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Word For You Today

THRASH IT OUT

Working out differences with others helps to mature us in our faith. Arguments give us the chance to learn. Even disagreements can be an occasion to celebrate diversity. Some difficult stuff can be a chance to take a humble step back and 'turn the other cheek'. Yes, we certainly wouldn't advise you to go looking for ways to fall out or get stabbed in the back, but when we bring these things before God in prayer, He can really use them for our good.



Years ago, people would huddle together round a television or a record player. But technology now is geared to our own personal, even private, entertainment experience. Life can become like that too - so walled-off and private that we no longer feel we need others so much. Community, though, breaks down our walls. We come face to face with what we dislike in others and in ourselves. Working through disagreements can show us how to respect other peoples' personalities - yes, don't seek out arguments, but don't necessarily run from 'healthy debates' when they flare up. God lives in community (Father, Son, Spirit) and, made in His image, we were made for community too.



So what now? Make sure you aren't going it alone and meet regularly with other Christians. And if you're stuck in an argument you can't get out of, give it a rest for a bit. Stop thinking about what the other person has said, and think about where you could sensibly and generously give ground.

Soulfood :

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LIVING BY LAWS (2)

A man was attacked by thugs. A pastor saw him and crossed the road, leaving him for dead. A bunch of other folk saw him and crossed the road. But then this random church-goer came, saw and took pity on the man. He stooped down, tucked a Gospel tract into the man's pocket and went to leave. The critically-injured man was barely conscious but held out a hand for help. The church-goer stopped and was filled with pity. So he carefully took the man through the booklet and pointed him towards some helpful resources online. Finally he invited the dying man to a seeker-friendly church service the following Sunday. Then he left. He was disappointed that the man never turned up (being, as he was, in the ICU unit of the hospital with stab wounds).



The modern church places great emphasis on getting people into church meetings and courses. We promote prayer and study and fellowship. Not that these are bad things, but what about love? Jesus never said, 'And they will know you by your extensive knowledge and inerrant doctrine.' His emphasis was on demonstrating love. Clearly the wounded man needed bandaging and medical help. William Booth who founded the Salvation Army is just one of many followers of Jesus who believed in feeding and caring for the person as well as giving them the Good News - because they are all part of the Good News.



So what now? Be alert this week to ways you can care for others. Trust that doing good will lead to opportunities to share the Gospel in a meaningful way.

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LIVING BY LAWS (1)

A newspaper told a story about a boy going through chemotherapy and losing his hair. In support, his classmates shaved their heads too. When he returned to school he looked no different to any of the others. The paper carried a picture of these bald-headed students, with the headline, 'Everything we do; we do together.' That's the 'law of love' Jesus talks about: 'A new command I give you: Love one another.' Even when it stings a bit.



People live by many laws. There's the 'law of revenge' which says, 'You hurt me; I hurt you harder.' There's the 'law of balance' which asks 'an eye for an eye.' But Jesus' system storms the law court. It goes against our feelings. It's a system that asks to turn a cheek and walk an extra mile. It's the kind of justice that offers to love the enemy or pray for the persecutor. The law of love means you don't have to get even; you can forgive. It isn't weak or a walk-over; it's strong enough to put others first and it chooses to withhold the punch.



1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NLT sums up love really well: 'Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful...'



So what now? Focus on one part of this 'love check-list'. What area needs brushing up on in your life? Sharpen up in this area and bring it to life for someone who needs it today.

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SELF: MADE

The first lie ever told was one that appealed directly to our oh-so-human sense of pride. Satan told Adam and Eve that, if they ate the fruit that God had told them not to, they definitely wouldn't die. He said they'd become just like God instead (that's in Genesis 3, by the way). That lie was a lie of power, and of status and, well, Adam and Eve bought it.



A lot of people would have done the same; after all, we're mostly inclined to follow our own egos. That's why Satan hasn't had to update that particular battle tactic since Eden. He still tells us lies about ourselves, to try and get the upper hand. Whether they're lies that flatter our ego and make us think we're so much better than everyone else, or lies that lead us to believe we're losers compared to everyone else, Satan tries to make us forget God's truth about us. And that's so not healthy. The only way we can have a really, truly good view of ourselves is if that view comes from God.



In the Psalms, David talks about being 'fearfully and wonderfully made' (Psalm 139:14 NIV), and that's exactly right. We are all wonderful. We are all unique, and equal. No better, and no worse, than anyone else.



So what now? YOU are wonderful, because God made you. And, because God made you, you are His, and therefore are completely on a level with every other human being. Start to live like it!

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REWARDS THAT MATTER

One thing we hope you can see clear as daylight is this: choosing to believe in Jesus is life-saving. And life-changing. And that's non-negotiable. Paul tells it to us straight in Romans 8:37-39. Read it and let it sink in: '...neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future' are going to prevent Jesus from holding out His nail-pierced hand for you to reach.



'Oh, so that's it then?' you might think. 'Don't my selfless acts count for anything?' Well, first up: be careful. Make sure your self-sacrifice isn't a secret longing for recognition or hides a selfish motive. We all have to be on guard: being a 'cheerful giver' (2 Corinthians 9:7) means you shouldn't be checking your inbox every hour for a 'thanx' from the struggling person you sent a gift.



But, at the same time, it's true there are things that count toward your eternal 'reward'. Your God-inspired acts of kindness. That encouragement/gift may never come back round to you, but look at today's verse - God sees it all. And money/success/fame? They are, at best, a means of making God known to the world. They won't be coming with us to Heaven, so treat them that way, too.



So what now? Get your priorities right. Nothing is as important as putting God first and then serving others for God, and the rewards are far better than anything the world can offer.

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DO MORE THAN SURVIVE... FORGIVE!

In 1977 at the age of 14, Sokreaksa Himm saw thirteen members of his family killed by soldiers in the killing fields of Cambodia. Miraculously surviving the massacre, Sokreaksa swore revenge. Years later, after surviving refugee camps and roving death squads, he became a Christian. Through years of Bible study and prayer, Sokreaksa was able to let go of his hatred and desire for revenge. Through the act of letting go in his heart, he found peace. He describes years of fantasising about torturing his family's killers. The pain became like a prison that trapped him. Forgiveness unlocked his cell. In time, forgiveness opened up channels for the holy power of wholeness and healing. In the years that followed, he developed a new mission; to find and forgive the killers face to face. Eventually he tracked down two of the soldiers in the very village where the murder had happened. God gave him the strength to shake their hands.



We can learn from this story. Forgiveness isn't instant - it's a process. Forgiveness brings us the healing from pain. Forgiveness enables us to do things we never dreamed possible. We'll survive if we hold grudges against others, we'll get by - but only just. Forgive others and we'll thrive. 'Don't repay evil for evil. Don't retaliate with insults when people insult you. Instead, pay them back with blessing. That is what God has called you to do, and He will bless you for it' (1 Peter 3:9 NLT).



So what now? Has the story of Sokreaksa highlighted any unforgiveness you're holding onto in your life? Do more than survive... forgive and thrive!

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CHURCH GROWTH HISTORY: COMMUNITY

Jesus' first miracle was turning water into wine at a wedding reception. He loved spending time with people at huge get-togethers. So He didn't have the best reputation with the Pharisees: they called him a 'friend of sinners'. Problem is, there aren't many people (in fact any, except for Jesus Himself), who aren't 'sinners', left to their own devices. And that includes people inside the church, too. Christianity is best done with others - and none of those others is perfect. (We hope this doesn't come as a surprise, but you are one of the 'others' to someone!)



The fact the church is designed as community is a strength. Church should be a community marked by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control (in case you didn't spot it, this is from Galatians 5:22-23, the Fruit of the Spirit). It's meant to make room for people to cut the layers of pretence and be their real amazing selves.



So what now? There's a challenge in today's reading. It's a good habit to go to church every week. But are you adding to the generous, inclusive, welcoming atmosphere that makes the church what it's meant to be - a breath of fresh air? Think of ways that you could add to the wonderful community of church.

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