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The Word For Today

Learn to be content

'Godliness with contentment is great gain.' 1 Timothy 6:6 NKJV

When you talk about contentment, some people think you're against progress. No. Paul is saying contentment never comes from externals! Every twelve minutes, radio and television advertisers try to convince us that contentment isn't possible without their particular brand of product. Don't go for it! The desire for more can be insatiable. As long as you believe more is better, you'll never be satisfied. Why? Because you'll never live long enough to have it all! Just think; when you get something or achieve something, do you even take the time to enjoy it, or do you gallop off to the next thing without stopping?

To avoid getting old too soon and wise too late, read this Scripture: (1) 'We brought nothing with us when we came into the world, and we can't take anything with us when we leave it' (1 Timothy 6:7 NLT). When you die and people ask, 'How much did they leave?' the answer will be 'everything' (including a legacy of good or bad). (2) 'Some people, craving money, have wandered from the true faith' (1 Timothy 6:10 NLT). If your pursuit of material things is leaving no time for God, re-examine your priorities and start changing them while you still can. Stop thinking, 'If only I had a bigger house, a more understanding spouse, a particular job, a radical makeover, a higher IQ, or the acceptance of a particular person, I'd be happy.' It doesn't work that way.

The Bible says, 'This is the day the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it' (Psalm 118:24 NKJV).

Soulfood: Jer 4-6 Mark 15:1-20 Ps 144:9-15 Pro 14:5-8,


How big is your God

'The battle is the Lord's...he will give you into our hands.' 1 Samuel 17:47 NKJV

How you handle life depends on how big you believe God is. If he's too small: (1) You'll live in constant anxiety thinking everything depends on you. (2) Your outlook will be dictated by your surroundings - or worse, your critics. (3) Without the acceptance of a loving God you'll be a slave to people's opinions. (4) You'll constantly crave recognition because you don't understand that 'your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you' (Matthew 6:4 NAS).

Author John Ortberg says that when we make the mistake of shrinking God, we 'offer prayer without faith, work without passion, service without joy and suffering without hope - which results in fear, retreat, loss of vision and failure to persevere.' When Goliath threatened the Israelites, 'they were dismayed and greatly afraid' (1 Samuel 17:11 ESV). They didn't think their God was big enough for the job. But not David! 'Let no one's heart fail...your servant will...fight...this Philistine... The Lord...who rescued me from...the lion and...bear, will rescue me' (1 Samuel 17:32, 37 ESV). You can face anything when you know what David knew - 'the battle is the Lord's'. And he's never lost one yet!

So, you don't have to depend on your own resources. David may have felt small, but he knew his God was big enough for the job. Do you know that? Eighteenth-century Anglican clergyman John Newton said, 'If the Lord be with us we have no cause for fear. His eye is upon us, his arm over us, his ear open to our prayer, his grace sufficient, [and] his promises unchangeable.' It all depends on how big your God is!

Soulfood: Jer 1-3 Mark 14:66-72 Ps 144:1-8 Pro 14:1-4,


Be an 'up' person

'[He] raised us up... and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.' Ephesians 2:6 ESV

In order to become an 'up' person, you must do these three things:

(1) Expand your concept of God. How? By reading his Word and getting to know him better. Be like the little boy in Sunday school whose teacher asked what he was drawing. He replied, 'God!' The teacher said, 'But nobody knows what God's like.' Confidently he replied, 'They will when I'm finished!' What is your God like? Loving or judgmental? Distant or available? Limited or powerful? Your concept of God will determine your confidence in him, so spend time getting to know him. (2) Recognise Satan's limitations. The devil is the world's oldest loser, a former employee of Heaven who got fired because of arrogance and who is headed for destruction. And the only power he has over you is the power you give him by remaining 'ignorant of his devices' (2 Corinthians 2:11 NKJV). The Bible says, 'Submit to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you' (James 4:7 NKJV). You have power over Satan - use it. (3) See yourself as God sees you. He sees you not just as you are, but as you will be. If you've been conditioned by past experiences to see yourself as worthless, starting now you can change your self-image by believing what God says about you in his Word. When you have his opinion, what else matters? (read Jeremiah 29:11; Isaiah 43:1-3; Ephesians 2:6).

As you work on these three things each day, you'll become an 'up' person in a 'down' world.

Soulfood: Hosea 11-14 Mark 14:53-65 Ps 139:13-24 Pro 13:25,


A father's prayer

'Manoah prayed..."tell us what to do for the son we are going to have."' Judges 13:8 CEV

The following prayer was written by General Douglas MacArthur, a hero of World War II, on behalf of his son whom he loved dearly. If you're a parent you may want to use it as the basis for your own prayers for your children:

'Build me a son, O Lord, who will be strong enough to know when he is weak, and brave enough to face himself when he is afraid; one who will be proud and unbending in honest defeat, and humble and gentle in victory. Build me a son whose wishbone will not be where his backbone should be; a son who will know you...Lead him, I pray, not in the path of ease and comfort, but under the stress and spur of difficulties and challenge. Here let him learn to stand up in the storm; here let him learn compassion for those who fail. Build me a son whose heart will be clean, whose goal will be high; a son who will master himself before he seeks to master other men; one who will learn to laugh, yet never forget how to weep; one who will reach into the future, yet never forget the lessons of the past. And after all these things are his, add, I pray, enough of a sense of humour, so that he may always be serious, yet never take himself too seriously. Give him humility, so that he may always remember the simplicity of greatness, the open mind of true wisdom, the meekness of true strength. Then I, his father, will dare to whisper, "I have not lived in vain."'

Soulfood: Matt 28:16-20 2 Cor 13:14 John 1:18 John 15:18-26,


With determination and God's help you'll win

'It is God who arms me with strength, and makes my way perfect.' Psalm 18:32 NKJV

In her autobiography, singer Dolly Parton says: 'My high school was small, so during graduation each of us got a chance to stand up and announce our plans for the future. "I'm going to junior college," one boy would say. "I'm getting married and moving to Maryville," a girl would follow. When my turn came I said, "I'm going to Nashville to become a star." The entire place erupted in laughter. I was stunned. Somehow, though, that laughter instilled in me an even greater determination to realise my dream. I might have crumbled under the weight of the hardships that were to come, had it not been for the response of the crowd that day. Sometimes it's funny the way we find inspiration.'

Every hero in Scripture, without exception, overcame obstacles and opposition. David writes: 'They confronted me in the day of my calamity, but the Lord was my support. He also brought me out into a broad place; he delivered me because he delighted in me... For by you I can run against a troop, by my God I can leap over a wall. As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the Lord is proven; he is a shield to all who trust in him... It is God who arms me with strength, and makes my way perfect. He makes my feet like the feet of deer, and sets me on my high places... For you have armed me with strength for the battle; you have subdued under me those who rose up against me' (Psalm 18:18-19, 29-30, 32-33, 39 NKJV).

Soulfood: Hosea 6-10 Mark 14:43-52 Ps 139:7-12 Pro 13:24,


True humility

'[He] gives grace to the humble.' 1 Peter 5:5 NLT

There are two kinds of humility mentioned in Scripture: (1) False humility. Paul writes, 'Do not let anyone who delights in false humility...disqualify you' (Colossians 2:18 NIV). Whether it's in your manner of dress, your speech or your behaviour, anything that draws attention to you and away from Christ is displeasing to God. (2) True humility. Truly humble people don't take offence easily or fight back; they turn the other cheek. And yet their humility is not cowardice, for true humility requires courage. It makes you willing to take a lower place than you deserve, to keep quiet about your merits, and to bear slights, insults and false accusations for the sake of a higher purpose. True humility doesn't make you think less of yourself, it just makes you think of yourself less.

Peter addresses the subject of humility in these words: 'God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time he will lift you up in honour' (1 Peter 5:5-6 NLT). The story's told of a guy who entered a contest to see who was the most humble. When he won, he was given a badge of merit - but then he wore it and was disqualified!

Seriously, pride disqualifies you from enjoying the favour of God. That's why you need to remind yourself regularly: 'Everything I am, I owe to God; everything I have, came from God. To him be all the glory.'

Soulfood: Hosea 1-5 Mark 14:27-42 Ps 139:1-6 Pro 13:21-23,


Have you been treated badly

'The ancient prophets were treated that way too.' Luke 6:23 TLB

When you've been treated badly, always ask yourself, 'What can I learn from this experience? How do I respond in a more Christlike manner? Am I willing to acknowledge my mistakes? How can I grow wiser and handle similar experiences better in the future?'

When all is said and done, the answer to misunderstanding is forgiveness. Now, forgiveness doesn't mean you necessarily agree with or want a close relationship with the person who mistreated you. But it does mean that you let it go. When you bury the hatchet, don't leave the handle sticking up! In other words, don't just forgive - choose to forget! Ralph Waldo Emerson said, 'To be great is to be misunderstood.' And here's an even better statement: 'To be greater is to forgive the one who has treated you badly.'

Paul refers to the Christian life as 'the upward call of God' (Philippians 3:14 ESV). So take the upper road! What does that road look like? Jesus tells us: 'Blessed are you when people hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in Heaven. For that is how their ancestors treated the prophets' (Luke 6:22-23 NIV). By living this way, you also take back your power by refusing to let another person dictate your mood and your outlook, and you keep your joy.

Soulfood: 2 Ki 24-25 Mark 14:12-26 Ps 73:17-28 Pro 13:20,


Pray for 'wisdom from above'

'The wisdom from above is...peace loving.' James 3:17 NLT

Some people seem to thrive on conflict. They are always picking on others, arguing, disagreeing or trying to get something started. They fight just for the sport of it, not because they passionately believe in a particular cause. They are quick to jump in and expend their energy fighting other people's battles in which they have no stake. These people seem confident but they make poor decisions, so others learn to ignore them and not take them seriously. They need to 'always win' in order to feel good about themselves.

When it comes to your relationships with others, you need 'wisdom from above'. When you have it, you won't need to put everyone else on the mat just to show how strong or smart you are. True self-confidence, including confidence in your ability to make good decisions, comes from within. 'The wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and...good deeds. It shows no favouritism and is always sincere. And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness' (James 3:17-18 NLT).

When you operate according to these scriptural principles, you'll know whether or not a battle is worthy of your attention. If you keep your eyes on the prize that God has set before you, you'll realise that some things simply aren't worth your time and attention. As a result, you'll make better decisions about your life as well as your relationships.

Soulfood: 2 Ki 21-23 Mark 14:1-11 Ps 73:1-16 Pro 13:17-19,


'Your Father's got you'

'No one can steal them out of my hand.' John 10:28 NCV

On a hot Florida afternoon, a little boy swimming in the lake behind his house didn't see the alligator that was following him. His father, who was gardening, saw it and yelled to his son to turn back. Too late! Just as the boy reached his dad, the alligator reached the boy. In an incredible tug-of-war the father grabbed his son's arms while the alligator snatched his legs. The alligator was determined, but the father was too passionate to let go. A farmer driving by heard the screaming, leaped from his truck, and shot the reptile. Remarkably, the boy survived, and after weeks in the hospital he was interviewed by the local paper. He showed the reporter the terrible scars on his legs, then with obvious pride he added, 'I've got great scars on my arms too because my dad held me and wouldn't let go!'

Jesus said, 'No one can steal [you]...out of my hand' (John 10:28 NCV). It's not that the enemy won't try. He'll make you think you're so far from God that there's no way home. He'll send others to attack you with discouragement and guilt. He'll tempt you to walk away from God. You may even make poor choices that leave you spiritually and emotionally scarred, but when you belong to God no one can have you! No circumstances can take you away from his love (see Romans 8:38). No consequence can steal you from the hand of your Father.

'Your Father's got you!' Let those powerful words of assurance give you peace.

Soulfood: 2 Ki 18:17-37 2 Ki 19 2 Ki 20:1-21 Mark 13:24-37 Ps 80:12-19 Pro 13:13-16,


You'll get through this storm

'The storm was very bad, we all lost hope.' Acts 27:20 NCV

There are times in life when God seems distant. We pray but feel abandoned, at the mercy of our circumstances, afraid and hopeless.

Paul was no different. He'd longed for an opportunity to preach in Rome and was on his way there when a hurricane struck his ship, plunging everyone into despair. Paul had not only foreseen the loss of the vessel, its crew and cargo, but his 'own [life] also' (Acts 27:10 NIV). And his warning was disregarded by the captain, the pilot and the centurion in charge of him. Consequently, Paul and 276 fellow passengers were placed in a life-threatening crisis, and there was nothing he could do about it. Terrified, he and his companions declared, 'We finally gave up all hope of being saved' (Acts 27:20 NIV). After fourteen days at sea without sun or stars to guide them, and just when the hurricane was fiercest, God sent an angel to Paul. 'Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you' (Acts 27:24 NIV). They were cold, soaked and hungry when their ship finally ran aground on an island south of Italy. Every circumstance pointed to tragedy and the demise of Paul's dream of preaching in Rome. However, when the sun rose on the island of Malta next morning, it became clear that God had piloted them through the storm to the exact destination he had planned for them. And Paul ended up declaring God's Word before Caesar in Rome.

So take courage - you'll get through this storm!

Soulfood: 2 Ki 16:1-20 2 Ki 17 2 ki 18:1-16 Mark 13:12-23 Ps 80:1-11 Pro 13:11-12,

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