Afternoons with Ash
4-7pm

Word For You Today

SHAKE OFF THE DUST

We've been quite service-minded for the last few days, so here's a final thought. The doing-it bit. Now, we don't want to give you a guilt trip. Nor do we want to skirt around the edges of what it looks like to take God's 'care-for-everyone-regardless' love to a world that needs it. You see, service (as you might have gathered from the past few readings) is definitely an active thing. But it's up to each one of us to recognise it for ourselves, and be ready to put our effort in.

It's far too easy to get into such a day-in-day-out routine of predictable, comfortable living that we forget that God is willing to use us in world-shaking ways. The challenge is found here: 'So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone' (Galatians 6:10 ESV). And sometimes, those (big/seemingly small) opportunities will come when we really aren't expecting it. We've just got to keep an eye out for the opportunities, and a free hand to be able to take them.

So, the 'serve one another' part of today's verse is a bigger challenge than meets the eye: it needs us to be ready for that thought-poke from God that could change the course of your day/week/month. Leaving your schedule closed to spontaneously taking initiative will result in gathering boring, spiritually dry, dust.

So what now? Been meaning to call a friend or help out somewhere for a while? Been procrastinating about getting something worthwhile done? Now's the time to shake off the dust and do it. You will not regret it!

Soulfood : Jer 22-24, Luke 22:63-71, Ps 31, Prov 8:34-36

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SHADOW SERVICE

Remember yesterday's reading? Yes? Good. Remember that verse about not trying to feel more 'important' than the task at hand? Today we're going a step further - and we'll let Paul do the talking: '...If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ' (Galatians 1:10 NIV).

Ouch. We'll be the first to own up: Offering to help out at home/in halls/wherever you find yourself living might be met by a 'You sure?', followed by your obliging 'Yes, of course, I'll make drinks. How many sugars?' Half an hour later, though, when we aren't met by a round of 'thank yous' from all involved, the prospect of service seems to get a lot bleaker. Got that? Essentially, we like (love?) being noticed by others. Why's that, then? Well, we, as mistake-prone humans, are partial to being a bit proud of ourselves. And if we aren't careful, our motivation for 'doing stuff' will be whether we get the credit for it or not. There. Said it.

Being humble in service is something that requires us to look at God and others more than ourselves. A sweeping cliché to leave you baffled? ...Hopefully not. Service is about starting small: it's not easy, but at the end of the day, we'll have trained ourselves to serve in the shadows when it comes to being 'trusted with much' (Luke 16:10).

So what now? Still up for serving at church this week? (Huh? See yesterday's 'So what Now?') Why not whip up a batch of home-made cookies for another group that spends time serving? Go onnnn. Dare you.

Soulfood : Jer 18-21, Luke 22:54-62, Ps 6, Prov 8:32-33

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WANT SUCCESS? LOWER YOURSELF.

Pastor Andy Stanley says that you don't need character in order to be a great leader. On first sight this clearly looks wrong. When you look into it, it's obvious. History teaches us that lots of people achieve greatness through lying, cheating, stealing, murdering, slandering and backstabbing their way to the top. Just read 1 and 2 Kings - prime material for a hit (and graphic) TV series. The difference is that leaders with character are the ones actually worth following.

Think for a moment about the people you've been inspired by. Most of us are inspired by people of integrity who've gone through suffering with determination, who've proved their greatness through challenges. Jesus is big on that too. Look at His letters to the churches in the first few chapters of Revelation - each one is packed with His shoulder-to-shoulder encouragement to 'Hold on! Keep in there!', and each one ends with the 'rewards' He has planned for people who hang in until they get the victory. That's what we mean by 'leaders with character'.

If your desire is greatness, fame, notability or even notoriety, then learning to serve isn't for you. You'll just grow flabby on fame. But if you want to be one of those leaders who's worth following, then maybe you should begin to learn the true grit of servanthood.

So what now? Paul says that Jesus humbled Himself, and in humbling Himself God exalted Him to the highest place (Philippians 2:5-8). Greatness starts as you humble yourself and take on all the ways of a servant. Serve someone today.

Soulfood : Jer 14-17, Luke 22:24-53, Ps 69:19-36, Prov 8:30-31

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AGAPE

'Through love serve one another.' Galatians 5:13 NKJV

Jesus said something incredible: His disciples would be recognised by their love for each other (John 13:34-35). And He used a special Greek word for love: agape. This distinguishes it from other kinds of love.

Agape's a love that serves, even it isn't served. A love that gives before it receives. A love that forgives before it is forgiven. It's a lavish love that goes beyond the love of a parent for a child, beyond the affection of one friend for another, beyond the attraction of a starry-eyed bridal couple. It's the wildly-outrageous love that comes from God and enables people to overcome their selfish self-centred me-focus and instead give themselves in sacrificial service to strangers.

It's the kind of love that took Jesus to the cross for our sins. It's the kind of love that enables us to follow Jesus' command to do good to our enemies, bless those who hate us and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44). That way, Jesus goes on to say, 'you will be acting as true children of your Father in Heaven. For He gives His sunlight to both the evil and the good, and He sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in Heaven is perfect' (Matthew 5:45-48 NLT).

So what now? What can you do today that shows agape?


SoulFood: Jer 10-13; Luke 22:1-23; Ps 69:1-18; Pro 8:27-29

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KINGDOM COME - PEACE

'God blesses those who work for peace.' Matthew 5:9 NLT

Peace feels like an advert for a brand of tea - some hardworking soul arriving home for a well earned cup of tea. Most of us crave and deeply appreciate the peace that comes as a break from frantic busyness. But the Bible gives a much bigger picture of peace. It's not just relaxing from problems with a nice cuppa.

It's something called 'Shalom'. Shalom is restoration, making amends, making things good, bringing full well-being. Shalom is the world completed. The wholeness of God arriving. It's not stepping back from the world to take a rest, it's taking the world by the scruff of the neck and pulling it forwards into what God wants for it. Shalom means God bringing things to the way He intended, into real peace.

It feels so good to say, 'Aah, that's better', when you put your feet up after a long day. More satisfyingly though, is that feeling of peace that comes when, you've patched up a friendship after an argument, when you've gone out of your way to help a needy person, when your family (or any family-ish group) sits down together for a meal. It takes work to make peace arrive the way God wants, and it takes some knowledge of what He likes. But Shalom is His worked-for peace that brings a really solid satisfaction.

So what now? Work for peace. Be Heaven in your world. Be someone who actively works for peace. Is there conflict in your family? Could you be the one that helps make amends and restores relationships?


SoulFood: Jer 7-9; Luke 21:25-38; Ps 38:13-22; Pro 8:24-26

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KINGDOM COME - MERCY

Jesus taught us to pray 'on earth as it is in Heaven.' The earth-looking-more-like-Heaven thing seems to be fairly central to His whole message. Jesus' life was all about bringing the Kingdom of Heaven near. 'The Kingdom of Heaven' He used here doesn't mean where we go when we die, but places/ people/ homes/ hearts/ communities, on earth. Jesus is all about us advancing that Kingdom, right here, right now.

Sounds abstract! What does that 'advancing' look like? Truthfully - it looks fairly messy. It probably looks like Christians getting our hands dirty; taking ourselves into the not-so-nice places, places we wouldn't normally choose to be; it looks like gradual (sometimes difficult) prayerful work, with real, broken, hurting people.

And, here's the curious thing. We often forget that the Lord's Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13) doesn't end the way we pray it, but by Jesus saying some incredibly challenging words - 'If you forgive, you will be forgiven, if you refuse to forgive, you will not be forgiven.' Wow! To be Heaven to others, we need to start and end by forgiving.

Surely Jesus' challenge to us is clear, then? We really should (we absolutely need) to get over our own judgement if we have any hope of being a part of that Kingdom come.

So what now? What bugged you yesterday? Whether it's a person, a group or a system of some sort, find a practical way to show mercy to (or through?) it. For example, did someone offend you? Send them a text wishing them a great day. Bring the Kingdom of Heaven's love and mercy down to earth today.

Soulfood : Jer 4-6, Luke 21:1-24, Ps 38:1-12, Prov 8:22-23

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WHAT NOW?!

'Why is this happening to me?' Genesis 25:22 NIV

Some of us live waiting - for a specific title or courier-delivered letter - to find out what part we have to play in God's Kingdom. But as Christians we have all already been given a role, an identity to take on, an invitation to accept. Understanding this truth makes sense of what God is doing in our lives.

In the story behind today's verse we find Rebekah asking the question, 'Why is this happening to me?' She's carrying twins and the two babies in her womb keep wrestling with each other. She asks God and He tells her that there are two nations within her womb, and that one will serve the other.

Why me? Why now? This is so difficult, so uncomfortable, so inconvenient. Have you ever found yourself saying these things? Just like for Rebekah, maybe knowing the fact that God's at work would help with these 'So what now?!' moments. The ancient Hebrews had a word they used to help people remember this. 'Kavanah'. Kavanah means to have an awareness of God's purpose and God's presence.

It's about the direction of your heart, knowing that God's already been working out His purpose for your life. Before you needed to ask. If you have a 'kavanah' that God is doing something, and that God is with you, then everything around you changes.

So what now? Bring that question into your situation today: God what are You doing in this? Let me know that You are with me, help me to be aware of Your presence inside whatever I face today. What now, Father?


SoulFood: Jer 1-3; Luke 20:27-47; Ps 55:12-23; Pro 8:19-21

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