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
Romans 12:2 NIV
Once we have discovered what God wants us to do with our lives, we have a choice to make. Our first option is to walk a different way. Jonah knew God’s will, but he ran from it and ended up in the biggest storm of his life. God had told him to: ‘Go to the great city of Nineveh, and preach against it’ (Jonah 1:2 NCV). But Jonah went the opposite way. He didn’t want to fulfil this calling. Sometimes we can hear from God and not really want to do what He is saying. Maybe we don’t feel equipped or ready. Maybe it involves stepping out of our comfort zone and we are afraid. Maybe we’d rather just do our own thing. Take Moses for example. He came up with lots of excuses as to why he couldn’t do what God was calling him to do (you can read about this in Exodus 3). But even when we react like this, God doesn’t give up on us. He equips us, strengthens us, and humbles us so that we can do the things He has created us to do. Our other option is to follow His call and not allow anything to stop us. God’s plan is always better than ours and there will never be an exception to this rule. It might feel scary, but He promises to be with us every step of the way. God says: ‘Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand’ (Isaiah 41:10 NLT). His plans for us are for our good, and His glory. So are we willing to wholeheartedly follow His call?
Josh 19:24-21:45; John 16:12-18; Ps 2; Prov 28:25-28
Matthew 25:23 NIV
In 1975 a low-level Hewlett Packard engineer called Steve Wozniak, whom nobody had ever heard of, shared a dream with his pal, Steve Jobs. It was about building and selling an easy-to-use personal computer to the masses around the world. The pair worked round the clock to create their compact PC. But when they offered it to Hewlett Packard, one of the world’s great companies, the powers-that-be failed to see its incredible potential and gave it the thumbs down. So Wozniak and Jobs went off on their own and founded a little company called Apple Computers – and revolutionized the computer industry! There’s no shortage of people who will tell you, “It can’t be done” or “It won’t work.” There’s a name for those people: “dream killers” – and if you listen to them you’ll give up before you even begin. Behind every major accomplishment you’ll find ordinary people with dreams, who are willing to take responsibility and risks. They are the people who enjoy the rewards! Jesus wrapped up one of His parables with these words: “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” In spite of your failures, your struggles, and your limitations, if you’re willing to disregard the naysayers, step out in faith, and use the gifts God has given you, He will see to it that you succeed.
Soul food: Josh 11-13; John 15:5-17; Ps 14; Prov 28:13-16
Exodus 27:8 NCV
The altar in the tabernacle was a place where sacrifices were offered in worship to God. And He knew exactly how it was to be built: ‘Make the altar out of boards and leave the inside hollow.’ A stone or metal structure would have been heavy to transport, whereas a hollow wooden altar could be carried on poles and travel along with the Israelites. The image of a moveable altar is a reminder that while we should be part of a local church, we are not restricted to worshipping God in a particular location. We can do it anywhere. The Bible tells us to ‘continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise’ (Hebrews 13:15 NIV). Wherever we are we can worship Him. And that doesn’t necessarily mean we have to sing; we can worship Him by making sure the attitude of our heart, no matter what we are doing, is positive and that we are focused on Him. Whether we are at home, at work, in the supermarket, at the gym, or in the classroom, our everyday activities can become ‘spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ’ (1 Peter 2:5 NIV). By sharing a word of encouragement, giving our time and money to help someone in need, or making a decision based on integrity instead of what will make us popular, we are honouring God. Jesus said, ‘Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven’ (Matthew 5:16 NIV). When others see that we are willing to do the right and godly things in a world that often does the opposite, they will see God in us. His glory will shine through our worship.
Ezek 40:10-42:20; Matt 24:15-25; Ps 78:17-31; Prov 20:15-19
John 18:37 NKJV
Standing before Pilate, Jesus said, ‘For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth.’ Jesus knew why He was born and what He was called to do; He was focused on His purpose. Do we know our life’s purpose? Are we focused on what God’s called us to do? It can be so easy to drift through life without really ever finding our purpose. We just get on with living our lives and don’t stop to consider that there might be something more for us. Equally, we can fall into the trap of living for the wrong purposes. We can end up striving for worldly things like success, fame, money, and approval. We can become so focused on those things that we lose sight of God and His purposes for our lives. We are too busy doing our own thing. The Bible tells us that ‘where your treasure is, there your heart will be also’ (Matthew 6:21). When we value things like money and success above God, our heart will be focused on the wrong things. We may even think that we need those things in order to be valuable. But when we know for sure why we were created and Who created us, we will be focused on fulfilling the purpose God gave us. Living for our purpose is the only thing that brings a God-given assurance of success. The Bible tells us that ‘we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do’ (Ephesians 2:10 NIV). He has things for us to do. Are we willing to set aside our own purposes and desires to do them?
Ezek 34-36; Matt 23:23-39; Ps 78:1-8; Prov 20:7-10