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Word For You Today

APPRECIATE, DON'T HESITATE

'If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging.' Romans 12:8 NLT

We all need encouragement. Sometimes life is exhausting and we want to give up. Sometimes the apple of temptation is too shiny and we want to give in. All sorts of people around you may be in very weak places today, under the surface.

So, do a great thing today - encourage. The Bible gives different ways to do it... (1) Encourage through gifts: 'All those about them encouraged them with articles of silver, with gold, with cattle and with valuables...' (Ezra 1:6 NAS). So begins the story of God's people pooling together gifts to encourage a group from Judah to rebuild God's house. Perhaps you know a missionary or someone going on a mission trip - encourage them by giving a gift. (2) Encourage with kind words: 'And he who smooths metal with the hammer encourages him who beats the anvil...' (Isaiah 41:7 NAS). A compliment on the quality of somebody's work goes a long way. How about complimenting your church leader on their sermon? (3) Encourage through writing: 'When they had read it, they rejoiced because of its encouragement' (Acts 15:31 ESV). We'll leave you to figure out your way of doing that.

You never know when a humble 'thanks' or an honest compliment might just be the thing that keeps somebody going.

So what now? Use your imagination. Get creative in how you show your appreciation for someone today. You could make sure your church knows what you appreciate about it. However you do it, it's important to point out the good stuff.

SoulFood: Jas 1-2, Luke 5:1-11, Ps 91, Pro 3:3-4

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SPRINT OR MARATHON?

Ever heard Christianity described as a race? It's much less of a sprint, and more of a marathon.



Think of Usain Bolt. His sprint is spectacular. But ask him to keep that speed up for 42 km, though, and he'd be all inhaler and ambulance. It's impossible to sprint a marathon. Trouble is, so many of us are impressed by the sprinters in church. It's good to be 'on fire' for God (in fact, it's not only pretty brilliant but what we're aiming for). But without those steady, do-it-even-when-you-don't-feel-like-it times of devotion where we let God take the lead, it's too easy to burn out. There's nothing wrong with stepping out for God. But Jesus set an example of clocking in regularly for the 'upward' God time as well as the 'outward' service.



Life is a marathon, not a sprint. King Saul ran like a sprinter. He got out of the blocks well enough but he compromised and ran without God. King David, on the other hand, ran marathon style - he waited fifteen years to be crowned King. A lesser athlete would've given up years before. Despite his shortcomings (a heap of them), the marathon approach meant that, as long as he was heading towards the finish line, there was time to get up again.



So what now? Ask yourself: do you need to think longer ahead in life than the day or week ahead of you? This is a simple question but it might need lots of mulling-over time.

Soulfood : Dan 11-12, Luke 4:31-44, Ps 89:38-52, Prov 3:1-2

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WHERE ELSE COULD THIS GO?

American pastor and author Francis Chan uses a piece of rope as an illustration. He holds a piece that stretches the length of a stage and points to the very end which is painted red. The majority of the rope is white and he asks us to imagine this representing eternity. The red part represents our lifetime on earth. The red part is insignificant compared to the white. He suggests that too many of us focus on the small red part of the rope when there is an eternity of white awaiting us.



Most stuff here comes and goes. And where we invest our time, money and energy has a lot to do with that. Using your resources to bless others is going to have a lasting effect in their lives. Now, we aren't having a dig at your shopping habits... but holding back on your next pair of impulse-buy shoes will, frankly, leave more room to give generously. Asking 'where else could this go?' can apply to anything: time spent watching TV, scrolling through Facebook; whatever, any 'non-necessities'. We all need rest. We all need chill-space. But sometimes it helps to toughen up on our habits. It leaves that space open for us to pray about where we can invest.



So what now? What areas of your life do you need to reassess in view of eternity? It's helpful to keep this question in mind, at least some of the time: when you're about to impulse-buy or to spend an evening scrolling Facebook, ask yourself 'where else could this go?'

Soulfood : Dan 8-10, Luke 4:14-30, Ps 89:15-37, Prov 2:21-22

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TRACE YOUR PLACE

At some point in our lives, we've all felt inferior. Not needed. On the outside looking in. Like we don't fit - anywhere. And it hurts.



Take church as an example: it can be so easy in a world that seems to be run by outgoing extrovert types to believe that centre-stage is where the cool dudes hang out. But this is wrong; there's a bigger picture to look at. The best job you can possibly do is the one God has given you the gifts to fulfil. It's more than likely your church is full of people who need someone to encourage them. An outcast who needs a friend. A tech desk that needs a faithful worker. A project that needs volunteers.



Is this an aspiration-knockdown? Well, you'll be pleased to know we aren't telling you to wash prayer meeting coffee mugs until the end of time. But God is always ready to teach someone and lead them into their 'calling' - and that can start small.



So want now? Get to know yourself. Praying and learning about your abilities/personality type can be really helpful. Why? Because you can relax, knowing that God 'set His faithful people apart for Himself' (Psalm 4:3 NIV). Make an appointment to meet up with someone you trust, and ask them what they think your gifts are. Commit to challenge each other to put them to service, then meet up in a month to see what came from it.

Soulfood : Dan 5-7, Luke 4:1-13, Ps 89:1-14, Prov 2:20

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STEPHEN AND THE SIX (4)

Just one more factor of what qualified Stephen and the Six for being used by God. Stephen is picked out as 'a man full of faith.' Maybe that's a pointer to what's about to come - in just a few verses' time, Stephen will launch into a sermon so powerful and insightful it gets him killed. As Stephen knew, faith isn't just what you believe, it's what you say and it's what you do.



How do we remain 'full of faith' like Stephen? One thing is to feed it. The Bible is faith food. It says, '... faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ' (Romans 10:17 ESV). That's not just a verse about what happens when you find faith for the first time - it's about the daily nourishing effect of reading God's Word in the Bible. If Word For You Today is your only spiritual 'food', you're just not going to see the same growth as if you get stuck into SoulFood (see under this reading) as well. You need to feast on Scripture itself - the more the better.



The other way to stay 'full of faith' is to use it. Faith is a bit like a muscle - exercise it and it'll grow strong; don't and it will grow weak and flabby. If you exercise regularly and get used to flexing it in all the different areas of your life, you'll find yourself increasingly 'full of faith' like Stephen.



So what now? Think about how you might flex your faith muscles in each of these situations: when you find out a friend is sick; when you hear of a financial need in a local ministry; when your church asks for volunteers to serve.

Soulfood : Dan 3-4, Luke 3:21-38, Ps 84, Prov 2:16-19

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STEPHEN AND THE SIX (4)

Just one more factor of what qualified Stephen and the Six for being used by God. Stephen is picked out as 'a man full of faith.' Maybe that's a pointer to what's about to come - in just a few verses' time, Stephen will launch into a sermon so powerful and insightful it gets him killed. As Stephen knew, faith isn't just what you believe, it's what you say and it's what you do.



How do we remain 'full of faith' like Stephen? One thing is to feed it. The Bible is faith food. It says, '... faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ' (Romans 10:17 ESV). That's not just a verse about what happens when you find faith for the first time - it's about the daily nourishing effect of reading God's Word in the Bible. If Word For You Today is your only spiritual 'food', you're just not going to see the same growth as if you get stuck into SoulFood (see under this reading) as well. You need to feast on Scripture itself - the more the better.



The other way to stay 'full of faith' is to use it. Faith is a bit like a muscle - exercise it and it'll grow strong; don't and it will grow weak and flabby. If you exercise regularly and get used to flexing it in all the different areas of your life, you'll find yourself increasingly 'full of faith' like Stephen.



So what now? Think about how you might flex your faith muscles in each of these situations: when you find out a friend is sick; when you hear of a financial need in a local ministry; when your church asks for volunteers to serve.

Soulfood : Dan 3-4, Luke 3:21-38, Ps 84, Prov 2:16-19

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STEPHEN AND THE SIX (3)

Seven men of good reputation, full of the Holy Spirit and... wisdom. Yesterday we saw how the Spirit would ensure the men were kept on track by the close presence of Jesus through His Spirit. So what extra benefit is meant by including 'wisdom' in this list? What wisdom would be lacking if they already had the words of Jesus echoing round their heads?



'Wisdom' here likely refers to the knowledge, skills and insights gained by experience of working with people in real life and business. These men were not pretty faces - they had substance. Perhaps they were experienced businessmen or leaders in their family households. They had something specific to bring to the task.



Very occasionally, God takes a man or a woman with no prior experience in what He's calling them to - and teaches them everything they need to know on the job. But much more often, God carefully (if sometimes unusually) prepares people for the job He has in mind for them (think Moses, David, Paul). So you don't need to go to Bible College to lead in church, but that's the route God sends many leaders. God can prepare you to lead and serve His people wisely in any sphere of life - in the words of your career advisor, these are 'transferable skills'.



So what now? Track down someone you consider to be a wise leader and ask them how God prepared them to serve Him. You might be surprised by what you learn.

Soulfood : Dan 1-2, Luke 3:11-20, Ps 81, Prov 2:11-15

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