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The Word For Today

How change happens 5

'And he was limping because of his hip.' Genesis 32:31 NIV

The Bible says, 'The sun rose above [Jacob] as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip' (Genesis 32:31 NIV). That's significant, because the thigh muscle is one of the most powerful muscles in the human body. In order to get Jacob's attention, God touched him at a point of strength. Once we start thinking, 'This is what I'm really good at; this is where I'm really strong,' God may have to touch that very thing to get our attention. Jacob's limp served as a lifelong reminder that he was no longer to trust in his own power, but in the power of God. He was no longer to live in his own strength, but in God's strength. And in so doing he became a much stronger person.

Think about it: Every time Jacob got in a mess, his first response was to turn tail and run. Sound like a familiar pattern? Do you do that? So God finally said, 'I know how to take care of that - I'll put a limp in his walk!' And for the rest of his life Jacob would have to stand and face his problems head-on, not in his own strength but in God's strength.

How about you? What's the one thing you'd most like to change about your life? Do you want God to help you? He will - in his own way. He will use the process of crisis, commitment, confession and cooperation. And when God does the changing, it will be permanent. You won't have to worry about willpower and sticking with it because you'll be cooperating with God, relaxing, and trusting in him alone.

Soulfood: Judg 16:1 - 19:15, Matt 12:1-14, Ps 45, Prov 13:13-16


How change happens 4

'Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, "It is because I saw God face to face."' Genesis 32:30 NIV

Change happens through cooperation. God started changing Jacob the moment he admitted who he was and began to cooperate with his plan. Jacob named the place where he wrestled with the angel 'Peniel,' meaning 'the face of God.' Each of us must eventually come face to face with God, and when we do he can change us. In essence God told Jacob, 'Now we can get down to business. Cooperate, and trust me. I'll make the changes you want, and I'll bless you.'

Notice: God didn't say, 'Try hard and use your willpower to become perfect.' That doesn't work, and God knows it. Willpower alone doesn't bring lasting change in our lives. It just deals with the outward circumstances. Internal motivation brings about lasting change, and that's what God works on. He told Jacob, 'Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel' (Genesis 32:28 NIV). Jacob would never be the same.

Once you have a personal encounter with the living God, he changes you. He changed Jacob from a 'cheater' to a 'prince.' God saw his potential. He looked beyond the tough exterior of a guy who portrayed himself as hardened and worldly-wise. God saw all Jacob's weaknesses, but he also saw beneath the surface: 'That's not the real you, Jacob, you're actually an Israel - a prince.' And the same goes for each of us: 'We are...heirs...and joint heirs with Christ...that we glorified together' (Romans 8:16-17 NKJV). In the words of Paul: 'He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ' (Philippians 1:6 NIV).

Soulfood: Judg 12-15, Matt 11:20-30, Ps 47, Prov 13:11-12


How change happens 3

'The man asked him, "What is your name?" "Jacob," he answered.' Genesis 32:27 NIV

Change happens through confession. When he identified himself as 'Jacob,' which means 'deceiver,' Jacob was acknowledging his character flaws. This is an important part of God's process for changing us, because we never change until we honestly face and admit our faults, sins, weaknesses and mistakes. We need to say, 'Lord, I have a problem, I'm in a mess and I admit I made it.' Then God can go to work.

Ever noticed how easy it is to make excuses? We become experts at blaming others and saying things like, 'It's not my fault, you know. It's the environment I was brought up in - my parents are to blame.' Or, 'The situation I'm in at work is because of my boss.' Why do we act and talk this way? Because it's hard to admit our personal faults and failings, and it can be scary to ask for help. Why do we need to confess our faults to God? To let him know what's going on? No: he already knows that! When we tell God we've sinned, it is no surprise to him; he knew our problems all along. We confess to him because he wants us to say, 'You're right, God; I have a problem. I've blown it.'

It is humbling to admit our mistakes, but once we do, God gives us access to his power to help change us for the better. And at that point we start to become the person we've always wanted to be. The truth is: God loves you just the way you are - but he loves you too much to leave you that way.

Soulfood: Gen 2:7-25, 1 Cor 15:39-55


How change happens 2

'I will not let you go unless you bless me.' Genesis 32:26 NIV

Change happens through commitment. When Jacob realised he was wrestling with the angel of the Lord, he said, 'I will not let you go unless you bless me' (Genesis 32:26). That's what it takes - commitment. Jacob was committed and persistent; he stuck with it until he worked his way through it. He didn't like where he was any more than you do. It was frustrating and it was getting him down. But he was totally committed to sticking with it until God turned it around for his good.

When God gets our attention through a crisis, he doesn't always solve it immediately; sometimes he waits to see whether we really mean business. We're so conditioned to instant everything - instant food, instant internet access, instant success - that when we don't get an immediate answer to our prayer or an instant turnaround we say, 'Forget it, God.' The fact is you didn't get into this mess overnight, and you won't get out of it overnight. Sometimes God has to remove our weaknesses layer by layer. Experts tell us it takes six weeks of doing the same thing every day before it becomes a habit. Think of that in terms of developing the habit of praying and reading your Bible each day, or relearning to love your spouse. That's six weeks...forty-two days...over a thousand hours...and Satan will fight you at every turn.

So what should you do? Spend time with God. ''But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint' (Isaiah 40:31 NKJV).

Soulfood: Judg 9:34- 11:40, Matt 11:1-19, Ps 129, 25, Ecc 5:4-6


How change happens 1

'We are changed into his glorious image.' 2 Corinthians 3:18 NLT

Change happens through crisis. God changed Jacob's name, which means 'deceiver,' to Israel, which means 'a prince with God.' And He did it through crisis. Realising he had to go home and face the wrath of his brother Esau, whom he'd mistreated, Jacob became desperate. That night in his tent he wrestled with the angel of the Lord. And the change in his life didn't come quickly or easily, because we're told he wrestled until daybreak. But suddenly it dawned on Jacob that he was wrestling with God, and it was a fight he couldn't win.

Likewise, God will let you wrestle with an issue you can't resolve to get your attention. He'll bring you to the place where you must concede, 'I can't handle this situation. It's too big for me. I need God!' If that's where you are today, you're on the cusp of a breakthrough. If you're asking God to make you comfortable in the mess you're in, forget it - it's not going to happen. 'As an eagle stirs up its the Lord alone led him' (Deuteronomy 32:11-12 NKJV). A mother eagle will upend her nest and push her children off a cliff to teach them how to fly. Can you imagine what they're thinking? 'It's my mother doing this to me!' And God will do the same to you. He'll allow a crisis in order to get your attention. He knows you won't change until your fear of change is surpassed by the pain you're experiencing.

Bottom line: 'The Lord - who is the Spirit - makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image' (2 Corinthians 3:18 NLT).

Soulfood: Judg 7:1 - 9:33, Matt 10:32-42, Ps 97, Prov 13:9-10


The qualities of a spiritual leader

'Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honour.' 1 Timothy 5:17 NKJV

To be a spiritual leader worth following: (1) You must be accountable to someone. Someone who knows you well enough to pray with you, strengthen you in your vulnerable areas and counsel you on important decisions. Authority without accountability inevitably leads to disaster. (2) Your personal priorities must be in order. Priorities have a way of slipping. Too many of us become successful at the cost of a broken home and failing health. Why? Because we allowed our priorities to slip. (3) Your walk with God must be consistent. David said, 'Your Word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against you' (Psalm 119:11 NAS). A disciplined daily walk with God is your best protection against sin. If instead of spending time with God you're spending it on things that have become more important, it should alarm you. Pay particular attention to the word 'treasured.' It means to value and protect something, and let nothing threaten it. Take time to pray and read your Bible every day - and guard that time with your life. Give God your mind every morning when it's fresh.

And if you're a pastor, your first calling isn't the building project, the board, or the budget, it's 'feed my sheep' (John 21:16). If Saturday finds you searching for a sermon outline on the internet, make some changes. Delegate secondary things and get back to putting first things first. 'Seek out from among we may appoint over this business; but we will give ourselves continually to prayer and...ministry of the Word' (Acts 6:3-4 NKJV).

Soulfood: Judg 4-6, Matt 10:21-31, Ps 93, Prov 13:7-8


God is your unfailing source

'The brook dried up.' 1 Kings 17:7 NIV

The Psalmist wrote, 'Joyful are those...whose hope is in the Lord their God' (Psalm 146:5 NLT).

One author writes: 'Sometimes when there's not enough money to make ends meet, people tell us to budget and we chuckle. We look at the situation and say, "No way." That's the time to trust God. Your possibilities aren't limited by past or present circumstances. If there's not enough to pay legitimate expenses, do your best and then let go. Trust God to supply your need, then look beyond your wallet. Look to your source. Claim a divine, unlimited supply. Do your part. Strive for financial responsibility in thought and action. Ask for wisdom, and listen to God's leadings. Then let go of your fears and your need to control. We all know money is a necessary part of living - and so does God.'

F. B. Meyer said: 'The education of our faith is incomplete till we learn that God's providence works through loss ...There's a ministry to us through the failure and fading of things. The dwindling brook where Elijah sat is a picture of our lives! "Some time later the brook dried up" (1 Kings 17:7 NIV) is the history of our yesterdays and the prophecy of our tomorrows. We must learn the difference between trusting in the gift and trusting in the giver. The gift may last for a season, but the giver is eternal. If the Lord had led Elijah directly to the widow at Zarephath, he'd have missed something that helped make him a better man - living by faith. Whenever our earthly resources dry up, it's so we may learn that our hope and health are in God.'

Soulfood: Judg 1-3, Matt 10:11-20, Ps 88: 9b-18, Prov 13:4-6


How to maintain your peace

'Search for peace, and work to maintain it.' Psalm 34:14 NLT

You can maintain a peaceful state of mind wherever you go and whatever you do. 'How is that possible?' you ask. The Bible says, 'Search for peace, and work to maintain it' (Psalm 34:14 NLT). To enjoy a life of peace, you must first recognise what's stealing your peace. Satan uses many of the same tactics on everyone, but we each have particular issues. For example, one person may be disturbed by having to do two or three things at a time, while another may be energised by fielding several projects at once. We're all different, and we must learn to know ourselves. Satan studies you carefully and knows which buttons to push.

One Bible teacher writes: 'I can endure things better when I'm not [Satan] waits to attack until I am worn out. I learned by pursuing peace, what Satan already knew about me; now I try not to get overly tired because I know I'm opening a door for him when I do. It will be virtually impossible to enjoy a life of peace if you don't study yourself, and know what your 'peace stealers' are. Keep a list of each time you get upset. Ask yourself what caused the problem, and write it down. Be honest with yourself or you'll never break free.'

In the middle of life's storms you can be anchored by God's peace. But he won't just drop it into your lap; you have a part to play. You must 'seek, inquire for... crave peace and pursue (go after) it' (Psalm 34:14 AMP)! So, if you've lost your peace today - go after it and get it back.

Soulfood: Ruth 1-4, Matt 10:1-10, Ps 88:1-9a, Prov 13:1-3


Today share your faith with someone

'A woman of Samaria came to draw water.' John 4:7 NKJV

One day Jesus met a woman who'd come to draw water from a well. After five failed marriages, her trust in men was zero - and her self-esteem was minus zero! But after her encounter with Christ, she left the well radically changed.

When it comes to sharing our faith, we learn three important lessons from her story: (1) Jesus sees the best in everybody. 'The Pharisees...complained, saying, "This man receives sinners"' (Luke 15:2 NKJV). And when it came to the woman at the well, they were right. She'd been through five divorces and was the talk of the town because she was living with another man. Yet she was the first person to whom Jesus introduced himself as the Messiah. Why didn't he do that when he called his disciples? Or performed his first miracle? Or interviewed Nicodemus? Because Jesus doesn't measure you by your past or your pedigree - but by your potential. (2) Jesus changes you, then he uses you to change others. This woman was the first person to share the Gospel in Samaria, and 'many...Samaritans...believed in him because of the word of the woman' (John 4:39 NKJV). Out of your brokenness, God can use you to make others whole. (3) Jesus doesn't need you to explain him, just to introduce him. He speaks for himself. The Bible says: 'Many more believed because of his own word...They said to the woman, "Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard him and we know that this is indeed the Christ"' (John 4:41-42 NKJV).

Today share your faith with someone.

Soulfood: Obad + Mal 1-4, Matt 9:27-38, Ps 18:30-50, Prov 12:25-28


A praying mother

'Mary quietly treasured these things in her heart.' Luke 2:19 TLB

Max Lucado writes: 'Some things only a mum can do... like powdering a baby's bottom with one hand while holding the phone with the other... Spending the day wiping noses, laundering socks, balancing a cheque book, and still mean it when she thanks God for her kids. Some things only a mum can fix ... like the cabinet doors her husband couldn't, and his bruised ego when he found out she could! Broken shoelaces... broken hearts... breaking up with your sweetheart. Some things only a mum can know... like how long it takes to drive from piano lessons to football practice... how many pizzas you need for a sleepover... the number of days left in a term. The rest of us can only wonder... "Mum, what was it like when that infant's cry first filled the room? Or the day the school bus pulled to a stop, you placed a kiss on a five-year-old's cheek, waved goodbye and then saw the tricycle - silent and still? How did you feel? Did you cry? Did you smile?" Were you like Mary who "quietly treasured all these things in her heart"?'

A mother who loves and prays for her children is a force to be reckoned with. When a preacher stopped by a house and asked to speak to the mother, her little boy said, 'You can't see her right now, she's praying.' That's because Susanna Wesley spent one hour every day praying for each of her seventeen children. Eventually two of them, John and Charles, were used by God to bring a spiritual awakening to Britain and America and establish the Methodist Church. Such is the influence of a praying mother.

Soulfood: Jonah 1:10 - 2:10, Matt 12:38-42

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