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Word For You Today

People not projects

'Here is... a friend of tax collectors and sinners.' Matthew 11:19 NIV

Jesus went directly against the grain of society. Many saw him as a dangerous rebel, associating with those they considered low-lives and criminals, but the reality is that people criticised him because he dared to love and forgive those who society had written off.

In one instance, Jesus interacted with a woman who had been caught cheating on her husband. His final words to her were, 'Go now, and leave your life of sin' (John 8:11 NIV). He challenged her to change, but only after showing her real love. Another time, Jesus and the disciples were sharing a meal with tax-collectors. The religious leaders asked, 'Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners' (Luke 5:30 NIV)? Jesus replied: 'It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance' (Luke 5:31-32 NIV).

If we could fix and clean ourselves up before coming to God, then we wouldn't need him. He came to us with open arms before we were his, and we're called to do the same for those around us. He knew that the most effective way to show others how to live God's best life is to meet them where they're at, and build real connection with them. We should see our non-Christian friends as people to be invested in, not projects to be fixed.

So what now? Message a friend who wouldn't call themselves a Christian. Make plans to do something fun with them this week, 'just because'.

Soulfood: Ezek 5-9 Matt 21:12-17 Ps 119:169-176 Pro 19:9-10,


Everything for God's good

'That's why we keep our minds on the things that cannot be seen.' 2 Corinthians 4:18 CEV

Humanity's bad choices have corrupted God's original plan for us. This means we deal with pain, difficulty and disappointment in our lives. The astounding thing is that God is still with us in all of it. His heart is to take the negative and difficult situations we face, and bring goodness and restoration. Romans 8:28 says: 'And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose' (NIV).

God's promise to us is not that we'll never face difficulties, but that his heart is to pull together this broken world into something beautiful. The darkest situation can be completely engulfed in his light. Like 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (CEV) declares: 'We never give up. Our bodies are gradually dying, but we ourselves are being made stronger each day. These little troubles are getting us ready for an eternal glory that will make all our troubles seem like nothing. Things that are seen don't last forever, but things that are not seen are eternal. That's why we keep our minds on the things that cannot be seen'.

The world's, and our, problems may seem huge and overwhelming, but our God is bigger. So let's keep focused on God, declaring the good things he promises to do in trouble, and claiming the light he can pour into darkness.

So what now? What thing in this world breaks your heart the most? Challenge: commit to regularly declaring God's light into this darkness, and watch how he moves.

Soulfood: 2 Ki 4:42-44 Mark 6:30-44,


Spirit level

'Don't be drunk with wine... be filled with the Holy Spirit.' Ephesians 5:18 NLT

Acts 2 shows us the incredible power of the Holy Spirit, and how he can change the world around us. It also contains some interesting reactions from those who weren't experiencing the Spirit's power. Bystanders in the crowd assumed that Jesus' followers were drunk because of the things they were saying and the array of languages they were suddenly able to speak in. Paul clears things up, explaining a little bit about the Holy Spirit's power and quoting prophesy from Joel 2:28-29 (read the full story in Acts 2:1-41).

That's possibly why, when Paul comes to write his letter to the Ephesians, he contrasted being drunk to the experience of knowing the Holy Spirit. People might confuse the two, but the effects of a Holy Spirit-filled life are unmistakable. In Galatians 5, we find a list of 'fruit' that will be evident in our lives when we live led by the Holy Spirit - qualities that change our lives, and others' lives: 'love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control' (Galatians 5:22-23 NIV).

Imagine our own day-to-day lives if all this 'fruit' was clearly evident in all our actions. It might look a lot like Jesus' life! And that's exactly why he left his Spirit with us, so that we can be filled and guided to continue his work, here on earth.

So what now? Read Joel 2:28-29. If you feel ready, open up your heart to the Holy Spirit. Invite him to be more evident as the 'fruit' of Galatians 5:22-23 in your daily life.

Soulfood: Ezek 1-4 Matt 21:1-11 Ps 119:161-168 Pro 19:3-8,


Your Godgiven dream

'Joseph had a dream, and when he told it to his brothers, they hated him all the more.' Genesis 37:5 NIV

'Joseph had a dream' - which was one of the first steps in his journey towards God's plan for his life. We may see God's plan for our lives in crystal-clear ways, which spurs us on to chase his plan wholeheartedly. But, no less significantly, God can show us his future for us in less obvious ways.

If we're not sure whether God has clearly shown our life's plan to us, or whether we even have a life plan, it might be helpful to observe where we are at. What are our strengths and weaknesses? What do we love to do? What connections do we have around us? We can ask God to use these things to reveal his plan for us. For many of us, God's calling is revealed to us quite naturally as we live our day-to-day lives. Proverbs 16:9 says: 'We should make plans - counting on God to direct us' (TLB). God directs our day-to-steps, building our future. We shouldn't think we've missed the boat because the next step hasn't been revealed in an epic way. It's up to us to be alert and prepared.

Any God-given dream takes hard work and sacrifice. Joseph's dreams were not appreciated by his brothers, and they hated him for them (see Genesis 37:5-11 NIV). He endured real hardships but achieved incredible things for God - and was even reunited with his family.

So what now? Ask a friend to pray with you about your God-given dream. As you discover it, learn to read God's day-to-day signs of him bringing it into being.

Soulfood: Amos 5:18-27 Amos 6 Amos 7 Amos 9:1-9:15 Matt 20:29-34 Ps 119:145-160 Pro 19:1-2,


Family matters

'Listen to your father...and don't despise your mother.' Proverbs 23:22 NLT

The Bible's full of advice for families: 'Train up a child in the way he should go...' (Proverbs 22:6 NKJV); 'Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord' (Ephesians 6:4 NIV); 'Honour your father and your mother...' (Exodus 20:12 NIV); 'Listen to your father, who gave you life, and do not despise your mother when she is old' (Proverbs 23:22 NIV).

We are regularly told to honour our parents. But what's not often addressed is that honouring them is a whole lot harder if they didn't hold up their end of God's instructions. Parents are just as human as their children, so sometimes they do things that go against God's heart for family relationships. Whether we've experienced this on a small scale or in huge ways we'll know that it results in varying degrees of hurt.

As painful as dealing with parental neglect can be, we need to ask God to help us understand the circumstances surrounding the way our family functioned. If often requires working through healing and forgiveness: whether it's prayer for last week's argument, or a bigger step like seeking the help of a professional counsellor. God will be with us, ready to restore our hearts.

So what now? Wherever you're at in your relationship with your parents, pray for them. If you feel you need extra help in dealing with family hurt, talk to someone safe about that. But, start the process, for the sake of your family's, and your, future. It is so worth it!

Soulfood: Amos 1:1-15 Amos 4 Amos 5:1-17 Matt 20:17-28 Ps 119:137-144 Pro 18:22-24,


Strength and resilience

'Lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes.' Isaiah 54:2 NIV

On the surface, Isaiah 54:2-3 refers to tents, but really it's about preparing to grow. 'Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes. For you will spread out to the right and to the left' (Isaiah 54:2-3 NIV). We may not be planning a camping trip soon, but if we have God-given goals for our lives, the advice to 'lengthen your cords' and 'strengthen your stakes' is extremely useful.

What makes a tent able to survive against the wind? Solid stakes in the ground to provide a strong anchor, and long, flexible guy ropes to give it the resilience it needs not to be blown away. The same design applies to San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge. It's survived a century of earthquakes because it has a strong, solid foundation and long cords that allow it just the right amount of flexibility to sway with disruptive forces, rather than be broken by them.

That's what life with God looks like - we will experience disruptive forces, but we have someone to call on who to calm the disruptions, or sustain us through them. We're called to set our foundations strong in God's promises, knowing that his plan is set and sure, while at the same time moving alongside him for resilience and flexibility to survive the wind when it comes.

So what now? Write out your biggest goal for the next year. Apply Isaiah 54:2-3 to this goal: ask God for the strength and resilience to reach that goal.

Soulfood: Lam 3:40-66 Lam 4 Lam 5:1-22 Matt 20:1-16 Ps 119:129-136 Pro 18:21,


Not ashamed

'I will in no way be ashamed.' Philippians 1:20 NIV

Choosing to follow Jesus doesn't mean everything from that point forwards is easy. In reality, living as a Christian presents its own set of challenges. The Bible says: 'Anyone who belongs to Christ Jesus and wants to live right will have trouble from others' (2 Timothy 3:12 CEV). Maybe you're in a community where being a Christian is illegal. Or maybe you have religious freedom, but your family doesn't believe and constantly belittles you. Whatever your situation, staying close to God is the answer.

When talking about persecution, Jesus said: 'But the one who stands firm to the end will be saved' (Matthew 10:22 NIV). God sees you, loves you and is walking with you to help you keep your resolve until the end. He doesn't want you to be ashamed of him, or afraid of sharing your faith. It can be difficult, but with a little practise and a lot of prayer, it's possible to remain in your circumstances, confidently showing God's love.

From a prison cell, Paul wrote: 'I will keep on being glad, because I know that your prayers and the help that comes from... Jesus will keep me safe. I honestly expect and hope that I will never do anything to be ashamed of. Whether I live or die, I always want to be as brave as I am now and bring honour to Christ' (Philippians 1:18-20 CEV).

So what now? Pray for an opportunity to share part of your testimony with someone today, and for the courage to take that opportunity when it arises.

Soulfood: Lam 1:1-22 Lam 2 Lam 3:1-39 Matt 19:15-30 Ps 119:121-128 Pro 18:13-20,

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