You can win in the second half

2020-07-04
Hosea 14:4 NKJV

Halftime in the game is for rest and assessment. It’s a time to regroup – to evaluate how things have been going and decide what adjustments need to be made for the rest of the game. Often a team may look like they’re losing at halftime, but by the time the game ends they’ve turned things around and won. Until the final whistle sounds, the game is still up for grabs. And the same is true in life. If you’re still here, the game of life isn’t over for you. Your clock is still ticking. You have a life yet to live. Not only that, but the first half doesn’t have to determine the outcome of the game. Maybe you’ve made mistakes, experienced disappointments and failures. Maybe life has dealt you a harsh blow here or there. But you are still here – and as long as you are, the whistle hasn’t blown and it’s not too late for God to take you straight to the plan He has for you. You see, God looks at your future while the Enemy tries to keep you focused on your past. God says, “You can, in spite of what’s been done!” But the Enemy says, “You can’t, because of what you’ve done.” God will never define you by your past, whereas the Enemy will try to control and confine you by using it against you. Whether the good, the bad, or the ugly dominated your first half, Satan’s goal is to keep you chained there. God, on the other hand, wants you to learn from your past – not live in it.

Soul food: Jer 25-27; Luke 5:1-11; Ps 102:18-28; Prov 15:4-7

Broken

2020-06-29
Isaiah 57:18 NLT

Ever felt broken? Or felt like you’d made too many mistakes and now could never be the person who God made you to be? In the Bible we read about God raising up broken people in amazing ways. For example, He used Moses, a murderer, to deliver the Hebrew slaves. And He used Jacob, a liar, to fulfil His promise to Abraham. If God redeemed them, He can redeem us too. Sometimes we can think that brokenness is a bad place to be. We don’t like how it feels, and we think we’ve failed. But when we’re broken, we’re in a great place. Brokenness creates humility in us because it’s at the point we reach rock bottom that we truly realise how much we need God. Jesus said, ‘apart from me you can do nothing’ (John 15:5 NLT). Brokenness can help us fully grasp what Jesus was saying in this verse. And when we learn to rely on God for everything we need, we’re in a powerful position. This surrender allows God’s will to be brought about in our lives. It allows God access to our hearts so He can heal and restore them. But if we constantly focus on the mistakes and hurts of our past, then we’re not allowing God to do new things in us. We need to look ahead to our future rather than be stuck looking at our past. When we turn to God He’ll forgive us, restore us, and use us for His purposes. He said, ‘I have seen what they do, but I will heal them anyway! I will lead them. I will comfort those who mourn, bringing words of praise to their lips’ (Isaiah 57:18-19 NLT). God doesn’t give up on us, so let’s not give up on ourselves.

Jer 7-9; Luke 3:11-20; Ps 64; Prov 14:25-28

Rebuilding our integrity

2020-06-24
Luke 19:8 NIV

To have integrity means we do the right thing, even if nobody sees us or knows about it. It’s about who we are when no one is watching. And, as Christians, it’s about living wholly for God. The Bible says, ‘The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity’ (Proverbs 11:3 NIV). Sometimes we make mistakes, and we don’t demonstrate integrity. Zacchaeus is a great example of someone who lost and then regained his integrity. He became rich by taking more taxes from people than his Roman masters demanded, and keeping the extra for himself. But after he met Jesus, he said, ‘If I have cheated people…I will give them back four times as much!’ (NLT). Jesus said, ‘Salvation has come to this home today’ (Luke 19:9 NLT). Rebuilding our integrity means acknowledging that we’ve done something wrong, such as having ungodly thoughts or hurting someone. Then we need to repent of the mistakes we made. This goes further than just owning up to what we’ve done. It means we also make changes to our lifestyles to help us avoid making that mistake again. Zacchaeus made amends by repaying the people he had stolen from, and choosing to live differently from then on. Sometimes we can think that if the things we’re doing aren’t affecting anyone else, then it doesn’t really matter. But God always sees what we’re doing. Job said: ‘Does he not see my ways and count my every step?’ (Job 31:4 NIV). When He sees us, does He see someone with integrity? If not, let’s acknowledge what we’re doing wrong and make some changes to our lifestyles.

Hosea 6-10; Luke 2:21-33; Ps 17; Prov 14:13-16

Learning the hard way (1)

2020-06-17
Judges 16:17 NIV

Samson had incredible potential, but he threw it away. Why? Over the next few days we’ll look at some of the reasons. Firstly, he failed to control his impulses. He deliberately ignored God’s principles, and his life became a cycle of failures. He never learned; he kept making the same mistakes over and over again. Samson put his desire for spending time with a woman called Delilah above what he knew was right. Delilah kept asking him about the source of his strength, and each time she got a little closer to the truth. In the end, she had asked so many times that Samson gave in and revealed his secret: ‘With such nagging she prodded him day after day until he was sick to death of it. So he told her everything’ (Judges 16:16-17 NIV). Sometimes we say things like ‘It can’t hurt…just this once.’ We don’t plan to fail, but little by little, we head down the wrong path, and we don’t always learn from our mistakes. We might feel like we’re weak and that we can’t ever break free of our temptations, but the Bible teaches us that God ‘gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak’ (Isaiah 40:29 NIV). We can feel controlled by our desires and temptations, but actually we have a choice. We can choose to live God’s way. The Bible teaches that God ‘will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear…he will…provide a way out so that you can endure it’ (1 Corinthians 10:13 NIV). When Samson finally faced the truth, God broke his cycle of failure, gave him the power to do what he should do, and made him victorious. And God will do the same for us when we turn to Him.

2 Kings 13-15; Luke 1:26-38; Ps 139:1-6; Prov 13:21-23

Words

2020-05-31
Colossians 4:6 NIV

We all know that the words we say have an impact on those around us. If we’re speaking negative words, we can create a negative atmosphere around us. But if we’re speaking truth and positivity, we can encourage others. The Bible tells us to ‘encourage one another and build each other up’ (1 Thessalonians 5:11 NIV). How we speak to others will determine what sort of relationship we’ll have with them. If people are always rude to us, or lie to us, we’re not likely to stay around long. And it’s the same the other way round. We need to let our conversations with others be ‘always full of grace, seasoned with salt.’ The words we speak come out of how we feel. If we’re struggling with our attitude then we’re probably not going to speak words of life to others. Jesus said: ‘A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of’ (Luke 6:45 NIV). This doesn’t just apply to our words to others. How we speak to, and about, ourselves is really important too. We need to be speaking God’s truth over ourselves. We need to encourage ourselves and show grace to ourselves when we make mistakes. The psalmist wrote: ‘May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer’ (Psalm 19:14 NIV). Are our words pleasing to God? If not, let’s ask Him to help us speak words of encouragement, grace, and truth to those around us, and to ourselves.

John 7:37-41; Exo 17:1-7; Isa 35:1-7