Set free

Genesis 15:14 NIV

We can feel trapped and chained by many different things. We might be in a tricky financial situation that we can’t see a way out of, we might be feeling hopeless and wondering if life can ever get better, we might be dealing with fear, or we may have temptations that we are struggling to break free from. But God wants to set us free from everything that stops us from living a full and abundant life. Jesus said, ‘The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full’ (John 10:10 NIV). We can’t have life to the full if we are being held back by chains. God has the power to break the chains that are around us. He can free us from anything we are facing. It’s not about us trying to break the chains in our own strength. There will be practical things we can do to help ourselves, but the strength we do these things in has to be God’s, otherwise we will become exhausted and discouraged. Often we say we want freedom and we ask God to break the chains, but when He does we can struggle to step out of them. Instead of stepping out of the chains which are now around our feet into the freedom we have, we pick the chains up and put them back on ourselves. Freedom can feel unnatural and uncomfortable when we have been enslaved to things for a long time. We can feel lost without the problems we have been dealing with. But the abundant and full life that Jesus promised is far better than a life with chains. Are we ready to step out into a life of freedom?

Zeph 1-3; John 6:1-24; Ps 85; Prov 24:11-14

Blessed for a purpose!

Genesis 15:14 NIV

When the children of Israel were leaving Egypt, God transferred the wealth from one nation of people to another. And He did it overnight. That’s because His people were called to fulfill His purposes in the earth. After 400 years (ten generations) of making bricks, polishing brass, and sweeping floors, God said in essence, “It’s payday! All that stuff you’ve been scrubbing and shining is going to be yours.” The greater the affliction, the greater the abundance! Let’s be clear, the Bible teaches that money isn’t offensive to God; the misuse of it is! One pastor says: “Money speaks. It says to land, ‘I can own you.’ It says to buildings, ‘I can build you.’ It says to vision, “I can fulfill you.’ It says to a missionary, ‘I can support you.’ It says to poverty, ‘I can feed you.’ And it says to opportunity, ‘I can accept you.'” Why did Pharaoh pursue the Israelites? To get back the wealth of Egypt. Stop and think about that! The Devil doesn’t care who gets the money, as long as it doesn’t go to God’s people or fulfill His purposes. Satan dreads the thought of a generation of prosperous believers committed to reaching the world with the gospel. And he will keep us enslaved to ignorance if he can. “But I’m not a slave,” you say. How about slavery to debt, or hopelessness, or fear, or old habits? God wants to set you free from anything that keeps you from fulfilling His will. Once you realize that, you’ll start to pray in earnest and believe God for the resources to do it!

Soul food: Zeph 1-3; John 6:1-24; Ps 85; Prov 24:11-14

Strengthen others

Luke 22:32 NLT

Jesus knew Peter would deny Him, yet He extended grace to Peter even before it happened. Here’s what He told him: ‘When you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers.’ When God restores us, we should want to tell other people what He has done. We should want to show His love to them, and encourage them to keep trusting and keep believing. Isaiah said: ‘Strengthen the feeble hands, steady the knees that give way; say to those with fearful hearts, “Be strong, do not fear; your God will come’ (Isaiah 35:3-4 NIV). And that’s what we are called to do too. When the valley seems never-ending, the darkness seems to be taking over, and God doesn’t seem to be doing anything, a word of encouragement from others can make all the difference. Before Jesus told Peter to strengthen others, He warned him that the devil was wanting to ‘sift [them] like wheat’ (Luke 22:31 NLT). We all go through times of ‘sifting’, when the enemy is trying to see whether we will cling to God or find our strength in things apart from Him. He wants us to falter and trip up on obstacles that he has placed in our way. God promises to strengthen us during this time. But He can only strengthen us if we bring it all to Him, and trust Him through it. Sometimes we need others to remind us that God is trustworthy when things are going wrong around us. We need to be reminded that He is good, despite what the circumstances suggest. We need them to remind us of His promises to us. When we have experienced breakthrough, it’s a great opportunity to use our increased faith and expectancy to encourage those who need to be reminded of these things.

2 Sam 7:18-11:27; John 2:1-11; Ps 110; Prov 23:6-9

Stay in the game till it’s over

Psalm 27:1 NKJV

Author Jon Gordon says: “There was a time [as children] when we jumped from the jungle gym and went on roller coaster rides. No goal was unattainable. Then [when we grew up] the doubters dissuaded us from going after our dreams…’You’re crazy…it’s too hard…play it safe…dreams weren’t meant for people like us.’ They instilled their insecurities in us…and with so many people saying we can’t…and so few saying we can, we let fear into our lives. We’re so scared of losing what we have that we don’t go after what we want. We hold on so tightly to the status quo that we never experience what could be…I call this ‘playing to lose.’ We see it in sports. When a team has the lead, they start thinking about how not to lose instead of how to win. They play safe and scared while the other team takes chances, plays without fear, and wins. David said, ‘The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?’ Living a life [of faith] means overcoming fear and adopting a ‘play to win’ mindset…one that says even if you do fail you won’t give up or let your dreams die. Success isn’t automatically given to us, it’s pursued with all the energy and sweat we can muster. Obstacles and struggles are part of life…they make us appreciate success. If everything came easy we’d never know how it feels to succeed. Obstacles were meant to be overcome. Fear was meant to be conquered. Success was meant to be achieved. They’re part of life, and those who succeed refuse to give up till the game is over.”

Soul food: Jer 45-48; Matt 6:9-18; Ps 110; Prov 15:8-9

Praise is the way

2 Chronicles 20:21 NIVUK

When we’re facing a battle – a tough situation where we’re challenged, stretched, or overwhelmed – we have a choice. We can enter the battle with a human response, or a godly response. Our human responses are things like fear, doubt, despair, or pride. We either think that the situation is impossible, or that we’ll make it through on our own. But those strategies are bound to fail. Fear, doubt, and despair can lead us to give up before the battle is won. Pride can lead to us falling and realising that we can’t do everything in our own strength. But God has given us strategies for winning, and praise is one of them. In 2 Chronicles 20, we read about the battle facing Jehoshaphat. When he was told about the advancing army, his first response was fear. The Bible tells us that he was ‘alarmed’ (v.3). But then he took it to God. He knew he needed God’s wisdom and strength for this battle (you can read his prayer in verses 6 to 12). When armies go into battle, they usually put their soldiers at the front. But ‘Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the LORD and to praise him for the splendour of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying: “Give thanks to the LORD, for his love endures forever.”‘ They went into the battle with praise (and they won – take a look at verses 24 to 30). However we’re feeling and whatever we’re facing, we have to make the decision to praise God; to focus on Him instead of our problem. We may not feel worthy – but He is. We may not feel strong enough – but He is. Praise invites God to intervene, so let’s start praising.

Heb 11:17-13:25; Mark 7:1-13; Ps 88:1-9a; Prov 11:24-26