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Word For You Today

Betrothal

'I have betrothed you to ... Christ.' 2 Corinthians 11:2 NKJV 'Betrothal' isn't a word we use much these days. 'Hey guys, guess what happened today? I got betrothed to my beloved!' Maybe the word has vanished because the idea of betrothal has disappeared. In Bible days, betrothal meant more than engagement: it was part of the marriage ritual. As soon as a couple was betrothed, they were considered to be one. But there wasn't an actual wedding for a year or more. Where's this going? Well, the Church is the bride of Christ, and we're looking forward to the day when we'll get to sit with Him for what the book of Revelation calls the 'marriage supper of the Lamb' (Revelation 19:9 NKJV). Jesus' love for us is far more than the kindness of a friend or a well-meaning charity worker. It's a love that's so strong and personal all we have to compare it to is a marriage. So if you're afraid of missing out on some earthly thing - romance, success, belonging - Jesus has plans for your future that involve the most enormous of those earthly feelings. And then some. You're not going to miss out on anything. Until then He's making a place for you, praying on your behalf, continuing to pursue you, to bring you into 'the knowledge of [Him]' (Ephesians 4:13 NIV). So what now? If you've had a friend in mind to invite to church, then do that this week. Don't worry, you don't have to mention the 'betrothal' word. But just know for yourself that your 'betrothal' to Jesus is the best thing you'll ever have.

Soulfood: Gen 14:18, Ps 110, Heb 5:5-11

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No Politics PLS

'I myself always strive to have a conscience without offence toward God and men.' Acts 24:16 NKJV Paul was dragged before countless government officials who were baffled by his controversial message about Jesus. In Acts 24 he's been brought to defend himself before a Roman governor, and his big argument is: 'I'm just trying to do well by God and you!' Is Paul pleading innocence to escape punishment? Nope. The rest of the New Testament shows he was ready for God to send him to jail if that was His plan. So he's not saying, 'I'm a good boy, let go of my ear, cops.' He's saying, 'Everything I'm saying about Jesus and His resurrection is because I want to do the best I can for God and you.' And suddenly all of the controversy around Paul can't be brushed off as personal manoeuvring. He was serious about Jesus, and really meant it for the best of others. Paul's honesty and clear conscience meant that the Roman governors could take the Gospel more credibly. What about us? Are our motives for sharing Jesus with people coming from a good place? If we look at our motives, we could find some upsetting stuff there. Wanting others to be wrong, wanting to score points with God, wanting to claim 'Top Christian' status. Paul could honestly say that he evangelised because he loved God and loved people. Can we? So what now? Check your motives at the door. Write up a list of friends who you're praying come to know God. Next to each friend, write why you think the Gospel is good news for them.

Soulfood: 1 Tim 1-3, Matt 28:1-10, Ps 42:1-5, Prov 19:12-14

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Count Your Blessings

'Blessed be the Lord, who daily loads us with benefits.' Psalm 68:19 NKJV We know how rubbishy life can get sometimes. There are days when the bad stuff seems so much bigger than the good. And honestly, yes, there are days when even getting out of bed is a difficult thing. But the waking up... that is a blessing in itself. Always. It means God's not done with us yet, He still has plans for us. King David had some really rough patches, (see: heaps of the Psalms) but even when he was feeling lower than an ant's kneecap, he found a way to thank God for everything he did have. In his words: 'Blessed be the Lord, who daily loads us with benefits' (Psalm 68:19 NKJV). Yes, it might be a bit of a clich?, and you'll have heard it before, but God really does give us good stuff every day, whether we acknowledge it or not. Focusing on, and thanking God for, the good stuff, even in the midst of a struggle, is the best place to start asking God to turn stuff around. It not only gives God the honour and glory He deserves (and let's be clear, that's the main thing), it also gives us something to set our sights on, outside of our own pain. Giving thanks for even the tiniest little glimpses of good stuff could be the start of building a ladder to clamber out of your rut. So what now? Praise is powerful. Sing to God, joy-filled praises to Him. How do you see any worries that come to mind while you do?

Soulfood: Hab 1-3, Matt 27:57-66, Ps 1, Prov 19: 9-11

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Me and My Family

'But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.' Joshua 24:15 NLT When Joshua made his famous declaration in today's title verse, his focus was probably on challenging the Israelites to make a decision for God. Not on making a catchy slogan to embroider into a picture frame for his living room. But whether he meant it to stand out or not, it gives us a glimpse into his priorities: rather than 'as for me and my army/my company/my mates/my career, I shall serve the Lord,' Joshua declares it over his family: his household. Not only is Joshua exercising his own faith, but he wants his entire family to have a relationship with God. The importance of his family shines through. They're going with him, part of his walking with God, not going to be left behind. Treasured, even. For some of us, families aren't always easy, and the idea of all gathering round the family Bible to sing together each morning might fall somewhat flat. But chances are there are some opportunities where living for Jesus and time with family can come together brilliantly. God longs for family unity and will honour a heartfelt, 'as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord'. So what now? Make a point of praying for your family, as well as thanking God for them, every day - even if things are hard at the moment. God honours those prayers. Watch things change.

Soulfood: Nah 1-3, Matt 27:45-56, Ps 65, Prov 19:5-8

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More Than Just 'Getting Through'

'I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.' Philippians 4:13 NKJV Philippians 4:13 is such a great feel-good verse. But... we may have lost sight of what it really means. With verses like that, it helps to look at different Bible translations for a fuller understanding, or even to go back to see what the original Greek/Hebrew/whatever version says. Sooooooooooooo... In the Greek, the bit of 'I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me' (Philippians 4:13 NKJV) that says 'I can do' is way more loaded than just 'It's possible'. The full meaning goes something like 'I have enough power to get up and jump right into the heart of the action.' That's full on! It's active, it's dynamic and totally inspirational. Philippians 4:13 is not about scraping through when pressures are a-plenty or problems are piling high. It's about living in His massive power to shake situations up. It's about getting stuck in. It's the difference between half-thinking that God can fix our problems and drag us through by the skin of our teeth, and living in complete confidence that He's already sorted your life. So, Philippians 4:13 is a reminder that it's time to wholeheartedly focus on God and go at whatever is in front of you. Because, through Christ, you already have the power to do more than 'just get through'. So what now? Is there an area of your life where you feel you're just scraping by? Set aside half an hour to pray, plan and make a start on completely owning it again. Put it 100% back under God's power and control.

Soulfood: 2 Pet 1-3, Matt 27:33-44, Ps 14, Prov 19:1-4

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How's Your 'Love'Life

'Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast ...' 1 Corinthians 13:4 ESV Relationships... not just the lovey-dovey ones... all of them. When you're getting to know someone and decide 'this person is pretty ace, I choose this human to be friends with', you have that honeymoon period where that person can do very little wrong. Then, after a few months, you may start to find some pet peeves: 'Dude, stop eating so loud! It's gross!' Soon, the person you couldn't wait to be around becomes that person that is still great... but 'needs fixing'. Don't worry though, we found a fix-a-friendship verse in the Bible: 'Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant' (1 Corinthians 13:4 ESV). Ah. Turns out it's about us, not them. To strengthen a friendship, we need to first look at ourselves and how we love others. Are we choosing patience instead of outbursts, kindness instead of cruel jokes, and what's-best-for-them rather than envy or boasting? In fact, are we truly wanting what's best for them, all the way? How do we even manage that? Well, we'd need to have a pretty strong, secure sense of who we are, and of God's love for us. Go read 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 and out 'God is...' wherever it says 'Love is...' If that's how God shows love to us, what stronger place is there from which to show love to those around us? So what now? Now, read 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 again, and put your name instead of 'Love is...'. Say it out loud to yourself, often: it could change your 'love'-life!

Soulfood: 2 Sam 22:31-24:25, Matt 27:27-32, Ps 146, Prov 18:23-24

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People are Valuable

'Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honouring each other.' Romans 12:10 NLT Manipulation is when we put our own goals first, and deceive others into 'serving' us. It's when we treat each other as chess pieces, as part of our plan, as bit-parts in the film of our life. Manipulation is something we can do without even being fully aware of it. When we manipulate, we stop seeing others as valuable. Romans 12 is all about seeing, and treating, each other right. God's heart is that we should put each other's well-being above any schemes we have, even if we think those schemes are 'for their "own good"'. Some examples? When we think, 'Oh rats, I've done something wrong. Best own up to it. But... I'll play up the bewildered innocent card. I want this person to like me, after all...' Or even when we 'listen to God' in a way that only hears things that we want to hear. Suddenly our prayer time for that girl or boy we like becomes 'divine revelation' that 'We Should Both Be Together Because God Told Me'. We are all capable of manipulation. But we pay a high price if we do it. We lose love. Love wants the best for othesrs, even at our own expense. Manipulation wants our own best, at the expense of others. It brings conflict, hostility and resentment. It's the opposite of loving. So what now? If you feel someone is trying to manipulate you, call it out. If that's tough to do, ask someone for help. And, have a bit of a think about where you may not be valuing someone 100%.

Soulfood: 2 Sam 20:1-22:30, Matt 27:11-26, Ps 140, Prov 18:21-22

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