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Word For You Today

Be a peacemaker

'Blessed are the peacemakers.' Matthew 5:9 NIV

When we find ourselves in the middle of conflict or an argument, we can decide to be the troublemaker, or the peacemaker. We can choose to add to the stress and tension, or to be part of the solution.

What are some qualities of peacemakers? They look for a solution where everyone involved wins. Let's take a look at the story of Barnabas and Saul of Tarsus (read the full story in Acts 9:19-31). Barnabas, whose name means 'Son of Consolation', stood up for the newly-converted Saul, who became Paul. The leaders of the church were nervous about Paul, and you could hardly blame them. Before his conversion, he'd been hunting down Christians and threatening to have them murdered. But Barnabas wasn't thinking about Paul's violent background; he was considering his value to God. He was thinking, 'If we can harness and point this man in the right direction, he has the ability to achieve great things for God.' And he was proved right. Saul the persecutor became Paul the apostle, but not until Barnabas put his own credibility on the line.

Some other qualities? Peacemakers evaluate people by their best moments and best qualities. They assess the whole picture. They allow themselves to be governed by grace, not petty opinions and temporary conditions. Matthew 5:9 says, 'blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God' (NIV). So, let's resolve to be peacemakers in our world.

So what now? Are you involved in any conflict? Ask God to show you what you can do to bring peace to that situation.

Soulfood: Gen 25:19-27:46 Jn 14:26-15:4 Ps 146 Pro 31:18-21,


Persistent faith

'One day Elisha went to Shunem. And a well-to-do woman was there.' 2 Kings 4:8 NIV

When things start going wrong in our lives, do we start losing hope and give up praying because the breakthrough isn't coming, or do we expectantly and persistently keep the faith knowing that God will come through for us?

The Bible tells the story of a woman and her husband who welcomed the prophet Elisha into their home. In return for their hospitality, Elisha asked what they wanted. They said, 'A son,' so they had one. But when their son was taken ill and died, the woman faced a crucial decision: would she lose hope and blame God for not providing a healthy child, or would she have faith? This woman believed that Elisha was a man of God, and that God could raise her son back to life. God came through for her; her son was brought back to life. And he can do the same in our lives too.

Where there are things in our lives which have died - a dream, relationship or even our hope in God - he can bring them back to life. God's faithful and can breathe new life into us, and our situations. So, when everything we've longed for is falling apart or we're facing the toughest situation we've ever had to make, what will our decision be? Will we lose hope or will we be like the woman who persistently trusted God for the breakthrough?

So what now? Been praying for something for a long time? Make the decision to trust God even more for the solution, rather than give up.

Soulfood: Gen 24:1-25:18 Jn 14:15-25 Ps 118:19-29 Pro 31:14-17,


Spending and borrowing

'The borrower is the slave of the lender.' Proverbs 22:7 ESV

The Bible has a lot to say about how we should manage our money.

Here are a few tips to help us: (1) Think about your money as God's rather than yours. We're called to be good stewards of the resources he's given us. He's trusted each of us with a certain resources, and expects us to use whatever we have wisely. (Read the parable of the three servants in Matthew 25:14-30 for an example.) (2) Remember the warning in Proverbs 22:7: 'the borrower is the slave of the lender' (ESV). When we borrow something, we have an obligation to give it back, fulfilling any conditions that the lender imposes on us. We have a choice to say no and not borrow if we don't agree with the conditions. (3) If you borrow or buy something on a credit card, only do it if you honestly intend to pay it back (and are certain you're able to). It's tempting to think 'I can buy this $200 item now, and only have to pay $5 for it at the end of the month.' But thinking like this can get us dragged into even bigger debt, and isn't a good demonstration of our integrity. (4) Get God involved. If we make him the centre of our decisions about our money, we'll have the best guidance possible.

So what now? Have a think about how your spending has been recently. Are there any areas where you haven't been behaving with complete integrity in your spending? Invite God to help you improve in those areas.

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


Spiritual growth 3

'Before you were born I set you apart.' Jeremiah 1:5 NIV

When we start criticising our spiritual progress, we can hinder our spiritual growth. It can be tempting to focus on how far we've got left to go or how we fall short, rather than the progress we've made. It's true that we all have more progress to make in our spiritual lives, but what's also true is that we're loved and accepted by God just as we are right now.

The Bible says that we're 'no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God's people and also members of his household' (Ephesians 2:19 NIV). As members of his household, we belong, regardless of how spiritually mature we are. When we remember who we are, based on God's truth rather than how we feel about ourselves, we'll be able do what he calls us to do. And we'll be more open to God transforming us and leading us on spiritually. When God told Jeremiah he'd called him as a prophet to the nations, Jeremiah doubted God's calling, and gave many excuses why he wasn't. But God told him: 'Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart' (Jeremiah 1:5 NIV).

Let's not put ourselves down, or think we're not good enough, or place unrealistic expectations on ourselves. We can't, and won't ever, be perfect, so let's not criticise ourselves where we fall short spiritually. Instead let's focus on how far we've come.

So what now? Celebrate whatever progress you make, however big or small. You're worth it.

Soulfood: Gen 17-19 Jn 13:31-38 Ps 118:1-9 Pro 31:6-9,


Spiritual growth 2

'When we grew up, we quit our childish ways.' 1 Corinthians 13:11 CEV

We all know people who appear to have it all together spiritually, who are always prepared to serve, have all the right words, are super connected to God, and are willing to pray for anyone. If we compare ourselves to them, it can make us feel 'less than' or not good enough. Comparison is dangerous, and totally unhealthy.

The truth is that we're all maturing spiritually, just at different rates. There are lots of things that may affect the speed we're maturing at. God may be taking us at a slower pace, or we may have to face things that mean we mature quicker. Maybe there are areas we need time to work through before advancing. The Bible says: 'When we were children, we...reasoned as children...But when we grew up, we quit our childish ways' (1 Corinthians 13:11 CEV). We start as a spiritual infant, then we become a spiritual child, then a spiritual adolescent, and eventually a spiritual adult. But we actually never 'arrive.' It's a journey, and we won't be fully spiritually mature until we reach Heaven. But God promises that, 'he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus' (Philippians 1:6 NIV).

So, let's stop comparing ourselves to others. Our spiritual journey is unique to us. Let's focus on what God wants to do in and through us, not through everyone else.

So what now? Next time you're feeling inadequate spiritually compared to someone else, remember Philippians 1:6 and thank God that he's always working in you.

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


Spiritual growth 1

'At the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.' Galatians 6:9 NIV

Sometimes spiritual growth can feel like two steps forward and three steps back. Sometimes we can feel that we're not growing at all. The apostle Paul encourages us not to give up (see Galatians 6:9). When we look in the mirror each day we can't see much change, but when we look at photos from when we were younger, we can see how we've grown and matured. It's the same for our spiritual lives: daily we can't see our progress, but when we look back we can see how far we've come.

The Bible says: 'And we all...are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord' (2 Corinthians 3:18 NIV). Transformation and growth aren't always easy. So when we get discouraged, we need to remind ourselves that we're on a spiritual journey, and that we're making progress even when we can't see it. The devil is always looking for ways to remind us how far we still have to go. But Jesus reminds us that the devil 'is a liar and the father of lies' (John 8:44 NIV). The Bible encourages us to 'take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ' (2 Corinthians 10:5 NIV).

So when we feel like giving up, that we're not getting anywhere and that we're not good enough, we need to take those thoughts captive, remember God's truth and carry on our journey of spiritual growth.

So what now? Go through an old photo album and see how much you've changed and grown. Then thank God for how much you've grown spiritually.

Soulfood: Gen 10-12 Jn 13:1-17 Ps 95 Pro 30:29-33,



'God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean.' Acts 10:28 NIV

God was about to show the world that the Gospel message wasn't just for Jews, but for everyone. And to do it, he used Peter, one of the most religiously-biased people you could find. He showed Peter a vision of a sheet being lowered from Heaven, containing all kinds of animals that the Jews were forbidden to eat, then commanded him to eat. Peter protested, saying 'I have never eaten anything impure or unclean' (Acts 10:14 NIV). God replied, 'Do not call anything impure that God has made clean' (Acts 10:15 NIV). Soon after this, Peter was invited to Cornelius' house to preach. When he arrived, he said to Cornelius, 'You are well aware that it against our law for a Jew to associate with or visit a Gentile. But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean' (Acts 10:28 NIV).

So what can we learn from this today? (1) God's message of hope and salvation is for everyone, no matter who they are. (2) To spread the Gospel message, we might have to work with people who are different from us, or maybe even those we'd rather avoid. But instead of focusing on our differences, we need to remember what makes us similar - our shared love for God and his Word.

So what now? Think of someone you don't really get on with. Now write a list of your similarities. Next time you see them, try starting a conversation with them about something you're both interested in.

Soulfood: Luke 1:26-56 Lk 2 Luke 2:41-52 Luke 8:19-21,

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