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Word For You Today

A THUMBS-UP THAT MATTERS

'Who is he who condemns?...' Romans 8:34 NKJV

When it comes to an area of your life that needs improvement, it's good to be concerned about it, but not consumed with it. You'll always be working on some area of your life, so learning that who you are in Christ is not going to change is going to be pretty important if you want to sleep at night: 'There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus...' (Romans 8:1 NKJ).

Because God has chosen to see you 'in Christ', He finds you acceptable, every day (more than that, He's downright thrilled to know you. Really.) and you always have access to Him. Your 'who' is not based on your 'do'.

God's not about shaming and blaming. Yes, He'll convict you, and when you stop resisting His goodness (hint - 'Repent') He'll get you back up on your feet, but He won't be shaking His head and glaring while He does it. You do that to yourself. God never will. 'Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who makes intercession for us' (Romans 8:34 NKJ). Jesus gives you His thumbs-up, and it is the only thumbs-up that matters.

So what now? You are you. God is really quite chuffed with you. So when somebody hits out at you, or you feel condemned, stand on this Scripture: 'Surely the Lord God will help me; who is he who will condemn me? Indeed they will all grow old like a garment; the moth will eat them up' (Isaiah 50:9 NKJ).

SoulFood: 2 Chron 5-7; Luke 14:25-35; Ps 119:81-88; Pro 21:17-19

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HABITAT FOR DIVINITY (2)

'And you will again obey the voice of the Lord and do all His commandments... For the Lord will again rejoice over you for good...' Deuteronomy 30:8-9 NKJ

When we try hard to live in a way that is good and in line with God's law, though we can't fully get it right at first, our efforts and attempts will make room for God to come and 'fill in the gap'.

So, an example of developing good habits - what about loving our enemies: we may start out trying to love people that are hard to like. It's definitely possible to act for the wellbeing of another person without actually liking the person. And God wants it, and we're keeping His command, so that's great. But as we keep on trying out that 'practical' love, we make space for God to come and fill our hearts with a love that includes feelings, includes joy, and includes - yes! - actually liking the people we find hard to like.

This is the power of the Holy Spirit. Our attempts to do things we find impossible make us fall back on the transforming power of God, and His grace. We invite God in to make it happen. Or, as Rev Dr Robert Pickles says, 'begin in small ways and nothing will be impossible to you.'

So what now? Try working on a 'bad' habit: you could start (ask God for a bit of courage), by approaching that 'hard to like' person who came to mind in this reading. A few difficult but meaningful kind words can change a lot. Go on, you can do it - God is rejoicing over you as you do it!

SoulFood: 2 Chron 1-4; Luke 14:15-24; Ps 119:73-80; Pro 21:14-16

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YOUR DOUBTS DON'T DISQUALIFY YOU

'...Do not be unbelieving, but believing.' John 20:27 NK

In the book of John, the resurrection happened and someone missed it. He got a bit grumpy. 'Unless I see the nail marks in His hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe' (John 20:25 NIV).

A week later Jesus' disciples were gathered together in a house and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, 'Peace be with you!' Then he said to Thomas, 'Put your finger here; see My hands. Reach out your hand and put it into My side. Stop doubting and believe.' Thomas said to Him, 'My Lord and my God' (John 20:24-28 NIV)!

Jesus is putting an end to Thomas' unbelief, not chastising him for having doubts. It's so important that we get this. Jesus does not hate you for struggling with doubts, not even doubts about His existence. What He wants to do is show you Himself, not punish you for wondering or thinking. Your doubts do not disqualify you. It's important to add that we shouldn't allow them to take control. God isn't a 'tame lion' and He won't always show Himself up the way we ask Him to. But countless doubting Christians have found that when they've searched for God, they've found hope, and plenty of it.

So what now? Recently been finding yourself doubting? Whatever's on your mind, share it with someone you trust - maybe your church leader. And, share it with God too - He wants to show Himself to you.

SoulFood: 1 Chron 26:20 - 29:30; Luke 14:1-14; Ps 119:65-72; Pro 21:10-13

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LOOK FOR THE BEAUTY - IT IS THERE

'Whatever is right... think about [it].' Philippians 4:8 NIV

A man chained in a prison cell wrote, '... whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things.' This was Paul, in a foreign prison for being a Christian, writing the letter to the Philippians. He won't have been taking a lot of inspiration from his immediate environment - four grim walls and a damp ceiling - and, worse, he was stuck there day in, day out.

It's not always easy to get inspiration from what's physically in front of you. Your hometown may not win 'Best Place to Live' awards, or you may have to deal with some ugly stuff in your life quite regularly.

But... God is the stable centre of 'beauty'. Wherever and whenever you are, you can live healthily, fixed on Him. Whether it's some truth you've found in the Bible, a person who shows you the beauty of Jesus, or just a morning of quietly worshiping while you get on with your tasks, when we have God at the forefront of our minds we can say, 'The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; You hold my lot. The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance' (Psalms 16:5-6 ESV).

So what now? American pastor Jonathan Martin said, 'Whenever and wherever you see beauty, you will always be able to follow it back to Jesus.' Keep an eye out for the beauty in your life.

SoulFood: 1 Chron 23:21 - 26:19; Luke 13:18-35; Ps 119:57-64; Pro 21:7-9

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GOD AS A PARENT (3)

'Give ear and come to Me; listen, that you may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you...' Isaiah 55:3 NIV

So, let's bring these last two days' readings together. God's care looks like the love of a good parent might: sometimes comfort, sometimes discipline. But when we zoom out, it's all part of His promise never to stop loving us. There's a word for that. Our Bibles usually translate it as 'loving-kindness', but the oldest Bibles called it 'hesed'.

'Hesed' is the love promised by God for His people. It is different from every other form of love out there because it is loyalty from a perfect God. His unshakeable, undeserved love that sticks with us because He is for us. Even when we feel like rubbish. 2 Timothy 2:13 says 'If we are faithless He remains faithful'. God knows we're an awkward bunch - and He doesn't mind. 'Hesed' is an active love: not just a one-off sweet deal at the cross, but God moving in our lives every day. This is great news!

And God doesn't force us to accept it! We enter out of our own freedom into the relationship of love. Even when our feelings betray us, or we have a bad day and can't be bothered with the thought of picking up a Bible, God's given us something that goes beyond emotions, a love that we can decide to do, not just feel our way into.

So what now? Spend some alone time with God, thanking Him out loud for being such a great parent. The more you thank Him, the more aware you will become of His love in your life.

SoulFood: 1 Chron 19:1 - 23:20; Luke 13:1-17; Ps 119:49-56; Pro 21:4-6

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GOD AS A PARENT (2)

'Blessed are those whose ways are blameless, who walk according to the law of the Lord.' Psalms 119:1 NIV

If we want to grow as His children, God wants us to do more than only lean on His mercy. We need to start there; absolutely everything has to come from His love for us first, but equally, that isn't the end of His gift to us. He wants us to develop our character as we put His laws into practise, because we can grow into something better.

God is a Father who wants to see us become closer to the likeness of Him that He made us in. He is not some guy shouting down rules from the clouds. When we get this, His correction starts to make sense. We start to listen to His laws, to stay attentive for the voice of God that draws us into life, to see joy where we currently struggle with sin, to 'get' the need for discipline where we have no patience.

He will resist our excuse-making, our posing, and our hiding from obedience because He's painting a bigger picture. We only know whatever details are in front of us right now, but He knows how the whole thing is going to look when it's finished. We only know the corner of the room we happen to be in today, He has the blueprints for the whole house.

So what now? 'He wants them to learn to walk... If only the will to walk is really there He is pleased even with their stumbles.' Like that quote? Get yourself a copy of CS Lewis' The Screwtape Letters. It's a goldmine of wisdom on the subject of God's (loving) discipline.

SoulFood: 1 Chron 16-18; Luke 12:49-59; Ps 119:41-48; Pro 21:1-3

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GOD AS A PARENT (1)

'You gave me life and showed me kindness, and in Your providence watched over my spirit.' Job 10:12 NIV

We're not likely to hear people say 'God is my mother'. But some of the things we usually expect our mothers to do, God also does for us. God's care, kindness and (yep, almost motherly...) life-giving love is there for us. We are supposed to get comfort from it, when we need it.

In Job 10, Job's life has gone down the tubes. He's alone. He's covered in painful sores. Most of his family is dead. Then he remembers where he came from in the first place. Job asks God where His comfort and care have gone; why has God stopped acting like the good Parent he used to know?

When we've lost perspective on our life because things are tough, we can turn to God like this. He's the Provider who has promised to keep a caring eye on us all our lives, so we can say, 'God - You birthed me into this world. You saved me and promised to look after me. Where are You now? Come help me!' Job recognised that he needed this kind of perspective. He looked back on his life and recognised that God had always been faithful, and it's the same for us - He's been with us since day one, and isn't about to stop.

So what now? You know that 'just came back after a weekend/month/term away' catch up chat that happens when you get home? Have it with God. Just spend time talking through life right now with Him. Ask Him to have His hand in it.

SoulFood: 1 Chron 12:23 - 15:29; Luke 12:35-48; Ps 119:33-40; Pro 20:28-30

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