Afternoons with Dan

Word For You Today

The last spike

'I press on towards the goal to win the prize...' Philippians 3:14 NIV

Here's a little history lesson: in 1863, work began on the building of the First Transcontinental Railroad, a much-needed 3,000km link between Nebraska and San Francisco. When building started someone suggested a ceremony be held to commemorate the occasion, but one of the biggest backers of the railroad put an end to those plans, saying, 'Anybody can drive the first spike, but there are months of labour and unrest between the first and last spike.' He didn't want to draw attention to the start and knew the finishing of the railroad was of far more significance. The railroad was completed in 1869 with a 'Last Spike' ceremony, using a golden spike, and a telegram informing the President.Starting something new can be difficult; but finishing is usually more difficult! How many people have a half- written book in their drawer or a half-decorated room in their house. How many people have started to learn an instrument or a language or bought expensive running shoes determined to get fit? Every day thousands of people start new things but never even see the end in sight.Paul was thinking ahead to the last spike, and said 'I press on toward the goal to win the prize...' (Philippians 3:14 NIV).So what now? Instead of starting something you have no intention of finishing, how about asking God what he wants you to do, and do it with all your might? He'll help you finish and drive in the 'last spike'.

Soulfood: 1 Sam 1-3, Matt 21:33-46, Ps 59:9-17, Prov 16:23-26


Breakthrough on 'one of those days'

'...I lift my eyes to you, O God enthroned in Heaven.' Psalm 123:1 NLT

The experience: It's one of those days... everything seems to be going wrong, life has a distinct feeling of badness about it and God seems to have vanished entirely. Satan will try and use 'one of those' days to bring up your insecurities, and tell you lies about your relationships or the way you spend your time. Everything will become negative and about you: 'Nothing ever goes right for me', 'God loves everyone except me'. You'll be wondering if you'll ever get out of this situation.The truth: God does love you, he is with you, and he is here to help. You're not so special that you're the only one to get left out! It's these days in life that challenge, change and grow you. How you react to 'those days' now has a lasting impact on how you live your life from now on.So what now? So, on 'one of those days' you have a choice: Believe the lies and spend the day wallowing in self-pity, and not push through; or, turn your focus to Jesus and choose not to believe the lies. To say, 'God, I feel rubbish. I don't understand you but I know you are God, and I know you love me and I'm going to worship you anyway', takes a lot of faith and opens the way for a new way of thinking. By doing this every time you wake up on the negative side, you will be well on your way to breakthrough.

Soulfood: Song 5-8, Matt 21:18-32, Ps 59:1-8, Prov 16:20-22


Keep the fires stoked

'That I may know him...' Philippians 3:10 NKJ

Luke gives us an amazing description of a lady called Anna, who recognised Jesus as being the Son of God: 'Anna, a prophet, was also there... She was now very old... she had been a widow for 84 years. Anna never left the temple courtyard but worshiped day and night by fasting and praying. At that moment she came up to Mary and Joseph and began to thank God. She spoke about Jesus to all...' (Luke 2:36-38 GWT). Anna never stopped searching for God!What a challenge to people who get older and never get any further or deeper with God! Sadly, as many people 'grow up' and get older the fire begins to burn out and they can easily spend the second half of their life never moving forward, never going deeper and never reclaiming their lost passion. This happens for many reasons: like disappointment - they haven't seen promises of God happen or feel they've been let down by him some way; or because other things, like relationships, children, work etc, take a higher priority!The crazy thing is that it's obvious if you want to stop an actual fire going out, you put more fuel on it! Anna never left the temple for 84 years, now that's stoking the fire!So what now? As a young person you have a choice about the way you live your life. You can put things in place to make sure that the fire keeps being stoked. Set aside time to seek God and make sure that's your 'No.1 Priority', for life!

Soulfood: Esther 4:9 - 5:3, Heb 4:7-16


Developing spiritual discipline

'Watch your life and doctrine closely.' 1 Timothy 4:16 NIV

'Spiritual discipline' - two of our not so favourite words? What does it mean? It means making ourselves do stuff that doesn't come easily in order to know God more. It doesn't sound like much fun, and often it's not, but it's absolutely essential if we want to get anywhere with God! It's important to remember that Satan will make you think it's really hard and not worth it so you don't even try. In reality though, as you become closer to God, it's totally worth everything you found hard to get there!Developing spiritual discipline is demanding, mostly done in secret and usually humbling. Demanding? Absolutely. It means being stricter with yourself than you want to be. You need to think about your speech, relationships, life choices and, if they're not good enough, change them! Done in secret? Yes! Telling everyone everything that's going on is not wise. A good sign of wisdom is someone who thinks carefully before they speak! Humbling? Oh yes! Realising your weaknesses and the areas you need to change and grow in is never easy! Spiritual discipline means that you stick with process while others make excuses and fall away.Listen to Paul: '...So I run with purpose in every step. I am not just shadowboxing. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should. Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified' (1 Corinthians 9:26-27 NLT).So what now? Spiritual discipline! You can do it! And it's totally worth it!

Soulfood: Song 1-4, Matt 21:1-17, Ps 21, Prov 16:16-19


God knows your name

'...He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.' John 10:3 NLT

When we see a flock of sheep, we see exactly that - a flock. All the same. Shepherds disagree; to them every sheep has a story and every face a name. When we see a crowd of people, we can think like we do about that flock of sheep - all the same. Jesus disagrees; to him every person has a story and every face a name.'I have written your name on my hand...' (Isaiah 49:16 NCV). Wow! Your name - on God's hand, where he sees it constantly. You may have seen your name on some impressive things - a trophy or certificate or in your local newspaper - but on God's hands? That's quite a thought! That means what matters to you, matters to God. You probably think that's true when it comes to big stuff like death, illness, sin or disaster. But what about the little stuff like driving lessons, arguments with your friends or a little cold?The apostle John writes: '...we really are his children...' (1 John 3:1 NCV). It's almost like John knew some of us would shake our heads and think 'Don't be silly. Maybe Mother Teresa or my pastor, but not me!' If that is what you think then this word really is for you: 'We really are his children'.So what now? Get this: you are God's child. That means he's your parent. As a parent, if it's important to your kids then it's important to you. How much more is that true when God is the parent! Try to hold onto that truth today.

Soulfood: 2 Cor 11:16 - 13:14, Matt 20:29-34, Ps 17, Prov 16:12-15


No unity no blessing

'...for the people worked with all their heart.' Nehemiah 4:6 NIV

In Nehemiah Chapter 3, Nehemiah is given permission to rebuild the broken walls of Jerusalem. How did he do it? Teamwork. Nehemiah brought together every group he could find, from priests to perfume-makers, and each group rebuilt their own section of the wall. Alone it was impossible but together they achieved what everyone said they couldn't.Notice some things about teamwork: (1) Team members must care for one another. In football you have to pass the ball! If a player goes for glory, refusing to pass to an unmarked man in a better position, chances are he will lose the ball. No team member is more important than another. (2) The team must communicate. During Hurricane Katrina in the USA in 2005, hundreds died while those who could have rescued them stood by. Why? Communication broke down. (3) Your 'rights' must take second place. The success of the team outweighs the success of the individual. If you think 'I'll do it myself so I know it's done right,' you're robbing others of the chance to take part and grow.If Nehemiah had tried to build the wall himself with his own team, it wouldn't have happened. It was through encouraging everyone to play their own unique part that the wall got built. Every section probably looked a bit different, but the city was secure, and that was the goal!So what now? Is there an area in your life where there's some disunity? Get together with the 'team members' and work towards a solution together - you'll see success from working in unity.

Soulfood: 2 Cor 9:1 - 11:15, Matt 20:17-28, Ps 8, Prov 16:8-11


The need for appreciation

'Encourage one another and build each other up...' 1 Thessalonians 5:11 NIV

After 30 years of marriage his wife was ready to throw in the towel. 'I have had it living with you. You never tell me you love me.' The husband replied, 'I told you I loved you when we got married; if I change my mind I'll let you know.' Way too many leaders expect their followers to run on autopilot like this husband does of his wife. They don't get that people do much better if they think they're appreciated. We are all working for a 'well done' on that final day but, still, God expects us to pat each other on the back along the way. Paul wrote 'Encourage one another and build one another up...' (1 Thessalonians 5:11 NIV).It may seem that some people happily do life without the need for encouragement, but even the strongest person needs a little boost. Sometimes people may not know what to do when you encourage them, but if you do it often enough, it will sink in.Go out of your way to encourage people! A quick phone call or email saying, 'You're doing a good job at...' or a kind word when you see them may be exactly what they need at that moment.So what now? Are you in need of some encouragement today? In Psalm 17:8, David says to God, 'Keep me as the apple of your eye.' And you are also the apple of God's eye. And then in Psalm 18:19, David says, 'He rescued me because he delighted in me.' God. Thinks. You. Are. Awesome.

Soulfood: 2 Cor 5-8, Matt 20:1-16, Ps 144:9-15, Prov 16:4-7

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