Afternoons with Dan

Word For You Today

Heart And Focus

'...Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made.' Luke 10:40 NIV Martha welcomed Jesus and His disciples into her house. That's a great start, but she got caught up doing the little things. Whereas her sister, Mary, 'sat at the Lord's feet listening to what He said' (Luke 10:39 NIV). The next verse says Martha got 'distracted'. Jesus was in her house; the focus at that time really needed to be on Him. But let's not be too hard on Martha because, if we're honest, we've all been focused on something that isn't the main thing. Martha, quite understandably, got angry that Mary wasn't helping and went to Jesus for backup: '"Lord, don't You care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!" "Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed - or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her"' (Luke 10:40-42 NIV). Hmm. Martha's heart was in the right place, but Mary knew where to put her heart and her focus. When God's speaking to you, or you feel He wants to guide you somewhere, don't get anxious about the logistics. Go to His feet first, and the rest will take care of itself. So what now? Write down the things you do on a regular basis, and note the role they play in your relationship with Jesus. If any draw focus away from Him, pray through whether you should drop them or not.

Soulfood: 1 Cor 10-11, Mark 16:9-20, Ps 68:19-35, Prov 25:17-20


Do You Know Him

'...without Me you can do nothing.' John 15:5 NKJ 'Without Me you can do nothing,' said Jesus, letting us know that the only way to live life right is through knowing Him. This can seem confusing at worst and a little irritating at best! But when we get to know who Jesus is, it begins to make sense. Preacher SM Lockridge's once gave a six-and-a-half minute description of Jesus. Listen to what he said (search on YouTube for the whole thing. It's worth it!). Here's a snippet: 'He's...the King of Kings...the Lord of Lords...the greatest phenomenon that has ever crossed the horizon of this world...the centrepiece of civilisation...the only one qualified to be an all-sufficient Saviour...He strengthens and sustains...He guards and He guides...He heals the sick...He forgives sinners...He blesses the young...He's the key to knowledge...His life is matchless...His love never changes...His word is enough...His grace is sufficient...He's indescribable, He's incomprehensible, He's invincible, He's irresistible...You can't outlive Him and you can't live without Him...Death couldn't handle Him and the grave couldn't hold Him...Do you know Him?' The more you get to know Jesus, the more incredible He becomes. The more you know Him, the more you know that 'without Jesus you can do nothing.' So what now? Whether you've known Jesus for two minutes or two decades, make it your mission to know Him better. You can never stop discovering more of Him. Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, '... He has... set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.'

Soulfood: 1 Cor 7-9, Mark 16:1-8, Ps 68:1-18, Prov 25:13-16


God or Money

'...You cannot serve both God and Money.' Matthew 6:24 NIV The Bible is full of stories with unexpected twists. Case study: Exodus 32. All the Israelites have witnessed a serious case of God kicking Pharaoh's backside and yet here they are by Exodus 32 giving thanks and praise to a gold cow! If the Israelites had a brain between them at this point, it would probably fit comfortably into a matchbox. C'mon, how does a chunk of metal with udders compare to the almighty Creator of the universe? Wow, those old-time Israelites sure had it all wrong... not like us wonderfully wise Christians today, hey? Hmm... wonder what those way-back-when Israelites would make of the little rectangles of precious plastic we feed into holes in the wall. This is all about the money, of course. That's our main rival to God, isn't it? We make such a big deal about earning, spending and saving we may as well be giving it our full worship. We see money as the key to comfort, the ticket to happiness and the voucher to security. But happiness is not to be found in the 'ker-ching' of a cash till. Listen: 'Don't be obsessed with getting more material things. Be relaxed with what you have. Since God assured us, "Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you"' (Hebrews 13:5 NIV). So what now? So what's your big deal about: God or money? If it's money (whether wanting more or wondering how to spend it), have a talk to Him today about resetting your priorities.

Soulfood: Eph 5:21-33, S of S 2:1-7, Ps 45, Prov 5:15-19


Choose To Be Found

'I will arise and go to my father...' Luke 15:18 NKJ Look up the story of the lost son in Luke 15:11-32. Read it? Good. Now the father in the story would do anything to have his son back with him, but he doesn't send a search party to kidnap him back. No, the choice has to be the son's. God doesn't force His agenda on us, as if we're His prisoners of war, or helpless subjects of a dictatorship; He empowers us to make our own choice. The son realised living in a pig-pen was no life at all. He came to his own realisation. The son should never have been in the pig-pen in the first place. His choices landed him there. Dad seemed too boring and home like a bunch of rules, all work and no play. Surely, he thought, there's a better life on the outside, far away from dad's estate. That's what had driven our prodigal 1000 kilometres from being able to borrow dad's car or celebrating in style on his birthday. What about you? You were born for a palace, not a pig-pen; have you realised that yet? Have you also realised the grass isn't always greener elsewhere? So what now? Does it feel like you're lost, 1000 km away from where you should be right now? The reality is you're just a prayer away from God's outstretched arms. Why don't you turn to page 55 of this booklet and pray that prayer right now? Choose to be found.

Soulfood: 1 Cor 4-6, Mark 15:33-47, Ps 91, Prov 25:9-12


Five Great Don'ts

'...Get understanding.' Proverbs 4:7 NKJ

Today, five lessons about life that can make a huge difference:

(1) Don't worry, just do your best. God accepts no less, but He demands no more. 'Trust in the Lord, and do good... and He shall give you the desires of your heart' (Psalm 37:3-4 NKJ)

(2) Don't rush, do it right. 'Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity, but hasty shortcuts lead to poverty' (Proverbs 21:5 NLT)

(3) Don't believe something is impossible without trying it. When you are in God's will, doing things God's way, sensitive to His timing and willing to stick at it, your problems are just a platform for Him to work on your behalf: '...We must wait patiently and confidently' (Romans 8:25 NLT)

(4) Don't waste your time. Put first things first and ask yourself, 'What is it that only I can do, or do best?' Only when you've answered that question will you know what you should do.

(5) Don't just talk about it. Lots of people have good intentions but those intentions have to become actions. Get specific about your diet and your devotions, your finances and your family. 'If it's to be, it's up to me.' Write those words on a card and read them regularly. James writes: ' by itself, if it does not have works, is dead' (James 2:17 NKJ).

So what now? Why not write these five lessons where you can see them and see what a difference doing the don'ts makes in your life.

Soulfood: I Cor 1-3, Mark 15:21-32, Ps 13, Prov 25: 4-8


Discover Your Gifts

'God has given us different gifts for doing certain things well.' Romans 12:6 NLT On 12 September we talked about spiritual gifts. We mentioned that love is the most important foundation brick: without it we might as well not bother with spiritual gifts at all. Got that? But, how do we know what spiritual gifts we have? Well, God didn't design us to exist alone. So a good way to get clues is by asking God, and asking others. First up, obviously: get God's input. You didn't create yourself, so you won't always be able to tell yourself what you were created for. But God can, and He will. 'But if any of you needs wisdom, you should ask God for it. He is generous and enjoys giving to all people... But when you ask God, you must believe and not doubt. Anyone who doubts is like a wave in the sea, blown up and down by the wind' (James 1:5-6 NCV). Secondly: ask some of your most trusted, Christian friends what they think your spiritual gifts might be. It's hard to see your own gifts sometimes because you're so used to being yourself that you take the things you do for granted. Other people can help by pointing out what you do that's specifically 'you'. And that can be a pointer to the gifts God's given you that you never knew you had or might have overlooked: hospitality? preaching? healing? When you ask, you'll probably find that people are delighted to help. So what now? Ask God and ask others about your spiritual gifts. Then use those gifts with love.

Soulfood: Zech 12-14, Mark 15:12-20, Ps 54, Prov 25:1-3


Your Real Motives 2

'My son [my daughter], be wise, and make my heart glad.' Proverbs 27:11 NKJ Sometimes our real motives can hide themselves really well. Like when we're praying for someone and suddenly realise that our prayer's gone full-blast sermon. Or when we offer to help on the church roster just when it overlaps with someone who happens to be more than a bit cute. 'The heart is deceitful above all things,' says Jeremiah 17:9 ESV - he's probably on to something. Yesterday we read about how motives like feeling needed, respected and wanted can compete with the motive of love for Christ. But when we decide in our hearts that love for Christ is our main drive in life, then we're getting rid of the competition. In our relationships, in our life plans, in the choice of what we spend that spare $5 in our pocket on, we make space for a simpler way to live. When joy in God is a first-thing-in-the-day matter, it filters naturally into all that we do. That doesn't mean our motives will always be 100% accurate, and it's not that life situations get simpler. But it does mean that we're happier and can trust ourselves in everyday decisions. Want some Bible encouragement for that? Go to Proverbs 17:22: having a heart rooted in joy is a remedy to the gloom in this world. So what now? Look back at your free-writing from yesterday. Reflecting on it, write some answers to these questions: What surprised you? What didn't surprise you? (Top tip: free-writing then reflecting on your writing after a day's break is a great way to journal.)

Soulfood: Zech 9-11, Mark 15:1-11, Ps 52, Prov 24:32-34

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