Philippians 3:20 NLT
Ever had a really rough, tiring day? The sort of day when you haven’t got another scrap of energy left, and you’re so mentally drained that it almost hurts to think? The sort of day when you crave home? When you finally do get home, and curl up in your pyjamas with a hot cup of tea and your favourite TV programme, you experience an amazing sense of peace, comfort, security and contentment. As great as this feels, it’s nowhere near as good as the feelings we’ll experience when we get to heaven. God created us for heaven, and nothing in our earthly life will completely satisfy that longing (take a look at Ecclesiastes 3:11). We’re in this world but we’re not of it. We’ll find joy and contentment as we work our way towards fulfilling the assignment that God’s given us for our life, but it’s nothing compared to the joy that’s waiting for us in heaven. Paul put it this way: ‘We are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Saviour. He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control’ (Philippians 3:20-21 NLT). We have an inbuilt craving for our heavenly home, a powerful desire to be with God. But until it’s time for us to join Him in heaven, let’s make the most of our earthly life by building our relationship with Him and spending time with Him every day. When we do that, we’ll find joy and delight in following His will and His plan for our lives.
Ezek 31-33; Mark 16:1-20; Ps 80:1-11; Prov 15:11-14
Proverbs 11:13 NLT
We all have habits, struggles, weaknesses, dreams, childhood memories, unspoken needs, and longings that we keep hidden deep inside. We don’t want the world to know about some of the more painful memories we’re holding on to, or for anyone to find out about the things we’re ashamed of. And the truth is, we can’t keep any of these things a secret from God. He sees everything. ‘He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him’ (Daniel 2:22 NIV). But even when He knows our worst secrets, He still loves us and invites us into a relationship with Him. We all have a yearning for someone we can confide in, someone to trust, and God provides that safe place for us to confess our hidden thoughts and sins. But God also provides trustworthy people who we can tell some these things to, and who can help us to work through them and keep us accountable when we’re trying to improve ourselves. And we should also be aiming to be a dependable, trustworthy friend for others. We can do that by: 1) offering them a space where they can safely be vulnerable and open (take a look at Proverbs 3:29); and 2) refusing to reveal something we’re told in confidence (see Proverbs 11:13) – there are a few exceptions, such as if the person is going to harm themselves or others, so we also need to pray for wisdom to know when we can’t keep something confidential. Let’s ask God for trustworthy friends, and strive to be trustworthy people ourselves, who others know they can depend on.
Lev 23:15-22; Acts 2:1-18
John 15:16 NIV
Ever walked into a party you weren’t invited to? Feels odd, doesn’t it? You’re constantly looking over your shoulder in case someone starts asking why you’re sitting on their sofa or helping yourself to their drinks… But if you’re invited to the party, it’s a different thing. You don’t have to wonder if you’re welcome, or if there will be enough food to go around, or if there’s a place at the table for you: you are secure knowing that you’re among friends who want you there, because they asked you there. And they probably told you what to expect. It’s the same when you know you have been ‘chosen and appointed’ by God. It gives you confidence – He asked you to the party, and He’s the one telling you what to expect. He chose you for two reasons: to bless you, and to make you a blessing to others (see Genesis 12:2). But in the beginning not all of His blessings will make sense. The Bible speaks of blessings ‘you won’t have room enough to receive’ (see Malachi 3:10). Sometimes God’s blessings are so overwhelming that when He starts pouring them out, you think, ‘Maybe I can’t handle this.’ And if you’d been the one who initiated the relationship, you’d be right. But God chose you. And whoever He calls, He equips. You can feel secure in God’s way of living, because He wanted you there, and He gave you the terms and conditions. All you need to do is be open and responsive. ‘Give yourselves completely to God…as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of God’ (Romans 6:13 NLT).
Jer 25-27; Mark 1:9-15; Ps 31; Prov 8:34-36
John 15:16 NKJV
Jesus said, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain.” How you begin a relationship is important. All parties need to feel secure in order for it to go well. For example, when you’re invited to somebody’s home for dinner, it’s reasonable to expect that they’ll fulfill certain social obligations. You shouldn’t have to wonder if you’re welcome, or if there’ll be enough food to go around, or if there’s a place at the table for you. Those are things you might be concerned about if you stopped by uninvited. Likewise, knowing you’ve been “chosen and appointed” by God gives you confidence. It means you’re accepted; you don’t have to campaign to get elected. If you think walking to a church altar to commit your life to Christ means you chose God, think again! God chose you for two reasons: to bless you, and to make you a blessing to others (See Genesis 12:2). But in the beginning not all His blessings may be things you rejoice about. The Bible speaks of blessings “you won’t have room enough to receive” (See Malachi 3:10). Sometimes God’s blessings are so overwhelming that when He starts pouring them out you think, “I’m not sure I can handle this.” And you’d be right – if you had been the one who initiated the relationship! But you didn’t choose God, He chose you. And whomever He calls, He equips. All you need to do is be open and responsive. “Give yourselves completely…tools in the hands of God, to be used for his good purposes” (Romans 6:13 TLB).
Soul food: Jer 25-27; Mark 1:9-15; Ps 31; Prov 8:34-36
Hebrews 6:1 NLT
Hermit crabs spend their lives looking for a shell that fits them. They live in shells until they outgrow them, then they scurry along the ocean floor and find a bigger one. They do this their whole lives – a process that repeats over and over. Is what worked in the past not working for you now? A job you’ve outgrown, or a relationship you need to reset or leave, or a method you need to change. Just because something’s tried and tested doesn’t mean it’s for forever. Whatever it is, don’t get so settled that you can’t let go and move on when you need to. So here’s the question: Are you clinging to something that no longer fits you just because it’s easy and familiar? David said, ‘You…freed me when I was hemmed in and relieved me when I was in distress’ (Psalm 4:1 AMP). Be willing to move out of your comfort zone and deal with a bit of distress. That’s what makes you grow. It won’t feel freeing and enlarging right away, but you can bet it will start to. Instead of hanging in and trying harder, sometimes you have to stop and ask, ‘Is this situation good for me?’ If you’re not sure, ask God for ‘an understanding heart so that [you] can…know the difference between right and wrong’ (1 Kings 3:9 NLT). And when He tells you what to do – do it – even though at first it will feel alien and strange. When God says it’s time to move on, He’s got a better shell for you somewhere.
Matt 21:1-16; Ps 118:19-29