes at a price. A leader will pay the cost in time, thought and trust. The instalments look like daily risk taking, visionary thinking, diligent working and problem solving. But the biggest cost is dealing with people, especially those who may wear the same uniform but aren't on the same team. Paul refers to it this way: 'In danger from false brothers' (2 Corinthians 11:26 NIV).

If you're experiencing leadership issues today, here's what God said to Moses: 'Stand near me...As my glorious presence passes by, I will hide you in the crevice of the rock and cover you with my hand' (Exodus 33:21-22 NLT). What's the answer to the pressures of leadership? A consciousness of God's presence in your life.

Soulfood: 1 Sam 18 1 Sam 19 1 Sam 20:1-20:29 Matt 27:45-56 Ps 68:19-35 Pro 22:6,


Sold out to God

'I have given up everything else and count it all as garbage. All I want is Christ.' Philippians 3:8 CEV

Before you discover your God-given purpose in life, you'll often experience a series of adversities that cause you to relinquish what's temporal and grasp what's eternal. For Paul it meant the loss of every earthly possession. For others it can mean the heat of battle in a divorce court. When the person you thought was 'everything' walks away, suddenly you're stripped down to what you had before.

Look at Job; his home was a shambles, his marriage seemed a joke and his children were dead. That's when he discovered you can be stripped of the temporal, but not the eternal; stripped of your wealth, friends, and fame, but not of your character and your faith in God - those things survive the strippings of life. The Bible says, 'Then Job...fell to the ground and worshipped' (Job 1:20 NKJV). True worship is born in the fire of sacrifice. When you can lay upon the altar something you thought you had to have because you realise it was God's all along - that's worship.

Look at Abraham's altar. God didn't want the slain body of Isaac; he wanted to know if there was anything Abraham loved more than him. That's it - reaching the place where you can pray: 'Lord, here are my grudges and unforgiveness, my need to impress, my time, talent and treasure, anything I'm wrapped up in that hinders me from being completely yours. You'll never have to take these things from me, for I gladly give you all it takes to be what you want me to be.' Can you pray that prayer today? It's not easy, but it'll change your life.

Soulfood: 1 Sam 16-17 Matt 27:32-44 Ps 68:1-18 Pro 22:1-5,

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