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The Word For Today

The Danger of Pursuing Power

The first lie Satan told Adam and Eve was a direct appeal to the ego in all of us: '...You will be like God...' (Genesis 3:5 NRS). The crafty old serpent pulled back the curtain to Heaven's throne room and gave our first parents a glimpse of power and glory and they were hooked. And we've been hooked ever since! If you've spent any time in the company of social climbers and 'name droppers', you realise human nature hasn't changed much. It's still about staying on top! And since manners can take you where money alone can't, you can actually take classes that teach you 'power table manners'. Things like never handing your plate to the waiter and never stooping to retrieve dropped cutlery. In fact, to ensure your place on the ladder of upward mobility, a cardinal rule is never to stoop at all! Not even to help meet people's needs, admit your mistakes, or give to those who can't repay you.

The pursuit of power makes you think you're better than others and prevents you from serving them. It makes you susceptible to flattery, resistant to honest counsel and leads to isolation and non-accountability. You see it every day in little things, like never complimenting those under you in case they 'forget their place'; refusing to be loving and courteous to your mate in case you lose your most powerful weapon - control; putting personal ambition ahead of personal integrity; withholding intimacy to punish and manipulate someone.

Such power plays are designed to get you what you want at other people's expense. That's why the Bible warns, 'A man's pride will bring him low, but the humble...retain honour.'

Soulfood : 1 Sam 20:30-23:29, Lk 4:1-13, Ps 102:18-28, Prov 17:11-14

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Forgive, for Your Own Sake!

A lady writes: 'I found my husband with another woman. Although he begged me for forgiveness, I wanted my pound of flesh, so I filed for divorce even though our kids asked me not to. Two years later my husband was still trying to get me back, but I wanted none of it. He'd hurt me and I wanted revenge. Finally he gave up, married a young widow with two children, and rebuilt his life without me. They're all so happy and I'm just a lonely, miserable woman, who let bitterness ruin her life.'

Now there's no question that infidelity is wrong. But without forgiveness, what's left? There's a point at which anger stops being a healthy emotion and becomes a driving force. Like a drug, you need larger and larger doses. Once that happens, you move even further from forgiveness, because without anger you've no energy at all. It's what drives hate groups and extremists. Without bitterness they've no reason to exist. If you take bigotry from the racist, revenge from the zealot and chauvinism from the sexist, what's left? 'Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.'

Bitterness is fatal; it kills your soul. So how can you stop yourself from becoming bitter when you've been hurt? (a) By looking into the face of the person who hurt you and seeing, instead, the face of the One who showed you mercy when nobody else would have given you another chance. (b) By realising that before the day, the week, the month or the year is out, you'll be needing mercy yourself.

Soulfood : 1 Sam 18:1-20:29, Lk 3:15-38, Ps 102:12-17, Prov 17:7-10

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Do You Want Your Church to Grow? (4)

The fourth, and perhaps the most frustrating challenge we face when it comes to church growth, is to involve others. Why is that? A message on a bulletin board outside a church gives us a clue. The top line says, 'We care about you,' and the line underneath reads: 'Sundays. 10 am only.' A cartoon by Erik Johnson puts it another way: at the top in big bold letters is a sign that reads, 'The challenge of starting a men's ministry.' Standing directly under the sign is a group of bored-looking guys. To the right of the group is the pastor, who quips, 'So far, the only thing we have in common is an aversion to singing, socialising and sharing.'

People can feel lost and lonely in a crowd, even if it's in church. Sitting in a pew looking at the back of somebody's head for an hour and a half doesn't meet anyone's emotional, relational or spiritual needs. As a member of Christ's body, the church, it's your job to take the first step and initiate contact with those around you. Jesus went out of His way to love the fallen, the fraudulent and the faithless - people others wouldn't have anything to do with.

When someone comes into your church and finds Christ, your job has only begun. They are called to serve and you are called to show them how, when and where. 'The new wine is found in the cluster...' Wine speaks of joy. But you can't get it out of a single grape; you've got to have a 'cluster'. Are you getting the idea?

Soulfood : 1 Sam 16-17, Lk 3:1-14, Ps 102:1-11, Prov 17:4-6

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