Focus on the Positives

Choosing to find positives in tough situations is a skill we’d all like to have—but sometimes there’s something even harder. Trusting God when life seems to be changing so fast we don’t even know if we want to keep up.

Joel Vaughn, Christian pop-rock artist, took some time with the Vision180 team to reflect on trusting God in the face of adversity and unease. He drew attention to the immense changes in his life the Covid-19 pandemic brought. ‘[Covid] totally cancelled all of our tour-dates, so the way we made ends meet went away completely,’ Joel shared. ‘Luckily for me, I work part-time at a church, and I spent more time investing in the ministry than I did when I was out on the road. So it was like, “okay, I can’t do what I used to do, but I can pivot and really focus on things that matter here”…it’s hard to make it from day-to-day if you don’t focus on the positives.’

Stress and anxiety had followed Joel for the last few years. They’d impacted the production and release of a new album he was working on. ‘Last year I was so busy between my part-time job and being out on the road I was wondering how I was ever going to finish the album,’ Joel remembered. ‘You look to the mountain situation in your life and go, “God, how am I going to do this?” It’s overwhelming.’

‘But that’s also kind of where the song, Already Done, came from… I was sitting outside with my family one day and I got a text from a friend of mine, Jonathon, and he had been working on a song with this other guy, and he sent me this idea… and I was like, “This is where I’m at right now. I feel like there’s mountains in my way that are immovable, and the devil is just laughing at me.” And so I called him back… within a couple of days, we had finished the song together.’

What we feel we’ve been called to do can feel like it’s been taken away, but it really hasn’t. It’s just been changed. God is allowing us to do it differently than what we’ve done in the past

Joel reminds us that we never know how we’re ministering to people, right when they need it. ‘Sometimes people don’t realise that when you bring a song to someone, it ministers to them, too. That song ministered to me… it was one of the most encouraging things I had heard in a long time, and not just because I was part of it.’

He was reminded of Matthew 17:20, where the Bible says, ‘He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there.’ And it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”’ Imagine what we could do if we lived with that level of faith every day?

We might feel that in certain situations our calling in God’s ministry is removed completely. Joel’s words can inspire us, though, as he reminds us, ‘What we feel we’ve been called to do can feel like it’s been taken away, but it really hasn’t. It’s just been changed. God is allowing us to do it differently than what we’ve done in the past.’

Life throws unexpected situations at us, and it can easy to feel weighed down by the heaviness around us. But Jesus Himself tells us that, with faith, we can shift those immovable mountains in our lives. If we’re obedient to God, and allow ourselves to trust in Him completely, we will see miracle upon miracle in our lives.

Listen to Louder Than Lies below

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Growth and Goals

‘The way of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, which shines ever brighter until the full light of day.’ Proverbs 4:18 NLT

Phil Cooke writes: ‘Growth is what we do with knowledge. Growth is where we take our knowledge, how we apply it, and how we use it in our everyday lives. Leadership expert John Maxwell taught me long ago to change my orientation from goals to growth. When he said those words, it was a revelation. I’d always learned that goals were important, and I tried and tried to use a system of reaching goals, but I’d always struggled with it. I could see that goals motivated lots of people… but reaching goals always left me empty and unsatisfied. But when John showed me how to focus my attention on growth, everything suddenly fell into place. The process taught me that goals are great, but when we reach a goal, we’re finished. But with growth, it’s a never-ending process—always learning, always moving forward, always achieving… I want to learn and grow until my last breath… Look at the people in your circle of friends. Why do some succeed and others seem to stagnate? Why do some move to higher levels of achievement while others stay at the same place for years at a time? Many people blame the system, the company, or their boss. They blame society, their upbringing, or their past. But a lifetime plan for growth can break through barriers and overcome nearly any obstacle.’

The Bible puts it like this: ‘The way of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, which shines ever brighter until the full light of day.’ And the more they glow, the more they grow!

SoulFood: 2 Kings 16:1–18:16, Mark 15:33–47, Ps 80:1–11, Pr 13:11–12

word4today an adaptation of The Word For Today is authored by Bob and Debby Gass and published under licence from UCB International Copyright © 2021

Today’s Readings

2 Kings 16–18:16

16:1 In the seventeenth year of Pekah the son of Remaliah, Ahaz the son of Jotham, king of Judah, began to reign. Ahaz was twenty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem. And he did not do what was right in the eyes of the LORD his God, as his father David had done, but he walked in the way of the kings of Israel. He even burned his son as an offering, according to the despicable practices of the nations whom the LORD drove out before the people of Israel. And he sacrificed and made offerings on the high places and on the hills and under every green tree.

Then Rezin king of Syria and Pekah the son of Remaliah, king of Israel, came up to wage war on Jerusalem, and they besieged Ahaz but could not conquer him. At that time Rezin the king of Syria recovered Elath for Syria and drove the men of Judah from Elath, and the Edomites came to Elath, where they dwell to this day. So Ahaz sent messengers to Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria, saying, “I am your servant and your son. Come up and rescue me from the hand of the king of Syria and from the hand of the king of Israel, who are attacking me.” Ahaz also took the silver and gold that was found in the house of the LORD and in the treasures of the king’s house and sent a present to the king of Assyria. And the king of Assyria listened to him. The king of Assyria marched up against Damascus and took it, carrying its people captive to Kir, and he killed Rezin.

10 When King Ahaz went to Damascus to meet Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria, he saw the altar that was at Damascus. And King Ahaz sent to Uriah the priest a model of the altar, and its pattern, exact in all its details. 11 And Uriah the priest built the altar; in accordance with all that King Ahaz had sent from Damascus, so Uriah the priest made it, before King Ahaz arrived from Damascus. 12 And when the king came from Damascus, the king viewed the altar. Then the king drew near to the altar and went up on it 13 and burned his burnt offering and his grain offering and poured his drink offering and threw the blood of his peace offerings on the altar. 14 And the bronze altar that was before the LORD he removed from the front of the house, from the place between his altar and the house of the LORD, and put it on the north side of his altar. 15 And King Ahaz commanded Uriah the priest, saying, “On the great altar burn the morning burnt offering and the evening grain offering and the king’s burnt offering and his grain offering, with the burnt offering of all the people of the land, and their grain offering and their drink offering. And throw on it all the blood of the burnt offering and all the blood of the sacrifice, but the bronze altar shall be for me to inquire by.” 16 Uriah the priest did all this, as King Ahaz commanded.

17 And King Ahaz cut off the frames of the stands and removed the basin from them, and he took down the sea from off the bronze oxen that were under it and put it on a stone pedestal. 18 And the covered way for the Sabbath that had been built inside the house and the outer entrance for the king he caused to go around the house of the LORD, because of the king of Assyria. 19 Now the rest of the acts of Ahaz that he did, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah? 20 And Ahaz slept with his fathers and was buried with his fathers in the city of David, and Hezekiah his son reigned in his place.

17:1 In the twelfth year of Ahaz king of Judah, Hoshea the son of Elah began to reign in Samaria over Israel, and he reigned nine years. And he did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, yet not as the kings of Israel who were before him. Against him came up Shalmaneser king of Assyria. And Hoshea became his vassal and paid him tribute. But the king of Assyria found treachery in Hoshea, for he had sent messengers to So, king of Egypt, and offered no tribute to the king of Assyria, as he had done year by year. Therefore the king of Assyria shut him up and bound him in prison. Then the king of Assyria invaded all the land and came to Samaria, and for three years he besieged it.

In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria captured Samaria, and he carried the Israelites away to Assyria and placed them in Halah, and on the Habor, the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes.

And this occurred because the people of Israel had sinned against the LORD their God, who had brought them up out of the land of Egypt from under the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and had feared other gods and walked in the customs of the nations whom the LORD drove out before the people of Israel, and in the customs that the kings of Israel had practiced. And the people of Israel did secretly against the LORD their God things that were not right. They built for themselves high places in all their towns, from watchtower to fortified city. 10 They set up for themselves pillars and Asherim on every high hill and under every green tree, 11 and there they made offerings on all the high places, as the nations did whom the LORD carried away before them. And they did wicked things, provoking the LORD to anger, 12 and they served idols, of which the LORD had said to them, “You shall not do this.” 13 Yet the LORD warned Israel and Judah by every prophet and every seer, saying, “Turn from your evil ways and keep my commandments and my statutes, in accordance with all the Law that I commanded your fathers, and that I sent to you by my servants the prophets.”

14 But they would not listen, but were stubborn, as their fathers had been, who did not believe in the LORD their God. 15 They despised his statutes and his covenant that he made with their fathers and the warnings that he gave them. They went after false idols and became false, and they followed the nations that were around them, concerning whom the LORD had commanded them that they should not do like them. 16 And they abandoned all the commandments of the LORD their God, and made for themselves metal images of two calves; and they made an Asherah and worshiped all the host of heaven and served Baal. 17 And they burned their sons and their daughters as offerings and used divination and omens and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the LORD, provoking him to anger. 18 Therefore the LORD was very angry with Israel and removed them out of his sight. None was left but the tribe of Judah only.

19 Judah also did not keep the commandments of the LORD their God, but walked in the customs that Israel had introduced. 20 And the LORD rejected all the descendants of Israel and afflicted them and gave them into the hand of plunderers, until he had cast them out of his sight.

21 When he had torn Israel from the house of David, they made Jeroboam the son of Nebat king. And Jeroboam drove Israel from following the LORD and made them commit great sin. 22 The people of Israel walked in all the sins that Jeroboam did. They did not depart from them, 23 until the LORD removed Israel out of his sight, as he had spoken by all his servants the prophets. So Israel was exiled from their own land to Assyria until this day.

24 And the king of Assyria brought people from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath, and Sepharvaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the people of Israel. And they took possession of Samaria and lived in its cities. 25 And at the beginning of their dwelling there, they did not fear the LORD. Therefore the LORD sent lions among them, which killed some of them. 26 So the king of Assyria was told, “The nations that you have carried away and placed in the cities of Samaria do not know the law of the god of the land. Therefore he has sent lions among them, and behold, they are killing them, because they do not know the law of the god of the land.” 27 Then the king of Assyria commanded, “Send there one of the priests whom you carried away from there, and let him go and dwell there and teach them the law of the god of the land.” 28 So one of the priests whom they had carried away from Samaria came and lived in Bethel and taught them how they should fear the LORD.

29 But every nation still made gods of its own and put them in the shrines of the high places that the Samaritans had made, every nation in the cities in which they lived. 30 The men of Babylon made Succoth-benoth, the men of Cuth made Nergal, the men of Hamath made Ashima, 31 and the Avvites made Nibhaz and Tartak; and the Sepharvites burned their children in the fire to Adrammelech and Anammelech, the gods of Sepharvaim. 32 They also feared the LORD and appointed from among themselves all sorts of people as priests of the high places, who sacrificed for them in the shrines of the high places. 33 So they feared the LORD but also served their own gods, after the manner of the nations from among whom they had been carried away.

34 To this day they do according to the former manner. They do not fear the LORD, and they do not follow the statutes or the rules or the law or the commandment that the LORD commanded the children of Jacob, whom he named Israel. 35 The LORD made a covenant with them and commanded them, “You shall not fear other gods or bow yourselves to them or serve them or sacrifice to them, 36 but you shall fear the LORD, who brought you out of the land of Egypt with great power and with an outstretched arm. You shall bow yourselves to him, and to him you shall sacrifice. 37 And the statutes and the rules and the law and the commandment that he wrote for you, you shall always be careful to do. You shall not fear other gods, 38 and you shall not forget the covenant that I have made with you. You shall not fear other gods, 39 but you shall fear the LORD your God, and he will deliver you out of the hand of all your enemies.” 40 However, they would not listen, but they did according to their former manner.

41 So these nations feared the LORD and also served their carved images. Their children did likewise, and their children’s children—as their fathers did, so they do to this day.

18:1 In the third year of Hoshea son of Elah, king of Israel, Hezekiah the son of Ahaz, king of Judah, began to reign. He was twenty-five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned twenty-nine years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Abi the daughter of Zechariah. And he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, according to all that David his father had done. He removed the high places and broke the pillars and cut down the Asherah. And he broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made, for until those days the people of Israel had made offerings to it (it was called Nehushtan). He trusted in the LORD, the God of Israel, so that there was none like him among all the kings of Judah after him, nor among those who were before him. For he held fast to the LORD. He did not depart from following him, but kept the commandments that the LORD commanded Moses. And the LORD was with him; wherever he went out, he prospered. He rebelled against the king of Assyria and would not serve him. He struck down the Philistines as far as Gaza and its territory, from watchtower to fortified city.

In the fourth year of King Hezekiah, which was the seventh year of Hoshea son of Elah, king of Israel, Shalmaneser king of Assyria came up against Samaria and besieged it, 10 and at the end of three years he took it. In the sixth year of Hezekiah, which was the ninth year of Hoshea king of Israel, Samaria was taken. 11 The king of Assyria carried the Israelites away to Assyria and put them in Halah, and on the Habor, the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes, 12 because they did not obey the voice of the LORD their God but transgressed his covenant, even all that Moses the servant of the LORD commanded. They neither listened nor obeyed.

13 In the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah, Sennacherib king of Assyria came up against all the fortified cities of Judah and took them. 14 And Hezekiah king of Judah sent to the king of Assyria at Lachish, saying, “I have done wrong; withdraw from me. Whatever you impose on me I will bear.” And the king of Assyria required of Hezekiah king of Judah three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold. 15 And Hezekiah gave him all the silver that was found in the house of the LORD and in the treasuries of the king’s house. 16 At that time Hezekiah stripped the gold from the doors of the temple of the LORD and from the doorposts that Hezekiah king of Judah had overlaid and gave it to the king of Assyria.

Mark 15:33–47

33 And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. 34 And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 35 And some of the bystanders hearing it said, “Behold, he is calling Elijah.” 36 And someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” 37 And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. 38 And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. 39 And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”

40 There were also women looking on from a distance, among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. 41 When he was in Galilee, they followed him and ministered to him, and there were also many other women who came up with him to Jerusalem.

42 And when evening had come, since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the Sabbath, 43 Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God, took courage and went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. 44 Pilate was surprised to hear that he should have already died. And summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he was already dead. 45 And when he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the corpse to Joseph. 46 And Joseph bought a linen shroud, and taking him down, wrapped him in the linen shroud and laid him in a tomb that had been cut out of the rock. And he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. 47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid.

Psalm 80:1–11

To the choirmaster: according to Lilies. A Testimony. Of Asaph, a Psalm.

80:1   Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel,
    you who lead Joseph like a flock.
  You who are enthroned upon the cherubim, shine forth.
    Before Ephraim and Benjamin and Manasseh,
  stir up your might
    and come to save us!
  Restore us, O God;
    let your face shine, that we may be saved!
  O LORD God of hosts,
    how long will you be angry with your people’s prayers?
  You have fed them with the bread of tears
    and given them tears to drink in full measure.
  You make us an object of contention for our neighbors,
    and our enemies laugh among themselves.
  Restore us, O God of hosts;
    let your face shine, that we may be saved!
  You brought a vine out of Egypt;
    you drove out the nations and planted it.
  You cleared the ground for it;
    it took deep root and filled the land.
10   The mountains were covered with its shade,
    the mighty cedars with its branches.
11   It sent out its branches to the sea
    and its shoots to the River.

Proverbs 13:11–12

11   Wealth gained hastily will dwindle,
    but whoever gathers little by little will increase it.
12   Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
    but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.

Sat 12 June, 2021


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