Afternoons with Dan

Word For You Today

Livin' on a Prayer (1)

'Seek first the Kingdom of God.' Matthew 6:33 NKJV

It can sometimes seem like everything works against you when it comes to prayer. Shortness of time, unexpected crises, unwanted distractions, sudden temptations, unsettling thoughts. You're not the only one to encounter problems. Various legends of the faith had intrusions into their prayer life.

So what to do? 2 Corinthians 10:5 NLT says, 'We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ.' What does that look like in practice? If you're praying and find a thought sneaking into centre stage (whether it's evil, something tempting, or just plain distracting), mentally point at it, and say, 'No, thought, in Jesus' name, I'm taking you captive! I'm talking to God here!' If it helps you imagine it trapped in a bubble, and put to one side.

You don't have to fight your thoughts, you can just tell them that Jesus is Lord and move on with your conversation with Jesus. And know that God doesn't mind. He's not sitting across from you tapping His watch, frowning when you're dealing with a distraction. 'Capture' it, and turn back to His face.

So what now? Sometime today, spend time in prayer 'seeking God's face'. Sit with Him, knowing He's with you. When distractions pop up, 'take them captive'. (If it's an important thing for later, jot down one word about it and you can go back to it later.)

SoulFood: Luke 24:50-53, Acts 1:1-11, Eph 4:7-10 (Ascension Day)


Help God to Build Up

Has anyone ever assumed you couldn't do something because you were young, or female, or male, or because you'd done something a little silly in the past?

Well, God doesn't underestimate us like that, and He calls us to build people up rather than tear them down. The Bible is full of characters who people expected absolutely nothing from: David was a shepherd boy, Moses was considered an orphan, Elizabeth was an old barren woman, Joseph was the youngest of 12 brothers (bit of a dreamer, too), and yet each played a vital role in God's huge tapestry of a plan. Even Jesus was not regarded as having much of a future - born to a teenage mother and a poor carpenter.

God builds hopeless-looking lives into glorious examples of His goodness. And you're called to reflect that same hope to others. Even in small ways. Every conversation, shared lunch or genuine compliment counts. Next time someone tells you to be 'realistic', remind yourself (and maybe even them) of the adventures God led His people on, freeing them from oppression and from feeling like they were worth nothing. Then give your dreams to God and let Him make you into all that He sees for you.

So what now? Know someone who could do with some encouragement? Pray, and then act: offer a little practical help, take them for lunch, whatever they may need.

Soulfood : Deut 11-13, Matt 8:18-27, Ps 37: 25-31, Prov 12:1-3


Let It Go!

If you're a Doctor Who fan, you might remember when one of the characters had a giant parasite-thing stuck to her back. This creepy, clingy, invisible bug was affecting her in ways she didn't really understand, and was messing up her future. Familiar?

Yes, we've all felt the weight of unwanted baggage, sabotaging our lives and our faith, blinding us to the fact that God has it covered. While the world might tell us that it can't forgive or forget, God gave the ultimate sacrifice. Jesus carried the cross, and the weight of our problems and mess-ups, on His back, so that we never have to be held down by them again. He died for us.

God is not some manipulative meanie who smiles nicely and then uses your past against you. Jesus took your sin and flung it 'as far as the east is from the west' (Psalm 103:12 NIV) because He loves you and is dedicated to forgiving you and forgetting your sin. Yes, he chooses to forget.

So when your head, or those around you, try to suggest that you need to pick up that old, out-of-date baggage and carry it around, remind yourself that it's not yours anymore. Let go of the weight. You've been given a new chance, a fresh start, and life to the full (check John 10:10).

So what now? Is there something in your past that you can't seem to shift? Ask someone else to pray for you about it. Ask if you can pray for anything for them in return.

Soulfood : Deut 8-10, Matt 8:1-17, Ps 37:16-24, Prov 11:30-31


First Move

Two 'marriage advice' type verses shed light on how all relationships, not just the lovey-dovey kind, can work better: be considerate (1 Peter 3:7) and be worthy of respect (1 Timothy 3:11). Any kind of relationship means growing an environment where the relationship works to help both people become better people and get closer to God. That means a whole lot of encouragement and support. Not just when we feel like it, but especially when we don't feel like it. This is perfectly summarised in Jesus' commandment to 'love your neighbour as yourself' (Matthew 22:39 NIV). This means asking God to soften our sharp edges and provide us with the strength, patience and opportunities to show His love to those around us.

Want to work out a tricky relationship, make long-lasting friendships or even just feel loved? Make the first move. When we're prayerfully proactive in a relationship, and willing to drop our own petty disagreements or dislikes for the sake of blessing someone, God will add to it. And no, we don't mean 'become a doormat for someone who isn't willing to show love back.' Sometimes, there's reason to find the way out of a relationship (and if you do feel as though you need to get out, then listen to yourself), but a few steps before that, it's worth considering if you can bless the other person.

So what now? Make the first move. Find out what would bless your partner/friend/colleague/parent. Now go buy/bake/say it.

Soulfood : Deut 5-7, Matt 7:24-29, Ps 37: 8-15, Prov 11:27-29


In His Hands


When your challenges feel massive, it can be tempting to run away, ignore your phone and quit social media... for a day... maybe. But don't be afraid; there's a tried and tested way through for God's followers. When your approach to life is 'Jesus, I want to do this for You, and with You,' then you're in seriously safe hands. Proverbs 16:3 tells us that when whatever we're doing is submitted to God for His direction, His good, and His plan, will always come out on top. With God steering your actions, there's no way His best won't happen.

Of course, you have a part to play. You still need to work at it. Miraculously, God's chosen to give us - mere humans as we are - a part in how His plan works out. So stay focused, and know that He's promised to be there with you.

Whether you have huge plans of your own, or absolutely no idea what you want from life, He's got a future planned out for you. You put effort into those plans, trusting Him with an open and willing heart, and He'll get you there. And when you get to wherever He wants you, it's not just you who'll be filled with a sense of 'rightness', knowing you're where you need to be. Your Father God will delight in watching you grow into the potential He built you with.


So what now? Look over your week's schedule. Pray about each thing on your calendar, committing it to God and asking Him to make it happen in line with His plan.

Soulfood : 2 Kings 4:42-44, Mark 6:30-44


No End of the Line

People give up and they give in: that's just the way they are. But God doesn't and won't. David was made king, and God seemed to regard him pretty highly: '...the Lord has sought out a man after His own heart and appointed him ruler of His people' (1 Samuel 13:14 NIV). But hang on a sec. When we read about the life of David, we see over and over how he turned his back to God: for one, he murdered a man so he could have his wife! Doesn't look like a man chasing after God's heart, does it? David had some pretty obvious weaknesses, but thankfully his mistakes weren't the end of the line.

The key is that David repented and, in turn, God restored him. David said, 'Many are saying of me, "God will not deliver him." But You, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high. I call out to the Lord, and He answers me from His holy mountain' (Psalm 3:2-4 NIV). People didn't think God would deliver him, but David put his trust in God.

God doesn't expect you to be perfect, but He expects you to be willing to trust Him and act on His calls to change. You'll never reach perfection, but every day you have the chance to try and be better than the day before. Don't give up, your deliverance is coming.

So what now? Write about a situation you're facing, and how you see God helping you through. Write it as raw and honestly as you can.

Soulfood : Deut 3-4, Matt 7:15-23, Ps 37:1-7, Prov 11:24-26


Quit the Kicking

No matter how many times a day we kick ourselves, God won't abandon us. We might disappoint our parents or friends and they might shut us out, or give us one of those 'I'm not angry; I'm just... disappointed,' speeches. Don't get us wrong, we can all do things that disappoint God. But God does not get to the end of His tether with our weakness.

Take a look at this: 'At sunset, the people brought to Jesus all who had various kinds of sickness, and laying His hands on each one, He healed them' (Luke 4:40 NIV). Jesus had had a long, busy day. He had to have been exhausted but nevertheless, at the end of the day, people brought their sick to Him and He prayed for each one individually because of His love for them.

Later on Jesus was criticised for helping 'low lifes' and He replied, 'It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance' (Luke 5:31-32 NIV). Jesus came for broken people so He could heal them physically, mentally and emotionally.

At the end of the day, people might desert you or disappoint you, but God will be right there waiting for you no matter how awful you've been. As the verse above says, you must 'know and rely on the love God has for us (you)' because it will be your everything, if you let it.

So what now? Quit kicking yourself! Instead, write a letter to yourself telling yourself how important you are to you, and God.

Soulfood : Deut 1-2, Matt 7:1-14, Ps 2, Prov 11:22-23

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