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Word For You Today

Take hold of life



'Life is short... Work hard at whatever you do.' Ecclesiastes 9:10 CEV

The book of Ecclesiastes can be a bit of a misery-trudge if you're not prepared for it. But the author's honest discussion on the briefness of human life shows some great insight. Knowing our time here on earth is short, Solomon writes: 'Be happy and enjoy eating and drinking!... life is short... work hard at whatever you do...' (Ecclesiastes 9:7-10 CEV).

Life is short, but it's full of potential. And in New Zealand we have much more access to this potential than those in some other countries. We have the chance to make the most of what God's given us, and follow what we're passionate about - many don't have that opportunity.

What does the Bible say about making use of opportunity? Choose to throw yourself into this life, with all its chances for adventure, dreaming and exploration. With God beside you, go and look for what you can run headfirst at, what makes your heart light up, and what makes you want to get out of bed in the morning (it's likely, by the way, that those things are where God's plan for you lies). Take a look at where your passions lie, and if you don't have any, ask God to show you what they are.

So what now? If you're already in a job but you're keen to pursue your passion, see what you can do on the side - can you take night classes? If you're still deciding what to do for a career, write down the things you're passionate about. Take hold of every opportunity in life.

Soulfood: 2 Sam 20:1-22:30 Lk 8:16-25 Ps 133 Pro 18:17-20,

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Gratitude



'Let all that I am praise the Lord; may I never forget the good things he does for me.' Psalm 103:2 NLT

God loves to bless us. It can be easy not to see these blessings in the difficult times. Even in the good times we can become ungrateful, forgetting God's goodness, wanting the next best thing, not appreciating the blessings we have already.

The psalmist shows us how to overcome an ungrateful attitude: by cultivating a spirit of thanksgiving. 'Let all that I am praise the Lord; may I never forget the good things he does for me' (Psalm 103:2 NLT). Thinking and thanking go hand in hand. The psalmist encourages us to do three things: first, think about what God's given us - his forgiveness, healing, protection, redemption, love and compassion (see Psalm 103:1-5). Second, think about what God hasn't given us - the punishment our sins deserve (see Psalm 103:8-12). Third, think about what God is going to give us. 'From everlasting to everlasting the Lord's love is with those who fear him' (Psalm 103:17 NIV). Even when we think we have nothing to be thankful for, we can still praise him for who he is. 'Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever' (Psalm 136:1 NIV).

Thankfulness is a choice. Even when we have loads of problems to deal with, we're called to 'give thanks in all circumstances' (1 Thessalonians 5:18 NIV).

So what now? Each morning choose to say: 'May I never forget the good things he does for me.' And thank him specifically for one thing each day - try and think of a different thing each day.

Soulfood: 2 Sam 17:14-19:43 Lk 8:1-15 Ps 123 Pro 18:13-16,

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Look for the treasure



'Bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry.' 2 Timothy 4:11 NIV.

Disagreements happen. One of the worst arguments in the Bible was between Paul and Barnabas - a very successful ministry team - over a guy called Mark. Barnabas wanted to take him on their next missionary trip and Paul didn't. Paul felt so strongly about this that it caused a split and they went their separate ways. Later we see that Paul changed his mind: 'Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry' (2 Timothy 4:11 NIV). From being frustrated and argumentative, Paul reconsidered his view on Mark and changed his decision.

What can we learn from this story? When people disappoint us, or don't do things the way we think is best, we need to start looking for the best in them. Everyone deserves another chance. It's important to consider people before our own personal perceptions and agendas. We all need God's grace and forgiveness and we need to extend these to others too.

So, let's not judge people or avoid working with them because they don't seem to fit with what we're trying to do. Not everyone is called to the same thing, or called to do it the same way as us. There's weakness and brokenness in us all, but there's also treasure. Let's make sure we're striving to see the best in others.

So what now? Ask God to show you the treasure in one person you find hard to get along with. You may be surprised by how a change of perspective can heal a difficult situation!

Soulfood: 2 Sam 14:21-17:13 Lk 7:36-50 Ps 118:19-29 Pro 18:10-12,

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At home in God's presence



'Lord, through all the generations you have been our home!' Psalm 90:1 NLT

At the end of a hard day it feels good to come home to a place we know - a place to kick off our shoes and just be. God's presence can become equally comfortable to us. With time, we can learn to go there for strength, protection and guidance. God wants us to be at home in his presence and aware of his nearness at all times.

If we're not careful, we can think of God as a discussion point instead of a place to dwell, but he wants us to see him as the one in whom 'we live and move and have our being' (Acts 17:28 NIV). When God led the children of Israel through the wilderness, he didn't show up briefly once a day. No, the pillar of fire was present with them all night and the cloud of smoke was with them all day. God never leaves us. Jesus promised, 'I am with you always' (Matthew 28:20 NIV).

The psalmist said, 'I ask only one thing, Lord: let me live in your house every day of my life' (Psalm 27:4 CEV). It can be challenging to be focused on living in the house of the Lord when there are so many things trying to steal our attention. But we're always just one decision away from our Father's presence. He's always welcoming us to spend time with him, we just need to choose that above everything else.

So what now? Where do you feel most at home? Go there today, get comfortable and spend time soaking in God's presence.

Soulfood: 2 Sam 12:1-14:20 Lk 7:24-35 Ps 118:10-18 Pro 18:7-9,

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Finding the 'key log'



'I thought about my ways.' Psalm 119:59 NKJV

In a car race, each stage has to be approached with purpose and care, otherwise the car can crash or go off course. It's the same with our lives: how we approach each stage dictates how our 'race' will go. Sometimes a glitch happens and the car, and our lives, can veer off course.

When professional loggers discover a logjam, they climb a large tree near the river so they can look over the jam and find the cause. What they're looking for is the 'key log' creating the jam. Once they remove that, the river takes care of the rest. The point is, we don't necessarily need to change all our thinking to get our lives back on track - there may be a single specific issue that needs adjusting. Once we do, our lives will begin to flow in the right direction again.

So how can we discover any 'key logs' that are putting us off course? Firstly, know that it's best not to do it alone. Asking God (and a trusted person) to help us identify or point out the 'key logs' - any negative attitudes or behaviour - we have is very useful. God is always willing to walk the journey of transformation alongside us.

So what now? Got some 'key logs' in your life that need to be removed? Remember this: it's not about criticising yourself; it's about assessing where you're at and how you can approach your life better. Ask God to help you and be willing to make any adjustments.

Soulfood: 2 Sam 7:18-11:27 Lk 7:11-23 Ps 118:1-9 Pro 18:4-6,

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Released by God's Spirit



'The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.' Romans 8:2 NKJV

Sometimes we feel that we fall short of God's standards. We reflect on our flaws, failures and weaknesses and think we'll never be good enough. Unfortunately, we're never going to be perfect while we're here on earth, but that doesn't mean that we need to beat ourselves up!

Paul wasn't stressed about his weaknesses; instead he boasted about them. 'If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness' (2 Corinthians 11:30 NIV). When we're weak, God can show his strength and we rely on him more. The Old Testament is full of laws that needed to be followed to be 'right' with God. But, because of Jesus, we're not under those laws. We don't need to earn God's acceptance by trying harder to be better. Instead, we have the Holy Spirit to help guide, transform and strengthen us. 'By dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code' (Romans 7:6 NIV).

This doesn't mean we can slack off, thinking we can do anything we like. We still need to desire to become more like Christ and to do things God's way. It's not about constantly striving and stressing. It's not about trying harder, but leaning harder on God's Spirit who lives in us.

So what now? Every time you feel under pressure to strive and meet God's 'standards', say to yourself 'I have been released from the law'.

Soulfood: Mt 5:8 Ps 24:3-6 Ps 18:17-26 1 John 3:1-3,

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Grow in tolerance for others



'God shows no partiality.' Acts 10:34 NKJV

Tolerance isn't just about agreeing to embrace our differences. It's about accepting another's freedom to believe what they want, and to respect those beliefs. One of the best tests of spiritual maturity is: how willing am I to love and pray for those whose beliefs and behaviours are unacceptable to me? Instead of condemning people, we should have compassion for them and show them a better way. Let's be clear: compassion doesn't mean compromise. We need to be like our heavenly Father, who loves sinners, but hates sin.

In Bible days, Jews looked down on Gentiles and referred to them as 'dogs' (see Matthew 15:26-28). But Jesus came and redeemed those 'dogs' and turned them into disciples. When Cornelius the Gentile summoned Peter the Jew to his home, Peter said, 'You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean' (Acts 10:28 NKJV). God was shaking up deeply-rooted traditions and opening up new opportunities for the Gospel. Peter continued, 'God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears him and works righteousness is accepted by him' (Acts 10:34-35 NKJV).

If we're open to God, he'll work in us to grow our tolerance, and show us new ways to share his love.

So what now? Talk to people from a different Christian denomination or different faith to you. Spend time listening to their beliefs and share yours with them if they are open.

Soulfood: 2 Sam 3:22-7:17 Lk 7:1-10 Ps 109:16-31 Pro 18:1-3,

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