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Word For You Today

Surrender to God 2

'Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.' Matthew 16:24 NIV

Surrender doesn't mean being passive and just letting things happen to us. God's will for our lives involves being creative, making choices and taking initiative. It doesn't mean we stop using our mind, asking questions or thinking critically.

Jesus didn't come to rearrange the outside of our lives the way we want; he comes to rearrange the inside of our lives the way God wants. In surrender, we recognise that we're no longer the centre of everything; instead we believe that God is. In surrender we become obedient to him. Jesus was very clear about this when he said: 'Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me' (Matthew 16:24 NIV). Following Jesus means we put his desires and ways first. It means we stop thinking about ourselves, and think about him. This may sound extreme, but it's not detrimental to us - we're not surrendering to a harsh, demanding God.

The Bible says: 'Depend on the Lord; trust him, and he will take care of you. Then your goodness will shine like the sun, and your fairness like the noonday sun' (Psalm 37:5-6 NCV). He promises to take care of us. We can surrender to him, depend on him, and trust him.

So what now? Surrender (or re-surrender) your life to God. Ask him to lead and guide you in the ways you should go. You are surrendering to a loving Father who wants the best for you.

Soulfood: Matt 5:4, Isa 51:1-16, Ps 30, 2 Cor 1:3-7


Surrender to God 1

'Yet not what I will, but what you will.' Mark 14:36 NIV

The 14th Century theologian, John Calvin, defined surrender in these words: 'To have no other will, no other wisdom, and to follow the Lord wherever he leads.' To give our whole life over to God means we have to surrender control to him. Most of us like to feel in control, especially of our own lives. Our prayers often sound like: 'Lord, I have a health/money/work/relationship problem, and I need your help/peace of mind/hope.' We bring Jesus along in the passenger seat in case we need him, and we struggle to let him drive.

When Jesus was praying in the garden just before he was arrested, he showed us how to surrender to God. 'The Bible says: Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed, '"Abba, Father," he said, "Everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will"' (Mark 14:35-36 NIV). Even though Jesus knew that following God's way meant he had to die on the cross, he knew he had to surrender to his Father. This wasn't easy. In Luke's account, it says: 'And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground' (Luke 22:44 NIV).

Jesus knows the struggle of surrender. But we can trust him to take charge of our lives for the best outcome.

So what now? Thank Jesus for the surrender he made - he knew that his Father would make all things right. Trust that same Father to make things right for you.

Soulfood: Gen 47-49, Matt 22:34-46, Ps 26, Pro 7:26-27


Approach him with confidence

'Let us then approach God's throne of grace with confidence.' Hebrews 4:16 NIV

There's a Bible story of children approaching Jesus. The disciples tried to keep them away, but Jesus said: 'Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these' (Mark 10:14 NIV). These children had no inhibitions, they just wanted to spend time with Jesus.

As we get older, although we want to spend time with him, we can come up with reasons why we shouldn't: our life is too busy, or we make a mistake and think we're not welcome in his presence. Maybe we think our problems are too big, or too small, to bother Jesus with. And, like the disciples, sometimes it's us who can stop others approaching Jesus. We can become judgmental, believing someone is 'too much of a mess' to come to church or to meet Jesus.

We are all always welcome in Jesus' presence. And we don't have to approach timidly. We can 'approach God's throne of grace with confidence' (Hebrews 4:16 NIV). Jesus said: 'Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven' (Matthew 18:3 NIV). He always welcome us in, no matter what we've done and no matter how long it's been since we last approached him. We're told: 'Come near to God and he will come near to you' (James 4:8 NIV).

So what now? Ask God to help you approach him with confidence and childlike faith, in every situation. And allow others to do the same.

Soulfood: Gen 44-46, Matt 22:23-33, Ps 24, Pro 7:24-25


Having healthy boundaries

'Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.' Luke 5:16 NIV

Having boundaries in our lives helps us reduce stress and avoid burn out. They help us to say 'no' to things we can't do, to focus more on what we're called to do, and to develop healthy relationships with others and with God. But the type of boundary is important. Rigid boundaries can cause us to shut other people out. Permeable boundaries leave us defenceless against those who try to manipulate us or who expect to be taken care of at our expense. But flexible boundaries help us live our own life, with a balanced and healthy interest in others.

When we look at Jesus' life, we see that he used boundaries. The Bible tells us that 'Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed' (Luke 5:15 NIV). Jesus had a rhythm of life that was balanced between work and rest. He served, taught, healed, provided and socialised, but also 'often withdrew' so that he could rest and spend time with his Father. There were times when people asked him for help, and times he removed himself from the situation to be with God. After feeding the five thousand, he sent the crowds away then, 'after he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray' (Matthew 14:23 NIV).

Jesus knew when he needed to set boundaries and spend time resting in God's presence. And that's what we need to do too.

So what now? Make time, preferably each day, to be alone with God. Go somewhere where you won't be disturbed and just rest in his presence.

Soulfood: Gen 42-43, Matt 22:15-22, Ps 135, Pro 7:21-23


Dealing with our sin

'He appeared so that he might take away our sins.' 1 John 3:5 NIV

Sin can be described as our 'selfish independent nature', where we choose to go against God's best for us. When we refuse to confront our sins and deal with them, we become a target for the enemy. The Bible says: 'If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall' (1 Corinthians 10:12 NLT).

The Bible says, 'All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God' (Romans 3:23 NIV). But our sin doesn't mean the end for us: 'He appeared so that he might take away our sins' (1 John 3:5 NIV). Because of Jesus's sacrifice on the cross, we're loved, forgiven and accepted and promised eternal life. John 3:16-17 says: 'For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him' (NIV). Jesus will forgive our sins, declare us righteous, and give us strength if we come to him with a repentant heart and receive his mercy and grace.

But, we have to be willing to confess and deal with our sins. We can't use the forgiveness of God as an excuse to keep on sinning. When we truly value the sacrifice that Jesus made to wipe all our sins away, we'll want to focus on doing what pleases him.

So what now? Is there a sin in your life that seems to have become a habit? Confess it to God and ask for his strength to deal with it. Maybe talk to someone you trust too, so that you can be kept accountable to overcome it.

Soulfood: Gen 40-41, Matt 22:1-14, Ps 27, Pro 7:10-20


God's truth brings happiness

'Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.' Romans 12:2 NLT

When our thoughts are directed by what the world tells us, we set ourselves up for unhappiness. Instead, if we allow God's Word to fill our minds and shape our thoughts, we'll think more like him and live life as he intended us to... 'Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think' (Romans 12:2 NLT).

Here are some unhelpful thoughts we can have that need to be lined up with God's truth: (1) There's a special person out there who will make me happy. If we're basing our happiness on another person, we're bound to be disappointed. We need to find our happiness in God. (2) When I attain a certain position or have a specific amount of money, I'll be happy. It's good to have goals, but when we believe that our happiness will only come when we reach them, we'll be discontented with our life as it is now (see Luke 12:15). (3) I can't help it; it's just the way I am. This is a way to avoid taking responsibility for our actions. It's true that our personality can influence how we behave, but we are all called to become more Christlike.

Jesus said, 'Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free' (John 8:32 NIV) - a life of freedom where we can become everything God wants us to be.

So what now? Memorise John 8:32. When you think a thought that doesn't line up with God's truth, say that verse to yourself; this is true happiness.

Soulfood: Gen 37-39, Matt 21:33-46, Ps 112, Pro 7:6-9


Helping others 2

'They refused to pay attention...and would not listen.' Zechariah 7:11-12 NIV

Here are some more types of people who can be hard to help.

(1) People who want to talk but not listen. James highlights two kinds of people - hearers and doers. He wrote: 'Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says' (James 1:22 NIV). It can be easy to offload problems but not take on board any advice. They like to complain about them, but don't necessarily want to change anything because it's too hard or uncomfortable. (2) People who don't think we're qualified to help them. Jesus wasn't respected in his home town, yet he was the very person they needed (see John 1:11-12). When people are unwilling to accept our help and advice, chances are they may not be ready to grow and deal with their problems. (3) People who want what we have, but not what we know. These people want to be rescued but not instructed; comforted but not corrected. And when we keep rescuing them from their situations, they don't learn what God can teach them.

It's worth remembering that we are ultimately not responsible for fixing other people's situations. They should be dependent on God, not us. So instead of striving to meet others' needs, let's try to connect them to God, who is able to meet all our needs.

So what now? Allow yourself to be helped too. Next time you're offloading your problems, make an effort to really listen to any advice you're given. Write it down and ask God whether it's advice you should take on board.

Soulfood: Gen 35-36, Matt 21:18-32, Ps 106:24-48, Pro 7:3-5

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