The River with Dan

Sundays with Joy

Word For You Today


'Forgive us our sins, just as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us' (Matthew 6:12 NLT). God is holy. When we enter His presence, we soon realise we are not. Glossing over our mini-mistakes and little lapses might work in our own heads, but won't get us anywhere with the God known as Righteousness (1 Corinthians 1:30). Best be straight with Him: God isn't waiting to rap you on the knuckles. He's waiting to restore you. To give you back your dignity. But He can't sort the problem if you're denying it. Tell it straight and He'll straighten you out. Guaranteed.

There is a catch, though. You can't get God's forgiveness if you won't forgive others. Dad likes His house in order. He's not impressed with backbiting children holding grudges against one another. If you want a clear mind, you'd better clear it with others too. 'If you forgive men... your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not... your Father will not forgive your sins' (Matthew 6:14-15 NIV).

This is as much for our benefit as for others. Carrying around a collection of hurts and insults is crippling. There is freedom for us when we let go. Somebody once said, 'Forgiveness is letting go of the other man's throat.' But it is also letting go of our own throats.

So what now? How about spending time owning up to God? Think of those people you've been grumbling/brooding about. Decide to fully, completely, overflowingly forgive them. If this seems hard, work it through with God's help. Ask Him to help empower your will to work towards forgiveness, however long it takes.

Soulfood : Rom 9:17-11:36, Jn 10:22-42, Ps 83:9-18, Prov 29:23-27



The first part of the Lord's Prayer puts things in perspective. 'Our Father...' reminds us we are part of God's family. 'Hallowed be Your name' tells us God is no ordinary Dad - He is holy. To be respected. The God of the impossible. Next, 'Your Kingdom come; Your will be done...' prompts us to put God's way first. Nothing and nobody challenges God in Heaven. We'd do well to remember that.

Now comes the second part. We start to remember ourselves. We approach God as His child and ask for His help: 'Give us this day our daily bread...' The word Jesus used here literally meant food. In other words, give us our three square meals to keep us going. God cares for our everyday needs. Food to keep us fit and healthy. A home to keep us safe and warm. Friends and family to keep us loved and loving. Our daily 'bread' is all that makes life possible.

Our self-preservation instincts kick in sometimes: What if I don't get a job? What if I do, but I get the sack? What if I can't afford to eat? What about bills? What if I never meet that perfect someone?

So what now? God knows just what you need. And when you need it. And how it will be provided. So thank Him and learn to trust Him.

Soulfood : Rom 7:1-9:16, Jn 10:11-21, Ps 83:1-8, Prov 29:19-22



'Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be Your name...' 'Hallowed' is a way of describing God as holy. Or blessed. Or respected.

We've looked a little at God being our father. But what if your experience of the word 'Dad' isn't great? What if the word is loaded because Dad was distant or absent or let you down? Well this word 'hallowed' reminds us God is no ordinary dad. God is holy. This means He doesn't let us down. God is unchanging. This means He isn't influenced by moods and feelings. God is love. This means He doesn't get interested only when it's convenient. God has us on His mind constantly. He cares about us. He loves us with perfect love. And what's more, God is the God of overcoming the impossible (ever read that bit about mustard seeds and moving mountains?).

So get this: the God who parted the Red Sea is your Dad. The God who was designing the Universe before it sparkled into existence out of nothing - yes, He's your Dad. The God who scattered stars in the night, came up with ideas like sight and smell and sound, who knows the secret of the meaning of life - yes, He's your Dad. Is anything impossible for your Dad? No! Nothing. '...Is anything too hard for Me?' God asked Jeremiah. That's what we call a rhetorical question: one that doesn't need an answer. Because we already know what it is.

So what now? Ask your Dad to show Himself, and His love and power, to you.

Soulfood : Rom 3:21-6:23, Jn 10:1-10, Ps 133, Prov 29:15-18



'...before the throne of our merciful God... we will find help.' Hebrews 4:16 CEV

'Our ruler in Heaven...' or 'Our Lord of the universe...' Jesus could've begun like this. Both are theologically correct. Yet when He chooses to model His way of praying, He uses the words 'Our Father.' Not ruler. Not king. Not head-honcho. Daddy. That's an even better translation than 'father'. Jesus chose these words to remind us to think like family. We're not orphans. We have a heavenly Daddy who loves us and expects us to love one another. So we have a responsibility to love our brothers and sisters. We are family, God's family.

We have roles in this family - one is the role of sibling. Because of this, we should actively choose not to climb all over our brothers or sisters to get to the top of our profession - or even the head of the queue. Because of this, we should actively choose to care for others, like the hungry in our communities. This is the kind of family God adopts us into: a caring family, not a selfish one. As well as being siblings, we are also children. Jesus reminds us God is a good father - the best. He provides and accepts and loves, always. A father of compassion and comfort. We can always go to Him when we feel hurt by others. He'll never let us down.

When we're rooted into that sort of family, and we're getting what we need emotionally from God, then selfless love flows out of us.

So what now? Right now, ask God to show you how He is a perfect Father to you. Then, reckon you can ask Him to give you one good opportunity to share this family love today?

SoulFood: Rom 1:1 - 3:20, John 9:24-41, Ps 99, Pro 29:11-14



Jesus didn't give us The Lord's Prayer as an automatic plug-in. Yes, it's a ready-made prayer, but it's not made so that we don't have to think about what we're saying. Jesus understands how we're wired inside. He knows we can be tempted to love what He can do for us more than loving Him for who He is.

The Lord's Prayer points us to God first, starts our focus with Him. That's a pretty good way for us to get a good perspective on our issues. William Barclay points out that the Lord's Prayer '...has two major parts: the first for God's benefit, the second for ours. Honour the first part, and the second is guaranteed.'

Part one begins with 'Our Father'. We are not approaching Santa with our gift list - we are entering family. Family - coming with a responsibility to our brothers and sisters. Family - coming with security and benefits. 'Our Father' reminds us that what God says goes. The Lord's Prayer might feel like a packaged prayer, but it doesn't mean we don't think about it.

So what now? The next few days we are going to turn our mind to the Lord's Prayer. Use this time to think about prayer in a rounded way. Over-familiarisation of famous Bible passages can dilute the meaning for us. Look up this famous prayer in a variety of translations online (Luke 11:2-4; Matthew 6:9-13). Or refresh the words by writing it out in your own words.

Soulfood : Is 63-66, Jn 9:13-23, Ps 115, Prov 29:7-10



Paul wasn't meaning to sound like a financial adviser when he prayed the Ephesian church would understand the riches He had 'invested' in them. No, he was helping them to get a grip on why God had lavished so many extravagant gifts on them. The point of God's generous investment is that He sees the potential for something great to grow.

God is in the entrepreneurial game. Not to make us self-centred, gifted busybodies (although He wants us to feel good about our gifts - He knows what we're like). But He uses us to serve the world. If our skill is business and making money, then through us God can bless the poor. If our talent is care and tasty-food-making, then through us God can welcome and feed the lonely. If our gift is teaching, then God can show the world what His character is like. That's what our skills are for - to make the world more like one where God rules and cares for everybody.

It's why in other places in the Bible it talks about God giving us an 'inheritance'. It's a little mind-bending, but the (very) serious suggestion is that we're to take part in God's rule over the earth. The inheritance is Himself. The gifts He gives us aren't coincidences - they are a part of His character. We are the means by which He looks over and tends for this planet. Doesn't that just blow your mind?

So what now? Read the whole of the parable of the talents in Matthew 25. Maybe have a quick scan over the things people have said you're good at. Do any of them seem like 'talents'?

Soulfood : Job 1, Job 2:7-10, Job 40:1-5, Job 42:7-17



You know the feeling. You're walking along, not quite paying attention, and your foot goes straight into a little pile some prized poodle's owner failed to clean up. Walk that through a doorway and the whole household will soon let you know about it. Yet, we can bring something just as dirty and smelly into a room and it's so much harder to notice: and that thing that's 'on the nose' is gossip.

Think about the mess you're likely to make with gossip. Ask yourself, 'Who's going to benefit from me saying this stuff?' 'Who am I going to hurt?' 'Whose confidence am I betraying?' If it has the potential to cause a stink, leave it outside. Don't drag potentially hurtful half-truth into your house. Clean your shoes and your conscience, at the door.

James 1:26 NIV implies that 'gossip' is a stain on our spiritual lives: 'If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.' Solomon warns us that we will eat the effects of our unwise words: 'The tongue has the power of life and death and those who love it will eat its fruit' (Proverbs 18:21 NIV). And just in case we need it spelt out further, 1 Peter 3:10 NIV tells us, 'Whoever would love life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil.' Words can run away from you, and get out of hand. Don't let it happen.

So what now? Ask the Lord to help you if you have a problem with gossiping.

Soulfood : Is 58-62, Jn 9:1-12, Ps 15, Prov 29:4-6

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