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Flattery will get you nowhere - TUESDAY APRIL 25

‘Nor will I flatter any man.’ Job 32:21 NIV (1984 Edition)

When Stephen Spielberg was a skinny teenager, he became the target of a bully. Fed up with the constant harassment which he later described as ‘hell on earth’, he decided to flatter the bully by telling him he looked like John Wayne and should consider playing the hero in an eight-millimetre movie about World War ll he was thinking of making. Once Spielberg outfitted him and cast him as a heroic squad leader, the bully became putty in his hands. However, unlike Spielberg’s bully, emotionally healthy people only appreciate sincere praise they have earned. And they can detect a compliment given with an ulterior motive or to gain their favour. The paradox is that most people tend to look with disfavour on someone who compliments them, for no apparent reason.

Elihu - the patriarch Job’s friend - said, ‘I will show partiality to no-one, nor will I flatter any man; for if I were skilled in flattery, my Maker would soon take me away’ (vv. 21-22 NIV 1984 Edition). And the psalmist tells us, ‘The Lord shall cut off all flattering lips’ (Psalm 12:3 KJV). So here’s the question: is flattery worth being cut off from the blessing of God? When you engage in or become susceptible to flattery, it’s clear evidence of your lack of faith in God’s ability to give you favour with other people. Favour is a fringe benefit of being in right standing with Him. ‘Surely…Lord, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favour as with a shield’ (Psalm 5:12 NIVUK 1984 Edition).

The wonder of grace - MONDAY APRIL 24

‘For by grace you have been saved through faith.’     Ephesians 2:8 NRSV

Some of us live as if God has a big performance chart with our name on it, and at the end of each day He grades us to determine if He will love us more, or less, or at all. You say, ‘If I were God, some days I wouldn’t love me.’ Then be glad you’re not God, and we’ll all be twice as glad - or we’d all be sunk! God does not save us by grace and then base how He feels about us on our spiritual performance. The Bible says, ‘God…out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ - by grace you have been saved’ (vv. 4-5 NRSV).

The wonder of grace is that you are chosen, you are wanted, and God desires you for His family. By grace you have been made alive to God. You have strength to endure, power to serve, a reason to hope, and death has no hold over you. God took your indebtedness and guilt and nailed it to the cross. He erased the bill; He destroyed the I.O.U. and set you free. Unburdened. Cleansed. Today you can live with a heart as light as a feather - no matter what you did yesterday. The truth is that no one in heaven will ever boast, ‘Look what Jesus and I did.’ No, when Jesus cried from the cross, ‘It is finished’ (see John 19:30), God wrote ‘Paid in full’ over every sin you would commit - all the way from the cradle to the grave. This is the wonder of grace.

Unmoved by any circumstance - SUNDAY APRIL 23

‘Those who trust in the Lord are…unmoved by any circumstance.’ Psalm 125:1 TLB

By age twenty-nine, author Carson McCullers had suffered three strokes. Then while she was still crippled and partially paralysed, her husband committed suicide. Despite her problems she forced herself to write every day, and as a result became a distinguished novelist. The English poet John Milton was blind. World-renowned violinist Itzhak Perlman had polio. Former Miss America Heather Whitestone is deaf. Stephen Hawking, physicist and lecturer at Cambridge University, has motor neurone disease. No wonder Thomas Edison said if we did all the things we were capable of doing, we’d astound ourselves! So, what’s the secret to enduring and enjoying life? It’s this: ‘Those who trust in the Lord are…unmoved by any [did you get that - any] circumstance.’ Despite how you feel today, your problems aren’t insurmountable.

The Bible says, ‘God can do what men can’t’ (Luke 18:27 TLB). And what’s more, He listens to ‘the prayers of the destitute…he is never too busy’ (Psalm 102:17 TLB). Einstein said, ‘In the middle of every difficulty lies opportunity.’ The same God who guided Abraham when he didn’t have a clue where he was going, gave Sarah a child in her old age, rolled back the Red Sea, and raised Jesus from the dead, is alive and working in your life. So ‘be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might’ (Ephesians 6:10 KJV). Remember, His chariots of deliverance ‘are…thousands and thousands of thousands’ (Psalm 68:17 NIV 2011 Edition). Today take heart! ‘The eternal God is your refuge, and his everlasting arms are under you’ (Deuteronomy 33:27 NLT).

Be an encourager - SATURDAY APRIL 22

‘Anxiety in the heart…causes depression, but a good word makes it glad.’ Proverbs 12:25 NKJV

When Enrico took his first voice lesson at ten, the teacher said, ‘You haven’t any voice at all.’ But Enrico’s mother heard greatness in her son’s voice. She believed in his talent. And even though they were very poor she put her arms around him and said, ‘My boy, I’m going to make every sacrifice to pay for your voice lessons.’ Her confidence in him and her constant encouragement paid off, because he became one of the most beloved and widely acclaimed singers of all time. His name? Enrico Caruso. When the world tries to tear us down, we need people who build us up, people who recognise our talent and help us make the most of it. Consider these ‘commands for parents’, written from a child’s point of view:

1) My hands are small; please don’t expect perfection whenever I make a bed, draw a picture, or throw a ball.

2) My legs are short; slow down so that I can keep up with you.

3) My eyes have not seen the world as yours have; let me explore it safely, and don’t restrict me unnecessarily.

4) Housework will always be there; I’m only little for a short time. Take time to explain things to me about this wonderful world, and do so willingly.

5) My feelings are tender; don’t nag me all day long. Treat me as you would like to be treated.

6) I am a special gift from God; treasure me as God intended you to - holding me accountable for my actions, giving me guidelines to live by, and disciplining me in a loving manner. Today, be an encourager!

You must go through the fire - FRIDAY APRIL 21

‘I have refined you…for My own sake.’ Isaiah 48:10,11 NKJV

Undercover Boss is a popular TV show where company owners disguise themselves as regular staff members and work with everybody else. Some of the discoveries they make are real eye-openers - leading to changes that make the company more efficient, profitable, and enjoyable for everybody to work in. To ‘understand’ people, you have to ‘stand’ in their shoes. Ezekiel said, ‘Then I came to the captives at Tel Abib…and I sat where they sat, and…the word of the Lord came to me’ (Ezekiel 3:15-16 NKJV).

In order to heal the pain, you must be able to feel the pain. The Bible says Jesus can be ‘touched with the feelings of our infirmities’, because He walked in our shoes (see Hebrews 4:15). He experienced family conflict, rejection, betrayal, loneliness, and hunger. He walked the path you’re on and He knows how you feel; that’s why you can turn to Him when you’re in trouble and get the help you need. ‘For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted’ (Hebrews 2:18 NKJV).

When you offer advice, people want to know if you're speaking out of experience or just head knowledge. So God will permit you to go through experiences you don’t enjoy or understand, to equip you and make you effective in ministering to others. Job said, ‘When he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold’ (Job 23:10 KJV). If you’re in the refiner’s fire today, it’s because God has something He plans to do through you and for you.