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Word For You Today

PRAYER FORMULA? (1)

Jesus didn't give us The Lord's Prayer as an automatic plug-in. Yes, it's a ready-made prayer, but it's not made so that we don't have to think about what we're saying. Jesus understands how we're wired inside. He knows we can be tempted to love what He can do for us more than loving Him for who He is.

The Lord's Prayer points us to God first, starts our focus with Him. That's a pretty good way for us to get a good perspective on our issues. William Barclay points out that the Lord's Prayer '...has two major parts: the first for God's benefit, the second for ours. Honour the first part, and the second is guaranteed.'

Part one begins with 'Our Father'. We are not approaching Santa with our gift list - we are entering family. Family - coming with a responsibility to our brothers and sisters. Family - coming with security and benefits. 'Our Father' reminds us that what God says goes. The Lord's Prayer might feel like a packaged prayer, but it doesn't mean we don't think about it.

So what now? The next few days we are going to turn our mind to the Lord's Prayer. Use this time to think about prayer in a rounded way. Over-familiarisation of famous Bible passages can dilute the meaning for us. Look up this famous prayer in a variety of translations online (Luke 11:2-4; Matthew 6:9-13). Or refresh the words by writing it out in your own words.

Soulfood : Is 63-66, Jn 9:13-23, Ps 115, Prov 29:7-10

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REGIFTED

Paul wasn't meaning to sound like a financial adviser when he prayed the Ephesian church would understand the riches He had 'invested' in them. No, he was helping them to get a grip on why God had lavished so many extravagant gifts on them. The point of God's generous investment is that He sees the potential for something great to grow.



God is in the entrepreneurial game. Not to make us self-centred, gifted busybodies (although He wants us to feel good about our gifts - He knows what we're like). But He uses us to serve the world. If our skill is business and making money, then through us God can bless the poor. If our talent is care and tasty-food-making, then through us God can welcome and feed the lonely. If our gift is teaching, then God can show the world what His character is like. That's what our skills are for - to make the world more like one where God rules and cares for everybody.



It's why in other places in the Bible it talks about God giving us an 'inheritance'. It's a little mind-bending, but the (very) serious suggestion is that we're to take part in God's rule over the earth. The inheritance is Himself. The gifts He gives us aren't coincidences - they are a part of His character. We are the means by which He looks over and tends for this planet. Doesn't that just blow your mind?



So what now? Read the whole of the parable of the talents in Matthew 25. Maybe have a quick scan over the things people have said you're good at. Do any of them seem like 'talents'?

Soulfood : Job 1, Job 2:7-10, Job 40:1-5, Job 42:7-17

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CLEAN YOUR SHOES

You know the feeling. You're walking along, not quite paying attention, and your foot goes straight into a little pile some prized poodle's owner failed to clean up. Walk that through a doorway and the whole household will soon let you know about it. Yet, we can bring something just as dirty and smelly into a room and it's so much harder to notice: and that thing that's 'on the nose' is gossip.



Think about the mess you're likely to make with gossip. Ask yourself, 'Who's going to benefit from me saying this stuff?' 'Who am I going to hurt?' 'Whose confidence am I betraying?' If it has the potential to cause a stink, leave it outside. Don't drag potentially hurtful half-truth into your house. Clean your shoes and your conscience, at the door.



James 1:26 NIV implies that 'gossip' is a stain on our spiritual lives: 'If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.' Solomon warns us that we will eat the effects of our unwise words: 'The tongue has the power of life and death and those who love it will eat its fruit' (Proverbs 18:21 NIV). And just in case we need it spelt out further, 1 Peter 3:10 NIV tells us, 'Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil.' Words can run away from you, and get out of hand. Don't let it happen.



So what now? Ask the Lord to help you if you have a problem with gossiping.

Soulfood : Is 58-62, Jn 9:1-12, Ps 15, Prov 29:4-6

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HOUSE FIRES AND SNOOZE BUTTONS

Your conscience works on the same principle as a fire alarm - the rest of the house might be asleep, but when the fire alarm kicks off everyone should be up and paying attention. And when sin obstructs the connection between you and God, your conscience will be the thing that signals something's going wrong. At that moment you don't rub your eyes blearily and rouse yourself grumbling. No, you should be lively, alert, and sprinting.

You can develop the ability to sleep through sin-alarms, of course. And it can be quite tempting to hit the snooze button, because no one likes being called out on something they're doing. But actually, let yourself feel good about the sin-alarms. It means your conscience is alive - and the Holy Spirit will never use it to crush us with shame, but to encourage us to do better. The Holy Spirit is really important here - He's the one who engineers the conscience to guide you from continuing down that path. So foster that feeling, and listen to Him. And if you plough on regardless, like trying to sleep through a house fire, your conscience will stop you from being at ease with your decision. Don't wait until there's smoke in the air and you can taste fire in your mouth.

You will likely still have blind spots about certain sins. So alongside your conscience, remember that God puts other Christians around you so that He can speak to you through them.

So what now? Think about people who you can trust to offer godly advice (always with your love on) and make it a priority to connect with them.

Soulfood : Is 53-57, Jn 8:42-59, Ps 123, Prov 29:1-3

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DON'T EMBARRASS JESUS

'The high priest then asked Jesus about His disciples and His doctrine.' John 18:19 NKJ

You think Jesus never had any embarrassing moments? What about when Mary and Joseph interrupted Him as a twelve-year-old, sitting in the temple dazzling its best scholars (Luke 2:48). They scuttled Him off, saying, 'We thought we'd lost you. You had us worried to death.' Or what about the time He stood up in His home church to announce He was the prophesied One and the neighbours tried to throw Him off a cliff (Luke 4:29)? Or the occasion when He told Jairus his daughter wasn't dead but sleeping and everyone 'laughed him to scorn' (Matthew 9:24 KJV)? Now think about this. When the high priest asked Jesus about His doctrine, He replied, 'Why do you ask Me? Ask those who have heard Me...' (John 18:21 NKJ). One of the officers nearby slapped Him in the face. That's embarrassing!

But the supreme embarrassment in the life of Jesus may well have been when the high priest asked Him about His disciples. Where were they? Judas betrayed Him, Peter denied Him, and the rest ran for cover. What could He say? More importantly, what can He say about you? Are your character and your behaviour a reason for angels to rejoice or an embarrassment to Jesus? Gandhi said, 'If Christians would really live according to the teachings of Christ, all of India would be Christian today.'

So what now? When it comes to what you believe about Jesus, you may stand tall. But when that belief translates into behaviour, where do you stand? Dishonouring Him or as His disciple?

SoulFood: Isa 49-52, John 8:31-41, Ps 30, Pro 28:25-28

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BOOTS OR NO BOOTS!

When it's time to praise God you should give it 100 percent: 'I will praise You, O Lord, with my whole heart' (Psalm 9:1 NKJ). The story's told of an old man named Joe, who'd been a drunk and a derelict most of his life and, as a result, he could barely make ends meet. During a Sunday morning service he gave his life to Christ and the transformation was so radical that everybody in the congregation noticed it. Joe had a problem, however. He was just so thrilled with Jesus that he sang louder than everybody else. And when the pastor made a point that touched his heart, he'd jump up and shout, 'Hallelujah!' Concerned about the interruptions, the pastor said, 'Joe, you've got to be quiet. As a matter of fact, if you'll just sit in church next Sunday and say nothing, I'll buy you a new pair of boots.' Joe needed those boots, so he said he'd try. But after restraining himself through several high points in the sermon, he couldn't stand it anymore. He jumped up and shouted, 'Boots or no boots, I'm gonna praise the Lord!'

Are you holding back because you feel shy? Sorry, God doesn't make exceptions based on personality types. 'Let everything that has breath praise the Lord!' In other words, unless you're dead, you're supposed to praise the Lord! Not because He needs it! But because He comes to dwell within the praise you give Him (Psalm 22:3).

So what now? Want to be closer to Jesus? Just open your mouth in praise!

Soulfood : Is 45-48, Jn 8:14-30, Ps 86, Prov 28:21-24

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MILIEU THERAPY

Milieu therapy is a therapy that puts the patient into a new living environment, changing their surroundings in order to make room for a healthier life to grow. So here's today's idea: worship can change your surroundings.

A century ago GK Chesterton put it like this: 'You say grace before meals. All right. But I say grace before the concert and the opera, and grace before the play and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing and grace before I dip the pen in the ink.' Hmm... which kinda translates as: '...grace before Facebook, grace before YouTube, before Instagram, before movies, before texting...'

Sometimes you don't feel like praising God. But feelings don't have to always fill praise, and a good relationship isn't based on emotion but on commitment. A songwriter in the Bible said, 'From the rising of the sun to its going down, the Lord's name is to be praised' (Psalm 113:3 NKJ). They scheduled praisebreaks throughout their day: 'Seven times a day I praise You' (Psalm 119:164 NKJ). What if, every time you stopped for a break (tea, coffee or chocolate), you took time to praise God too?

So what now? If you want to change your environment and your attitude, start praising God throughout the day. Try it and see. Eventually the emotions and feelings will follow and make the praise spontaneous and flowing out of you, just like Chesterton.

Soulfood : Is 42-44, Jn 8:1-13, Ps 96, Prov 28:17-20

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