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Word For You Today

AGAPE

'Through love serve one another.' Galatians 5:13 NKJV

Jesus said something incredible: His disciples would be recognised by their love for each other (John 13:34-35). And He used a special Greek word for love: agape. This distinguishes it from other kinds of love.

Agape's a love that serves, even it isn't served. A love that gives before it receives. A love that forgives before it is forgiven. It's a lavish love that goes beyond the love of a parent for a child, beyond the affection of one friend for another, beyond the attraction of a starry-eyed bridal couple. It's the wildly-outrageous love that comes from God and enables people to overcome their selfish self-centred me-focus and instead give themselves in sacrificial service to strangers.

It's the kind of love that took Jesus to the cross for our sins. It's the kind of love that enables us to follow Jesus' command to do good to our enemies, bless those who hate us and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44). That way, Jesus goes on to say, 'you will be acting as true children of your Father in Heaven. For He gives His sunlight to both the evil and the good, and He sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in Heaven is perfect' (Matthew 5:45-48 NLT).

So what now? What can you do today that shows agape?


SoulFood: Jer 10-13; Luke 22:1-23; Ps 69:1-18; Pro 8:27-29

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KINGDOM COME - PEACE

'God blesses those who work for peace.' Matthew 5:9 NLT

Peace feels like an advert for a brand of tea - some hardworking soul arriving home for a well earned cup of tea. Most of us crave and deeply appreciate the peace that comes as a break from frantic busyness. But the Bible gives a much bigger picture of peace. It's not just relaxing from problems with a nice cuppa.

It's something called 'Shalom'. Shalom is restoration, making amends, making things good, bringing full well-being. Shalom is the world completed. The wholeness of God arriving. It's not stepping back from the world to take a rest, it's taking the world by the scruff of the neck and pulling it forwards into what God wants for it. Shalom means God bringing things to the way He intended, into real peace.

It feels so good to say, 'Aah, that's better', when you put your feet up after a long day. More satisfyingly though, is that feeling of peace that comes when, you've patched up a friendship after an argument, when you've gone out of your way to help a needy person, when your family (or any family-ish group) sits down together for a meal. It takes work to make peace arrive the way God wants, and it takes some knowledge of what He likes. But Shalom is His worked-for peace that brings a really solid satisfaction.

So what now? Work for peace. Be Heaven in your world. Be someone who actively works for peace. Is there conflict in your family? Could you be the one that helps make amends and restores relationships?


SoulFood: Jer 7-9; Luke 21:25-38; Ps 38:13-22; Pro 8:24-26

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KINGDOM COME - MERCY

Jesus taught us to pray 'on earth as it is in Heaven.' The earth-looking-more-like-Heaven thing seems to be fairly central to His whole message. Jesus' life was all about bringing the Kingdom of Heaven near. 'The Kingdom of Heaven' He used here doesn't mean where we go when we die, but places/ people/ homes/ hearts/ communities, on earth. Jesus is all about us advancing that Kingdom, right here, right now.

Sounds abstract! What does that 'advancing' look like? Truthfully - it looks fairly messy. It probably looks like Christians getting our hands dirty; taking ourselves into the not-so-nice places, places we wouldn't normally choose to be; it looks like gradual (sometimes difficult) prayerful work, with real, broken, hurting people.

And, here's the curious thing. We often forget that the Lord's Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) doesn't end the way we pray it, but by Jesus saying some incredibly challenging words - 'If you forgive, you will be forgiven, if you refuse to forgive, you will not be forgiven.' Wow! To be Heaven to others, we need to start and end by forgiving.

Surely Jesus' challenge to us is clear, then? We really should (we absolutely need) to get over our own judgement if we have any hope of being a part of that Kingdom come.

So what now? What bugged you yesterday? Whether it's a person, a group or a system of some sort, find a practical way to show mercy to (or through?) it. For example, did someone offend you? Send them a text wishing them a great day. Bring the Kingdom of Heaven's love and mercy down to earth today.

Soulfood : Jer 4-6, Luke 21:1-24, Ps 38:1-12, Prov 8:22-23

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WHAT NOW?!

'Why is this happening to me?' Genesis 25:22 NIV

Some of us live waiting - for a specific title or courier-delivered letter - to find out what part we have to play in God's Kingdom. But as Christians we have all already been given a role, an identity to take on, an invitation to accept. Understanding this truth makes sense of what God is doing in our lives.

In the story behind today's verse we find Rebekah asking the question, 'Why is this happening to me?' She's carrying twins and the two babies in her womb keep wrestling with each other. She asks God and He tells her that there are two nations within her womb, and that one will serve the other.

Why me? Why now? This is so difficult, so uncomfortable, so inconvenient. Have you ever found yourself saying these things? Just like for Rebekah, maybe knowing the fact that God's at work would help with these 'So what now?!' moments. The ancient Hebrews had a word they used to help people remember this. 'Kavanah'. Kavanah means to have an awareness of God's purpose and God's presence.

It's about the direction of your heart, knowing that God's already been working out His purpose for your life. Before you needed to ask. If you have a 'kavanah' that God is doing something, and that God is with you, then everything around you changes.

So what now? Bring that question into your situation today: God what are You doing in this? Let me know that You are with me, help me to be aware of Your presence inside whatever I face today. What now, Father?


SoulFood: Jer 1-3; Luke 20:27-47; Ps 55:12-23; Pro 8:19-21

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MONSTER SEEDS

Jealousy starts as a seed. It's the little, fleeting moment when we compare our abilities, appearance or life-in-general with someone else's (yes, that does include on Facebook). Chances are, when that happens, we probably don't even recognise it to be the starting seed of jealousy. It's such an insignificant thing, right?

Well, it might look that way. But stick it in a lovely rich fertiliser of our oh-so-human insecurities, and water it with a bit of a desire for self-improvement, and it starts to grow. That tiny seed can become a green-eyed monster plant of jealousy.

Here are a couple of tips to root out the seed before it gets a chance to grow. (1). Contentment: It's not always easy to decide to be happy and not get those jealous-twinges any more. In Philippians 4:10-13, Paul chats about contentment, then says 'I can do all this through Him who gives me strength'. This means asking for some Holy Spirit help, doesn't it? (2) Community mentality: We're all on the same team. Let's call it Team Humanity. When someone else is winning at life, that doesn't mean you lose. If we're on the same side, someone else's happiness should be able to make our side stronger. The cure here is to celebrate and enjoy their good times with them.

So what now? Jealousy doesn't have room to breathe when you choose to focus on someone else's needs, especially someone who you might be a bit jealous of. Think of a way to bless them and root out the jealousy seed.

Soulfood : Hos 11-14, Luke 20:9-26, Ps 55:1-11, Prov 8:17-18

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SERVANT AND FRIEND

'Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men.' Ephesians 6:7 NIV

Here are two great verses: 'Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men' (Ephesians 6:7 NIV); and 'I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master's business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from My Father I have made known to you' (John 15:15 NIV). They give a whole new spin to what service is.

When we work to serve God, it becomes more than drudging, low-level service. We're actually part of some of God's plans (we're certainly in on His biggest plan of all - the whole Salvation Plan). And that, in turn, means that Jesus calls us 'friend'.

Hold on a second. Friend. He calls us friend. When we decide to serve Jesus, He doesn't say 'Oh, thanks for that, little minion.' He says 'Bless you, my dear, precious friend.' The One who's worked for forever to save us all calls us friend, and not even because of the meagre amount of good that we (might) get done here on earth. It's purely because, 'Everything that I learned from my Father, I have made known to you' (John 15:15 NIV). So, when we're told to 'Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not men,' we're actually being told to serve as if we're serving our closest friend, who's given everything He has to allow us to live truly well. Kind of puts things in perspective, doesn't it?

So what now? Do something servant-like for a friend (an earthly one) today. You'll feel the new spin. Your heart will soar.


SoulFood: Hos 1-5; Luke 19:22-40; Ps 116:12-19; Pro 8:10-13

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PILGRIM VS THE WORLD

'They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion.' Psalm 84:7 NIV

The great boxer Muhammad Ali once said, 'What keeps me going is goals.' He's right; our motivation for doing something is nearly always the prize we receive at the end. Jesus didn't beat around the bush when He appealed to these desires in us: He promises 'treasure in Heaven' (Matthew 6:20).

But to get the treasure, we're to live boldly for God here in the world. That means going from strength to strength in our living out of what God asks us to do, here. Paul says, in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, that we're to keep our eyes fixed on the prize of where God and His people are - so, Heaven - and run with all our might toward it.

As we live for Him, there are two things that keep us going: joyful remembering and hopeful looking forward. That's what pilgrims used to do, back in the day when pilgrimages were a popular way of expressing faith in God. A pilgrim is described as 'a traveller (literally one who has come from afar) who is on a journey to a holy place. Typically, this is a physical journeying (often on foot) to some place of special significance'. As they travelled they'd be: remembering Christ, letting Him be known, and looking forwards.

So what now? Treat your day like a pilgrimage. As you go about your day, with its ups and downs, remind yourself that you have the sure hope of Heaven. Let that motivate you to do bold, good works for God. And, don't forget to enjoy your day too - Jesus came that we may have abundant life here on earth too!


SoulFood: 2 Kings 24-25; Luke 19:1-21; Ps 116:1-11; Pro 8:8-9

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