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The Word For Today

Seeing the Hand of God in It

Jesus looked at Judas in Gethsemane and said, 'Friend, do what you came to do.' It's hard to imagine what Jesus saw in Judas that made him worthy to be called 'friend'. But Jesus sees something good in every bad situation. And it would help if we did the same. How? Again, Jesus gives us guidance. He didn't place all the blame on Judas. He saw another force at work: 'This is...the time when darkness rules' (Luke 22:53 NCV). Judas wasn't acting alone - and neither are your attackers.

Paul says, 'Our fight is not against people on earth but against the rulers and authorities and the powers of this world's darkness, against the spiritual powers of evil in the heavenly world' (Ephesians 6:12 NCV). Those who attack and betray us are victims of a fallen world. We can't place all the blame on them. Jesus found enough good in Judas to call him a friend, and He can help us do the same with those who hurt us. Even though Judas didn't understand or intend to, he played a vital role in ushering Christ into His destiny. Of the 98 words Christ spoke at His arrest, 30 were about the purpose of God. 'It must happen this way to bring about what the Scriptures say..."All these things have happened so that it will come about as the prophets wrote"' (Matthew 26:54-56 NCV).

Jesus understood that His immediate struggle was part of a greater plan. He saw the hand of God at work in it. And if you pay attention, you'll see His hand at work in your struggle too.

Soulfood : Gen 17-19, Jn 13:31-38, Ps 118:1-9, Prov 31:6-9


You're a 'Priest' at Work (3)

'His God instructs him and teaches him the right way.' Isaiah 28:26 NIV

Lottery winners often make the same comment: 'Winning all that money isn't going to change my life.' But it seldom works out that way. Six months later they have left their job and bought a new house. A survey of lottery winners confirmed these two things: (1) The majority were more unhappy after than before winning. Why? Unfulfilled demands and unmet expectations on the part of family and friends led to disappointment and resentment. (2) None of them would give up the money they'd won. When you've had more money, you tend to be miserable with less. But having more money doesn't give you more self-worth. It's notable that the song Take This Job and Shove It was recorded by a man named Johnny Paycheck!

Isaiah wrote: 'When a farmer ploughs for planting, does he plough continually?...Does he not plant wheat in its place?...God instructs him and teaches him the right way...All this...comes from the Lord' (Isaiah 28:24-29 NIV). That means whether you're a farmer or a fireman - God gave you your job! It's your 'calling', and it was designed to do more than simply provide financial security. It was designed to give you dignity and worth, and to fulfil God's purposes on earth.

Theologian Miroslav Volf says: 'All human work, however complicated or simple, is made possible by the operation of the Spirit of God in the working person; and all work whose nature and results reflect the values of the new creation is accomplished under the instruction and inspiration of the Spirit of God.' So, 'Whatever you do, work...with all your heart...for the Lord' (Colossians 3:23 NIV).

SoulFood: Gen 10-12, John 13:1-17, Ps 95, Pro 30:29-33


You're a 'Priest' at Work (2)

'You are a...priesthood.' 1 Peter 2:9 NIV

In his book Habits of the Heart, sociologist Robert N. Bellah described three attitudes people have towards their work. The first group treats it as a job. When you do this, you see it strictly as a way to make money and pay the bills. Like the bumper sticker says, 'I owe, I owe, so off to work I go.' But if your main focus is on what you receive from your work, you'll most likely come to resent it. The second group approaches work as a career. Here your motivation will be higher, but your focus is on advancement and prestige. That means, however, when your career isn't going well it can feel like your self-worth is on the line. The third group sees their job as their calling. Now, logically speaking, if there's a 'calling' there must be someone making the call, right? That someone is God. You're not the 'caller', you're the 'call-ee', and any work that has meaning, that can be a blessing to people, and fulfils His purposes, is a calling.

A doctor or pastor might get sucked into treating work solely as a means of earning a good income, therefore they see it as just a job. On the other hand, a dustman may view what he does - making the world a cleaner place - as a calling. We're not downgrading the importance of those who stand in pulpits and preach; we're upgrading the importance of those who serve God forty hours a week in other jobs.

The main thing is: when the job's done well, both will hear the commendation, 'Well done, good and faithful servant' (Matthew 25:23 NIV).

SoulFood: Gen 7-9, John 12:37-50, Ps 102:18-28, Pro 30:24-28


Getting Them Through the Teenage Years

When you're the parent of a 'teen in transition', it's important to find the right blend of correction, instruction, motivation and praise. Instead of focusing on behaviour you don't want, praise and reward behaviour you want more of. If your child feels like you're always 'on their back' instead of 'on their team' about how they dress, their friends, their music, etc., they'll resist you at every turn. The Bible says about parenting: (a) 'Children, obey your parents' (Ephesians 6:1 NKJV). (b) 'Do not exasperate your children' (Ephesians 6:4 NIV). Use the carrot and stick approach. If you're all 'stick' and no 'carrot' you'll provoke them into rebelling, going undercover and cutting off communication. And if you grew up in a home where you were never praised or rewarded, you'll have to work harder to break the cycle. Exploding at your teen just teaches them to handle their own anger explosively. Expect to be shocked and be prepared to respond constructively. If you take their mood swings and inconsistencies personally, you'll end up reacting in ways you regret.

Do you remember your own adolescence and how you felt about your parents' opinions, tastes and rules? Mark Twain said: 'When I was fourteen my dad was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have him around. But when I got to be twenty-one I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years!' If you're raising a teen, here are two Scriptures worth remembering: 'Love never fails' (1 Corinthians 13:8 NKJV); 'Use wisdom and understanding to establish your home' (Proverbs 24:3 CEV).

Soulfood : Gen 4-6, Jn 12:20-36, Ps 102:12-17, Prov 30:21-23


Three Things We Owe Each Other

Paul talks about three things we owe each other.

Let's look at them: (1) 'Without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers' (Romans 1:9 NKJV). An unknown poet wrote, 'I was a poor soul in the depth of despair, who climbed to the heights in answer to prayer.' You can show no greater love and concern for someone than to say, 'I'm praying for you,' and do it! Prayer invites God into the situation and authorises the forces of Heaven to go to work and bring change. (2) 'I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift, so that you may be established' (Romans 1:11 NKJV). What did Paul long for? The chance to strengthen his fellow believers, and he was willing to travel a long way at great personal risk to do it. When two people decide to recognise and nurture the God-given gifts in each other, not only are they blessed personally, everybody around them benefits too. (3) 'That I may be encouraged together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.' Notice the words 'encouraged' and 'mutual faith'.

There are powerful dynamics at work here! First, we pray for one another. Second, we recognise and nurture God's gifts in one another. Third, we unite our faith and focus on a shared goal. Jesus said: 'If two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in Heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them' (Matthew 18:19-20 NKJV).

Soulfood : Gen 1-3, Jn 12:12-19, Ps 102:1-11, Prov 30:18-20


Stressed Out About Money? (2)

'God has not given us a spirit of fear.' 2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV

To overcome financial anxiety, you must: (1) Understand where your anxiety comes from. Unless your name is Bill Gates, the chances are that you'll experience some degree of financial anxiety. But when fear becomes your fixed state of mind, something's wrong; it's time to unwrap the package. Fear can be hereditary, passed from generation to generation. And it can trap you in a cycle that's hard to break. But you can break it! Gideon tore down the altar where his family had worshipped idols for generations - and they were angry with him when he did it (Judges 6:25-30). But Gideon knew that in order to win in life, he must trust in nobody but God.

(2) Rise above your past failures. Have you made bad investments and now you're afraid to take a risk? Are you hoarding as a hedge against future failure? Here's the problem: nothing ventured, nothing gained! In football, the players who score the most goals are often the ones who miss the most chances. But they keep trying because if they don't aim for the goal they can't win. A barn filled with seed doesn't produce a harvest. Furthermore, when the farmer plants his seed, drought and frost and pests can wipe him out. Yet if he doesn't plant, failure is guaranteed. Getting the idea?

(3) Anticipate God's goodness. As you get older you become more risk-averse, more inclined to look for a safe harbour. That's understandable, but you can't let fear control your life. David wrote, 'Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life' (Psalm 23:6 NKJV). When God's goodness is what you're believing for - God's goodness is what you'll 'surely' get!

SoulFood: Ecc 9-12, John 12:1-11, Ps 76, Pro 30:15-17


Stressed Out About Money? (1)

The solution to financial worry isn't necessarily having more money. Indeed, the more money you have, the more you have to lose. And the thought of losing it can cause you to worry more, not less. It's a vicious circle. Trying to find security in money is like tying a boat to a dock; when a big enough storm comes along, the ropes will break and it'll be swept away. So since we all wonder when the next economic storm will hit, what's the answer? More rope? Stronger rope? Tighter knots? No - that just gives you knots in your stomach!

For the next few days let's look at some Bible answers to money worries: Tackle your fear head-on. The Psalmist said, 'Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You.' Now, since David was a king, he probably didn't worry a lot about money. But he did worry about his enemies stalking him, catching him off guard and killing him. We each have different areas of worry, and the ones that control us are called 'core fears'. Sometimes you can keep them at bay; other times they control and consume you and make you act in ways you're not proud of.

Christian financial advisor Ron Blue says that for years he was trapped by the fear of not having enough money, or losing what he had. The people around him didn't know it, but that's what drove him. Today he's a best-selling author and financial counsellor to multitudes. But to get there he had to confront his core fear, and trust more in God than he did in himself. And so will you.

Soulfood : Ecc 5-8, Jn 11:38-57, Ps 81, Prov 30:11-14


Are You Bearing Fruit?

Jesus said: 'A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. Then he said to the keeper of his vineyard, "Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?" But he answered and said to him, "Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilise it. And if it bears fruit, well. But if not, after that you can cut it down"' (Luke 13:6-9 NKJV).

How long have you been serving the Lord? What are the tangible 'fruits' of your service to Him? We're not all capable of the same level of productivity. Jesus taught that some of us have thirtyfold potential, some sixtyfold, and some a hundredfold (Matthew 13:8). It's your faith and your gifting that determine your level of productivity. For example, God doesn't expect a 'thirtyfolder' to produce a sixtyfold harvest. He's not an unreasonable taskmaster. But if this parable teaches us anything, it's that God won't let you just sit on your hands and do nothing. The words, 'cut it down', are a sobering reminder of this.

God is patient. He will work with you year after year in an attempt to bring you to the place of spiritual maturity where you can fulfil the purpose for which He brought you into His Kingdom. But if after all His efforts you refuse to produce fruit, He will go elsewhere and find what He's looking for. The main thing is, in the end, God's purposes will be fulfilled!

Soulfood : Ecc 1-4, Jn 11:28-37, Ps 50, Prov 30:7-10


Let God Illuminate Your Mind

The Psalmist writes, 'The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.' God can put an idea in your mind that changes the direction of your life. Marconi had an idea and the result was the radio. Bell had an idea and the result was the telephone. God, a creator, gives creative ideas to people all the time. But you must act on them; otherwise He will give them to somebody else. Isn't it time you asked Him for one of His ideas for your life?

The fact that you believe in God is wonderful. But here's something equally wonderful - God believes in you! Instead of looking at your present situation and thinking, 'I guess my life's as good as it's ever going to get,' start asking, 'Lord, what do You have in mind for me?' If you let it, life can beat you down and make you feel low, lost, lacking, and limited in ability and potential. And if you act on these feelings and thoughts instead of what God says about you in His Word, you'll never move forward and fulfil what He put you on this earth to do.

You say, 'God has never given me one of His great ideas.' Maybe that's because you have never asked Him for one! He gives them to seeking hearts, prepared hearts, faith-filled hearts and obedient hearts. Here's a profile of the kind of person God gives great ideas to: 'His delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law he meditates day and night...Whatever he does shall prosper' (Psalm 1:2-3 NKJV).

Soulfood : Rom 15-16, Jn 11:17-27, Ps 8, Prov 30:5-6


Thoughts about Jacob

Jacob got off to a bad start in life. When it came to business practices, he had more angles than a pyramid! First he cheated his older brother, Esau, then his father-in-law, Laban. Then, one night, the Angel of the Lord showed up in his tent and Jacob wrestled with Him until daybreak. As the sun rose, the Angel said to him, 'Let me go, for it is daybreak.' But Jacob said, 'I will not let you go unless you bless me.' At that point the Angel told him he would no longer be called by his old name, Jacob, which means 'deceiver', but by his new name, Israel, which means 'a prince with God'.

Up until this time Jacob thought making money would make him happy, but it didn't; it almost cost him his family. Sound familiar? But after wrestling with God he received a new name, a new nature, a new walk and a new future. Isn't that what you want too? Well, the good news is - you can have it! The Bible says, '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). Jacob was a self-made man. The problem was he wasn't enjoying the life he'd made for himself. He didn't know he'd been born for a purpose greater than merely acquiring 'stuff', and it was only in God's presence that he discovered this.

His story in a nutshell is this: Jacob was who he was. He wanted to be like Esau. But, Israel, a prince with God, was who God made him. And God can do the same for you if you let Him.

Soulfood : Dan 1:3-21, Dan 5:10-31, Dan 6, Dan 9:1-19

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