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Word For You Today

OB-STUCK-LESS?

Running a marathon is not enough of a challenge these days - right? Yes, we thought so, too. Alongside the more traditional road races, a new breed of adrenaline-pumping running challenges are springing up all over the world. Take the 'Spartan Race' for example. As well as a steep and arduous course, the Spartan chucks in an extra challenge: obstacles. And not just any obstacles. On the Spartan, you'll find yourself swimming through mud, scaling craggy walls, crawling under barbed wire, heaving tractor tyres and hurling javelins. Nice. Not.



Very few of us are up for this kind of competition. Yet surprisingly, we probably scrabble through life doing a Spartan without realising. Yup. We can put up, invite in, and stubbornly leave emotional and spiritual obstacles in our way that stop us from really running 'with endurance the race that is set before us' (Hebrews 12:1 NLT).



So what now? Perhaps you've been reminded of an obstacle that stops you from getting close to God. Holding on to such an obstacle will only lead to more hurt and less freedom. We're not asking to you to try to be perfect, but rather to turn your imperfections over to God. So, be real with Him. Share your thoughts with Him. Turn around and thank Him for His ability to undo any tricky situation you find yourself in.

Soulfood : Job 38-39, Mt 2:16-23, Ps 139:13-24, Ecc 11:7-10

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WAIT!

What exactly is our part in waiting? Do you wait until God arranges the clouds in the sky to spell 'NOW!'? Do you take the initiative and expect God to bless your efforts?



Put yourself in Abraham's shoes. He'd been waiting ten years for the promise made to him - to become 'a father of many nations'. By now, he was starting to wonder. Perhaps the word was meant poetically - maybe he was going to be a father in a spiritual sense rather than a biological one? Maybe he'd imagined the whole thing. Or maybe he was supposed to take matters into his own hands. Sarah was too old to bear children - you hardly need a degree in biology to see that - so maybe he was supposed to shop around for a surrogate? Waiting can play terrible tricks on the mind. Abraham would have to wait twenty-four years before seeing the first glimpse of a promise. Even then, one boy hardly made him a father of nations. And yet here we are - thousands of years later - and we know Abraham as the father of our faith (Romans 4:11).



Waiting is difficult because it means we have little control of the future. And let's face it, we can tend towards a bit of control-freak at times. But God says: 'You need to persevere, so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what He has promised' (Hebrews 10:36 NIV).



So what now? If you're waiting on God for a promise fulfilled why not keep a journal to track how you're developing in the process.

Soulfood : Mt 6:5-15, Mt 26:36-46, Jas 5:13-18, 1 Th 5:16-18

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FAITH BOOST

Catalysts make things happen. Berocca without water has no fizz, flour without yeast produces no bread. Faith is the catalyst in your life. Without it, religion is dry. Talking about the Israelites, Paul said, 'When the good news of deliverance...came to them...the message...did not benefit them, because it was not mixed with faith.' So: let's mix it up.



Without faith: reading your Bible turns into intellectual curiosity; sermons become something to critique rather than inspire; church becomes a social club rather than a rescue shop. There are no prizes for memorising verses or hymns - unless you use them as stepping stones to action. Faith requires you to move. There's a difference between what you believe and what you trust. You may believe that a chair can hold you but never sit down; only when you put your full weight on it are you demonstrating trust. Faith is the catalyst to action.



A gold medal requires you to win. The Booker prize requires you to write. An Oscar requires you to make great movies. If you want to see examples of God's Kingdom in and around your life, faith requires action.



So what now? Do you sense God is calling you to something that feels 'out there'? Sharing your faith in class or at work, signing up for that mission opportunity, preach or lead worship for the first time? Get some support and go for it.

Soulfood : Job 32-34, Mt 2:1-8, Ps 97, Ecc 10:20 - 11:3

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NATIVITY WINDOW - RELIGIOUS LEADERS

Not too many people recognised Jesus as the Son of God when He was born. Only a few unnamed shepherds, some equally-anonymous wise men, an old bloke named Simeon and an old woman named Anna seemed to realise. Maybe a dozen all up. Yet, there was enough Scripture flying around at the time definitely pointing to Jesus as the Messiah. Simeon and Anna knew - so, why did most people miss Him? Some had buried their heads in Scripture - but were too busy to go ten kilometres from Jerusalem to Bethlehem to check out a manger.



Now, the study of Scripture is absolutely necessary to a relationship with God. It's one of the healthiest things in life. Don't think anything different. The unhealthy thing is when you replace living out the Bible with more and more world-ignoring study. When you have more of a relationship with the words than with the Word of life Himself.



Bible reading only works as a part of a wider life. As they say: recommended as part of a healthy lifestyle. We have to use Bible study as one tool in a tool-belt. It should be right there alongside prayer, listening to God's Spirit, and action. We really need to know Scripture inside out (that's where those prophecies about Jesus were that most people missed).



So what now? In the midst of your regular Bible-reading, serving at church and singing along to worship songs on the radio, keep your eyes open for real-life God-action!

Soulfood : Job 29-31, Lk 2:8-20, Ps 117, Ecc 10:15-19

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NATIVITY WINDOW - HEROD

In the years before Jesus was born in Bethlehem, Herod had become increasingly unsure of the threats to his throne. He'd had three of his sons executed on a bare sniff of treason, as well as one of his wives. So, when a bunch of weary travel-stained wise men turned up looking for a baby born to be 'King of the Jews', it was more of a nuisance than a crisis. Herod had dealt with much more menacing problems. So long as no one got to hear about this Baby, it'd be business as usual.



Fast forward two thousand and fourteen years, give or take a few. Herod's policy is still in play. The Baby born to be King can't be mentioned in many classrooms. Songs that celebrate His name are deemed too controversial for airplay. Instead there are jingles about a red-clad rotund man who encourages people to wish each other 'Happy holidays'. Late night shopping is deemed more necessary than reflecting on the old, old story about the coming of the Prince of Peace.



But God cannot be silenced - back in Herod's day or now. No matter how many innocents Herod slaughtered, no matter how many nails his successors ordered hammered into a splintered cross, a new King reigns forever.



So what now? Do you know of a mate or two celebrating Christmas without knowing about Christ? Got friends who know about Santa but not Jesus? Send them a text telling them about the real reason for the season and open yourself up for discussion.

Soulfood : Is 7:14, Mt 1:18-25, Mic 5:2-5, Is 9:6-7

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NATIVITY WINDOW - JOSEPH

Mary rightly gets a lot of attention over Christmas. Fair enough. She's a hero of the faith. But Joseph's part in the Christmas story is often seen as a bit of a cameo appearance. After all, he isn't the real father, right? But there's a reason that God sent an angel to him, too. The culture at the time called for Joseph to divorce Mary as soon as he found out she was pregnant. In fact, it is likely that some members of his community would have been out for her blood - a normal punishment for suspected adultery was stoning. But Joseph was faithful to God against culture pressure. He had the courage to stand up against these voices.



Middle East expert Kenneth Bailey points out: 'In the Middle East, men usually represent their families in any official or legal matters. Why did Joseph take Mary with him to Bethlehem for the registration? The easiest explanation is that he was unsure what might happen to her if he left her in Nazareth without his presence to protect her.'



Joseph wasn't the hero of the Christmas story. But without his courage and support there may have been no story to tell.



So what now? Take a moment to think about the 'minor characters' in your life - the ones you rarely thank for their quiet, faithful (maybe even courageous) contribution to who you are today. Take the opportunity of connecting with them this Christmas to show your gratitude.

Soulfood : Job 24-28, Jn 1:6-18, Ps 113, Ecc 10:10-14

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A LIFE FULL OF FRUIT

There's an old saying, 'If you were accused of being a Christian, would anyone find enough evidence to convict you?' Hmm. What evidence would they find? Maybe they'd find your Spotify playlist full of the best of Hillsong. A 'WWJD' bracelet tucked away in your drawer. Maybe an old Easter Camp programme knocking about.



Ok for a start, but what about the deeper stuff? Would they find you praying when the door is locked? Or volunteering down the old folks' home (or foodbank)? Or slipping an extra ten dollars in the collection plate when nobody is looking? Would they find you on biblegateway.com more often than Facebook? Meditating more than gaming? Encouraging as opposed to backbiting? Could they trust you, respect you, admire your honesty? Would you be found moping or inspired? Lustful or loving? Jesus didn't say, 'A Christian is known by the size of his fish bumper-sticker.' No, He said, '...a tree is recognised by its fruit' (Matthew 12:33 NIV). 'You...must be an example...by doing good works of every kind. Let everything you do reflect the integrity and seriousness of your teaching' (Titus 2:7 NLT).



So what now? God's done everything needed to open up your relationship with Him. You can't 'work' it into perfection. But - relationship - yes? Now He's made it available, have all of the areas of your life got involved in that relationship? How do you fare with these challenges? Think your relationship needs more commitment? Pray. Prayer is always the fuel for Godly character. Ask God for more good evidence in your life.

Soulfood : Job 21-23, Lk 2:1-7, Ps 128, Ecc 10:5-9

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