Word For You Today

Protect your foundation

'Be on your guard!' Acts 20:31 NIV

It's a dream for many to have a multi-million-dollar beachfront home on a stretch of pristine beach. But when the bad weather hits, these houses are at risk of being dragged into the ocean. You see, when the foundation crumbles, even the fanciest houses fall.

Thank God that the foundation we have in him can't be shaken... or can it? These days there's no shortage of easily accessible Christian teaching - in books, on TV, online, on podcasts. But, in all this choice, not all the teaching is sound! In this busy world, sometimes we might quickly read or watch a sermon or just take in a snippet of a truth. In our rush, our God compass could easily veer off course and compromise our faith foundation.

In the Bible, a group called the Bereans took time and used their heads when it came to building their faith. 'They received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true' (Acts 17:11 NIV). Even the great leader Paul's words were checked against what Scripture actually said! Like the Bereans, don't take everything you hear taught at face value. Take your time to make sure it's based on what God says.

So what now? Always ask God to help you discern his truth. Paul did warn us that '...men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard!' (Acts 20:30-31 NIV). Take time to protect your foundation.

Soulfood: Job 32-34, Luke 2:41-52, Ps 139:13-24, Ecc 11:4-6


Have you asked God about it

'The men believed the evidence they were shown, but they did not ask the Lord about it.' Joshua 9:14 GWT

When you've just walked through the Red Sea without getting wet and conquered Jericho, the biggest city in the Promised Land, it is very easy to believe you did it because of your great gift or position. But being over-confident can be deadly! After their massive victories the Israelites forgot to ask God about what to do next, and the results were bad. The crafty people from Gibeon realised they couldn't beat God's people so they sent out a team of negotiators to make peace with them. Joshua had no idea they were lying to him and signed a peace treaty. It was a huge mistake! From that day on these people made life very difficult for Joshua and the twelve tribes, who lived to regret that they 'did not ask the Lord about it' (Joshua 9:14 GWT).

It's unlikely we'll be part of complicated military situations, but that's no reason not to pray about the decisions of our everyday lives. We can very quickly move from relying on God to relying on ourselves. It's easy to trust in a method because it's worked in the past or because 'that's what everybody else is doing'.

Hearing from God for yourself is what gives you the edge; leaving him out is what gets you into trouble.

So what now? Before you move too quickly or do things in your own strength, get praying. Ask God to let you know when you're relying on yourself rather than on him. It'll save you lots of heartache!

Soulfood: Job 29-31, Luke 2:34-40, Ps 139:1-12, Ecc 10:20-11:3


There's potential in everyone

'If you love someone you will...always believe in him, always expect the best of him.' 1 Corinthians 13:7 TLB

We are generally not that good at seeing people for who they could be; we tend to judge them by their weaknesses! The reality is that all people have an amazing future inside them! In fact, if we remembered that they have potential, we'd keep our negativity to ourselves and invest more time and energy into them. The external does lie; we need to look deeper and behave better towards others.

Remember Joseph? Don't make the mistake his brothers made. The person who makes your life difficult today could be the one you turn to for help tomorrow (read Genesis chapter 37, 42 & 43). Treat people graciously! Remember Ruth, the immigrant working for less than minimum wage? She became the wife of Boaz, who owned the fields she worked in! Boaz didn't judge her by her status. He saw her for the faithful woman she was (read her story in the book of Ruth).

What about a more seasonal example? At the heart of the Christmas story are Mary and Joseph, looking for a place to spend the night and have their baby, Jesus. All but one innkeeper had no compassion on a very needy couple. Little did those innkeepers know that they were turning away a miracle child.

So what now? Don't miss a God-moment just because it doesn't look like it has potential. That person you don't usually have time for - ask God to help you see what he sees in them!

Soulfood: Job 24-28, Luke 2:21-33, Ps 97


The meaning of Christmas

'For unto us a child is born...' Isaiah 9:6 TLB

Well done you! In the midst of unwrapping your gifts and eating 'all day', you've made time to check out Word For You Today's Christmas Day reading!

What did the first 'Christmas Day' mean then, and still mean for us today? (1) Everyone was welcome. Who were the first visitors around Jesus' cot? Devout Jews, the mayor of Jerusalem? No! It was shepherds, who were going about their daily work in the fields. Right from his birth, Jesus welcomed all, no matter what background. What about you? Is there someone you know who's 'the least expected' to be a follower of Jesus? Try welcoming them to Jesus' world this Christmas. (2) Everyone got presents. Mary and Joseph weren't wealthy. Yet this poor, young couple presented the world with the most valuable gift ever! No matter how poor you are, you are always rich when you have Jesus. (3) Everyone was starry-eyed. The star guided the shepherds to Jesus' birthplace that night. This Christmas, continue to follow the star to the Son.

So what now? This is what Christmas means: 'For unto us a child is born; unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder. These will be his royal titles: "Wonderful," "Counselor," "The Mighty God," "The Everlasting Father," "The Prince of Peace." His ever-expanding, peaceful government will never end. He will rule with perfect fairness and justice... He will bring true justice and peace to all the nations... This is going to happen because the Lord... has dedicated himself to do it (Isaiah 9:6-7 TLB)!

Have a very blessed Christmas, from the Word For You Today team!

Soulfood: Is 7:14, Luke 2:1-20, Mic 5:2-5a, Is 9:6-7


Seedsized blessings

'...What is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.' Matthew 1:20 NIV

Learn to recognise and nurture seed-sized blessings. Why? Because when you do, you'll be on your way to growing them into wonderful mature blessings, for you and the world.

Look at Mary's story: 'God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth...to a virgin pledged to be married... The virgin's name was Mary. The angel...said, "Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you." Mary was greatly troubled at his words... But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favour with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus."... "How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?" The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you...So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God...For no word from God will ever fail." "I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May your word to me be fulfilled..."' (Luke 1:26-38 NIV).

Mary's pregnancy and parenting of Jesus highlights some realities of the life cycle of a blessing: (a) She was capable of conceiving what God wanted. (b) She could trust God with her unanswered questions. (c) She could carry the blessing full-term. (d) She could deliver it well. (e) When the time came, she could release the blessing to fulfil God's plan. As for Mary, the same is true for you.

So what now? This Christmas, amongst all your big, brightly packaged presents, ask God to help you recognise your seed-sized blessings.

Soulfood: Ps 103:8-18, John 3:16-18, Matt 18:21-35, Matt 18:21-35


Showing grace 2

'He gives more grace.' James 4:6 NKJV

We're approaching Christmas, which is (supposed to be) a time of celebration. But often people find this time of year a huge challenge as they meet up with family members who they might not get on with. This time of year can highlight old hurts and conflicts. It's actually a time when we need to extend more grace.

Here are tips for making a potentially difficult time easier: (a) Allow different viewpoints to help you think things through. You may be in disagreement with someone because you think they are wrong, but have you considered that they see things their way for a reason? Be open to seeing things from their perspective. (b) Never resort to making things personal. Disagreeing is one thing, destroying someone is another. Resorting to verbal abuse is always out of order. Always show honour, even if you are not the aggressor. 'Say only what is good and helpful to those you are talking to, and what will give them a blessing' (Ephesians 4:29 TLB). (c) When you are wrong, admit it. Apologise, drop the issue and enjoy this family time. (d) Forgiveness heals. If someone in your family has hurt you, make sure you have forgiven them before you meet up with them. You'll be amazed how that protects you.

So what now? Christmas is a celebration of the greatest gift of grace - Jesus coming to dwell with us in our humanity. Let's honour him this Christmas time by extending grace to others, even those who are hard to show grace to.

Soulfood: Job 21-23, Luke 1:67-80, Ps 117


Showing grace 1

'Let your conversation be gracious.' Colossians 4:6 NLT

You can try your best to 'live at peace with everyone' (Romans 12:18 NIV), but even so: (1) Conflicts and arguments will still happen. Life would be boring if we all ate the same food, wore the same clothes and watched the same channel. In all that though, it is as easy to be gracious and tactful as it is to be rude or critical. But we do sometimes need to tell people when they are wrong. Paul says, 'If a Christian is overcome by some sin, you who are godly...humbly help him back onto the right path' (Galatians 6:1 TLB).

(2) Even Christians won't always agree. It's sometimes hard to understand how two mature Christians can have such different opinions on so many subjects. With so many opinions we can't agree with everyone, but that's ok. God is gracious and puts up with our silly arguments and even when we're wrong about stuff, he still loves and blesses us! Maybe real maturity is about loving those who see things differently to us - and choosing our battles carefully!

(3) Every point of view has a point. We tend to think that someone is right and someone is wrong. In reality, it's more like 'I-see-it-this-way-and-you-see-it-that-way'. So before you go categorising people into 'who is right' and 'who is wrong' groups, have a think, 'Can I let somebody else be "right" sometimes, without backing down on what I believe?'

So what now? Try your best to 'live at peace with everyone' (Romans 12:18 NLT), but always do it graciously.

Soulfood: Job 18-20, Luke 1:57-66, Ps 113, Ecc 10:5-9

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