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The Word For Today

A humble offering



'The Lord respected Abel and his offering: but he did not respect Cain.' Genesis 4:4-5 NKJV

Cain cultivated the ground, planted the seed, gathered the harvest and offered God the fruits of his labours. He thought God would be impressed, and that he would feel obligated to bless him. But that's not how it works! Abel, on the other hand, told God something like, 'I did nothing. You created the lamb I'm offering. I'm just giving you back what's yours, and asking you to bless it.' And God did!

You can tell a lot about somebody by how they approach God. Some of us act like God owes us something. Others among us are so impressed with our spiritual status and accomplishments that we feel the need to approach him with lofty phraseology and high-sounding 'thees' and 'thous'. But God isn't impressed, so let's get real! 'The Lord respected Abel and his offering' (Genesis 4:4 NKJV). That's because unlike his brother, Abel wasn't seeking credit for anything. He wanted God to have all the glory. That's the kind of offering that moves God's heart and invites his richest blessing upon our lives.

So what are you offering God today? Your achievements? Your denominational credentials? Your self-reliance? Your shallow emotion? If you are, don't bother! The only thing he asks is that you humbly open your heart and let him recreate you in the likeness of Jesus. When you do that, something wonderful happens. By downplaying your own self-interests and giving God an acceptable offering, not only will he receive and respect it, he will bless you and equip you to bless others too. That's how it works!

Soulfood: Luke 2:8-20, Pro 3:13-18, Ps 119:161-168

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How to raise a secure adult



'The children of your people will live in security.' Psalm 102:28 NLT

When you ask parents about their future hopes for their children, you'll hear words like happy, secure and self-confident. Those are nice sentiments, but not guarantees. But what makes that kind of adult? A childhood filled with trophies and good grades? A life in the country, far away from the crime-ridden city? Enriching pastimes like travel and music? The truth is, not one of these things predicts later happiness. That doesn't mean you shouldn't encourage children to study and excel; having parents who value knowledge makes a difference.

The important qualities, however, aren't external, they're internal. Psychologist Dr Edward Hallowell says to feel secure, your children need to develop two crucial skills: (1) The ability to overcome adversity. (2) The capacity to sustain joy. He says, 'Life is full of disappointments. Only by failing the first time and learning to try, try and try again will a person get the most out of their abilities.'

But how do you teach your kids to be joyful in the face of adversity? There's only one way to do it: introduce them to the source of joy. Isaiah said, 'My soul shall be joyful in my God; for he has clothed me with...salvation' (Isaiah 61:10 NKJV). David said, 'In your presence is fulness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore' (Psalm 16:11 NKJV). Jeremiah said, 'Your word was to me the joy...of my heart' (Jeremiah 15:16 NKJV). God never promised us a life without problems, but his Word says, 'The Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives...joy' (Galatians 5:22 NLT).

Soulfood: Exo 28-29, Matt 8:10-17, Ps 84, Pro 2:16-19

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The right mindfuel



'Be changed within by a new way of thinking.' Romans 12:2 NCV

What we consume determines our performance. That's why you need to be careful what you feed your body, your children, your pets and even your car.

But what you feed your mind is equally important, especially when you consider these two laws that operate in life: (1) The law of cognition. Your thoughts influence your emotions and your behaviour. The Bible says, 'For as he thinks in his heart, so is he' (Proverbs 23:7 NKJV). Jesus said a good tree can't produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can't produce good fruit (see Matthew 7:18). In other words, good thinking can't produce bad results, just as bad thinking can't produce good results. (2) The law of exposure. The Bible says, 'Do not...be shaped by this world; instead be changed within by a new way of thinking' (Romans 12:2 NCV). You'll always think about what you are exposed to the most. And given the violence, lust and greed portrayed by the media, it's not surprising that crime and immorality are on the rise. You can't just say, 'I'm going to read this magazine, watch this programme, listen to this music, but it won't affect me.' Social science now confirms what God said all along - it does affect you! Where you go, what you read (or don't read), what you watch and the dreams you entertain all shape your mind.

Paul writes, 'Remember what Christ taught, and let his words enrich your lives and make you wise' (Colossians 3:16 TLB). So when you need the right mind-fuel, remember: 'I entrust you to God and his care and to his wonderful words that are able to build your faith and give you all the inheritance' (Acts 20:32 TLB).

Soulfood: Exo 25-27, Matt 8:1-9, Ps 81, Pro 2:11-15

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Choosing a lifetime partner



'Don't be teamed with those who do not love the Lord.' 2 Corinthians 6:14 TLB

An ox and a donkey each have a tail, two eyes and four legs. But if you harness them together, they won't get along or work well together. Actually, they will pull in different directions. That's because God made them with very different natures and attributes! With that picture in your mind, here's some advice on dating you'd be wise to heed.

Looks soon fade, so choose someone who has other, less obvious attributes. For example: (1) Consider their manners and how they treat the waiter at the restaurant. (2) What type of interests do they have? (3) Do they share your spiritual values and beliefs? (4) Do they show genuine interest in what you have to say? (5) How do they treat people they're not trying to impress? Once the newness of the initial attraction wears off, there must be something more, or the relationship is doomed. And make sure you're the chooser, and not the chosen.

So, think about what you really want, and don't entrust your heart to someone without first ascertaining their suitability. The only way to do that is to ask questions and ask God for discernment so you can learn to read their motives through their mannerisms. If you're going to make an informed decision about sharing your life with this person, and share the most intimate, vulnerable parts of yourself literally and figuratively, you must open your eyes, along with all your senses, and really see the other person. Stop. Look. Listen. Pray. That's the Bible's formula for making a wise decision when it comes to choosing a mate for life.

Soulfood: Exo 22-24, Matt 7:15-29, Ps 79, Pro 2:9-10

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Try Less and Trust More



'He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion.' Philippians 1:6 NIV

If you want God's will to be done in your life, don't rush things. Sarah, Abraham's wife, did: as a result Ishmael was born, and that brought all sorts of strife and family complications. Remember: 'Flesh gives birth to flesh but the Spirit gives birth to spirit' (John 3:6 NIV), so be sure your plans are conceived by God's Spirit. Don't try to salvage anything flesh-based. God said, 'My covenant I will establish with Isaac' (Genesis 17:21 NKJV). Isaac was born as a result of God's will, done God's way, in God's time.

Everything that's conceived in you comes from one of two sources: the flesh or the Spirit. So be careful. People will try to involve you in all kinds of schemes to promote yourself. God doesn't need anybody's help to bless you; he can do it all by himself! That's why whenever Satan attacks you, you need to be able to point him to your spiritual birthplace and remind him that you didn't begin this project and you don't have to finish it.

'He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion' (Philippians 1:6 NIV). And here's another thought. If God's dealing with you about carnality, pride or some other obstacle in your path, don't resist, don't run and don't get in his way. Like a drowning man frantically trying to save himself - until you stop flailing around God can't do anything for you. So the word for you today is: 'Try less and trust more!'

Soulfood: Exo 19-21, Matt 7:1-14, Ps 74:12-23, Pro 2:7-8

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Use the power of praise



'His praise shall continually be in my mouth.' Psalm 34:1 NKJV

You can praise God too little, but you can never praise him too much. David writes, 'From the rising of the sun to its going down the Lord's name is to be praised' (Psalm 113:3 NKJV). 'Seven times a day I praise you' (Psalm 119:164 NKJV). 'His praise shall continually be in my mouth' (Psalm 34:1 NKJV). When you are overwhelmed by circumstances, the last thing you feel like doing is praising God. But it's the first thing you should do, because praise gets your attention off yourself and onto God's miraculous power.Jehoshaphat faced an army he had no hope of defeating. But when he started to praise God, his enemies destroyed each other while he looked on in amazement. When Paul and Silas praised God in prison, their chains broke and the doors opened. It's normal to focus on the problem and forget to praise God, but praise solves problems. Peter writes: 'the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honour and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ' (1 Peter 1:7 NKJV).Start to acknowledge the power of praise and choose to exalt God regardless of how you feel. Praise brings you into God's presence and positions you for his favour and blessing. You say, 'But I don't understand how praise works.' Think about it like this: you don't have to understand aerodynamics in order to fly. You just get on the plane and the pilot takes you where you need to go. It's the same when you praise God - just do it and you'll get results.

Soulfood: Exo 16-18, Matt 6:19-34, Ps 74:1-11, Pro 2:6

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Receive God's forgiveness



'You forgave me! All my guilt is gone.' Psalm 32:5 NLT

When God forgave David for adultery and murder, he wrote: 'Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight! Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty! When I refused to confess my sin, my body wasted away, and I groaned all day long. Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me. My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat. Finally, I confessed my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said..."I will confess my rebellion to the Lord." And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone' (Psalm 32:1-5 NLT).

Unconfessed, unforgiven sin will make you miserable. But after you've acknowledged it and received God's forgiveness, you shouldn't continue to feel miserable. So why do we feel miserable? Many times it's because of how we were raised. We grew up hearing words like, 'I hope you feel bad about what you've done!' or 'Shame on you!' And if our offence was great, like wrecking the family car, we may even have been put on probation! In other words, we're programmed for long-term guilt.

The good news is, God's forgiveness doesn't work that way. The moment that brings conviction and confession of sin also brings cleansing of sin, and leads to restored confidence before God. Don't let Satan keep condemning you. Refuse to walk around feeling guilty and ashamed. Today say with the psalmist, 'You forgave me! All my guilt is gone' (Psalm 32:5 NLT). Now go out and live freely, confidently and with joy!

Soulfood: Exo 13-15, Matt 6:9-18, Ps 71:17-24, Pro 2:3-5

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He can help you to stand



'To him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand.' Jude 24 NAS

Pick friends who respect your values; otherwise, you will end up under pressure to compromise your convictions to maintain their friendship. That's too high a price to pay! Joseph said no to the sexual advances of his boss' wife, and there's a lesson for you in his story.

There are people in the workplace who may push every button and probe every weakness you have, in order to bring you down to their level. And if they succeed, they'll attack you rather than appreciate you. What should you do? Turn to God for help! '[He] will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it' (1 Corinthians 10:13 NKJV). When someone seeks to compromise your character, God promises to 'make a way of escape' so you don't have to succumb to temptation. Even if your decision results in your being penalised, alienated or terminated, ask God for courage to do the right thing. His promise to you is: 'Those who honour me I will honour' (1 Samuel 2:30 NKJV).

Remember, it's better to be alone and walk with God than give in to temptation, violate his Word and compromise your convictions by 'going along to get along'. When you stand tall and do the right thing, you bring honour and glory to God. Jude writes, 'to him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand... God our Saviour, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever' (Jude 24-25 NAS).

Soulfood: Isa 61, Heb 12:2, Isa 35:3-10

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Control your anger



A wise man [uses self-control and] holds it back.' Proverbs 29:11 AMP

The Bible says, 'A...fool always loses his temper and displays his anger, but a wise man [uses self-control and] holds it back' (Proverbs 29:11 AMP). You can express anger verbally or through silence. When you use silence as a weapon to hurt someone, you're resorting to emotional manipulation and indulging in childish immaturity. When you were a child and someone refused to do what you wanted, do you remember saying, 'I'm not talking to you anymore'? That may be acceptable behaviour for a child, but not those who are called to be spiritually mature.If you're given to frequent outbursts of temper, here are some Scriptures you'd do well to take to heart: (1) 'Better...one with self-control than one who takes a city' (Proverbs 16:32 NIV). (2) 'A person's wisdom yields patience; it is to one's glory to overlook an offence' (Proverbs 19:11 NIV). (3) 'Do not be quickly provoked in your spirit, for anger resides in the lap of fools' (Ecclesiastes 7:9 NIV). (4) 'Be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires' (James 1:19-20 NIV). (5) 'Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you' (Ephesians 4:31-32 NIV).So ask God to help you get your anger under control. Remember: anger is like fire: when it's kept under control, it can bring warmth and comfort. But when it's out of control, it can destroy everything in its path.

Soulfood: Exo 10-12, Matt 6:1-8, Ps 71:1-16, Pro 2:1-2

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Bury memories of abuse



'You have...made...their memory to perish.' Isaiah 26:14 NKJV

Psychologists tell us that one out of three people has experienced physical, emotional or sexual abuse. Most are ashamed to talk about it. They may suffer with resentment, thinking not only about the offender, but also the people who should have protected them and didn't. The truth is, if they don't get help, the memory of what was perpetrated against them can end up hurting them more than the event that actually happened.If you're a victim of abuse, here are some Scriptures you need to read, stand on and turn into prayer: 'I cried out to you, O Lord..."You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living. Attend to my cry, for I am brought very low; deliver me from my persecutors [memories], for they are stronger than I. Bring my soul out of prison [the past], that I may praise your name"' (Psalm 142:5-7 NKJV). 'O Lord...masters besides you have had dominion over us; but by you only we make mention of your name. They are dead, they will not live; they are deceased, they will not rise...you have punished and destroyed them, and made all their memory to perish' (Isaiah 26:13-14 NKJV).Ideally, you must choose to forgive your offender, then their power over you will be broken! Once you've done that, place them in God's hands and allow him to deal with them. Refuse to remain a victim. Instead of continuing to live in secret shame, you will discover that the power of God 'heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds' (Psalm 147:3 NKJV).

Soulfood: Exo 7-9, Matt 5:38-48, Ps 46, Pro 1:32-33

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