Afternoons with Ash
1-6pm

Word For You Today

TCS APPLY (3)

The first four of the Ten Commandments are about our relationship with God. Now He turns our attention to our relationships with and attitudes towards other people.

Honour. It's not a word you hear bandied about that often. (Except maybe in Disney's Mulan. Does that count?...No?...) So, what exactly is 'honour'? It means to regard something or someone with great respect. This fifth commandment is calling us to respect our family, and specifically our parents. (Or for you it might be more about your grandparents, your guardians or maybe even church elders.) No matter what your family situation, God is keen to see you respect and love your family in the same way He respects and loves you. He unfalteringly wants your best, and works sacrificially for it. Powerful model.

This commandment is a toughie, because it can be pretty difficult to respect someone if they don't respect you, and yet this honour should be an overflow of our love for Christ. It's in those 'I'm finding it difficult to love you right now, but I am anyway' moments that we learn how Christ-like we can be. And it's by our determination to respect our parents, guardians and families in the midst of difficulties that we show the world what it is to know God. Jesus said '...As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this, everyone will know that you are My disciples...' (John 13:34-35 NIV).

So what now? Write a thank you card to someone you look up to, whether it's a parent/guardian/youth worker/pastor - and try to get the word honour in.

Soulfood : Acts 18-19, Matt 5:1-5, Ps 144:1-8, Prov 11:10-11

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TCS APPLY (2)

Ever walked a curious toddler through the porcelain section of an expensive shop? And spent the entire time saying 'Don't touch that', 'Mind the lady', 'How about we save that lovely windmill impression for outside'? That's kind of like what the Sabbath had become by the time Jesus was around. People had become completely hung up on this huge list of do's and don'ts. That's why Jesus said 'The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of the people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath' (Mark 2:27 NLT). The idea of keeping the Sabbath holy was to allow people to rest and allow God to refresh them.

But hang on; sometimes we, in this age, can be guilty of not keeping the Sabbath. We find ourselves running about all week, nipping to church on the weekend and then hitting the next week faster than you can say 'expensive shops are no place for children'.

So, how do we keep the Sabbath holy? We make time to rest. We slow down and listen out for God. That rest comes by reading His Word, praying, listening to people preach and chatting with other Christians. Only through this stuff will we feel physically and spiritually refreshed.

So what now? Have a read through this verse again: 'The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of the people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath' (Mark 2:27 NLT). Give it a rest and be refreshed.

Soulfood : Acts 16-17, Matt 4:18-25, Ps 7:10-17, Prov 11:7-9

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TCS APPLY (1)

'And God spoke all these words...' Exodus 20:1 NIV

When someone says you can't do something, that's often what we want to do it. Instantly. Aren't the TCs - Ten Commandments - like that? A set of rules humanity is almost destined to break? We reckon there's more to them than just a set of old rules. In fact, there's freedom in obedience, because our relationship with Jesus comes from His grace rather than the law.

The commandments aren't just about wagging the finger and warning us against sin; they teach us about how we should be living:

So, (1) 'You shall have no other gods before Me' (Exodus 20:3 NIV). God is clear on this; it's all about allegiance. You've got to be committed, and that means making Him your priority. It's no mistake that the first commandment is about the most important relationship - you and God. (2) 'You shall not make for yourself an idol' (Exodus 20:4 NLT). Not many of us have a whopping great golden cow statue, but idols can take all sorts of forms. Anything that comes before God in your priorities is an idol. Think about it... (3) 'You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God' (Exodus 20:7 NIV). This isn't just about profanity, it's about what we assign God's name to, it's about wearing the name 'Christian' honourably and prioritising the glory and reputation of the one true God (hence the first two commandments). Clever stuff.

So what now? Challenge time: Before reading Exodus 20 try to write down all Ten Commandments. How did you do? Sneaky hint: they're all about relationships. More tomorrow...


SoulFood: Acts 14-15; Matt 4:8-17; Ps 7:1-9; Pro 11:3-6

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THE EYE-OPENING CHRIST

After Jesus' crucifixion, Cleopas and his friend were on the road that led home to Emmaus. That's when 'Jesus Himself came up and walked along with them.' Their hopes lay buried in a tomb; their belief had turned to doubt. So what did Jesus do? 'Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself' (Luke 24:27 NLT).

Jesus knows that when you're walking the road of doubt, you need to get His Word into you. When you do, three things happen: (1) Your eyes will be opened. 'Then their eyes were opened and they recognised Him (Luke 24:31 NLT). There are things you will only see when God shows them to you through His Word. That's why Bible reading needs to be a priority. (2) Your heart will burn. 'They said to one another, "Didn't our heart burn within us as He talked with us"' (Luke 24:32 NLT)? You're not always going to feel that raging fire for God. Committing to being in God's Word means opening it up even when your heart feels, well, cold. But know for sure that when you seek God, you always find Him (Deuteronomy 4:29). (3) Your mouth will open. 'Then the two told what had happened on the way...' (Luke 24:35 NIV). Getting to know Jesus will make you want everyone around you to know Him, too. Love-fuelled conversations? Yes please.

So what now? Pray that God will open your eyes as you go through your day - to see Him and Him at work in your life and in the lives of others.

Soulfood : Acts 12-13, Matt 4:1-7, Ps 16, Prov 11:1-2

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FLEXI-TIME

Ever been snowboarding or skiing? It's all about knee-flexibility - the key to dealing with all the unexpected turns on the way. Too rigid, and you lose balance and fall over. Analogy-time... We all have ideas about how we'd like our lives to turn out: go to this uni, or get that job. And it's perfectly fine (wise, even) to make plans for where we'd like to go or things we'd like to do. But we have to be careful.

Head to James 4:13-16. (Ouch. James knows how to pack a punch.) James says that we 'boast in our arrogant schemes' (NIV). That's where the problem lies, when it's all about 'me, me, me', and we hold on so tightly to these plans. A good way to tell if our plans are problematic is if we honestly can't imagine our lives without them. And of course, a good job or a loving wifehusbandotherperson is awesome, but we shouldn't need them to have a John 10:10 kind of life. And because nothing (but God) is certain, we never know where we'll end up.

We reckon the help for our daily plans is knee-flexibility. We've got to be checking in with God constantly, to make sure our plans are His plans, and that our attitudes and actions are ones He wants us to have. Basically, praying James 4:15 all the time - 'If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that' (NIV).

So what now? Check in with Jesus. Make 'Jesus, what do You think of my plans?' time today.

Soulfood : Acts 10-11, Matt 3:11-17, Ps 103:13-22, Prov 10:30-32

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GROWING THROUGH DISCOURAGEMENT

No one's life is a bed of roses/free-coffee-vouchers/whatever-your-idea-of-perfect-is. So, when we pretend that we're ok when, for whatever reason, we're not, we help to form this image of perfect lives. It doesn't do anything but, if we're honest, inflate our pride a bit. But, despite what our pride-nature wants us to think, we actually can't get through life and all its discouragements on our own. Proverbs 28:26 says that 'those who trust in themselves are foolish' (NCV). We need God, and we need each other.

Psalm 48:14 declares 'for this God is our God for ever and ever; He will be our guide even to the end' (NIV). This whole Psalm has a lot to teach us about how to deal with discouraging times. The psalmist looks back on how God has already protected them, and they use that to fuel their faith to believe that God will bring them through whatever else will come their way. Wherever we are, God has brought us this far, and He will guide us forward if we depend on Him.

If you're dealing with something, talking about it with someone you trust is really important. Yes, God is your number one, always, but He made you to live in community with others. We are meant to support each other - Paul tells us to 'carry each other's burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ' (Galatians 6:2 NIV).

So what now? Pick a coffee shop (or milkshake or other delicious hangout place). Make two appointments for the week ahead. One you-and-God-date, one with someone you can talk toughstuff with.

Soulfood : Josh 2:1-24, Acts 9:20-30

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WHEN PRAYER'S HARD WORK (1)

'...always struggling on your behalf in his prayers.' Colossians 4:12 ESV

It's perfectly ok, part of human nature, to struggle in prayer. But sometimes, instead of struggling through it, we let the struggles keep us from praying at all. Unfortunately, that's Satan's main plan for us: to keep us from God.

Our prayers, however much we stumble and struggle through them, can have serious power. Look at John 15:7: Jesus says that if we 'remain in Him and His words remain in us' we can 'ask whatever we wish, and it will be done for us' (NIV). But, God is not a cosmic ATM. And prayer is not a punch-in-your-number and hold-out-your-hand kind of deal. We have to let His Spirit fill us with Jesus-desires. And as we read in the Gospels, Jesus' main desire was to bring honour and glory to His Father (John 15:8, for example). When we pray for God's awesomeness to be revealed through us/through our situation, He will always honour that (oh, and that does bring good things for us too, btw. God likes us.).

Not only can our prayers have power to change things around us; they have power to change how we see God. The more time you spend with someone, the easier it is to know how they're feeling or how they'd respond to a certain situation. Our relationship with God works the same. The more time we spend with Him, the easier it is to hear the Holy Spirit tugging at us when we're about to mess up, or to notice Him in the day-to-day stuff.

So what now? Set aside 'listen to God' time today. Give it a go?


SoulFood: Acts 6-7; Matt 2:19-23; Ps 130; Pro 10:24-26

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