Afternoons
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The Word For Today

Choose the Right Friends (1)

Author Charlie 'Tremendous' Jones said, 'You're the same today as you'll be in five years...except for the people with whom you associate and the books you read.'

When it comes to choosing friends, Dr Charles Townsend says look for: (1) People who influence you to be the person God intended. 'As iron sharpens iron, friends sharpen the minds of each other' (Proverbs 27:17 CEV). Relationships are the tools God uses to do this. When you're with somebody, ask yourself, 'Do I like who I am when I'm around this person? Am I more open, loving and honest? Or do I not like what I see in myself?' Choose people who make you a better person. (2) People who provide grace for the energy drain. When you're empty you need to be refuelled physically, spiritually and relationally. So surround yourself with friends who will listen, encourage and be there for you. (3) People who let you be real. 'A friend loves at all times' (Proverbs 17:17 NKJV). The best relationships are those where you know you're loved, you're free to be yourself, you don't have to put on an act and you can be honest about the difficult aspects of life. There's comfort and normality in friendships where you can be authentic. (4) People who help you grow in faith. You need friends who encourage you to pray, read the Bible and help you to see the 'big picture' concerning what's important in your life.

Ephesians 4:16 NCV talks about operating as a body: 'All the parts of the body are joined and held together. Each part does its own work to help the whole body grow and be strong with love.' Don't try to do it alone. Reach out to friends who'll reach back.

Soulfood : Gen 20-23, Jn 14:1-14, Ps 118:10-18, Prov 31:10-13

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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

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Seize the Present

We spend too much of our lives in the junkyard of regret. We focus on what might have been, could have been and should have been. Maybe we think that by replaying it enough we can change the outcome. But we can't. The only thing you can control is what you do in the present. The more you replay yesterday, the further you get from today's opportunities. And the further you move from today's opportunities, the tougher the road back becomes.

Opportunities never look as good coming as they do going. And they wait for no one, so you need to be attentive and grab them. They come in many forms, and they can come from any direction. But one thing's for certain: they can be seen and seized only in the present. Whatever has happened in your life, has happened. And since you can't undo it no matter how hard you try, wipe the slate clean and go on to what's next. We all make mistakes. Jonah's mistake caused a storm that threatened the lives of everybody around him, and ended up taking him all the way to the bottom. But that's not the end of his story: 'From inside the fish Jonah prayed to...God...And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land. Then the Word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time' (Jonah 2:1 and Jonah 2:10 - 3:1 NIV). He's a God of second chances - and third, fourth, and fifth ones too! 'They are new every morning' (Lamentations 3:23 NIV).

Today is a gift - that's why it's called 'the present'. So repent of the past, seize the present and start living again!

Soulfood : Gen 13-16 , Jn 13:18-30, Ps 114, Prov 31:1-5

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