Afternoons with Ash

Word For You Today

Words Are Not A Cold, Dead Thing



We hear words like these all the time - words that talk at us but not to us and that want something from us. The world is full of cold words like these, and we even use them on each other. It's sometimes easier to treat people like they're not there. It takes less effort.

But actually, the way we talk to people can make all the difference. The language that we choose to use, and the effort that we put in can be a part of demonstrating God's love to others. God tasks us with being gracious in our words. 'Graciousness' is giving more of ourselves to others than we need to - it's paying attention to people, recognising them especially when we don't have to.

Graciousness in conversation is one of the first markers of an on-fire Christian. It's the difference between nodding with our eyes down when people hold a door open for us, or looking them in the eye and saying, 'Thanks!' It's why people who care for the paralysed and very elderly often make an effort to be friendly to them all the time. When we expect to be treated like an object, kind words can make all the difference. Graciousness in conversation means changing the focus of our words from ourselves to the other person.


So what now? Try switching most of the 'I's' in your conversations to 'You's' - it says to the other person, 'I see you, I know you're there, and you're worth my time.'

Soulfood : Gen 20-23, John 13:1-17, Ps 146, Prov 31:18-21


Make Your Words Like Honey


There's a story about an early-church believer called Ambrose. While he was asleep in his crib as a baby, a swarm of bees settled on his face and clustered round his lips. When his dad arrived, they flew off and left behind a drop of honey on his mouth. Old Man Ambrose, the story goes, nodded sagely and deduced that his son was destined for a life of speaking wise and sweet words. As you do.

Our faith knows all about the power of words to heal and help. Ambrose knew it. Jesus knew it. Way back in the ancient book of Proverbs, the healing and helping power of words is everywhere.

Look at the verses before today's verse: Proverbs 16:20-24. Then think about someone you know who is wise and honest right through to their heart. Doesn't it change how you hear the words they say? And how, if they say good words about you, you feel them right through you? If you're known as someone who always keeps 'small' details, or even big things back from people, then eventually your words will just skim off the surface of your friends and family. But, if you keep speaking from your heart, you'll get respect and trust. The good words you say to them will have a wonderful effect, because they'll know you mean them.


So what now? Smear yourself with honey and run through the streets. Haha, no. Ask God to touch your lips and give you honest and healing words from your heart. You'll discover there's real power in asking God for that.

Soulfood : Gen 17-19, John 12:37-50, Ps 118:19-29, Prov 31:14-17


Word Up


Over the next few days, we'll be getting to grips with the power of words. The power to heal, restore, to bring grace into conversation. Use them wisely and they'll become a tool for blessing others.

Ever said something without thinking that caused hurt or was totally inappropriate? Knowing the right thing to say can sometimes be difficult while, at other times, it's second nature to us. Here's the thing: what we say is formed by what we think, and what we think is formed by what's in our heart. '...As he thinks in his heart, so is he...' (Proverbs 23:7 NKJ). We need to get our mouth, mind and heart aligned with God in order to be able to say the right things at the right times.

When we're in a place to influence someone, it's best to make sure our mind is set in the right place. If we can't help but think how funny it would be if they fall over (literally or metaphorically), perhaps it's not time to offer too much, words-wise. The best alternative is to think encouraging thoughts. Willing that person on, and filling our brains with good thoughts will fill our hearts likewise. And since 'the mouth speaks what the heart is full of' (Luke 6:45 GNT), this kind of heart-filling is a good idea to fulfil the works God has prepared for us to do.


So what now? Nearly every day you will face situations and people who need a 'word' from you. What do you need to fill your heart with to give the best word?

Soulfood : Gen 13-16, John 12:20-36, Ps 118:10-18, Prov 31:10-13


Rules, Rules, Rules


'Christianity just has so many rules'; 'You're missing out on so much because of your faith!' Ring any bells? Sadly many people see Christianity as just that - rules, rules, rules. The Bible does show us God's commands, which require self-control, but rules aren't just there for the sake of it. There's good reason to restrict what we can do and how we can do it. People without rules and self-control become slaves to their emotions, to their desires, to this world.

God's rules give us freedom (sounds backwards, but it's 100% true). Freedom to live as God made us to, not to conform to society's norms. That freedom, however, can only be released if we obey God's rules. The good news is we're not left on our own to do this. God has sent us the Holy Spirit who lives inside us and, if we allow Him to, helps us to exercise self-control.

But self-control isn't just a physical thing; it's a mind thing too. It's one thing to stop ourselves from doing or saying something but it is more difficult to stop ourselves from indulging certain thoughts. Jesus tells us that when we actively think about stuff that isn't healthy, we are just as guilty as if we had actually done it (Matthew 5:28). So let us, with the help of the Holy Spirit, learn self-control for our minds.


So what now? Which of God's commandments or 'rules' do you find hardest to obey? Write it down. Now, write a way that following it could free you from something.

Soulfood : Gen 7-9, John 12:1-11, Ps 114, Prov 31:1-5


From Clay to Pots (2)


Yesterday we looked at God's plan to craft us into all that we can be. And guess what? There's more good news. When we decide to do our own thing, and shut ourselves off from being open to God's will, God is still waiting to shape us.

What stops us from being open to God's work? First up, pride. One of the signs of pride is not accepting help even when we really need it, because we think we can do it alone. And to be honest, that's what we sometimes do with God. There's a lesson from pretty much the whole of humanity: 'Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall' (Proverbs 16:18 ESV). Pride was the first step that Adam and Eve took in believing that they knew better than God. It's tough, but it's a useful warning: we need to watch for areas in our own lives that we keep prideful control over ourselves.

And next up, complacency. Ever been praying for God to touch a part of your life, and He does? But six months later you find yourself struggling with the same thing again. Why's that? Chances are you assumed you had it sorted and stopped keeping check. When you struggle with something, it's rare it will completely disappear. Complacency lets pride slip back in.


So what now? Look back over the last six months of your life. What have you improved on? What have you let slip? Rather than beating yourself up over it (the fact you're looking into it shows that God's Spirit is in your life), allow the Potter to move back in.

Soulfood : Gen 4-6, John 11:45-57, Ps 95, Prov 30:29-33


From Clay to Pots (1)


The process of becoming a pot from a lump of clay can't be a pleasant one. The clay is shaped, left to set, and then put in a furnace. But at no point does the clay stop having a purpose.

Although at times it may be difficult to see what God the Potter is doing with us, He promises that He is. We're a work in progress and the situations we find ourselves in, and the feelings we face, can sometimes feel more important than that, but nothing is stronger than this Potter's commitment to finishing what He began. That said, we have to remember that the Potter has the right to mould us as He sees fit. If the Potter needs a vase, the clay has no right to complain that it dreamt of being a soap dish. The Potter, not the clay, determines the end-product in the same way that the Holy Spirit determines our place and role in the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:18).

God has created us each with an individual purpose. He has given us the things we need to fulfil that purpose and He's preparing us for it. Sometimes we may not know what our purpose is. Sometimes it may even appear that we aren't being prepared at all. But we have the master Potter, and we can trust that He is working something amazing in us.


So what now? Make something today - pottery, building, baking, drawing. Think about how the ingredients and process are as important as the finished product.

Soulfood : Deut 9:13-29, Luke 4:1-13




Want a peek into what 'God's will' is? Hint: some of it's written down. In the Bible. Honestly it is. If we want a good guide for praying in sync with God's will, then praying using His Scripture is a pretty solid start. That Bible also says that: 'This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us...we know that we have what we asked of Him' (1 John 5:14-15 NIV). But. If we've ever prayed for something and not seen it instantly materialise, we must be aware that God grants us what we've asked for, but in His (best) timing. So that may mean waiting...

In the meantime, here are some tips on God's Word: (1) Speak it. Throughout the Old Testament, the prophets reminded God of His promises to Israel using their Scriptures. They didn't think He was forgetful... but they knew the value of saying them out loud. (2) Share it. Deuteronomy 6:6-7 sets it out. Go read someone. (3) Obey it. Chew over this one: Obedience to God's Word is faith in action. Obedience is getting in line with God's plan and, in obedience, we will find that we are increasingly able to ask for things according to His will. Makes sense really.


So what now? What are the things you've asked God for and are waiting for answers on? Focusing on God's will, in prayer, in speech and in obedience, will really help you to see the answers appear more clearly.

Soulfood : Gen 1-3, John 11:38-44, Ps 102:18-28, Prov 30:24-28

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