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Word For You Today

LOVE YOUR CHURCH (2)

Right, so we go to church but we are the Church? The Oxford English Dictionary describes 'church' as 'a building used for public Christian worship'. But not everyone will set foot into a church building in their lifetime (some people actively avoid it), so we need to take Church to them. We're like a motorhome of worship. Which kind of puts today's verse into a bit more context - being living stones, we can take 'church' past the four walls of the building. Great, but do we have the authority and ability to do that?

Well, 1 Peter 2:9 describes us as 'royal priests' and 'a holy nation', which basically means that, having been the recipients of God's mercy, we're now accredited trainers (authorised) in God's love. That's quite a big deal.

What about the ability part, though? Are we strong enough to be Church in the real world? Yep, God's got that covered too. We're 'living stones' (1 Peter 2:5) because life's been breathed into us through the Holy Spirit. Think of that as super-powered Spirit-petrol in the tank. We go out in Christ-led, Spirit-filled power, and we have a pretty amazing example to follow in Jesus, the cornerstone: take a look at Ephesians 2:20. The cornerstone is the first stone set in the foundation of a building. It's super important, because all other stones are arranged around this particular stone.

So what now? Ask God how you can be a 'living stone' to build the body of Christ - the Church, remembering that Jesus loves His Church.

Soulfood : Tit 1-3, Luke 9:37-45, Ps 145:1-13, Prov 4:20-22

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BEES, WHERE IS THY STING?

Here's a question: what are you afraid of? Bees, spiders, maybe even just the dark? Here's an even bigger question: are you afraid of using your God-given abilities? Ouch. That last one might have had more sting than a bee, because it's often something we struggle with.
The 'but I'm not good enough at it' culture makes its way around the church. A lot of the time we naturally strive to be the best we can be at stuff; we love to succeed. But there's a difference between serving God and striving for ourselves.
God isn't after the world's view of 'success'. He's after a sincere heart and a disciple ready to use their gifts for His glory. 2 Chronicles 16:9 says 'For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the Earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.' Wow, sounds pretty big, right? It is. And we don't get left with a flat-pack and a confusing manual. God encourages us through His Word (the Bible), and we're told to use our gifts to benefit others and to bring glory to His name (take a look at Romans 12:6-8). So, next time you feel a bit hesitant about your abilities, remember whose strength you're relying on, and be encouraged to start to use them.
So what now? Get a wise friend or older Christian to pray with you about the desires and passions God is putting on your heart. Write them down and ask God to use them in the right way. Let go of your fear!

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A BARN FULL OF CLOTHES

Why does it seem like God is so against us wanting the good stuff in life? Well, maybe He's not. Sometimes we get caught up in chasing the stuff that we believe is good, and neglect the real, Godly, 'good stuff'. Since God made us, He alone knows what can, and will, truly satisfy us.

Jesus' parable in Luke 12:16-21 talks about a guy who goes after all the best stuff (in this case, crops), and thinks if he stores it all up he'll be fine. But here's the problem, if we do like this guy and go filling up our metaphorical barns with crops/clothes/other delicious but worldly stuff, we leave little room for God (look at verse 21).

With no room for God, we push away the opportunity for Him to fill, renew and change us. And we miss out on sharing the truly good stuff with others. Let's put it like this, if you had a barn full of clothes, you'd have decent threads for a lifetime (especially if you're not sharing them...). But fill it with God and you'd not only have an abundance of His deep-joy bringing presence, but it's the sort that only increases when you share Him with others.

So what now? Having 'stuff' isn't wrong; in fact, God can bless others through it. Open up your barn and have a look at what you have stored there. What has taken the place of God and what can be shared with others?

Soulfood : Num 32:25 - 33:56, Luke 9:1-17, Ps 134, Prov 4:5-13

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JESUS NO GRUDGE, YOU NO GRUDGE

In the Gospel stories of Jesus we come across a character called Peter, famous for his brash declarations of love for God, and then skittishly running away from his own words. He was one of Jesus' disciples and he messed up, big time. Even though he promised he'd always follow Jesus, when it came to the crunch he denied (three times...) that he even knew Him.

Dark days. But when Jesus met him after His resurrection He did an amazing thing - He forgave him without hesitation. Then Jesus told him, 'Follow Me.'

God will always forgive you when you've messed up, so that it doesn't get in the way of your relationship with Him. A mate hurt you? Jesus still forgave Peter even though he had royally failed Him. Jesus didn't hold a grudge. Not for Peter, and not for you when you mess up too. 'In accordance with the riches' of that grace, make sure you're not holding a grudge against a person. God is not finished with them yet - so should you be? He sets the bar above grudge-keeping. Can you match that?

So what now? Before you take communion at church this week, get in touch with someone who you feel you've broken off communication with, whether your fault or theirs. Matthew 5:24 is very clear about what we ought to do to reconcile with people - see how this will help with your relationships in general.

Soulfood : Num 30:1 - 32:24, Luke 8:40-56, Ps 125, Prov 4:3-4

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PRACTISE PEACE

Being willing to look past differences, commending people to each other, tactfully steering on-the-edge conversations in a different direction: this is the stuff that a peacemaker's geared up for. 'You'll be called children of God,' says Jesus about these sorts of people. That'd be a fairly nice thing to be called by someone (and by Jesus Christ, no less). Hmm. But what if you're not the peaceable sort? What if inner turmoil, unresolved issues or a few weighty chips on your shoulder are stopping you from feeling that peaceful vibe about other people?

A good place to start would be this: Do you want to feel anger whenever you think of specific people who get on your nerves, or would you rather be reconciled with them? Are you quite happy to carry on feeling anxious about by them or would you rather feel at ease even with people who bother you?

Your decision to be a peacemaker will first help with your own sense of wellbeing. Know that eventually God wants you to be a peacemaker for the other person's sake. Start by asking God, not for a nice peaceful vibe, but for real patience with especially difficult people.

So what now? Grab a good mate and some armchairs, have a chat about the kind of people each of you finds difficult to be a peacemaker around. What do you find most difficult in those situations (this is where friends can help you)? Plan ahead as to how you might respond to conflict or argument. Commit to practising peace with these people. Then report back on your progress.

Soulfood : Num 27-29, Luke 8:26-39, Ps 67, Prov 4:1-2

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BE PREPARED

Sometimes, things just happen that trip you up, whether within family, or your friendship group, or something out of the blue. But like our friend Solomon in the Bible tells us, we should be prepared for the toast to land butter side down. Bad days will come. Why does the Bible record the failures of the greats like Abraham, Moses, Elijah and Peter? To give you hope; to let you know that nobody performs flawlessly; to help you believe that if they can do it, by God's grace you can too.

If you're walking in God's path, you're bound to come across trouble. It's like playing Tomb Raider - when you're on the right path is when you'll run into the most enemies and the most challenges (and the most adventure). The more we head in the direction that God has laid out for us, the more the enemy (Satan) is going to try and stop us from heading down it. The trick is to anticipate that it's going to happen in the first place. God promises that 'no weapon forged against you will prevail' (Isaiah 54:17). And that's why we can look ahead - knowing Satan hasn't got power over the future. God's got that.

So what now? If you're the kind of person that tends to think only in the moment, try a quick exercise. Write down one thing that's causing you trouble at the moment. Draw several lines out from it, and plot out all the possible routes forward that you could take. Then give the problem to God, knowing that He has your future.

Soulfood : Num 25-26, Luke 8:16-25, Ps 120, Prov 3:33-35

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GUESS WHO

It's like buying your nut-allergic friend a peanut butter smoothie with hazelnut sprinkles. Or asking your long-term other half the name of their dog. Today's verse is a stomach-lurching awkward moment in the friendship of Jesus and His follower and friend, Phillip. Jesus' conversations, actions and instructions had always been about showing who God the Father was, and then this chat happened:

'If you know Me, you know My Father,' says Jesus. 'Show us Your Father, then!' says Phillip. 'Don't you know Me...?' Phillip had missed a crucial part of who Jesus was, even though he'd spent so much time with Him.

If you were asked questions like 'What upsets Jesus?' 'What would He like to see happen most in your family / workplace / college?' 'What makes Him happy?,' what would your answer be? Would you be able to give one that reflected what Jesus would say? Or, like Phillip, maybe you're still wondering what Jesus is about at the most base level of His personality. If you're not sure, it's time to start digging deep to see what Jesus really has to say.

So what now? The best way to get to know what Jesus, and therefore God, is to, ta-da!, look in the Bible. God's desire is always for you to know Him more. If you've dropped the habit of reading your Bible, or haven't had it in a while, why not start reading it each day. (SoulFood - see below each day's reading - is designed to help you read through the Bible in a year)

Soulfood : Num 22-24, Luke 8:1-15, Ps 108, Prov 3:31-32

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