Word For You Today

The meaning of life

'They lay their crowns before the throne.' Revelation 4:10 NIV

Many people race from one thing to another, never committing to anything. Living like this means that life is full of experiences but empty of meaning. The 'meaning' of life isn't revealed 'all of a sudden'. Meaning is found bit by bit as we walk with God, paying attention to the things he's telling us, especially in his Word, the Bible.

There will never be anything that can replace the importance of God in your life. If you think you'll can find satisfaction just by doing lots of exciting stuff, think again! No matter what memories you create for yourself they all fade away over time. The only thing that will get better over time, if you are willing to give it time, is your relationship with God.

Check this out: 'The twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne, and worship him...They lay their crowns before the throne and say: "You are worthy, our Lord and God"' (Revelation 4:10-11 NIV). Did you see that? In this heavenly picture the elders not only worshipped God, they laid their crowns at his feet. What are those 'crowns'? Quite likely the things achieved in this life, things that become worthless before the throne of Almighty God. Sometimes we need to lay it all down. Your achievements may bring you some happiness, but only in God's presence will you find 'fullness of joy' (Psalm 16:11 NAS).

So what now? What 'crowns' do you need to lay down? Release them to God and find the real meaning of life.

Soulfood: Gen 35-36, John 15:1-27, Ps 147:12-20, Ecc 4:9-12


Through the storms

'The weather changed abruptly, and a wind of typhoon strength... blew us out to sea' Acts 27:14 NLT

Paul travelled a lot, so he knew that at any time the conditions might change for the worse. And it wasn't just the weather that changed; people's attitudes towards him changed too. Even some of his closest friends walked out on him (see 2 Timothy 4:9-11). What lessons can we learn from this?

(1) Life involves storms, but they do pass. 'When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved' (Acts 27:20 NIV). There will be days when you'll wonder how you're going to make it but by God's grace you will! (2) Storms show how well you know God. 'Last night an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I serve stood beside me and said, "Do not be afraid, Paul"' (Acts 27:23-24 NIV). It's the tough times that reveal the strength of your God-connection.

(3) True leaders stand out in an emergency. In this story of a life-threatening storm, Paul stood up and spoke words of faith that enabled them to carry on. (4) Often the worst thing turns out for the best. God used this shipwreck to reach the island of Malta with the Gospel. Notice what happened to Paul as he left the island: 'When the time came to sail, people supplied us with everything we would need for the trip' (Acts 28:10 NLT).

So what now? You are God's child. God will provide what you need to get you through the storms! Accept his help.

Soulfood: Gen 32-34, John 14:1-31, Ps 147:1-11, Ecc 3:5-8


Don't try this on your own 4

'Jesus I know, and Paul I know...but who are you?' Acts 19:15 NIV

This is our last day looking at the story of the seven sons of Sceva (see Acts 19:14-16):

(6) Be careful about using the name of Jesus unless you have relationship with him. Paul knew about Jesus; he had met him face-to-face on a dusty Damascus Road and his life was revolutionised (read about it in Acts 9:1-19). And the same will happen when you make Jesus the Lord of your life. Then you can use his name in all its true power.

(7) Don't settle for anything less than a direct relationship with him. The sons of Sceva said to the spirit, 'Come out in the name of that same Jesus that Paul preaches about' (Acts 19:13 CEV). It didn't occur to the seven brothers that Paul's ability to heal and deliver people was not found in his own special power but through his relationship with Jesus, the one 'who has gone into Heaven and is at God's right hand - with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him' (1 Peter 3:22 NIV).

So what now? Do you have a relationship with Jesus? Jesus is only a prayer away. You don't need to use fancy words, you just need to be honest about the fact that you've been going your own way. Then you need to tell him that you want today to be a U-turn day when you stop following your own leading and start following him. If you need somewhere to start, look on page 55 of this devotional for help you begin this amazing relationship.

Soulfood: Gen 30:25-31:55, John 13:18-38, Ps 2, Ecc 3:1-4


Don't try this at home 3

'Jesus I know, and Paul I know...but who are you?' Acts 19:15 NIV

Let's squeeze a few more learnings out of the story of the seven sons of Sceva (see Acts 19:14-16).

(4) When it's serious stuff, there's no pretending (see Ephesians 6:13)! The evil spirit in the tormented man exposed the weakness in the seven religious brothers and they reaped the consequences. When you experience something on your Christian walk that's way over your head (even if it's not as dramatic as this story), be honest with yourself about whether you're mature enough to handle it.

(5) Demons don't have a database! The evil spirit in this man spoke out: 'Jesus I know, and Paul I know...but who are you' (Acts 19:15 NIV)? Satan isn't all-knowing like God. Yes, he has his agents stalking around causing mayhem but they can't keep up with the advance of God's Kingdom. Plus, even if the demons of Ephesus did have a hit-list, these seven brothers wouldn't have been on it as they were actually no threat to Satan.

You may only be a new Christian, but you are powerful: it's not you the enemy is afraid of, it's the Spirit of God that's in you! 'Children, you belong to God, and you have defeated these enemies. God's Spirit is in you and is more powerful than the one that is in the world' (1 John 4:4 CEV).

So what now? When Jesus is with you, you are saved and protected, but you must still be wise in your walk. Why not find yourself a trusted mentor or friend to chat to about your journey?

Soulfood: 1 Kings 17:1-7, 1 Kings 18:41-46, Mark 4:35-41


Don't try this at home 2

'Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?' Acts 19:15 NIV

What else can we learn from the incident we read about yesterday involving the seven reckless sons of Sceva (see Acts 19:14-16)? (1) Success is not as easy as it looks! These men showed up later on in Paul's ministry. They were looking for shortcuts that just weren't there! When you see someone else doing great things it can really get you fired up to want to do it too. However, only a short-sighted person expects to achieve overnight what it took years of experience to bring someone else into.

(2) Big numbers don't necessarily mean big results! These seven men together couldn't do what one Spirit-empowered Jesus-follower did. Yes, their dad was one of the top priests, so they knew plenty about 'religion', but they were a classic case of: 'Having a form of godliness, but denying its power' (2 Timothy 3:5 NIV).

(3) Those around you are not always with you! Just because somebody hangs out with you and pays you heaps of compliments doesn't mean they're to be trusted. These men followed Paul not because they wanted to make Jesus famous but because they wanted to make themselves famous. They had the wrong heart motive! John writes: 'These people came from our own group, yet they were not part of us. If they had been part of us, they would have stayed with us' (1 John 2:19 CEV).

So what now? In your journey as a Christian, whether you're a 'newbie' or mature in your walk, stay close to God and check your heart motive at all times.

Soulfood: Gen 28:1-30:24, John 13:1-17, Ps 130, Prov 31:28-31


Don't try this at home 1

'Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?' Acts 19:15 NIV

Do you ever watch those TV programmes where people do crazy things that come with a warning saying, 'Don't try this at home?' With that in mind, over the next few days let's look at a story from the book of Acts.

The first thing to note is that at that time the apostle Paul was on a roll: 'God did extraordinary miracles through Paul...handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them' (Acts 19:11-12 NIV). The next thing we read is that other religious people saw what he was doing and decided to cast out a few demons themselves. Let's pick up the story in verse 14: 'Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this: the evil spirit answered them, "Jesus I know and Paul I know...but who are you?" Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and...gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding' (Acts 19:14-16 NIV).

So, do we play it safe and live a risk-free Christian life or do we jump into every situation hoping we come out on top? The key thing to know is that Paul was doing a specific job God had given him. These copycats weren't. God doesn't empower us to do our own thing, he empowers us to do his thing.

So what now? Before you do any 'crazy' stuff in the 'name of Jesus', make sure it really is what he wants you to do.

Soulfood: Gen 25:19-27:46, John 12:37-50, Ps 65, Prov 31:25-27



'Each part...helps the other parts grow.' Ephesians 4:16 NLT

Next time you're walking in the woods, imagine what's taking place under your feet. The roots of trees come into contact with one another and form an underground support system. One tree has better access to water, another to nutrients, another to sunlight. A networking is taking place that strengthens them all. Paul's writings to the Ephesians illustrate this: 'The whole body depends on Christ, and all the parts of the body are joined and held together. Each part does its own work to make the whole body grow and be strong with love' (Ephesians 4:16 NCV).

Find it hard to 'network' with others? Here are three things that you can work on:

(1) Forgiveness. 'Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others' (Colossians 3:13 NLT). Why show mercy to others? Because of God's unending mercy to you. Forgiveness sets you free to live in freedom. (2) Understanding. 'Be sympathetic ...kind...gentle, and patient' (Colossians 3:12 GWT). Sympathy meets two basic human needs: to be understood and to have our feelings recognised as important. Don't be so caught up with your own hurts that you can't see the needs of others. (3) Encouragement. 'I want us to help each other with the faith we have. Your faith will help me, and my faith will help you' (Romans 1:12 NCV). You are strengthened in your faith when others walk with you and encourage you.

So what now? As you network with and rely on others in your life, you'll find you will be a great help right back!

Soulfood: Gen 24:1-25:18, John 12:20-36, Ps 14, Prov 31:22-24

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