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Word For You Today

AT RISK

At risk of failing exams. At risk of getting fired. At risk of messing up your future and being stuck in the same dead end, mindless, spirit-sucking job forever. At risk of bullying. At risk of never meeting that special someone. At risk of identity theft. At risk of software crashing. At risk of friends betraying you. At risk of a ten-tonne bus crashing into you. At risk of a meteorite smashing into your car. At risk of cellulite. At risk of your sniffle turning into that deadly disease you googled.



Living in 2014 is a risky business. Best roll yourself into a blanket of bubble wrap, cross your fingers and hope you get through this year risk-free, right? Wow! How did anyone ever get by in the old days? Perhaps they went to bed with this promise, 'Trust in the Lord and do good. Then you will live safely in the land and prosper. Take delight in the Lord and He will give you your heart's desires. Commit everything you do to the Lord. Trust Him, and He will help you... Be still in the presence of the Lord and wait patiently for Him to act...The Lord rescues the godly; He is their fortress in times of trouble. The Lord helps them...He saves them, and they find shelter in Him' (Psalm 37:1-7; 39-40 NLT). It probably helped with perspective or something.



So what now? If you need the best perspective on a situation in your life, read the verses once again. Take time to let them soak in deep.

Soulfood : Gen 10-12, Jn 13:1-17, Ps 95, Prov 30:29-33

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THE DEMAS ROAD (2)

Again we ask, 'What happened to Demas?' Maybe his faith involved too many scrapes. When Paul came to town, some came to faith while others came with stones. Beatings, imprisonment, arguments probably featured in a big way on Paul's morning prayer-list. Maybe Demas signed up thinking all life's problems would vanish by following Jesus. Church conferences today, especially for young people, can sometimes have this flavour: 'Hands up who wants life to be smooth and effortless? Great. Now, hands up those who want to follow Jesus?' (Not a direct quote, but you get what we mean?)



Think of the bits we leave out when we talk about our faith. How often do you hear, 'Follow Jesus. Be misunderstood by people. Be the butt of jokes. Take the heat for controversial issues. Say "no" to fun stuff. Right, who wants to become a Christian?' Ok, maybe this is not the way to win people over. But perhaps there is room in our evangelism for a fuller picture to be painted. Jesus certainly didn't hide the tough stuff: 'If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you' (John 15:18-19 NKJ).



So what now? If you want to be more Paul-like and less Demas-like, you need to know the balance of what Jesus Himself taught - taking the rough with the smooth.

Soulfood : Gen 7-9, Jn 12:37-50, Ps 102:18-28, Prov 30:24-28

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THE DEMAS ROAD (1)

Paul writes one of the saddest verses in Scripture: 'Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world.' Following Jesus can be a bit of a rollercoaster - enormous peaks, terrifying lows, pulsating twists and turns, and thrilling loop-the-loops. Sometimes we're speeding along, enjoying the ride; other times we're hanging on with bare white knuckles. Whatever we're feeling, though, we'd be super-crazy to unbuckle during the ride. Yet some Christians do. Like Demas.



Perhaps he was tired of feeling alienated? Perhaps his doubts overcame him and he felt he couldn't talk it over with others? Maybe a fellow believer hurt him? Maybe some stuff was too hard to believe? Jesus seems to have that effect on some. 'Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, "This is a hard saying; who can understand it?"... From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more' (John 6:60-66 NKJ). Even today, bits of Jesus' teaching are easier to swallow than others. Heaven is a great idea. Hell... hmm, not so cool. We love to hear that Jesus has a purpose for us. We're really thankful Jesus sacrificed Himself and died for us. But what about making a sacrifice ourselves? What about the things that are even harder than love? And let's face it, the 'loving people' thing isn't always easy, anyway!



So what now? The tough times are a non-negotiable part of being a friend of Jesus. What about putting together a plan of action for when the road does get a bit rough - whatever happens, don't let go of Him.

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GET BACK UP, GOD IS ON YOUR SIDE

Ever feel like you're on the receiving end of a barrage of curveballs? Over and over: one day stress, the next disappointment. And just as you're slowly getting back up to your feet, worry and anxiety come hurtling round the corner to smack you down. We've all been in a 'when-will-this-end?' situation, and they're never easy.



Check out the context for today's verse: 'Then Jews...came there; and having persuaded the multitudes, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead' (Acts 14:19 NKJ). Paul somehow got back up. And more impressively, he went straight on 'into the city' to carry on his mission.



...What? He didn't call the whole thing off after being stoned? And this was by no means the only time he was knocked down. Whatever Paul had, we definitely need it: (1) He had a relationship with God. He was one focussed Jewish guy. Looking up to God is the way to keep hope in the future, so as not to throw the sweaty, bloodied towel in. Only this kind of gritty optimism could lead him to write in 2 Corinthians 4:8 - 'We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed...struck down, but not destroyed.' (2) He had a relationship with Godly people - Paul only got up after his 'disciples gathered around him' (Acts 14:20 NKJ). He wasn't alone. He needed all the encouragement and support he could get - and in tough times, so do we.



So what now? If you're feeling knocked down and finding it hard to get back up, don't isolate yourself. Remember that God is on your side, all the time. And, ask your friends in Christ for support at times like this!

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HOW'S YOUR WORK ETHIC? (2)

'Drink, and I'll water your camels too.' Genesis 24:46 NIV

So, Eliezer has embarked on his mission to find a wife for Isaac. He's ended up in a place called Nahor; somewhere he probably didn't have much of a clue about. But, God was on his side. Remember his prayer (yesterday's verse)? Genesis 24:15 tells us that 'Before he had finished praying', Rebekah, a local girl, showed up. The future daughter-in-law to Abraham, household name in Israel, famous Bible character. Are you on the edge of your seat yet? What's she going to do?

Ready? She offers him a drink of water... and - get this - to water his camels, too. Hmm. Maybe not the triumphant entrance you expected. Until you read between the lines (don't worry, we'll do it for you) - a full bucket of water is about 4 litres which weighs 4 kg. A thirsty camel can slurp through about 120 litres, and there were ten camels.

So, Rebekah drew 1200 litres of water (weighing over a tonne!) for a stranger - a fairly decent pointer for Eliezer. This is a great example of someone working 'as if for the Lord' (Colossians 3:23) - she was acting out of good will, not trying to please her boss / teacher. Aiming for our own success shouldn't be our goal in life, but whether it's this time round or in Heaven, 'You know that the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does' (Ephesians 6:8 NIV).

So what now? Struggling with motivation for work? Nip down to your nearest well... ok, ok, just kidding. But... what excessive generosity can you offer to God through blessing someone today?

SoulFood: Gen 1-3, John 12:12-19, Ps 102:1-11, Pro 30:18-20

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HOW'S YOUR WORK ETHIC? (1)

'O Lord...give me success today.' Genesis 24:12 NIV

Ever spent time thinking about what God thinks about your work? Whether it's education / part time job / full time career, it may take up a reasonable amount of your headspace. In Colossians, Paul gives us a clear principle to live by: 'work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord' (Colossians 3:23 NIV). Today we'll be looking at what to do when 'work' is difficult and you don't really want to do it 'as if for the Lord'.

Ever heard of Eliezer? Back in Genesis, Abraham commissioned him with the job of finding Isaac (Abraham's son) a wife. Bit of a strange-sounding task that - finding a spouse for the boss' son. And not an easy one either; he had to start from scratch. This is where we learn a big lesson from Eliezer: just because it's part of our job to do something doesn't mean we aren't allowed to invite God right into the centre of it. The verse at the top is a quote: he prayed for success.

A quick aside - praying for God to be with you is never going to be a bad idea. We just need to make sure success doesn't become our god. If getting to the top (or staying there) is our reason for getting up every morning, we'll need to find way to dethrone that attitude.

So what now? God wants to help you meet your potential. Don't have a clue what that looks like? Under pressure? Read the whole of Eliezer's success story in Genesis 24.

SoulFood: Ecc 9-12, John 12:1-11, Ps 76, Pro 30:15-17

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THE SIN OF OMISSION

We spend a large chunk of our time at church, youth group, home groups, this magazine talking about honouring God by not making wrong choices (which, for hopefully obvious reasons, is a decent shout). The wrong we do holds us back from knowing God. Yet, Jesus focussed a lot on something a little different: the good we fail to do. And THAT can be a touchy subject. Not something Jesus wanted to shy away from, though. The servant who buried his resources (Luke 16:19-24), and the barren fig tree (Mark 11:20-24) are examples of Jesus calling out procrastination, laziness, unwillingness and the like.

And guess what? We're not free from that, either. How many times have you caught yourself killing productive-time by scrolling down that news feed, and forgetting exactly why you opened up Facebook in the first place? We reckon we've all done something similar. And if that's true; we're probably fairly prone to larger-scale laziness.

None of us has got it all together yet, and we all need to get to know God better. But at the end of the day (and at the start/middle, too) - the best way to get a deep spiritual life is to look out for ways to serve others, and not to think twice about it: get straight to it.

So what now? Worried that you aren't doing these things? Your works for God aren't the way you get saved, but it's definitely time to consider doing what you know He's asked you to do.

Soulfood : Ecc 5-8, Jn 11:38-57, Ps 81, Prov 30:11-14

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