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The Word For Today

Stop Fighting in Your Own Strength

During World War II, Allied bombers carried machine guns in the nose, under the belly, on top and in the rear. B-17s, better known as 'flying fortresses', carried thirteen .50 calibre machine guns. At one point scientists suggested the planes might actually be safer without them. Without the extra weight needed to operate the guns, they could fly faster and higher, increasing their odds of survival. The pilots, however, thought differently. They wouldn't even consider embarking on a mission without guns to shoot back and defend themselves.

With that thought in mind, Jon Walker says: 'We make the same choice when it comes to fighting our own battles.' God says we don't need the guns... we can soar higher and faster with Him. 'For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.' The weapons He gives 'have divine power to demolish strongholds'; we don't need the 'weapons of the world' (2 Corinthians 10:3-4 NIV). But we say 'No thanks'; we have to shoot back and defend ourselves with arsenals of angry words, demanding attitudes, manipulative manoeuvres, excessive excuses, and bombs of blame. It takes courage to stop using weapons of the flesh, 'take up the shield of faith', and arm ourselves with the weapons of God (Ephesians 6:16 NIV). It's the kind of faith David showed when he [told] Goliath, 'You come against me with sword and spear...but I come against you in the name of the Lord' (1 Samuel 17:45 NIV).

Stop fighting in your own strength and let God's spiritual arsenal defend you; 'He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him' (Proverbs 30:5 NIV).

Soulfood : Job 18-20, Mt 1:1-17, Ps 47, Ecc 10:1-4

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Spiritual Adventures

Think being a Christian isn't exciting? Check out these headlines: 'Man in desert discovers burning bush that can't be extinguished'; 'Sea opens and thousands walk through on dry land'; 'Giant who threatened a nation killed by teen with slingshot'; 'Jewish girl saves her people from destruction'; 'Three young rebels survive blazing furnace'; 'Man brought back from the dead after four days'; 'City walls mysteriously fall'; 'Preacher swallowed by giant fish and lives to tell the tale'; 'Prophet caught up to Heaven in a fiery chariot'. These aren't from the tabloids; they're from Scripture.

Adventure means 'exciting and dangerous undertakings'. When you embark on the spiritual adventure Paul mentions, you can expect God to test your faith in ways you never imagined. The Bible talks about those 'who through faith conquered kingdoms... shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength' (Hebrews 11:33-34 NIV). John Eldredge says: 'Adventure, with all its requisite danger and wildness, is a deeply spiritual longing written into the soul of man... Moses doesn't encounter the living God at the shopping centre. He finds him in the deserts of Sinai... Deep in a man's heart are fundamental questions that cannot be answered at the kitchen table... it's fear that keeps [him] at home where things are neat and orderly and under his control.'

When God wants to do something wonderful through you, He has to get you from where you are to where He is. How about it: Are you ready to embark on a spiritual adventure with God?

Soulfood : Jn 14:6-11, Acts 4:8-12, Acts 16:22-34, Mt 1:18-21

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Words or Actions?

We must care about people's spiritual and practical needs. It's hard for someone to grasp the concept of God's love when they don't know where their next meal is coming from, or where they'll sleep tonight.

Food banks worldwide are seeing a dramatic upsurge in emergency requests. Volunteer Cindy Crosby writes: 'Each client is as different as the patterns in a kaleidoscope: the retired, the mentally ill, single mothers, young men fallen on hard times... And not everyone is grateful. Some are angry...some refuse eye contact...some leave without saying more than a few words... If you volunteer just to feel good about yourself, you'll give up. Lofty ideals shatter like stained glass pelted by rocks... It's the success stories that stick... The refugee mother whose son went on to Harvard on a scholarship...the woman who thanked me more times than I could count...the mother of six who showed palpable relief because that month she could feed her family...I remember Jesus' words, "I was hungry...you gave Me something to eat...I was a stranger...you invited Me in" (Matthew 25:35 NIV). Now when I think of hunger, I see faces. And that has made all the difference.'

It's easier to love in theory than reality, especially when it comes to people who are difficult or different. But genuine love isn't defined by what feels good or bad; God's already set the standard. 'If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?...Let us not love with words...but...actions' (1 John 3:17-18 NIV).

Soulfood : Job 15-17, Lk 1:67-80, Ps 12, Ecc 9:17-18

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Mind Management (4)

Here are two more examples of mind management. A thought knocks on the door of your mind and says, 'You're so wonderful, the world is lucky to have you.' Typically it's the kind of thought you'd welcome, but you don't do things the typical way. You submit it to the authority of Christ, and as you unsheathe the Sword of the Spirit, His Word, you learn that pride doesn't please God. 'Don't cherish exaggerated ideas of yourself.' As much as you'd like to embrace an exalted image of yourself, you can't. You only allow what Christ allows.

Here's another example: this time it's temptation. If you're a male, the thought comes in a low-cut red dress. If you're a female, it comes in the form of the hunk you've always admired. Temptation whispers, 'It's all right, you're both consenting adults.' If you aren't under Christ's authority you throw open the door but, if you are, you say, 'Not so fast.' Then you take this steamy thought before Jesus and ask, 'Yes or no?' And nowhere does He answer more clearly than 1 Corinthians: 'You cannot say that our physical body was made for sexual promiscuity; it was made for God, and God is the answer to our deepest longings... let every man have his own wife and every woman her own husband' (1 Corinthians 6:13; 7:1-2 PHPS).

Now, armed with the opinion of Christ and the Sword of the Spirit, what do you do? Unless the tempter or temptress is your spouse - you slam the door shut. End of story!

Soulfood : Job 11-14, Lk 1:57-66, Ps 67, Ecc 9:10-12

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Mind Management (3)

Your mind is the doorway to your heart, and when a questionable thought arises, you always have a choice. You can throw the door open and let it in, or do what the Bible says: 'Fight to capture every thought until it acknowledges the authority of Christ' (2 Corinthians 10:5 PHPS). In other words, capture the thought before it captures you.

Let's say a thought regarding your self-worth arises and says, 'You've been a loser all your life. You've failed in relationships and jobs and ambitions. You might as well write "loser" on your CV, for that's what you are.' The average person would say to that thought, 'You're right; come on in.' But you're not the average person! You're a new creation in Christ, led by His Spirit. So rather than let the thought in, take it captive, present it to the Lord and say, 'Jesus, this thought says I'm a loser and I'll never amount to anything. What do You think?' See what you're doing? You're submitting that thought to the authority of Jesus. If He agrees with it, then let it in. If not, kick it to the kerb!

How do you know if He agrees or disagrees? Open your Bible and find out what God says about you. 'We are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do' (Ephesians 2:10 NIV). What about this one? 'Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus' (Romans 8:1 NIV). Any thought that doesn't line up with God's Word doesn't pass the test - and doesn't gain entrance. That's how you manage your mind!

Soulfood : Job 8-10, Lk 1:39-56, Ps 57, Ecc 7:19-22

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Mind Management (1)

We hear a lot these days about time management, financial management and weight management - but what about mind management? Shouldn't we be more concerned about managing our minds than managing anything else?

Jesus was. He guarded the gateway of His heart by refusing to concede in three areas: (1) The agenda of people who wanted to use Him for their own purposes. 'Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make Him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by Himself' (John 6:15 NIV). Most of us would delight in the idea of becoming 'king'. Even if we refused the crown, we'd enjoy considering the invitation! Not Jesus. (2) The naïveté of those who wanted to spare Him. When Jesus announced His death on the cross to the disciples, Peter objected. And when he failed to see the necessity of the cross, Jesus issued one of His harshest rebukes: 'Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men' (Matthew 16:23 NIV). (3) The scorn of those who didn't know Him or believe in Him. Before raising a girl from the dead, Jesus said to the people in the house, 'She is only sleeping' (Luke 8:52 GNT). And what was their response? They laughed at Him. Like all of us, Jesus had to face scorn. But unlike most of us, He refused to accept it. Note His response: 'He...put them all outside' (Mark 5:40 NKJV).

Doubt, criticism and scorn weren't allowed in the girl's house - or in the mind of Christ. How about your mind?

Soulfood : Job 1-4, Lk 1:1-25, Ps 105:23-36, Ecc 7:5-8

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Hooked Together!

A little boy was playing outside when a neighbour asked him where his brother was. 'In the house,' he replied. 'We were playing a duet on the piano - but I finished first!' That wasn't what God intended when He called us to work together! It's not a competition. In Bible days Roman soldiers' shields were designed so they could literally be hooked together. Each man fought for his entire line. Paul lists the people he was hooked to; he called them his 'fellow workers' (Romans 16:3 NKJV). Speaking to the church, he wrote, 'All of you together are the temple of God...Everything belongs to you, and you belong to Christ' (1 Corinthians 3:16, 22-23 NLT).

Notice: (1) Only together do we have everything we need. (2) It's about whom we belong to, not what belongs to us. Experts say we need to hear something at least seven times before it registers. And this is particularly true when it comes to acknowledging our character defects or flaws in our plans. Dr John Maxwell writes: 'After a period of frustration, I humbled myself and asked for advice. They told me things I didn't want to hear. But I needed to learn to listen. And I learned to pay attention to things that` struck a sensitive chord within me; it was often a signal that it was something I needed to improve. The things that upset me most, or that I resisted most, were usually what I needed to work on most. And if I gave myself time to reflect on what I was told and seek improvement, I usually improved dramatically.'

Don't be defensive; learn from the people you're hooked to!

Soulfood : Est 5-10, Jn 21, Ps 18:1-29, Prov 26:24-27

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Finishing Strong

If the word 'quit' is part of your vocabulary, chances are that the word 'finish' isn't. Finishing means staying on the job until it's done. It's about accountability and action, because even when you're on the right track you'll get run over if you just sit there. High achievers will tell you that life takes on meaning when you take responsibility for your actions and pursue your goals with purpose and passion. Nothing compares to 'the rush' of crossing the finish line. The fact is, nobody remembers who finished second, except the guy who finished second!

Co-authors B.J. Gallagher and Steve Ventura said the ten most important words in finishing strong are: 'I won't wait for others to take the first step.' The nine most important: 'If it is to be, it's up to me.' Eight: 'If not me, who? If not now, when?' Seven: 'Let me have a go at it.' Six: 'I will not pass the buck.' Five: 'You can count on me.' Four: 'It IS my job.' Three: 'Just do it!' Two: 'I will.' And the most important word: 'Me.'

Jesus was the greatest finisher of all time. At age twelve, He told His parents, 'I must be about My Father's business.' Later He told His disciples, 'I must work the works of Him who sent Me' (John 9:4 NKJV). Facing the cross, He said, 'For this cause I was born' (John 18:37 NKJV). And just before He died, He said, 'It is finished' (John 19:30 NIV)! Then, having earned the right to become our advocate with God, He went back to Heaven and 'sat down' (Hebrews 10:12). Mission accomplished! So focus on finishing strong!

Soulfood : Luke 1:26-56, Lk 2:1-40, Lk 2:41-52, Jn 2:1-12

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Be a Finisher

Unfinished business drains your energy without you even realising it. William James said, 'There is nothing so fatiguing as an uncompleted task.' And the internet has made the problem worse, because now you get more 'messages' in one day than you used to get in a month. When you don't focus on something, you don't finish it. So you end up frustrated, feeling like 'nothing is getting done'. If you don't take control of your time, the most forceful people and most urgent situations in your life will.

Before Christ picked His twelve disciples or calmed the storm on Galilee, He spent all night in prayer. 'He departed again to the mountain by Himself alone' (John 6:15 NKJV). Note the word 'again'. Jesus regularly retreated from the pressures of the crowd in order to determine His priorities.

Mac Anderson says: 'Something magical happens when we accept personal responsibility for our behaviour and results. But it's not easy...it's human nature to "pass the buck". As I've become older (and wiser), when things go wrong...I can always find the culprit...in the mirror. In every instance it comes back to choices I've made that put me exactly where I am today. Adopting an attitude of personal accountability means you've more control over your destiny...you become a contributor instead of a passive observer...others look to you for leadership...you gain a reputation as a problem solver...You experience the satisfaction that comes from getting things done...there's less anger, frustration and helplessness, which in turn leads to better physical health...There's a positive spillover into your personal and spiritual life. Sometimes winning isn't about finishing first, it's about finishing - full stop!'

Soulfood : Est 1-4, Jn 20:19-31, Ps 105:8-22, Ecc 7:1-4

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Trade-Offs (2)

As you climb higher and accumulate more, you'll discover that it's harder to let go of what you've worked for. That's why so many of us climb part-way up the mountain of our potential, and stop. We're unwilling to give up what we have, in order to obtain the next thing. And as a result we stall - sometimes permanently!

You must be willing to make concessions, like trading: (1) What's acceptable for what's excellent. People don't pay for average. They're not impressed by anything that's merely acceptable. If it's worth doing, give it your best or don't do it at all. Solomon writes, 'Hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.' If you want to shine, you've got to 'burn the midnight oil'. (2) The first half for the second half. In his book Halftime, Bob Buford says most people who are successful in the first half of their life often try to live the second half in the same way. And that's a mistake. If you're in the second half, you've probably spent much of your time paying the price for success. Don't waste it. Move from success to significance. Do things that will live on after you are gone. Don't just leave a will, leave a legacy. (3) Your work for God for your walk with God. No matter how much value your work has, it can't compare to having a relationship with God. One of the great traps of ministry is working for God, but not spending enough time with Him. Make sure that doesn't happen to you.

Soulfood : Gen 50, Hag 1-2, Jn 20:1-18, Ps 105:1-7, Ecc 5:13-17

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