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The Word For Today

Your pattern sins 1

'The sin that so easily trips us up.' Hebrews 12:1 NLT

In his book The Me I Want to Be, John Ortberg points out that a 'pattern sin' is one you're habitually drawn to. That doesn't mean nobody else commits it. It just means you're vulnerable in a particular area, and usually it's related to your gifts. Just as home-run hitters in baseball also strike out a lot, your gifts and passions can indicate your areas of vulnerability. For example, extroverts who have the ability to inspire and encourage others are sometimes prone to gossip. People who love to learn may be tempted to feel superior and talk down to others. People who are spontaneous and have a great appetite for life often struggle with impulse control. Good listeners can become passive enablers. Optimists are often susceptible to denial.

Greek mythology speaks of the nemesis (an enemy who seems unbeatable). Your nemesis is like you in almost every way, except he's the ruined version of you. Sherlock Holmes' nemesis was Professor Moriarty, also a brilliant man. He was like Holmes would've been if he'd gone wrong. Because there's a relationship between the best and the worst versions of you, in many areas of life you're your own nemesis. And what they have in common is - they're both you!

Why is it helpful to know this? Because awareness and sensitivity to your own proclivities are the first steps towards building a defence. We have a staggering capacity for self-deception and self-justification. Addressing careless, cold-hearted believers in the end-age church, Jesus told them they needed 'ointment [the Holy Spirit] for your eyes so you will be able to see' (Revelation 3:18 NLT).

Soulfood: Acts 13:21-22 1 Sam 16 1 Sam 17:32-51 1 Sam 24:1-17,


Let God use what you've got

'What is that in your hand?' Exodus 4:2 NIV

The Bible says, 'Moses answered: "What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, 'The Lord did not appear to you?'" Then the Lord said to him, "What is that in your hand?" "A staff," he replied. The Lord said, "Throw it on the ground." Moses threw it on the ground and it became a snake' (Exodus 4:1-3 NIV). Throwing down your staff, the thing you lean on, is frightening and counter-intuitive to all of us who are control freaks. But as long as you hold on to it and try to control it, God can't use it. In golf, when an amateur wants to drive the ball further they grip the club tighter, but it has the opposite effect. The key to a long drive is loosening your grip.

Moses' staff represented his identity and security. It was the way he made his living as a shepherd, and the way he protected himself and his flock. So when God told him to throw it down, he was asking Moses to let go of who he was and what he had. Question: What are you not willing to let go of? Answer: You don't control whatever it is you're holding on to, it controls you. If you don't throw it down, your staff will forever remain only a staff. But if you have the courage to surrender it to God, it can become the lightning rod of his miraculous power.

What's in your hand today? You can hang on to it and see what you can do, or hand it over and see what God can do. Today let God use what you've got.

Soulfood: Ex 36-38 Jn 4:39-54 Ps 87 Pro 27:4-6,


Trust God and step out in faith 2

'Do not look behind you.' Genesis 19:17 NKJV

One time in the West Indies five ships, one of them British, were anchored in the harbour when a monster storm rolled in. The British captain immediately raised anchor and sailed out to meet it. Two days later, battered but still intact, he returned to the harbour and discovered that the ships that hadn't sailed for fear of the storm had all been driven ashore and destroyed. Generally speaking, as a leader the best way forward is to face challenges head-on and 'not look behind you'.

Author Jon Gordon points out six important things: (1) Who you are makes a difference. People follow the leader first and his vision second. (2) It's all about relationships. Pastor Andy Stanley said, 'Rules without relationship lead to rebellion.' You can implement all the rules in the world, but if you don't develop a relationship with the people you're leading, they'll rebel. (3) It's not just about what you do, but what you can inspire, encourage and empower others to do. You bring out the best in people by sharing the best in yourself. (4) Lead with optimism, enthusiasm and positive energy. Guard against negativity and teach people to focus on solutions, not complaints. (5) Recognise that you don't have all the answers, and build a team of people who either have the answers or will find them. (6) Accept that success is a process, not a destination. John Wooden, the legendary basketball coach, recognised that winning was an offshoot of great leadership, teamwork, focus, commitment, and implementing the basics.

Soulfood: Ex 33-35 Jn 4:27-38 Ps 32 Pro 27:1-3,


Trust God and step out in faith 1

'Begin the...tasks I have assigned to you.' Matthew 25:21 TLB

Nicole Unice, director of women's ministries for Hope Church, says: 'There are ideas I know would be beneficial, yet I hesitate to share too much or dream too big. What if they don't work? Or people don't like them? What if the people above me second-guess hiring me? One day I scrawled on my office wall: So what if it fails? Question: What are you yearning to try and haven't because you're afraid you'll fail? What programmes do you keep alive even though they aren't serving their purpose? What technology are you avoiding? What learning are you circumventing because you feel old and rusty? If you don't have anything on the horizon that might fail, you're failing as a leader. Unless you push for innovation and creativity you'll keep attracting the same people. When you "Begin the...tasks [God] assigned to you" you'll have to push boundaries and try things that might fail.'

John Mason writes: 'Don't be afraid to fail...if you're not failing you're not growing. When successful people stop growing and learning, it's because they become less willing to risk failure. Failure is delay, not defeat. A temporary detour, not a dead-end street. We all make mistakes - especially those who do things. As Paul says, "God...gives us the victory through...Christ" (1 Corinthians 15:57 NKJV), and failure is often the first step towards success. Unless you're willing to take a risk, you won't get the chance to succeed.'

Today trust God and step out in faith!

Soulfood: Ex 30-32 Jn 4:13-26 Ps 100 Pro 26:27-28,


Is your name in the Book

'Only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life will enter.' Revelation 21:27 NCV

One night in 1912, Titanic, the largest passenger steamship in the world and considered by many to be unsinkable, struck an iceberg and sank in the icy Atlantic. Many people died. Following the disaster the scene outside the White Star Line office in Liverpool was one of anxiety and grief as friends and relatives of those on board the ill-fated vessel thronged the building. On both sides of the main entrance notices were posted. One said, 'Known to be saved'; the other said, 'Known to be lost'. From time to time a company official walked out with a piece of paper which contained the name of another passenger. When he held it up, a deathly stillness swept over the crowd as loved ones of the missing waited to see which side he would write the name on.

The day Jesus was crucified, God looked down from heaven, wrote 'Known to be saved' on the cross, and started writing names in 'The Lamb's Book of Life'. And the message of the cross hasn't changed. You don't have to be a scholar to understand it. In fact, most people who come to Christ don't know a lot about the Bible. All they know is they need a Saviour, and God loves them.

All you have to do to receive eternal life is repent of your sin and put your trust in Jesus. The instant you do that, God writes your name 'in the Lamb's book of life' and you become a member of his family, guaranteed a place in Heaven. And it can happen for you today.

Soulfood: Ex 28-29 Jn 4:1-12 Ps 89:38-52 Pro 26:23-26,


Not who but whose you are

'Who am I that I should go...?' Exodus 3:11 NIV

When God told Moses he was going to use him to deliver the Israelites from slavery, the conversation went like this: '"So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt." But Moses said to God, "Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?" And God said, "I will be with you"' (Exodus 3:10-12 NIV).

Moses summarised his fears and insecurities in one question, 'Who am I?' But that's the wrong question. It's not about who you are, but whose you are! That day God revealed his name to Moses as 'I AM'. His name is the solution to every problem and the answer to every question. His name calms every fear, seals every prayer and wins every battle. At his name, angels bow and demons quake. At his name, our sin is vindicated and our authority is validated. Who you are is absolutely irrelevant. God doesn't use us because of us, but in spite of us. It's not like Heaven is going to go bankrupt if you don't tithe. And if you take your talents elsewhere, it's not like the Kingdom of God is going to go under. But for reasons that will only be revealed on the far side of the space-time continuum, God has chosen to accomplish his purposes through ordinary people like us.

Are you afraid of stepping out in faith in case you fail? Does the situation seem impossible for you? It's not for God. Trust him, stand on his promise: 'I will be with you' (Exodus 3:12 NIV), and move ahead!

Soulfood: Ex 25-27 Jn 3:22-36 Ps 89:15-37 Pro 26:20-22,


Your heavenly Father 2

'Just as parents are kind to their children, the Lord is kind to all who worship him.' Psalm 103:13 CEV

To see God as a loving Father may not come easily, if you carry the scars of a neglected or abusive childhood. Perhaps you had so many unmet needs growing up: affection, security, trust, comfort, material necessities, etc., and your lack of these things makes it hard to believe God will provide for your needs now.

What to do? Recognise that your 'father-image' is flawed and in no way resembles your heavenly Father. Even the best earthly father can't measure up to him. He wants you to approach him as a caring, sensitive, generous, dependable, loving Father. That's why Jesus taught us to call him 'Our Father', not just 'Almighty God and Lord'. Like a good father, God understands your needs and makes full provision for them (see Matthew 6:25-34). And just as a good parent recognises the unique characteristics of each of his children, he knows your distinctive personality, gifts, thoughts and feelings. 'Just as parents are kind to their children, the Lord is kind to all who worship him.' Psalm 103:13 CEV). God's care is tailor-made to your specific gifts - and weaknesses. And like a loving father, he accepts and fulfils his responsibility to provide for you.

So what's your role in the relationship? To act like the child of a trustworthy, generous, permanently-loving Father!

Soulfood: Ex 22-24 Jn 3:1-21 Ps 89:1-14 Pro 26:17-19,


Your heavenly Father 1

'They did not understand that he spoke to them of the Father.' John 8:27 NKJV

The people in Jesus' day found it hard to grasp the concept of God as a Father. Lord, king, judge, they understood - but not Father. The Old Testament rarely speaks of God as Father, whereas the New Testament mentions it often. Until Jesus came and revealed the Father, God remained a mystery. 'No one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him' (Matthew 11:27 NIV). And many of us still don't comprehend his fatherhood and the rich blessings we have in him.

'Father', God's all-inclusive name, incorporates everything we could ever need, while disclosing how he feels towards each one of us. It exemplifies every trait of the best father imaginable. Think what a loving, all-powerful father would do for a needy child. Your heavenly Father will do all that for you - and then some! When you recognise God as your Father, your fears dissolve and you start to believe that all your needs will truly be met.

Jesus said, 'Don't be afraid...it gives your Father great happiness to give you the [benefits of his] Kingdom' (Luke 12:32 NLT). It makes God happy to offer you the resources of his kingdom! Why? Because he loves you as much as he loves his Son Jesus! Jesus prayed you'd know with confidence that your Father 'loved [you] just as much as [he] loved me' (John 17:23 NCV). As his redeemed child, you have all the benefits that come with membership in 'the household of God' (Ephesians 2:19 NKJV).

Soulfood: Heb 11:22 Gen 39:1-23 Gen 45:1-11 Gen 50:15-26,


Let God replant you

'You are like a garden locked up.' Song of Solomon 4:12 NCV

A farmer's fruit tree consistently produced bumper crops and became a real money-maker for him, so he put all his efforts into marketing and never noticed that the tree was dying. Then one day he woke up and realised the root had dried up. He'd been so focused on the fruit that he neglected the root.

How about you? Are you focusing on numbers and outcomes, or are you focusing on the purpose, people, innovation, culture, and root of your success? Nurture the root and you'll always have fruit. Ignore the root - say goodbye to the fruit!

One author writes: 'Like a plant constrained in the same pot, our roots become bound and twisted. Over time we're unable to be fully nourished. We can't grow beyond the limits of our environment. In the words of Scripture, we become "like a garden locked up...a walled-in spring, a closed-up fountain" (Song of Solomon 4:12 NCV). But God sees the person inside...the one with potential to become everything he created you to be. He sees the impending bloom of the locked garden, the refreshment of the inner spring, and the sound of the running fountain. He knows you're inhibited and closed, and he wants to set you free. Some hardships like death and divorce cause a necessary replanting...an opportunity to establish deeper roots and realise our potential in a new container. Ask God to replant you...to gently remove you, free you from captivity, and find the perfect place for you to grow. Let him nourish your roots so they extend into the rich soil of newfound freedom.'

Soulfood: Ex 19-21 Jn 2:12-25 Ps 110 Pro 26:13-16,


What is your life founded upon

'Why do you call me, "Lord, Lord," and do not do what I say?' Luke 6:46 NIV

Jesus told a story of two men who built a house. The wise one built his house on solid rock; the foolish one built his on sand. When a storm hit both houses, only the wise man's was left standing. Now, Jesus wasn't comparing wisdom with foolishness, because we're all apt to be wise at times and foolish at others. And he didn't say the house that survived was a believer's house while the one that was destroyed belonged to an unbeliever, though that's implied. He was comparing the two foundations (see Matthew 7:24-27).

So, what is your life founded upon? When things get bad; when your back is against the wall; when your survival is on the line; when you've used up your last ounce of strength - what is it that gets you through? Certainly not your wisdom or your church affiliation. Faithful believers sometimes flounder in the midst of life's storms: an abusive relationship, a financial collapse, an unfaithful partner, an irreversible loss, the illness of a child, psychological and physical disability, etc.

Jesus' point was this: when the storms of life come, the only way to get through them is to do what he says! Because God always honours his Word, your obedience aligns you with his Word, his will, and his power to act on your behalf. As you walk in obedience God will enable you to come through this storm, no matter how long and hard it rages.

Soulfood: Ex 16-18 Jn 2:1-11 Ps 23 Pro 26:10-12,

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