The River with Dan

Sundays with Joy

Word For You Today


In the film The Matrix, Neo discovers that his mind has the ability to create and affect the world around him. He can withstand bullets, jump 100ft gaps, and bend spoons - just by focusing every ounce of his mental energy on the 'truth'. He learns the hard way that the moment he loses sight of that truth, the world around him has the ability to crush him. The battle is primarily in his mind.

The Bible says that the truth (salvation, rather than sci-fi) sets you free (John 8:32 NIV). And this is an ongoing event. Your mind is a battleground, and knowing Jesus doesn't make you immune to very real attacks of despair, fear or self-pity. Sometimes, we just don't have the mental energy, and that's ok. But the ability to remind yourself of His truth in the middle of the turmoil is the difference between 'withstanding bullets' or not.

There are many verses in the Bible that exist to make you strong when the world tries to crush you. One example is in Exodus 14:13-14 (NKJ): 'Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today... The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.' Did you feel your faith bubble up when you read it? That's the kind of truth to build your life on.

So what now? Lay your battles - your hopelessness, fear, hurt, discouragement - out before God today. Declare with certainty: 'I will not be afraid. The Lord God Himself will fight for me'. Withstand those bullets using God's truth.

Soulfood : Lev 23:33-44, Jn 7:1-40, Zech 14:16-21



'I knew you were trouble when you walked in'. No, this Taylor Swift lyric isn't in the Bible, but - hey - at least she had her eyes open wide enough to spot trouble when it was headed her way. Do you? We're told not to worry about our lives (Matthew 6:25), but it's also vital not to be naïve. Wearing a WWJD wristband does not make you exempt from life's issues - and if Jesus says trouble is a certainty, you can bet you'll have your very own Taylor Swift lyric-worthy moments.

You could encounter any number of testing scenarios - health issues, relationship breakdowns, money worries - things that could potentially stare you out and threaten to take you down. But the second half of today's verse in John 16:33 is the ultimate save-the-day line. Jesus says: 'But take heart! For I have overcome the world.'

Note: Jesus doesn't say that all the trouble will evaporate. Instead, He's pointing you out to the bigger picture - a picture of the end game. You don't need to sit there paranoid and wondering when the next battle is coming, because He told you 2,000 years ago that it's already taken care of. And just in case there's any doubt about the outcome, here's a hint: you in Him = win.

So what now? Read Ephesians 6:10-20 to remind yourself of the spiritual weapons you have at your disposal when you are with God. Armour up and beat that trouble!

Soulfood : Ex 10-12, Jn 1:29-42, Ps 29, Prov 26:4-6



If you type 'The Bible or the Bard' into an internet search engine, you'll find a number of quizzes testing your knowledge on the origin of well known phrases: either from the Bible or Shakespeare works. They are fun to do, but also a reminder as to whether we've spent more time in the sonnets or the psalms.

So here's where we level up and get serious. The Bible is so much more than just a collection of snappy catchphrases. Paul says to Timothy, 'Study and be eager and do your utmost to present yourself to God approved (tested by trial), a workman who has no cause to be ashamed, correctly analysing and accurately dividing [rightly handling and skilfully teaching] the Word of Truth' (2 Timothy 2:15 AMP). That's a tricky verse to get your head around, but it basically says 'Get your head in the Bible. Know it. Understand it. Tell others about it.' That doesn't mean just memorising the bits of the Word that give you the warm fuzzies. It means studying the bits you'd rather skip. Why? Because time and again we're told that God's Word - all of it - is a 'light', and not only for us, but for those around us too.

So what now? This week, choose a book of the Bible to study. Work through it from start to finish, perhaps making notes as you go. How does it differ from dipping in and out of Scripture? Does it help to put verses into a wider context?

Soulfood : Ex 7-9, Jn 1:14-28, Ps 92, Prov 26:1-3



There's a hilarious bit in Adrian Plass's book, 'The Sacred Diary of Adrian Plass, aged 37', where Adrian opens up his Bible at random in search of some encouragement, and lands on 'The dogs licked up the blood' (1 Kings 21:19, in case you wondered...). Not exactly the words of promise he'd hoped for!

Do you ever do that? - wait until you're upstream without a paddle and then go frantically scrambling for random scriptures? Do you ever treat the Bible a bit like a lucky dip? "Must find a verse - ANY VERSE - to make me feel better!" Psalm 19:8 tells us that God's Word 'makes our hearts glad', that His commands 'give us light'. But why wait until you're in the middle of darkness to go lucky dipping for light?

Instead, the Psalms say things like 'store up the word' (Psalms 119:10-11) and Job says 'I have treasured the words...' (Job 23:12). Storing and treasuring take time and dedication, but it's totally worth it for the sake of not getting into a flap when trouble comes.

So what now? How many Bible verses do you know off by heart, not including John 3:16? Have you counted more than three? It's not a crime to not know the scriptures word-for-word, but there will be times when it helps heaps to have those promises already stored in your head. Writing them down or saying them out loud might help you to memorise them.

Soulfood : Ex 4-6, Jn 1:1-13, Ps 63, Prov 25:26-28




Remember playing pin the tail on the donkey as a kid? As soon as that blindfold went on and they started to spin you around, your other senses would go into overdrive to try and compensate. Could you sniff your way to victory?

The world teaches us to rely on the stuff we can see and sense to be able to find our way, so when one or more of those abilities fails or is damaged, we end up 'pinning tails' nowhere close to target. But what if someone you trusted guided you all the way? What if you had a mate who whispered 'Left a bit...straight ahead...up an inch!' in your ear? Yes, it'd probably get you disqualified (in that game), but you'd also land right where you're supposed to. Knowing and trusting God's Word is a bit like that (except it's not cheating!).

There will be loads of times in life that you'll need to 'pin a tail' blind, when you won't be able to see clearly ahead, but you'll still need to make wise choices. Taking the time to know what the Bible says about the things you might face is vital - it means that when all your senses fail, you're still right on course.


So what now? Proverbs 3:5-6 says: 'Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.' That is a promise you can trust, for your life.

Soulfood : Heb 11:8-12, Gen 17:1-27, Gen 22:1-18, Jas 2:21-24




Hey you! Come out from behind that plant. Metaphorically speaking. In Genesis 3:8, Adam and Eve knew they'd done wrong. They were so terrified of the consequences that they went and hid behind some trees. It didn't work too well, though. God's a pretty good finder.

So, why do we still try to hide? When that 'sin' happens, we can often try our very best to avoid God. We don't want to face telling Him about it, or dealing with the aftermath. We don't want to experience His disappointment in us. Or our own disappointment in ourselves. It's easier to just keep our mouths shut, and hope that we can carry on without having to face Him.

But that's not God's plan. Life with Him isn't some sort of monstrous game of hide and seek. Take a look at Genesis 3. When God found Adam and Eve, He started a conversation. He dealt with their mess. Then (in the first verse of chapter 4), He still helped them. You see, there are always going to be consequences for our mistakes. But, when we take them to God and ask Him to deal with them, there's still life with Him in and after those consequences.


So what now? Trust God's justice. Be honest with Him about your mistakes. Deal with the consequences. And watch Him still make something beautiful out of your life.

Soulfood : Lev 16, Lev 23:26-32 , Heb 9:1-14, Heb 13:11-16



If you've ever met Christians (we're guessing you have :)), you've probably heard the 'I'm praying for you' response to a rough situation. Maybe you've even said it yourself. The problem is, 'I'm praying for you' can be a good conversational filler (a cliché) when we don't know what else to say, and we may not even end up saying a prayer for them. Next time, instead of saying those words, we could pray for the person right there and then.

There's something so supernaturally powerful about praying for others. In 1 Samuel 7:5, Samuel prayed for the people around him, and it made such a difference (read the full story in 1 Samuel 7:3-12). You see, when we stand by someone in prayer, God takes note. And He acts. We don't always know how He's going to sort a situation out, but we can bank on the fact that He will.

While we're talking about prayer, it's good to be thankful to the people who say they are praying for us and who actually do! They are going out of their way to take up the weapon that God offers and stand alongside us.

So what now? There's a fairly strong possibility that someone in your life is facing something really difficult. Call them, or send them a text or an email, and tell them you're praying for them, and actually put the time in to pray! Prayer will help them.

Soulfood : Ex 1-3, Lk 24:45-53, Ps 51, Prov 25:23-25

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