Nights with Josh
7-12am

Word For You Today

Prayer Is Major

Someone asked American pastor Tim Keller, 'What's one piece of advice you would tell your younger self, or something you wished you knew then that you know now about the Lord?' Tim tweeted back: 'I would tell him that prayer is way more important than he thinks.'

Yes, it can be tough to find time to talk to God, and we can stress ourselves by guiltily comparing our prayer habits to a praying friend (Stop that. Prayer is your personal business, and comparisons help no-one). But, prayer is major.

So, what to do when it feels like we're just too busy, when we literally don't have a spare minute? In Mark 1:35 NIV it says 'Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where He prayed.' Getting up early can be hard, we know! But Jesus did it. We might have to get up early to ensure we get that one-on-one time with God. But, if Jesus thought it was important to make time for it, maybe we should too.

So what now? Inconvenience yourself. Set two alarms on your phone tomorrow: the first to wake you up for a pre-sunrise prayer time. Use the second alarm to remind you to go out of your way to give selflessly of your time and energy to anyone within range. (How much easier is it to inconvenience yourself for other people when you've inconvenienced yourself for God first?)

Soulfood : Josh 11-13, Mark 10:35-52, Ps 142, Prov 23:7-9

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Giving Takes Guts

Whether you find stepping up in front of people easy, or would rather remain anonymous, giving takes guts. It takes initiative. Taking initiative is all about looking a situation up and down, and grabbing the opportunity within it - picking up the mess after the party is over, chatting to the newbie at church. It took initiative for the Good Samaritan to do what two others had failed to do. Read Luke 10:25-37 and see what sets him apart from the do-gooders.

We don't know whether the Samaritan was an outgoing guy, or whether he was shy or worried about what people would think. Either way, he gave of himself. Whatever he felt about the situation, he responded immediately. Jesus describes the Samaritan as a 'neighbour to the man' (Acts 20:36 NIV). How amazing would it be for Christians (especially those who'd rather not make a big deal about it) to be known as people who are neighbours to people in every situation, jumping in with compassion when others don't?

For those of us who wouldn't class ourselves as the outgoing types, there may be an extra leap needed towards acts of generosity. But that leap, even when it's difficult, is 100% worth it. That's what Jesus is getting at when He says 'Go and do likewise' (Acts 20:37 NIV).

So what now? Here's an initiative-taking challenge: write a note for someone that you don't know particularly well, that highlights their good points. Give it to them in person, and stay while they read it (gulp). Chat to them afterwards.

Soulfood : Josh 8:30 - 10:43, Mark 10:23-34, Ps 111, Prov 23:4-6

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Why Is It Better To Give?

Maybe it would have been easier if Jesus had just said 'Receiving things is great! Giving things, mmm yes, that's nice too, once in a while...' Doesn't Jesus realise how hard it is to give sometimes? We get that He gave Himself for us, and so Christians should be willing to give too, but people can be really ungrateful sometimes.

What if Jesus wasn't only telling us to 'give' for the benefit of others (those we're giving stuff to) but for our own benefit too? God designed us in His image (Genesis 1:26), and the image of God is one of someone who gives. Say what now? Let's look at another version of today's verse to expand on what Jesus is getting at: The CEV edition says 'More blessings come from giving than from receiving.' This means we will be blessed by giving because in giving we will become more Christ-like. We will find contentment because we'll be acting more like Jesus. And that's really something.

When, through giving, we find that deep contentment, we're less likely to crave getting 'stuff' from other people in the first place.

So what now? Think about the last thing that God gave to you: a particular exciting task or job, or good experience, even just your last meal. Find a way to mirror God's act of giving and replicate it for someone else. That might be a task that requires thought and creativity, but it'll be worth it.

Soulfood : Josh 5:1 - 8:29, Mark 10:13-22, Ps 103:13-22, Prov 23:1-3

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Give It Your All

'Wholeheartedness' is all about sincerity and commitment. We could describe Abraham that way, to a T. He was so God-fearing and committed that he was willing to sacrifice his only son (have a read of Genesis 22:1-19 for a reminder). That's sincere faith, right there. And when we look at how God responded to this kind of faith it's a good reminder of how we should be willing to live. In Genesis 22:17 NLT God says, through an angel, that He will '...certainly bless' Abraham. Verse 18 goes on: God says '...through your descendants all the nations of the earth will be blessed - all because you have obeyed me.'

Wow. When we're willing to go the extra mile for God, He certainly notices. When we learn to live out our faith with heart, He blesses whatever we're doing for Him. Now that doesn't mean that playing in the worship group has a direct correlation to the dollars in our bank balance. But it does mean that, when we give it absolutely everything we've got, living with a generous heart, we'll begin to see God at work and we'll learn to recognise His blessings.

So what now? Have a wardrobe clearout. But, among the too-small t-shirts and last year's jeans, give away something that you like and wear. If Abraham could prepare to sacrifice his son, you can sacrifice that jumper. Give the clothes to someone who might be struggling to get new ones or, if you don't know anyone who is, take them to a charity shop.

Soulfood : Josh 1-4, Mark 10:1-12, Ps 103:1-12, Prov 22:27-29

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Close-Range Pain (2)

Ok, you went for your prayer walk yesterday. You identified some of the stuff that's been weighing on your heart, and are working through it with God. Great. Really, really great.

And the next step after that? Well, maybe there isn't one. It could be that once you've acknowledged what's going on inside of you, and taken it to God, you're done. Often, all we need to 'get over something' is to actually face up to the thing itself. Maybe, then, you can just keep praying it through, and you'll be A-Ok.

If, however you feel like you need an extra step to feel completely 'over it', then here are a couple of ideas. (We're going to interrupt ourselves here to tell you to spend five praying through any issues again. Come back and carry on reading from here when you're done, though.)

(1) Talk to the person or people or organisation involved. Do it rationally, calmly and with as much grace as you (and Jesus through you) can muster, but do talk about the fact that you're hurt. (2) If, after doing that, you're still hurt, talk to someone else - a trusted, older friend. Sometimes, if the hurt goes deep, we need that outside perspective.

So what now? It's powerful to keep looking outwards to others, even if you're going through hurt. Pay for someone's lunch today. If you find yourself in a coffee shop, ask the person next in the queue what they want, and pay for it. If you don't have the cash to do that, strike up a conversation with them instead. Dare you.

Soulfood : Gen 11:1-9, Phil 2:1-11

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Close-Range Pain (1)

Ever been paintballing? It's the close-range shots that hurt the most. And it's the same with life stuff. We get wounded if something close to our hearts, or someone that we trust, turns out to be not quite how we thought, or wanted. Betrayal, man. It stings (King David felt it - read the whole story in Psalm 55). Even if we're not the type to admit to feeling 'wounded' when stuff goes wrong, it still affects us. Betrayal, and other messy life-stuff, throws us out of balance. And, truth is, not dealing with it properly affects our relationship with God. This might feel like a tough idea, but not taking time to work through those it separates us from the fullness of God's grace. Matthew 6:14-15 brings that home.

Also, not dealing with hurt can lead us into a new sense of not-quite-full-trust towards God. The likelihood is that we might not be yelling at the sky, raging at God, but perhaps just feeling slightly... off. We're not saying that it's a conscious act, but the stuff that sits on our heart changes its landscape. And there's only one thing that fixes it. Honesty. With God, and ourselves. It's ok to feel hurt. It's not un-Christian. It's not petty. It's human. And, guess what, we are human.

So what now? We need to learn to hand over the deep stuff to the Holy Spirit. Go for a 30 minute prayer walk today, and assess whether anything is sitting, undealt with, in your mind. Talk to God about it, 100% honestly. Keep nothing back. Invite Him to heal you.

Soulfood : 3 Jn, Jude, Mark 9:38-50, Ps 84, Prov 22:24-26

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Nope. No. No Can Do.

Believe it or not, even people who have decided to live generously are allowed to say the word 'no'. Wow. Great, we can get out of stacking the chairs at church now? Not exactly, let's have a look at when it's appropriate. We've been looking at God-filled change and desire over the past few days, and now it's time to think about how those things can get crowded out sometimes.

Often we find ourselves in the Christian habit of saying 'yes' to just about everything we get asked to do, especially when it's at church. Let's get one thing straight, making ourselves available to serve isn't a bad thing: in fact, the Bible says God honours anyone that serves Jesus (John 12:26). But when we start to say 'yes' to too many things, we're in danger of giving a half-hearted effort, and our God-filled desires often begin to get cut short. We end up confused about our priorities, and it's our own time with God that usually suffers the most.

If we really do want to 'press on' towards godliness (Philippians 3:14 style), we have to make sure that we're not going to burn out. Reaching forwards takes effort. Let's use our Spirit-led desires (remember them from yesterday?) to discern what we need to say 'yes' to, and what we need to put on a back burner, or even turn down completely.

So what now? Encourage a generous friend today. Take someone out for coffee and steer the conversation towards how they're doing. Make sure they're not saying 'yes' more than they should.

Soulfood : 2 Chr 35-36, 2 Jn, Mark 9:30-37, Ps 119:169-176, Prov 22:20-23

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