Luke 1:41 NLT
Besides being cousins, Mary and Elizabeth were ‘spirit friends’. They didn’t just connect socially, they connected spiritually at a deeper level. That’s why Mary ‘hurried’ to see Elizabeth, and why she spent three months with her. It’s also why Elizabeth confirmed the miraculous purposes of God that were being fulfilled in Mary’s life, and praised her obedience. The Bible says: ‘A few days later Mary hurried to the hill country of Judea…She entered the house and greeted Elizabeth. At the sound of Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth’s child leaped within her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Elizabeth…exclaimed to Mary, “God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed…Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months and then went back to her own home”‘ (vv. 39-42, 56 NLT). When God introduces us to someone who’s been touched by His Spirit and carries within them a vision that’s started by the Holy Spirit, we need to reach out to them, treasure them, and build a relationship with them. The strength of the connection between Mary and Elizabeth went beyond the fact that they were family. Sometimes our families are the first to criticise us and the last to understand us. It also came from a mutual realisation that God’s Spirit was working in their lives. Their relationship with God meant that they had a stronger relationship with each other. When Mary greeted Elizabeth, the unborn child within her leaped in her womb. How do we recognise a ‘spirit friend’? When they speak, something within us will resonate. That’s because we’re both filled with the same Holy Spirit and empowered to do God’s will.
Job 24-28; John 1:6-18; Ps 113; Ecc 10:10-14
Psalm 103:13 TM
To see God as a loving Father may not come easily, if you carry the scars of a neglected or abusive childhood. Perhaps you had so many unmet needs growing up: affection, security, trust, comfort, material necessities, etc., and your lack of these things makes it hard to believe God will provide for your needs now. What to do? Recognize that your “father-image” is flawed and in no way resembles your heavenly Father. Even the best earthly father can’t measure up to Him. He wants you to approach Him as a caring, sensitive, generous, dependable, loving Father. That’s why Jesus taught us to call Him “Our Father,” not just “Almighty God and Lord.” Like a good father, God understands your needs and makes full provision for them (See Matthew 6:25-34). And just as a good parent recognizes the unique characteristics of each of his children, He knows your distinctive personality, gifts, thoughts, and feelings. “As parents feel for their children, God feels for those who fear him. He knows us inside and out, keeps in mind that we’re made of mud” (Psalm 103:13-14 TM). God’s care is tailor-made to your specific gifts – and weaknesses. And like a loving father, He accepts and fulfills His responsibility to provide for you. So what’s your role in the relationship? To act like the child of a trustworthy, generous, permanently-loving Father!
Soul food: Exo 22-24; John 3:1-21; Ps 89:1-14; Prov 26:17-19
1 Corinthians 4:5 AMPC
Prejudice – is pre-judging. It makes you see those who don’t endorse what you believe as enemies. You attribute commendable qualities to the circle you move in, and negative ones to those outside it. That’s not what Jesus did. He befriended and fellowshipped with sinners and societal outcasts – without compromising who He was or endorsing their lifestyle. The Bible cautions against “hasty…premature judgments,” and reminds us that “the Lord…will…bring to light…things that are […hidden]…aims, (motives and purposes) of hearts” (v. 5 AMPC). He’s the only one qualified to “discern the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12 ASV). So if you’re inclined to jump “to conclusions…before all the evidence is in” (1 Corinthians 4:5 TM), here’s some food for thought: (1) Face your prejudice. List all the people you don’t count as friends, people you actually go out of your way not to have a relationship with, and start loving them “by…actions and true caring” (1 John 3:18 NCV). (2) Drop the mask. Look inside your heart and ask yourself what it is about the other person that bothers you. Are there similarities between you? Are they expressing something you’re hiding from? (3) Get to know the other person. Paul said, “I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22 NLT). Whether or not you decide to continue the relationship, you’ll discover the power of your mind to obstruct, delude, and turn something into what it’s not. Plus you’ll have a better chance of winning others to Christ, because “love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13:8 NKJV).
Soul food: Heb 11:23-28; Exo 3:1-22; Exo 33:7-23; Exo 34:29-35
Genesis 33:8 NLT
When someone hurts us, we tend to want an apology. And when that ‘sorry’ doesn’t come, we can hold it against that person. But if we want to move forward, we have to accept that an apology may never come in the way we want it to. After Jacob cheated his brother Esau out of his birthright, things got so bad between them that Jacob went to live with his Uncle Laban in Haran. Later in life, when both brothers had become wealthy and successful, Jacob decided to try and make things right with his brother. And he did this by offering some of his animals. At first Esau refused to accept his brother’s gifts, but when Jacob persisted, ‘Esau finally accepted the gift’ (v.11 NLT). Jacob never said, ‘I’m sorry, please forgive me.’ He wanted to make amends through giving Esau a gift. At this point Esau showed real maturity by valuing his relationship with his brother over his right to take revenge. So the family was united. God wants us to exercise spiritual maturity too. We can’t control what others do; we can only control our response. If we insist that someone says ‘sorry’ in a certain way, the relationship may never be healed. And we will be left holding a grudge. And holding a grudge is like holding a hot coal; it will keep burning us until we let it go. The Bible says: ‘Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you’ (Ephesians 4:32 NIV). When someone is offering an apology in a different form, we need to show our maturity by accepting it, forgiving and moving on.
1 Sam 18:1-20:29; Luke 5:1-11; Ps 102:12-17; Prov 17:7-10
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