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Word For You Today

Saved from the flames



'...I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings...' Matthew 23:37 NIV

We hear a lot about God being our Father and Jesus being his Son. Does this mean that women are kind of spiritually sidelined? Not at all. When we speak of God as Father we don't actually mean he's a guy - it's not a reference to maleness - in fact it's nothing to do with gender at all.

And Jesus, although he did become a man in every sense of the word, could still see the world in amazingly female ways. Here's a great example. In the event of a fire on the farm a mother hen has an innate response: to gather her chicks tightly under her wings. When the fire has done its damage, all that's left is the blackened embers. Sifting through the smouldering debris afterwards you may find the charred remains of that mother hen. But if you were then to lift what's left of its matted carcass, underneath you'd find, preserved and eagerly chattering, every one of that mother hen's little brood.

In the days before his death, Jesus cried, 'O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing' (Matthew 23:37 NIV). You see, he saw the danger of the flames of the times to come, and was yearning for us to enter the protection of his embrace. Like that mother hen he made the ultimate sacrifice so that we could live.

So what now? In Jesus, you are safe.

Soulfood: Exod 34:29-35, Mk 9:2-27, 2 Cor 3:7-18, 2 Cor 3:7-18

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Reach out



'...whatever you did for one of the least of these...you did it for me.' Matthew 25:40 NIV

Her parents didn't want her, so at birth they put her in foster care. Shuffled from place to place, she dreamed of the day they'd return. It never happened. So, she lashed out at the world by attempting suicide. Then through a series of events she found her parents again. She lived with them but things were strained. When they told her they wanted to adopt a baby and 'start over,' she longed to be included. But when she said, 'I don't want to be a burden, so maybe I should go' her dad helped her pack. Cramming her possessions into a bin bag, he pressed ten dollars into her hand and said goodbye. Today she lives on the streets, sleeps in doorways and scrounges just enough food to live on.

Sadly, her story's not unique. In fact, there are many just like her in your town or city; forgotten, unloved and isolated. They're usually the hardest to reach because they feel unwanted and useless. They wrestle with inferiority, poor self-image and lack of self-respect. What do we do? Instead of loving them we label them. Instead of caring, we criticise. What should we do? Open our hearts. Love is much more than giving a bit of your loose change. Love takes time to develop and grow.

So what now? Every day look for new ways to reach out, encourage and show hurting people you care. Why? Because Jesus said, '...whatever you did for one of the least of these...you did it for me.' And you won't get a better reason than that!

Soulfood: 1 Sam 14-15, Matt 22:34-46, Ps 102:1-11, Prov 17:4-6

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The power and reach of memory



'Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!' Isaiah 43:18-19 NIV

Christian author Gordon Macdonald wrote, 'When I asked a 93-year-old man if he and his 90-year-old wife ever have conflict, he assured me they do. I asked him how they treat each other in such moments, and he told me how important it is that he speaks tenderly to her. When I asked why, he told me that when his wife was a girl her father always spoke to her in a harsh and hurtful tone of voice. "Now whenever she hears any man speak in an angry manner, the feelings of hurt and fear return." I said, "Are you telling me that she still remembers?" "More than ever!" he responded.'When we're kids we watch how the most significant people in our lives act, and how they deal with and express anger, joy, sadness or fear. We react now to what we saw then.How should you deal with painful memories? The Bible offers suggestions: (1) Practise repentance. Admit when you're wrong and say sorry! We often inherit the behaviour of people who brought us up, so if you do stuff wrong, say sorry. (2) Have grace. Forgive people when they hurt you and forgive yourself! (3) Be thankful. Focus on the good rather than the bad. Everyone makes mistakes so let it go and move on. (4) Be wise. Find a way to turn your tough experiences into learning experiencesSo what now? You will have one (or a few) painful memories. There is a way to heal them. Use points (1) to (4) above.

Soulfood: 1 Sam 11-13, Matt 22:23-33, Ps 98, Prov 17:1-3

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Repairing the past



'...If I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.' Luke 19:8 NIV

Zacchaeus discovered that you can't be right with God until you're right with those you've hurt. Relationships are like a house; if you don't look after it and fix stuff straight away, you won't be doing repairs, you'll be rebuilding it! Everything that happens in the past makes us the people we become. The past will influence our relationships, our choices, our view of ourselves and even how we see God. You can't live a spiritually healthy life if your past isn't repaired.For a long time Jacob lived that way. He took advantage of his brother Esau, ripping him off with inheritance money that Jacob wasn't entitled to. After that he did a runner. Eventually (years later) Jacob came home, terrified of what his brother would do. In that case Esau forgave his brother and the relationship was sorted but that's not always the case.Repairing the past is better done straight away. Fixing up wounded relationships, dealing with regrets, letting go of feelings towards someone who's betrayed you; these things will stay inside as though in hibernation. Suddenly they will be triggered by a song on the radio or a face in the crowd or a date on the calendar. They won't go away until we deal with them. How? By forgiving. Forgiveness isn't for the other person's benefit - it's for yours.So want now? Is there a relationship you need to repair? If so, take care of it. God will help you - repairing the past is his speciality.

Soulfood: 1 Sam 8-10, Matt 22:15-22, Ps 95, Prov 16:31-33

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Generous with what



'May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other...' 1 Thessalonians 3:12 NIV

What does it mean to be generous? And generous with... what?(1) Your time. Listen to what Paul said about his mate Onesiphorus. 'May the Lord show mercy to ...Onesiphorus, because he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains...he searched hard for me until he found me' (2 Timothy 1:16-17 NIV). Doesn't he sound like a good bloke? The type who will stand by you and go out of his way to be there no matter what.(2) Your encouragement. Paul had a mate called Barnabas (which means 'son of encouragement'). He played a huge role in Paul's success and when everyone else doubted Paul was even a Christian, Barnabas welcomed him in. The last mention of Barnabas is of him defending another guy who needed a second chance, John Mark. Are you willing to do that for others?(3) Your cash. Jesus was at the temple in Jerusalem and he watched many people giving money to look good but none of them impressed him at all. The one who caught his eye was a poor widow. Jesus called his disciples over and explained that she had given more than the others. The money she gave was all she had whereas the others gave their left-over money (see Mark 12:43-44). We may love to give to many things to look good, but Jesus looks for true generosity.So what now? Think about your use of your time, encouragement and money. Are you being generous enough with them in the best way? Ask God to show you.

Soulfood: 1 Sam 4-7, Matt 22:1-14, Ps 64, Prov 16:26-30

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The last spike



'I press on towards the goal to win the prize...' Philippians 3:14 NIV

Here's a little history lesson: in 1863, work began on the building of the First Transcontinental Railroad, a much-needed 3,000km link between Nebraska and San Francisco. When building started someone suggested a ceremony be held to commemorate the occasion, but one of the biggest backers of the railroad put an end to those plans, saying, 'Anybody can drive the first spike, but there are months of labour and unrest between the first and last spike.' He didn't want to draw attention to the start and knew the finishing of the railroad was of far more significance. The railroad was completed in 1869 with a 'Last Spike' ceremony, using a golden spike, and a telegram informing the President.Starting something new can be difficult; but finishing is usually more difficult! How many people have a half- written book in their drawer or a half-decorated room in their house. How many people have started to learn an instrument or a language or bought expensive running shoes determined to get fit? Every day thousands of people start new things but never even see the end in sight.Paul was thinking ahead to the last spike, and said 'I press on toward the goal to win the prize...' (Philippians 3:14 NIV).So what now? Instead of starting something you have no intention of finishing, how about asking God what he wants you to do, and do it with all your might? He'll help you finish and drive in the 'last spike'.

Soulfood: 1 Sam 1-3, Matt 21:33-46, Ps 59:9-17, Prov 16:23-26

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Breakthrough on 'one of those days'



'...I lift my eyes to you, O God enthroned in Heaven.' Psalm 123:1 NLT

The experience: It's one of those days... everything seems to be going wrong, life has a distinct feeling of badness about it and God seems to have vanished entirely. Satan will try and use 'one of those' days to bring up your insecurities, and tell you lies about your relationships or the way you spend your time. Everything will become negative and about you: 'Nothing ever goes right for me', 'God loves everyone except me'. You'll be wondering if you'll ever get out of this situation.The truth: God does love you, he is with you, and he is here to help. You're not so special that you're the only one to get left out! It's these days in life that challenge, change and grow you. How you react to 'those days' now has a lasting impact on how you live your life from now on.So what now? So, on 'one of those days' you have a choice: Believe the lies and spend the day wallowing in self-pity, and not push through; or, turn your focus to Jesus and choose not to believe the lies. To say, 'God, I feel rubbish. I don't understand you but I know you are God, and I know you love me and I'm going to worship you anyway', takes a lot of faith and opens the way for a new way of thinking. By doing this every time you wake up on the negative side, you will be well on your way to breakthrough.

Soulfood: Song 5-8, Matt 21:18-32, Ps 59:1-8, Prov 16:20-22

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