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Word For You Today

RESTOR(E OUR N)ATION

Last December, just a few days after the British Prime Minister urged the Church of England to take a lead in restoring moral values, a survey revealed that the number of Christians in the United Kingdom had fallen by 10% in just five years. That hurts, but the church has experienced this before. It's just like how things were in ancient Israel in Hezekiah's time. In spite of all God's blessings, many of the people there had turned their backs on Him.

So, as believers, how can we play our part in restoring God's moral values in times like these?

In Old Testament times, King Hezekiah set his heart on restoring God to His rightful position of leadership in the land and this is what he did: (1) He put God's Word first (2 Chronicles 31:4 NLT); (2) He challenged corruption (2 Chronicles 29:5 NLT); (3) He called the people to return to the Lord (2 Chronicles 30:6 NLT); and (4) He called people to worship God (2 Chronicles 29:28 NLT). Most importantly 'In everything that he undertook...he sought his God and worked wholeheartedly. And so he prospered'(2 Chronicles 31:21 NIV). The result? Israel was transformed.

So what now? We need to play our part. Pick up a copy of a local newspaper today and find a story that you can pray about or act on. Psalms 65:2 says, 'You hear our prayers. All people will come to you.' Your prayers will make a difference to restore society.

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

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THE POWER OF GRACE (2)

Who could stand before God without grace? The grace that Jesus demonstrated on the cross was given to us '...whilst we were still sinners' (Romans 5:8 NIV), so we can't be unwilling to extend this grace to others. This undeserved gift from God: let it guide all your interactions with others...

Following on from yesterday, here are three more ways to practically demonstrate grace to others: (2) Celebrate them. Don't take it upon yourself to try and change others into who you think they should be - the work of change is for God. What would it mean to step back and celebrate the good in those who challenge you? Ask yourself how you could do that, for example, in a conversation (But remember that it might have to start with changing your attitude). (3) Don't condemn them. The Pharisees saw only the worst in the woman caught in adultery, but Jesus saw what she could become if she was shown a bit of grace. He picked up on her sin, but still said 'I do not condemn you... go, but do not sin again' (John 8:11 GNT). Generous grace is not just about ignoring sin, but letting people see that they can become the 'new creatures' that God has called us to be. (4) Forgive them. We can be really hurt by others but by resenting them we only add injury to our own insult. Be quick to take things to God and just drop them, for your own sake too. Through God's grace '...What left a mark no longer stings, because grace makes beauty out of ugly things' (that's from the song 'Grace' by U2).

So what now? Here's a challenging prayer when you're getting seriously irritated with other people: 'Lord, change me'... are you up for it?

Soulfood : Is 30-33, Jn 7:14-24, Ps 104:1-23, Prov 28:5-8

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THE POWER OF GRACE (1)

Relationships can't breathe without grace. Because all of humanity is pretty broken, the whole range of human experience is open to being stained by our sin. Misunderstanding and hurt can happen even in the best of friendships.

Offering grace to someone who's wronged you might not bring you a rush of good feeling. It might (probably will) feel more like an empty space. An absence. The satisfaction of 'just desserts' that we expected and probably would be quietly enjoying is gone. It's tough, sometimes. But offering people grace is about them first - them being loved enough to get another chance - before it's about you.

Here's the first of four ways you can practically demonstrate grace: (1) Work on your own mind. Focus on the positive. Is this person really stubborn, or simply dedicated and persistent? Are they disorganised or actually spontaneous and flexible? Changing your perspective can let grace shed light on the situation. You might find you are able to do this best when you actively fill your mind with things that are '...good and worthy of praise... true and honourable and right and pure and beautiful and respected' (Philippians 4:8 NCV). And remember that our expectations have an impact on others - people will often live up to the image we hold of them.

So what now? Think about someone who has wronged you at some point. Pray for strength to do something undeservedly good for them. Then, do it!

Soulfood : Is 26-29, Jn 7:1-13, Ps 114, Prov 28:1-4

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GOD IS NOT PRETTY

A long time ago (in a galaxy... well, here) Jonathan Edwards wrote this: 'But saints and angels behold that glory of God which consists in the beauty of His holiness; and it is this sight only that will melt and humble the hearts of men, wean them from the world, draw them to God, and effectually change them.'

We don't often think of 'holiness' as being something that makes you beautiful. But if your life is rooted in God that much, then what else can give beauty to it? Only your relationship with Jesus defines you. Only God pieces you together, with all the care and attention in the world. Only His plans forge your path. Only His beauty, deep as oceans and huge as mountains, counts. It's the only beauty that can stir up something far-down in a human soul. God is not pretty. He is sublime, a beauty beyond visual... that's hardwired into your DNA. You. Are. Beautiful. God-defined beautiful. And that carries strength. God has placed some of His deep, light-filled power in you, enough to make dark ugliness flee.

When that's inside, what does the outside matter? Your God-filled heart is what will show the world that there is a higher, purer, perfect beauty. And, when it does, it's your job to tell the world that the beauty's name is Jesus. Fiery, Jesus-focused souls are what change the world and make it beautiful.

So what now? Cut five minutes off your 'getting ready' time each morning. Spend that time asking God to show you His beauty each day, or to use you to show off that beauty to others.

Soulfood : Is 22-25, Jn 6:52-71, Ps 127, Prov 27:25-27

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SET FREE IN SECONDS

 



Today, we see Jesus doing what He loves to do: healing and setting people free. Luke 13:10-14 (NLT) says, 'As Jesus was teaching in a synagogue, He saw a woman...bent double for eighteen years and was unable to stand up straight... He called her over and...touched her, and instantly she could stand straight. How she praised God! But the leader...was indignant that Jesus had healed her on the Sabbath day. "There are six days of the week for working," he said to the crowd. "Come on those days to be healed, not on the Sabbath"'.



This woman had suffered for nearly two decades from an evil spirit that was keeping her hunched over and looking down at the ground. But Jesus found her in the synagogue, so perhaps she hadn't yet given up hope that God would heal her. Wonderfully, that's exactly what He does: without waiting to be asked, Jesus compassionately calls her over and releases her with a word and a touch.



It's telling that Jesus accomplished in seconds what eighteen years of religion had failed to do for this woman. That's because the kind of religion that majors only on rule keeping has no power in itself - it relies on controlling the crowd, like the synagogue leader in this account. Run from religion like this.



 



So what now? Consider: is it possible to do 'spiritual' things (such as going to church, reading the Bible or praying) with a legalistic, rule-keeping mindset which actually stops us from meeting with Jesus?

Soulfood : Is 17-21, Jn 6:35-51, Ps 98, Prov 27:23-24

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GOD IS WILLING AND IS WAITING

A key part of prayer is persistence. Often, it's not enough simply to ask. God wants us to not be afraid to be persistent. How do we know that? Jesus told a story about a widow who'd been in a dispute with an enemy. She approached a judge and decided she wasn't going to give up pleading with him. Finally he gave in and said 'I'm going to see that she gets justice, because she is wearing me out with her constant requests' (Luke 18:5)! Wow, what a great attitude to have in prayer, right? Never giving up.

But wait...what about that judge? He sounds a little off. Does this story mean that God is indifferent to our needs? Does He really care about our prayers, or does He only give in to us because we've nagged Him enough? Not at all. The judge in this story is unjust; Jesus made his story's judge a bit of a grumpy old man to make His point: if this tired, grumpy old man gives in, 'don't you think God will surely give justice to His chosen people who cry out to Him day and night? Will He keep putting them off' (Luke 18:7)? Remember that this is God in Heaven, who loves to see you blessed.

If you don't see an answer to that prayer, keep asking Him. He's not reluctant to answer you, but He's working things to give you the very best, and wants you to get even closer to Him in the meantime.

So what now? Pray and pray again for something you've given up praying for. God is willing and is waiting.

Soulfood : Is 8-11, Jn 6:1-24, Ps 126, Prov 27:17-19

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WAY AHEAD OF YOU

Nobody likes to be the first to arrive at a party, and it's a brave thing to show up alone to an event where you might not know anyone. Most of us chicken out and try to pitch up with at least one other friend (or lurk in the doorway till we see a familiar face...). What is it we're so afraid of? Looking like a fool or a Nigel-no-mates? Maybe it's the fear that our friend might not show up at all.

If we're honest, we sometimes think God might leave us hanging too. What if I go and You don't come through for me? But if God's called you to go, you can be sure He will show. In fact, He won't just turn up, He'll get there before you do.

Abraham discovered this to be true: 'By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going' (Hebrews 11:8 NIV). And God always went ahead of him, working things out for him and his family, rearranging circumstances to his advantage (his story is in Genesis 12-23, so you'll need a few days to read the whole story, but it's an amazing account).

So what now? Be encouraged by this verse from the Bible: 'I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go' (Isaiah 48:17 NIV). ?

Soulfood : Is 4-7, Jn 5:31-47, Ps 5, Prov 27:13-16

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