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The Word For Today

Stabilising Peace

On 3 May, 1943, air raid sirens sounded over London. People raced toward Bethnal Green Underground station, where more than 500 people had already taken refuge. In the next ten minutes, 1,500 more would join them. A woman carrying a baby lost her footing on one of the 19 steps leading down from the street. Like dominoes, people started falling on top of one another. In the end, 173 people died. Bombs didn't kill them, fear did!

Today there's a stampede of fear around us and, if you're not careful, you'll get caught up in it. It's ok to recognise danger, but God doesn't want you to be overwhelmed by it. So you need to monitor what you listen to, think and say. The disciples needed a rock to stand on in the coming storm. Jesus had just told them how bad things were going to get in the world and the extent to which they would suffer. He announced He was leaving and told them He would send the Holy Spirit to be with them. John chapter 16 ends with these words: 'I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.'

No matter what the situation, Jesus is on top of it. No matter what trial you face, Jesus will bring you through it. Though surrounded by fear and the fearful, you will have His peace. And that stabilising peace will fortify you and cause others to turn to you for answers.

Soulfood : Gal 5:23, Is 40:9-11, Is 42:1-4, Ps 18:31-35

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Praying Jesus' Way (5)

'...He will show you a way out...' 1 Corinthians 10:13 NLT

'As we forgive our debtors' (Matthew 6:12 NKJV). Forgiving others isn't an option, it's an obligation. Being forgiven depends on forgiving others. Young Robert Louis Stevenson's family customarily prayed the Lord's Prayer before dinner. One evening he left the table before they reached the part, 'As we forgive our debtors.' Asked why, he replied, 'I'm not prepared to pray that prayer today.' Recognising his reluctance to forgive, he knew he couldn't receive God's forgiveness. 'If you forgive men...your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not...your Father will not forgive your sins' (Matthew 6:14-15 NIV). No matter how badly you've been wronged, God requires you to forgive.
'...Lead us not into temptation' (Matthew 6:13 NIV). This seems odd in the light of God's Word: 'When tempted, no one should ever say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone' (James 1:13 NIV). William Barclay says the Greek word used here for temptation means 'testing', as in the ordeals and trials of life. It refers to life's stressful experiences. An athlete might use these words with his trainer, 'Please don't push me beyond my endurance!' It calls for acknowledging three realities: (1) your human limits and vulnerabilities. (2) that God's in charge of your testing. (3) that He wants you to ask for help and not try to handle it alone. '...God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand...He will show you a way out so that you can endure' (1 Corinthians 10:13 NLT). He won't just intervene on your behalf; He will use the experience to strengthen you spiritually.

SoulFood: Obad, Mal 1-4, Mark 7:1-13, Ps 18:1-29, Pro 12:23-24

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Praying Jesus' Way (4)

'Give us each day our daily bread.' Luke 11:3 NRS

The second part of the Lord's Prayer addresses our everyday concerns:
'Give us each day our daily bread.' Your Father is willing to meet your physical and financial needs. The word 'bread' Jesus used here meant literal 'food'. God is more concerned about the necessities of your everyday life than you are. He multiplied food for five thousand hungry people. '...He...healed all who were sick' (Matthew 8:16 NKJV). And He wants to meet your needs, too. '...Do not worry, saying, "What shall we eat?" or "What shall we drink?" or "What shall we wear"' (Matthew 6:31 NIV)? The 'bread man' delivers fresh bread daily! So trust Him for today's needs, and tomorrow morning get up and do the same.
'...Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors' (Matthew 6:12 NKJV). The moment you enter God's presence, you become aware of your sin. And Satan will try to bring condemnation on you. How does he do it? By making you feel unwelcome and uneasy in God's presence. But Satan is a liar. 'There is...no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus...' (Romans 8:1 NKJV). God's Spirit brings your sins to light not to condemn you, but to motivate you to confess them and receive His forgiveness. God's Word identifies several categories of sin that we need to recognise. There's falling short of what's required; the deliberate violation of a specific rule; unintentional and often passionately motivated slips; deliberate disobedience and rebellion; failure to fulfil your indebtedness; the sin of omission. Regardless of what your sin is, the moment you confess it and ask God for forgiveness, He restores you (1 John 1:9).

SoulFood: 1 Pet 1-5, Mark 6:45-56, Ps 49, Pro 12:20-22

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Praying Jesus' Way (3)

'...Is anything too hard for Me?' Jeremiah 32:27 NIV

The words 'Our Father' remind us of God's unconditional love. Ever looked into the eyes of a suffering child and wanted to make them well, but found you lacked the power? '...who art in Heaven' reminds us of God's unlimited power to do what we can't. 'I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for Me?' The answer in the Hebrew language effectively comes back, 'No, nothing, absolutely nothing; everything with You will be extraordinary.' You can have total confidence that what God's love prompts Him to do, His power enables Him to do. 'Hallowed be Thy name' distinguishes His name and character from all others. 'Hallowed' in Greek indicates He's unlike others, different, special, the only One. In an age where respect for authority is disappearing, because it challenges our self-importance, Jesus teaches us to pray, 'Heavenly Father, enable us to give You the place Your Holy Name and character deserve.'
'Thy Kingdom come.' Jesus came preaching God's Kingdom; it was the heart of His Gospel. The kingdom incorporating Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and so on was past. The present kingdom includes all who acknowledge Jesus as Lord. And the future kingdom will encompass the whole earth at Christ's return. Each time you submit to God's will, His Kingdom is brought into operation. As a believer, you are in His Kingdom, and His power is available to you. 'Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven' (Matthew 6:10 KJV). In Heaven God's will is never questioned. Nor should it be in your life. And Jesus instructs us to pray and believe that what happens in Heaven will also happen through you here on earth.

SoulFood: Deut 32:29 - 34:12, Mark 6:30-44, Ps 62, Pro 12:18-19

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Praying Jesus' Way (2)

'...before the throne of our merciful God... we will be treated with undeserved kindness, and we will find help.' Hebrews 4:16 CEV

When you pray, 'Our Father,' you define every other relationship in your life:
(a) You define your relationship to the material world. Since God is your Father, you're not a stranger but an heir to the blessings of His universe (Psalms 24:1). But beware of the values of the world: 'Don't love the world or anything that belongs to the world. If you love the world, you cannot love the Father' (1 John 2:15 CEV). Nothing must take God's place! (b) You define your relationship to others. Everyone around you is your Father's creation and as such you must accept, love and value them. We're commanded to love our neighbour as ourselves regardless of colour, creed or distinction. We're not to compete with them or strive for superiority over them or use them for our own ends.
(c) You define your relationship to yourself. God says He's your Father; what a foundation on which to build your self-worth! Regardless of what's been said or done in the past to make you feel inadequate or inferior, you can hold your head high. You're not a nobody once God calls you His child. (d) You define your relationship to God. Because of your relationship to Jesus, the Father declares you '...accepted in the Beloved' (Ephesians 1:6 NKJV). As He accepts Jesus, so He accepts you! '...As many as received Him...He gave the right to become children of God...' (John 1:12 NAS). You no longer need to approach Him in fear. You can walk right up 'before the throne of our merciful God [and] be treated with undeserved kindness and...find help.' It doesn't get any better!

SoulFood: Deut 30:1 - 32:28, Mark 6:14-29, Ps 57, Pro 12:15-17

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Praying Jesus' Way (1)

Overhearing Jesus pray moved one of His disciples to say, 'Lord, teach us to pray.' It's unlikely Jesus intended to teach them a rote prayer since He'd just said, 'When you pray, don't babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again' (Matthew 6:7 NLT). His answer was more than a sample formula-prayer. He was teaching them powerful, effective principles for praying.

Let's see how we can benefit from them. William Barclay said, 'The Lord's Prayer has two major parts: the first for God's benefit, the second for ours. Honour the first part, and the second is guaranteed.'
Part one begins with 'Our Father'. It's intended for His family, collectively as well as individually. He used the plural words 'our...us...we' to indicate prayer is a co-operative exercise, where we pray with and for each other, not just for and by ourselves. It also teaches us the power of agreeing together in prayer (Matthew 18:19 KJV). Before asking for anything, we're to acknowledge God's fatherhood, because prayer is: (a) a matter of relationship. It's the Father and His children in session; those who are redeemed through faith in the blood of His only begotten Son. That's the welcome mat under your feet when you pray. It's also: (b) a matter of submission. Jesus' disciples understood that fatherhood meant headship and authority. Prayer isn't an attempt to get God to agree with your will, it's aligning yourself with His Word and will. He's a promise-keeper, not an indulgent parent.

SoulFood: Deut 28-29, Mark 6:1-13, Ps 44:17-26, Pro 12:12-14

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Thanks, Mum!

Erma Bombeck wrote: 'When God was creating mothers, on His sixth day of overtime the angel said, "You're fiddling around a lot on this one." God replied, "Have you seen the specs on this order? She's to have 18,000 replaceable moving parts, run on black coffee and leftovers, have a kiss that cures anything from broken legs to disappointed love affairs...and six pairs of hands!" "Six pairs of hands? No way!" the angel said. God said, "And the challenging bit is the three pairs of eyes mothers need. One pair that sees through doors, another in back of her head that sees what she shouldn't be able to see, another in front for looking at a child who's goofed and saying, 'I understand, and I love you', without speaking." The angel said, "Lord, take a break. Tomorrow..." "I can't," God said. "I'm close to creating something so like Myself. Already she can heal herself when she's sick, feed a family on a pound of minced beef, and get a nine year-old to stand under a shower!" Touching her, the angel said, "She's too soft!" "But so tough!" God replied. "You can't imagine what this mother can endure." "Can it think?" asked the angel. "Not only think, it reasons and compromises," God said. Running his finger across the mother's cheek, the angel said, "There's a leak!" "It's not a leak," God said. "It's a tear." "What's it for?" asked the angel. "It's for joy, sadness, pain, disappointment, loneliness and pride." The angel declared, "Lord, You're a Genius!".'

Just a columnist's fictional story, but well worth pondering. Thanks, Mum!

 

Soulfood : Gal 5:22, Lk 19:11-26, Ps 36:5-9, Heb 10:19-23

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What Are You Seeing?

Your eyes can deceive you! Joseph's brothers sold him into slavery, dipped his coat in goat's blood and told their father he'd been torn to pieces by a wild beast. As a result, the old man said, '...I shall go down into the grave to my son in mourning' (Genesis 37:35 NKJV). In reality, not only was Joseph alive, he'd soon become prime minister of Egypt and save his family during the time of famine. But his father lived all those years grieving because of something he saw: a coat.

Sometimes there's a difference between facts and truth. The facts may confirm that the economy is bad, but the truth is, '...God shall supply all your needs according to His riches...' (Philippians 4:19 KJV). One day Elisha and his servant woke up in the town of Dothan to discover they were surrounded by an enemy army. When the servant saw this, he panicked. But Elisha said, '"Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them." And Elisha prayed... "Lord...open his eyes that he may see." Then the Lord opened the eyes of the young man and he saw. And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha' (2 Kings 6:16-17 NKJV).

God wants you to look to Him and know that in your darkest moment, you don't have to be afraid. What you have going for you is so much greater than anything that comes against you. So rise up in faith and say with the Psalmist, 'My help comes from the Lord' (Psalms 121:2 NKJV). Then act like you believe it!

Soulfood : Deut 25-27, Mk 5:31-43, Ps 44:9-16, Prov 12:10-11

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What God Has Invested in You

Paul prayed for the believers at Ephesus that they might know what God called them to do and understand the 'riches' He had invested in them.

Think about this: (1) God knows what He's invested in you. He doesn't redeem you one day and take you to Heaven the next. He calls and equips you to fulfil a certain purpose in this world. Christ taught that some of us are five-talent people, some are two-talent people and some are one-talent people (Matthew 25:15). That's why it's a mistake to draw comparisons. It's not what you have that determines your reward, but what you do with what you have. It's when you bury your talent because you're afraid to risk and fail, that you get into trouble with God. (2) God protects what He's invested in you. Do we sometimes disobey God? Yes. Does He discipline us? Yes. And your response to Him can either lengthen or shorten your season of discipline. But does God abandon us? Never! '...God's gifts and his call can never be withdrawn' (Romans 11:29 NLT). (3) God expects a return on what He's invested in you. When you get to the end of your life, what will you have to show for it? God gave you time, talent, and treasure. Are you using them selfishly or are you using them to serve Him and bless others? '...We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive...according to what he has done, whether good or bad' (2 Corinthians 5:10 NKJV).

The songwriter put it this way: 'Only one life, 'twill soon be past. Only what's done for Christ will last.'

Soulfood : Deut 22-24, Mk 5:21-30, Ps 44:1-8, Prov 12:7-9

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Gossip - Don't Indulge in It

'Keep your tongue from evil...' Psalms 34:13 NIV

Did you hear about the three women who decided to confess their weaknesses to each other? The first confessed to drinking too much. The second confessed to being jealous of a friend's good looks. The third said nothing, so the other two pressed her and asked, 'Ok, what's your weakness?' Finally she answered, 'It's gossip, and I can't wait to get out of here and talk about you two!'
Now let's get serious. The Bible has strong words when it comes to the subject of gossip: 'He who guards his lips guards his life, but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin' (Proverbs 13:3 NIV). 'If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless' (James 1:26 NIV). 'Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil' (1 Peter 3:10 NIV). Gossip is like mud thrown against a wall - it may not stick, but it leaves a dirty mark. And that mark can last a lifetime! So before you take aim, check your target. Ask yourself how much damage you'll inflict and how you'll feel about it afterwards. Solomon said, 'The tongue has the power of life and death and those who love it will eat its fruit' (Proverbs 18:21 NIV). Did you get that? You will 'eat your words'. You'll reap the harvest you sow, good or bad.
Bottom line: if you're looking for faults, look in the mirror. When you work on your own shortcomings, you'll have no time left to gossip about anybody else's.

SoulFood: Deut 18-21, Mark 5:11-20, Ps 37:32-40, Pro 12:4-6

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