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Word For You Today

THE FINGER OF GOD (2)

The magicians of Egypt were able to duplicate the signs Moses gave Pharaoh from God with visual trickery and illusion. Pharaoh was probably entertained by Moses but not impressed. And so Moses would return to his court again and again, each sign greater than the previous. But before long, the signs couldn't be reproduced by Pharaoh's magic circle any more. By the time of the plague of gnats and mozzies, they were scratching their heads (as well as just about everywhere else). 'The finger of God!' they cried out in fear. But it didn't matter to Pharaoh. He insisted on saying 'no' to God. 'No' to a God who was trying to help him not reap the consequences of the child-killing spree his ancestors had undertaken eighty years previously. The last plague was imminent but still Pharaoh said 'no'. Every firstborn boy died as a result of his hard heart.



The Passover story teaches us that God's finger will not force us to obey but He will claim back what is rightfully His. He will allow the consequences of the past to catch up with us. Pharaoh was given many chances. He didn't take them. It's not a formula, but we can take on a lesson for us today: don't ignore the will of God. The psalmist wrote, 'Your way, O God, is in the sanctuary' (Psalm 77:13 NKJ). Then he added, 'Your way was in the sea... in the great waters...' (Psalm 77:19 NKJ).



So what now? The sanctuary - the safe place where we learn the easy way - or the storm - the rough place where we learn the hard way: what's your choice?

Soulfood : Gen 20-23, Jn 14:1-14, Ps 118:10-18, Prov 31:10-13

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THE FINGER OF GOD (1)

'When I consider Your Heavens, the work of Your fingers...' Psalm 8:3 NKJ

Take a sec to think about the suburb you live in. Then, consider the communities and suburbs that make up your electorate. And how many electorates there are in your country. And how many countries on the face of the earth? 'Ok, now zoom out. Our earth is floating amongst a whole lot of stars, and other planets. And that's just the Milky Way, one of many galaxies. Bottom line: each one of us is a very small part of a very large universe.

Now, we aren't trying to send you into some sort of existential crisis. In fact, it's the opposite. Think of all of that as context to this: God. Knows. You.

Yes, we might feel overwhelmed at how absolutely tiny we are in the context of this staggeringly huge universe, but God still sees us. And He loves what He sees. Romans 1:20 suggests that one of the reasons that God made the universe so, well, drop-dead stunning is for us. It says '...since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities - His eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made...' Everything that God has made, from the complexities of the human body, to the mahooosive expanse of space, is one of the ways He shows Himself to us.

So what now? In Psalm 8, David talks about how he can see God's glory in the world around him. Go read it.

SoulFood: Gen 17-19, John 13:31-38, Ps 118:1-9, Pro 31:6-9

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A HOLY COMMUNION

Whatever your church calls the distribution of bread and wine, communion is an amazing part of what makes up following Jesus. Not only did Jesus say to do it in 'remembrance' of Him, but we're somehow also meeting Jesus in that act of eating 'bread' (or wafers) and drinking 'wine' (or juice). We're suddenly face to face with Jesus. In fact, when He started this bread and wine meal off with His disciples, He was echoing an ancient 'covenant' ritual, where two people exchanged everything they had, including their names. They even mingled blood, before sharing bread and wine together. When they did this, it was considered that the two of them were as one person. Deep stuff.



Flash forward to today: that bread and wine you take? That's a moment to remember what Jesus has done for you, to remember who He is (not was), to remember that He came after you on a rescue mission of love whilst you were still far off. But it's more than that too. It's your half of the covenant ritual. In taking bread and wine (and asking the Holy Spirit to meet you in it), you're becoming one with Jesus. Yes. The two of you are considered as one person.



So what now? How about organising a 'communion' time with some friends? You exchange what you have for what He has. Your mess actually becomes His. His righteousness actually becomes yours. Communion is, quite simply, amazing.

Soulfood : Gen 13-16 , Jn 13:18-30, Ps 114, Prov 31:1-5

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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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