Isaiah 1:19 NKJV
In the eleventh century, King Henry III of Bavaria became tired of his responsibilities as king, the pressures of international politics, and the mundane worldliness of court life. He made an application to Prior Richard at a local monastery to be accepted as a contemplative and spend the rest of his life in prayer and meditation. Prior Richard responded, “Your Majesty, do you understand that the pledge here is one of obedience? That it will be hard, since you have been a king?” Henry said, “I understand. The rest of my life I will be obedient to you, as Christ leads you.” Prior Richard said, “Then I will tell you what to do. Go back to your throne and serve faithfully in the place where God has put you.” After Henry died, this statement was written in his honor: “The king learned to rule by being obedient.” Today, and every day, you have these decisions to make: (1) Live by your own impulses, or live according to the instructions God has given you in His Word. (2) Go according to your own best thinking, or submit yourself to the rule and the leading of the Holy Spirit who lives within you. When you think about it, the answer is clear! Obeying God leads to peace, progress, protection, and promotion. His Word says, “If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land.” Note the words “willing and obedient.” Obedience is an act of your will, not a reflex of your emotions. So this year – do what God says, for He has “good” things in mind for you.
Soul food: 1 Cor 5-8; Matt 4:1-11; Ps 90:7-12; Prov 1:5-7
Nehemiah 8:10 NIV
The New Year can cause us to feel a mixture of emotions. Perhaps we’re feeling excited about all the things we’ve planned for this year. Perhaps we’re hoping this year will be better than last year. Whatever we’re feeling, let’s have joy this year. Joy isn’t something that’s just reserved for the great times in life. We can even have joy when we’re facing challenging circumstances. Joy is a fruit of the Spirit (take a look at Galatians 5:22-23 for a list of the fruits), and is something that’s grown and developed in us through the Holy Spirit. It’s not something we have to grow by ourselves. No matter what happens in our lives, and what’s to come this year, we can have joy because we know for sure that God is with us. When we feel weak and discouraged, it’s the joy of knowing God that can help us keep going. The Bible says: ‘The joy of the Lord is your strength.’ And one of the first things Satan will attack is our joy. If he can get us to start questioning God’s goodness and keep our eyes fixed on our circumstances, he knows we’ll struggle in our faith and in our work for God. When our eyes are on our circumstances, we’ll struggle to feel joy. But when our eyes are on God, we can’t help but feel joy because of who He is, and what He has done for us. Whatever is ahead for us this year, and whatever baggage we’re bringing with us from last year, let’s look to God. He’s the One who already knows what’s to come, promises to be with us, and wants to help us let go of anything heavy we’re carrying.
Rom 13:12-14:19; John 1:1-14
Romans 5:3 NIV
Isn’t it interesting how as we get older, we tend to become more patient, even though we have less time left? Why is that? Perspective! Our problems haven’t changed that much, but our perspective has. Things that once upset us don’t anymore, because we’ve lived long enough to know “His grace is sufficient” (See 2 Corinthians 12:9). Once you realize that it’s no big deal – and most things aren’t – you can say, “Been there, done that!” Instead of fretting and complaining, which doesn’t work and steals our joy, we’ve learned to sing: “Great is Thy faithfulness, oh God my Father; There is no shadow of turning with Thee; Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not; As Thou hast been, Thou forever will be.” Like Joseph, you can look back to times in life you thought you’d never get through, and stuff you thought you’d never survive, and say, “You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20 NKJV). Yes, perspective produces patience: “We can rejoice…when we run into problems and trials, for we know…they are good for us – they help us learn to be patient. And patience develops strength of character…and helps us trust God more each time we use it until finally our hope and faith are strong and steady…when that happens, we are able to hold our heads high no matter what happens and know that all is well, for we know how dearly God loves us, and we feel this warm love everywhere within us because God has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love” (Romans 5:3-5 TLB). So let God develop your patience.
Soul food: 1 Cor 12-14; Matt 2:13-23; Ps 139:13-24; Prov 31:28-29
Galatians 4:4 NLT
God doesn’t consult us to make sure His plans line up with our timetable. God sets the schedule; sometimes we have to run to keep up, and other times we have to slow down in order to get in step with Him. Mary planned to marry Joseph, then have a child, but God had a different plan. The child had to be without inherited sin, so He needed a perfect father; therefore, the Holy Spirit was called on to do the job. Humanly speaking, the timing couldn’t have been worse. Mary became pregnant before she got married, and Joseph wasn’t the father. Besides being ostracized, the law said she could be stoned to death. How did she respond? Amazingly: “Then Mary said, ‘Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word'” (Luke 1:38 NKJV). God has a set plan, and He is always working toward it. The trouble is, we are only working with limited information, so we become impatient and upset when He doesn’t answer our prayers when we think He should, or in the way we think He should. It’s said that George Muller, evangelist and founder of the Ashley Down Orphanage in Bristol, England, once waited on the dock for a special chair to be delivered; he had a bad back and needed the chair for his ocean voyage. When departure time came and it still hadn’t arrived, his friends offered to buy him one. But Muller said, “Either God will provide or He will give me the grace to do without.” Then, just like a Hollywood ending, the chair arrived right on time! Trust God – He knows what He’s doing!
Soul food: Isa 9:1-7; Matt 1:18-25; Micah 5:2-5a
John 14:12 NIV
When we become Christians, God begins to transform us to become more like Jesus. The Bible says: ‘We all…are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit’ (2 Corinthians 3:18 NIV). When people look at us, do they see Jesus? Would they want to know more about Him after meeting us? Jesus said, ‘Whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing.’ We can read about what Jesus did when He walked among us, but we need to go beyond reading and start living the way He did. So what was Jesus like? Firstly, He was compassionate, not condemning. When the Pharisees wanted to stone the woman caught committing adultery, He said, ‘Let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!’ (John 8:7 NLT). He was the only one without sin and He wasn’t going to start judging the woman. Secondly, He was connected to God, and prioritised a relationship with Him – even to the point of saying ‘no’ to ‘ministry work’ when He needed to spend time with God. He made time to see the needs of those society had rejected, such as those with diseases like leprosy. We can read through the gospels and learn so much about how Jesus lived. But if we want a quick summary of how we should be living, we can turn to Galatians 5:22-23. In these verses nine ‘fruits’ (Christ-like qualities) that the Holy Spirit wants to produce in our lives are listed. These are: ‘Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control’ (NLT). It might feel like an overwhelming list, but we don’t have to do it all on our own. The Holy Spirit works within us to develop these things.
Col 1-2; John 17:1-12; Ps 147:12-20; Prov 29:6-10