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Word For You Today

HOMEWARD BOUND

Paul said, 'Whatever we do, it's not for our gain, but because Christ's love controls us.' Paul regularly introduces himself as 'a servant' for Christ. We've often heard it said that 'God isn't looking for slaves.' Well. Maybe He sort of is, but it's not in the way we think. God isn't looking for forced labour from vulnerable oppressed workers.

The New Testament word 'doulos' is actually the same that we also translate as 'slave'. It means 'bondservant': someone who is bound, tied, to serve someone. Quite a physical description actually. Imagine being tied to your work... or worse, your teacher or your boss.

Being 'bound' to something doesn't match our ideals of wanting to be free. It also doesn't match up with our idea that Jesus has won us freedom, and taken our burdens away. But how about this: What if our response to Jesus doing that amazing work for us was to look Him in the face and say 'Thank You Lord! However I can honour You, please let me!' What if our love for Him, our love for seeing Him given the glory He deserves, would be enough to make us all passionately want to be 'slaves' of His Kingdom of freedom? Again, it's not about forced labour... but our love compelling us? That's a different matter altogether.

So what now? First, spend time talking to Jesus about what He's done for you. Now, if you want to, get a piece of string, ribbon, or something similar, and tie it around your wrist for the day, to remember Who you're 'bound' to, and why.

Soulfood : 1 Ki 10-11, Luke 11:45-54, Ps 53, Prov 6:9-11

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NOT MY WILL, BUT YOURS GOD

Throughout the Gospels, you'll be able to see that Jesus' whole life was about showing mankind how to live. The time between Him coming to earth and Him giving His life up to save us wasn't just 'filling in' time; it was when He lived out the perfect way of how to be human.
Have a read of John 14:11. Jesus tells us that the things He spent His life on earth doing reflected the very nature of God. Whoever was watching Him was being shown a reflection of Love. And, because every action was centred in His being God, there's proper integrity (Titus 2:7) from one action to the next. He's a pretty tenacious guy in that respect, is Jesus. His integrity is entirely based in the love of God, and that love is in every action.
That means that, when He said 'Father, if You are willing, take this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done' (Luke 22:42 NIV), He was wholeheartedly admitting that He wasn't looking forward to being nailed to a tree (understandably). But... He was also saying that He loves us enough (He loves you enough), to have the integrity to go through with His Father's will rather than submit to His own human vulnerability. That's consistency for you. And that's our example – love-inspired integrity to do God's will, over any of our own human fear or dismay.
So what now? Pray 'not my will, but Yours' on the hour, every hour, for the rest of today.

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CARE ENOUGH TO CONFRONT

We tend to shy away from confronting others with truth. Why can't we just sit back and let people get on with whatever they want? Answer: we're all part of the same Church body. And the healthier/less distracted we (the parts) are, the more effective we're likely to be, as a whole Church.

See, if we're saturating ourselves in God-time, getting closer to Him and His will, things that don't match His will start to stand out. Look up at today's verse: it's up to us to call others out when it seems they're straying. But, how do we do that without: (a) Getting proud of ourselves for not falling into the same trap and/or (b) Going in all-guns-blazing and causing more harm than good? Well, Paul says: '...be patient with everyone' (1 Thessalonians 5:14 NIV). That way, those we need to confront may be patient with us. And, recognising that sin isn't a public affair. Jesus tells us to always begin the 'you're-a-bit-wrong-there' process with a private conversation (Matthew 18:15-17).

Here it is then: confronting someone if they seem to be straying from God-ideals isn't bad. But 'speaking the truth in love' (Ephesians 4:15) needs care and attention. Not willing to do more than just tell someone off, nor to help them through a rough patch? Might be worth praying about whether you should be the one to approach them.

So what now? Has God placed people in your life recently to confront you to guide your actions? If so, be grateful. Thank them for it.

Soulfood : Ps 23, Jn 10:7-18

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THE LONELY GOD?

If you were always wandering off alone at random points in the day, people would slap a label on you pretty fast: loner, likes their own company, drifter. There's nothing wrong with wanting a bit of me-time. But what was Jesus doing in the Gospel stories when He wandered off alone into the mountains? Was something else going on?

Jesus was away from anyone else on earth, but this wasn't space for Me-time. It was time to spend with His Father - real time, in real conversation. What was the draw? Along with all the helpful prayer requests that He was probably dropping in, He was also getting back to His source. He was making sure to keep firmly in control of a life that could have been pulled away from His Father by so many distractions. Grounding it in real experiences of joyful meeting with Him.

Can you really have that shared space with God in a way that charges you with joy, launches you into the day with a spring in your step? Yes. Your time with God is not your alone time. You're sharing it.

So what now? Make your time with God your well-kept secret. Have a regular early morning space with Him (or if you have that anyway, take it extra slow) and, without making it about you, see if other people notice the difference in you.

Soulfood : Heb 11:17 - 13:25, Luke 10:25-37, Ps 33:1-12, Prov 5:7-14

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LOVE YOUR CHURCH (7)

 

Stuff you might already know: Jesus gave His life for you. He died for you to bring you new life. Which is pretty awesome. And it doesn't stop there. It's not just an individual thing: 'Christ...loved the Church and gave Himself for her' (Ephesians 5:25 NKJV). His design isn't that you come to know Him and then carry on with your own thing exactly as before. In case you hadn't noticed by now, we reckon doing this Church-community thing is really important.

Realising who Jesus is and what He's done for you is the vital first step, but God wants most of the other steps in your life to involve others who know Him: Hebrews 10:25 instructs us to make sure we're 'not giving up meeting together'. Why? Because when we're together we're 'a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit' (Ephesians 2:22). When we're living our faith with others, we can have confidence that our efforts at being 'Church' isn't a hit-and-miss ordeal. It's God's design.
Welcoming newbies in the same way that we've been accepted by God and, hopefully, your Church is pretty important – 'Receive one another, just as Christ...received [you]' (Romans 15:7 NKJV). And yes, that's not a piece of cake. It's probably several coffees, chats and relationship-building conversations later that a Never-heard-much-of-Jesus/ Isn't-Church-for-old-people?/ new-to-the-faith person will start to see what Church is meant to be.

So what now? How's your church life going? Tightly connected or struggling to fit in? Wherever you're at, stay connected – you're not designed to do life on your own.

SoulFood: Heb 9:1 - 11:16; Luke 10:13-24; Ps 28; Pro 5:3-6

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LOVE YOUR CHURCH (6)

Solomon had some serious confidence in God. Check it out in 2 Chronicles 6:26-31. He's pretty confident that life won't be easy for God's people, so he doesn't wait around; he brings the issues before God.

Then what? He recognises the need for God's people to bring everything before God together. 'When a prayer or plea is made by anyone among your people Israel' (1 Kings 8:38 NIV). And he trusts that God will keep them close, so that they can '...fear you and walk in obedience to you' (2 Chronicles 6:31 NIV)). Quite a nice little pray-obey-pray cycle there. See, God wants us to rally together with other Christians and pray. Does it grab God's attention and remind Him to 'lift up a shield' (Isaiah 59:19) for you? Possibly not (God is not forgetful). But how much stronger and life-impacting can faith be when we remember we're not alone?

Prayer solidifies a higher-than-just-church friendship bond: regardless of what you're praying for, it's been a fact through the ages that 'He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty' (Psalm 91:1 NKJV). So, when we dwell in that prayer-place at the same time as others, we're drawn together under God's protective shadow. Praying together keeps you vulnerable to each other and protected by God, and your faith is stronger when shared.

So what now? If your church runs a regular prayer meeting (the chances are good), go along. If there's not one, start one. There's always something to pray about - whether it's thanks, or prayer in a time of need.

Soulfood : Heb 5-8, Luke 10:1-12, Ps 5, Prov 5:1-2

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LOVE YOUR CHURCH (5)

So, we've established that church is a place for not-perfect people, that you've got a part to play, and that it's all about God. So, how do we get the right balance at church? If a church is doing well, and is full of the glory of God, then the only way it will keep itself from an ego-overload is by passing that glory straight back to Jesus. All of it.

In the book of 2 Chronicles, God promises to carry on working with the people (and us) to 'forgive their sin and heal their land' (2 Chronicles 7:14), if they (we) do a very important thing: get humble. The Hebrew word used for 'humble' in this context is 'kana', meaning 'to bring low'. We can bring ourselves low by, first up, praying: thanking and praising God, praying for others, then for ourselves. Saying sorry (out loud, to those we have wronged) and not holding people's pasts against them are two more humility top-ups. Knowing how much God has done on our part already (giving His Son Jesus) is the key to keeping humble or 'lowering' ourselves.

Humility isn't just a way to put others first, it's also a way to protect yourself when things are going really well for you.

So what now? 'God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble' (James 4:6 NKJV). Today, look for a way to delight in a situation where someone else is being blessed.

Soulfood : Isa 9:1-7, Luke 2:1-7, Matt 4:12-16, Matt 4:12-16

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