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The Word For Today

A prayer for selfcontrol

'It is God's will that you should... avoid sexual immorality.' 1 Thessalonians 4:3 NIV

When God created Adam and Eve, he told them to 'multiply and replenish the earth' (Genesis 1:28 KJV). That helps explain why sex is one of our strongest drives. But it can also propel you into making decisions that mess up your life and destroy your relationships. The Bible says: 'It is God's will that you should... avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honourable, not in passionate lust like the pagans' (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5 NIV).

Why did God say this? Because when there's physical intimacy without true commitment, somebody's going to get hurt. You need to heed what God says on this issue. And you need to do it now, before you get into situations where you're tempted to compromise your character, because by then it's too late. We all struggle with our sexuality, particularly in a culture where 'sex sells'.

Sex is such an integral part of us, and guilt about it has a way of making us feel separated from God like nothing else can. In order to determine your values and establish some ground rules, you need to pray: 'Lord, I'm not going to allow my impulses to dictate to me, or sin to separate me from you. I choose to keep your standards, to rely on your Spirit to give me strength day by day. And if I do sin, to seek your forgiveness, get back up, and move closer to you.' That's a prayer God will answer!

Soulfood: 2 Kings 6:1-7, Matt 14:22-33


Be a Shamgar 3

'Shamgar...saved Israel.' Judges 3:31 NIV

If Shamgar had focused on the fact that he was going up against six hundred Philistines, he would probably have given up before he even started. Understand this: Satan will try to discourage and defeat you by making you feel overwhelmed by the problem. That's when you need to counterpunch, by breaking down your goals into smaller steps. You will not be able to overcome your addiction, anxiety, or anorexia for the rest of your life in one day, but with God's help you can win one small battle today.

Don't worry about next week or next year. Live in day-tight compartments. Can you resist temptation for twenty-four hours? Can you win the battle for one day? You know you can. And so does the enemy. So take it one day at a time. We spend far too much energy focusing on the very thing we can't control - the outcome. You say, 'What if I fall back into my bad habit? What if my romantic efforts aren't reciprocated? What if I don't hit my target weight or get my dream job?' Jesus said, 'Don't be anxious about tomorrow. God will take care of your tomorrow too. Live one day at a time' (Matthew 6:34 TLB).

The manna the Israelites received in the wilderness arrived daily, not weekly or monthly. Why? Because God wanted them to live in total dependence on him. God's grace, not your own works, is the key to victory. The word for you today is: 'His compassion never ends. It is only the Lord's mercies that have kept us from complete destruction. Great is his faithfulness; his loving-kindness begins afresh each day... therefore I will hope in him' (Lamentations 3:21-24 TLB).

Soulfood: Is 45-48, John 7:14-24, Ps 30, Prov 28:25-28


Be a Shamgar 2

'In the days of Shamgar.' Judges 5:6 NIV

When Shamgar picked up his ox-goad and slew six hundred Philistines, he made a decision that, if he was going to go down, he was going to go down fighting (see Judges 3:31). And that's the key to deliverance, whether it's from the Philistines, or pride, or prejudice, or pornography, or any other stubborn problem in your life. You've got to go on the offensive. There comes a point when you say, 'Enough is enough.' You know you cannot continue down the path you are on because it's a dead end relationally, physically or spiritually. It may not kill you, but it will eat you alive. You know you cannot keep doing what you've always done. Not if you want to get into shape, or get out of debt. Not if you want to recapture the romance, or reach the goal. Not if you want to leave a legacy worth living up to. And the good news is this: you are only one decision away from a totally different life.

But you've got to grab your ox-goad and go for it. Cut up that credit card. Apply for the graduate programme. Take the mission trip. Set up the counselling appointment. William A. Lawrence wrote, 'On the plains of hesitation bleach the bones of countless millions who, at the dawn of victory, sat down to wait, and waiting - died!'

Stop being a procrastinator. Stop being a perfectionist. Spiritual growth is about progress, not perfection. When it comes to going after your goals, your greatest adversary is inertia. We have a tendency to keep doing what we've always done, hoping that somehow things will change. They won't, so be a Shamgar and take action!

Soulfood: Is 42-44, John 7:1-13, Ps 86, Prov 28:21-24


Be a Shamgar 1

'Shamgar... struck down six hundred Philistines with an ox-goad.' Judges 3:31 NIV

Shamgar is mentioned only twice in Scripture, and his story takes up three lines and two verses. But his impact was amazing. And it's a challenge to all those who think, 'God would never use someone like me.'

Shamgar may have been the least qualified person to deliver Israel from the Philistines. For starters, it's likely he wasn't even an Israelite. His name seems to come from the Hurrian language. He could have rationalised inaction in a dozen different ways. 'I don't have the right weapon. I can't do this by myself. These aren't even my people.' If you look for an excuse, you will always find one. If you don't, you won't. When it comes to making excuses, we are infinitely creative. What if we channelled that creativity into finding solutions instead of finding excuses? If we did, God could use us as an instrument to fulfil his purposes just as he used Shamgar.

When God stirs your spirit or moves your heart, you cannot sit back, you've got to step up and step in. And when you do, it can become a defining moment in your life. Don't worry about the results. If it's the right thing, the results are God's responsibility. Focus on doing right things for the right reason, and don't buy into the lie that it can't be done! Yes, it will take all-out effort, but you can do all things through Christ who gives you strength (see Philippians 4:13). A failed attempt is not failing. Failing is not trying. If you are trying, in God's eyes you are succeeding. So grab your ox-goad - and go for it.

Soulfood: Is 38-41, John 6:60-71, Ps 96, Prov 28:17-20


Once and for all

'He offered himself once and for all.' Hebrews 9:26 CEV

There were many pieces of furniture in the tabernacle, and each served a different purpose. But there wasn't a single seat. Do you know why? Because the priest's work was never finished! The people sinned constantly, so lambs had to be constantly sacrificed to atone for their sins. However, when Jesus died, rose again and went back to Heaven, the first thing he did was sit down (see Hebrews 10:12). That's because the work of salvation was finished!

The Bible says: 'Christ did not have to offer himself many times. He wasn't like a high priest who goes into the most holy place each year to offer the blood of an animal ...instead...he offered himself once and for all, so that he could be a sacrifice that does away with sin' (Hebrews 9:25-26 CEV). And because of Christ's 'once and for all' sacrifice on the cross, you have direct access to God at any time. The moment you say, 'Father, I come in the name of Jesus,' you're made welcome and all your needs are met.

There's a story from American Civil War days about a soldier sitting on a bench outside the White House looking depressed. A little boy passing by stopped and asked what was wrong. The soldier told him he needed to see President Lincoln but the guards wouldn't let him in. Hearing this, the boy took him by the hand and led him directly into the President's office. 'Father,' he said, 'this man really needs to speak with you.' That boy was the President's son; he had direct and continuous access to his father. And because you belong to Jesus, you do too!

Soulfood: Heb 11:4-12:3, 1 Chron 17:1-20, Ps 18:20-29, 8


Words to live by in troubled times 3

'The Word of our God stands forever.' Isaiah 40:8 NKJV

Here are some more wonderful promises from the Bible that you can rely on when trouble comes:(1) 'Because you have made the Lord... your dwelling place, no evil shall befall you, nor shall any plague come near your dwelling; for he shall give his angels charge over you, to keep you in all your ways' (Psalm 91:9-11 NKJV). (2) 'The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them' (Psalm 34:7 NIV). (3) 'I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed' (Psalm 57:1 NIV). (4) 'The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit' (Psalm 34:18 NIV). (5) 'The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer' (1 Peter 3:12 NIV).And yet some more promises: (6) 'He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters. He rescued me from my powerful enemy, from my foes, who were too strong for me... he rescued me because he delighted in me' (Psalm 18:16-19 NIV). (7) 'Do not gloat over me, my enemy! Though I have fallen, I will rise. Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light' (Micah 7:8 NIV). (8) 'You will have courage because you will have hope. You will take your time and rest in safety. You will lie down unafraid, and many will look to you for help' (Job 11:18-19 TLB). (9) 'Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us' (Ephesians 3:20 NIV).SoulFood: Deut 18:9-18 Dan 2 Isa 47:5-15 Acts 16:16-34

Soulfood: Deut 18:9-18, Dan 2, Is 47:5-15, Acts 16:16-34


Words to live by in troubled times 2

'The Word of our God stands forever.' Isaiah 40:8 NKJV

Are you ready for more of God's wonderful promises?

(1) 'Let all those who...put their trust in you rejoice...because you...defend them; let those also who love your in high spirits' (Psalm 5:11 AMP). (2) 'The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms; he will thrust out the enemy from before you' (Deuteronomy 33:27 NKJV). (3) 'The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and he knows those who trust in him' (Nahum 1:7 NKJV). (4) 'Fear not... for I am with you... I will strengthen and harden you to difficulties, yes, I will help you... I will hold you up... with my [victorious] right hand' (Isaiah 41:10 AMP). (5) 'You protect them by your presence from what people plan against them. You shelter them from evil words' (Psalm 31:20 NCV).

(6) 'Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the Lord forever' (Psalm 23:6 NLT). (7) 'The Lord stood at my side and gave me strength... The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom' (2 Timothy 4:17-18 NIV). (8) 'Those who know your name trust in you, for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you' (Psalm 9:10 NIV). (9) 'This I recall to my mind, therefore I have hope. Through the Lord's mercies we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness' (Lamentations 3:21-23 NKJV). (10) 'In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety' (Psalm 4:8 NIV).

Soulfood: Is 34-37, John 6:52-59, Ps 9, Prov 28:13-16


Words to live by in troubled times 1

'The Word of our God stands forever.' Isaiah 40:8 NKJV

For the next few days let's renew our minds with some of the wonderful promises God has given to us through his Word. Let's not just read them casually, but process them slowly, deeply, prayerfully and repeatedly, letting the truth of them change our thinking and strengthen our faith.(1) 'No weapon formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue which rises against you in judgment you shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord' (Isaiah 54:17 NKJV). (2) 'The Lord... is with you; never again will you fear any harm... He is mighty to save. He with all who oppressed you' (Zephaniah 3:15-19 NIV). (3) 'Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged because of the king... With him is only the arm of flesh, but with us is the Lord our God to help us... fight our battles' (2 Chronicles 32:7-8 NIV).And some more promises: (4) 'My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my... fortress, I shall never be shaken' (Psalm 62:1-2 NIV). (5) 'Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs, and don't forget to thank him for his answers. If you do this you will experience God's peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand' (Philippians 4:6-7 TLB). (6) 'For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord' (Romans 8:38-39 NKJV).

Soulfood: 2 Kings 6:8-23, Matt 5:43-48, Luke 6:27-36


Keep your spiritual glasses clean

'Be clean, you who bear the vessels of the Lord.' Isaiah 52:11 NKJV

One day a man was getting his windshield washed at a filling station. When the attendant finished, the man said, 'That's a terrible job. Redo my windshield - it's as dirty as when you started.' So the attendant wiped it again. The man looked it over and in frustration said, 'That window hasn't changed a bit.' The man's wife was sitting next to him in the car. She reached over, pulled off his glasses, wiped them, and gave them back to him. The attendant had been doing his job correctly. The man himself was the problem all along.Spiritually speaking, the glasses you're looking through determine what you see, and how you see it. When you look through the lens of jealousy and envy, you become resentful of the blessings of others. When you look through the lens of judgmentalism, you speak and act without mercy and grace. When you look through the lens of fear and unbelief, you limit God and forfeit what he can do for you. When you look through the lens of selfishness, you put yourself first and your loved ones suffer. When you look through the lens of negativity and cynicism, people begin to avoid you because you're not enjoyable to be around. 'Be clean, you who bear the vessels of the Lord' (Isaiah 52:11 NKJV).Just as your glasses need to be wiped clean from the contamination around you, so do your heart and mind. How does this happen? Jesus said, 'You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you' (John 15:3 NIV). Through prayer and daily Bible reading, your perspective on life is kept right.

Soulfood: Is 30-33, John 6:35-51, Ps 104:24-35, 2


Who's your Saul

'Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name.' Acts 9:15 NIV

Saul of Tarsus was the last person on earth you'd ever have expected to become a Christian, much less the author of half the New Testament. Describing his life before he met Christ, he wrote, 'I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it' (Galatians 1:13 NKJV).So when God called Ananias to go and pray for Saul, Ananias wasn't too keen on the idea: 'I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your saints in Jerusalem. And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.' But the Lord said to Ananias, 'Go! This man is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel' (Acts 9:13-15 NIV). Ananias knew what Saul had done to the church. What he was about to learn, however, is that God was at work in Saul's heart. Within a few short years God would use Paul to touch the world, but first he used Ananias to touch Paul.Has God given you a similar assignment? Has he given you a Saul? If so, don't give up on him or her. When other people write them off, give them another chance. Ananias didn't know about Paul's encounter with Christ on the Damascus Road. God can go where you can't, and get through to a person when you're unable to reach them. Always remember: God never sends you where he hasn't already been. So by the time you reach your Saul, who knows what you'll find?

Soulfood: Is 26-29, John 6:25-34, Ps 104:1-23, Prov 28:5-8

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