May 16, 2022 — That’s What Friends Do

“It happened again last night,” Stan said with a smile.

“What happened again?” I asked.

“My wife and I were at the Good Fortune Chinese Restaurant and I got a fortune cookie that spoke volumes about my faith walk.”

“Volumes on a tiny piece of paper? I said.

“That’s right,” Stan replied. “And sometimes I wonder if there isn’t someone in the back room writing them just for me!”

“What’d this one say?”

Stan pulled it out of his pocket and read, ‘A friend will come through at just the right time’.”

“You have a friend like that?” I asked.

“I’ve talked about her before,” Stan replied, “but there was a true friend who was very instrumental in helping me come to the truth of the availability of God’s free and gracious gift of life with Him for eternity when my time here is completed.”

Continuing, he added, “And that led to me pursuing the eternal life of knowing God the Father and Jesus in an ever-deepening personal relationship while I remain on this side of eternity.”

“And you think it was at just the right time?” I asked.

“It took me a long time to finally accept the truth,” Stan replied, “but I finally did and it was just the right time. God knew it was the right time for me, and my friend was there willing to be a part of what God wanted at that right time.”

“So,” I said, “she was a friend who was there at the right time!”

“That’s what friends do,” Stan replied. “And it makes me wonder about myself. Am I there at the right time?”

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Bible verses to consider:

Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13.

There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. Proverbs 18:24.

You are My friends, if you do what I command you. John 15:14

Prayer: Thank you, Father, for the people you brought into my life to be friends who cared enough to bring me to the truth of the gospel so I have the assurance of life eternally with you and can pursue the eternal life of knowing you and Jesus. I confess that too often I am not the friend you intend because I do not manifest you to others in the way you have for me. Please forgive me and please help me in following every step of your lead in being the friend of and to others just as you intend. Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Think on this: Do you consider yourself a friend of Jesus? If no, why? If you do, what does that mean to you? Are there friends in your life with whom you have not shared the truth of the gospel? If so, why? What will it take for you to be the friend that will make a difference in the eternal destination and in the lives of your friends? Is that what you want? Why or why not?

May 13, 2022 — Exhausted?

As I sat down across from Stan, he said, “You look like a mess. You okay?”

“I’m feeling really exhausted,” I replied. “I’ve been putting in very long hours at work trying to get a project finished.”

“Just about done?” he asked.

“I am,” I replied. “Then I’m going to take a few days off and get some rest.”

“Good,” Stan said. “You have to take care of yourself. Physical and mental work will inevitably lead to exhaustion without adequate rest. But did you know that the same is not true with spiritual work for God?”

“How can you say that?” I asked. “Isn’t it the same thing?  It’s all effort that takes strength.”

“Depends on whose strength is involved,” Stan responded. “If I’m trying to do anything in my own strength and don’t get adequate rest, I’m going to get exhausted because I only have so much strength to exert.”

“Burned out,” I commented.

“That’s it,” Stan replied. “But if I’m relying on God’s strength, rather than on my own, for what’s to be done, my experience has been that the harder I work the more of His energy and strength I am given.”

“So,” I said, “spiritual exhaustion is not possible if I am relying on the right source of strength. Is that what you’re saying?”

“That’s what it seems to me,” Stan replied. “If I get worn out doing work for God, I had better look to see who is trying to accomplish what.  Is it me, rather than God?”

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Bible verses to consider:

Come unto Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My load is light. Matthew 11:38-30.

If any man is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, “From his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water.” John 7:37-38.

But he (Samson) did not know that the Lord had departed from Him. Judges 16:20.

Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary. Isaiah 40:31.

Prayer:  Thank you, Father, for the strength you have available to renew me for all you have for me to be and to do for you. I confess that too often I rely on my own strength (not yours) in seeking to to do what you have for me to do. The inevitable result is exhaustion that is not from you. Please forgive the foolishness of that approach to being and doing what you have for me. And please help me follow every step of your lead in relying only on your strength and what you have for me, rather than on anyone or anything else. Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Think on this: Have you “come unto” Jesus in the sense of accepting His finished work on the cross so you have the assurance of salvation and redemption? If no, why? If you are a Christian and seek to do work for God, do you always seek His strength, rather than relying on your own? Do you believe that God will supply all of the strength you need to accomplish what He has for you to accomplish, and that if you feel exhausted from doing work for God you are not relying on His strength? Why or why not? Are any changes needed in who and what you rely on? If so, how are those changes going to happen? Is that what you want? Why or why not?

May 12, 2022 — What does he want now?

“You know,” Stan commented one morning while we waited for Ricky to bring our breakfast, “fathers play a huge role in the lives of their children.”

“That’s true,” I replied, “but why do you mention that?”

“I have a neighbor who was talking with me the other day about his dad and the relationship he had with him.”

“Good, bad, or in between?” I asked.

“What he was focusing on was definitely on the less-than-good side,” Stan replied, “but he’s a Christian and doesn’t dwell on the past. He uses what went on before to help him and others in moving forward in Christian maturity.”

“So he wouldn’t mind if you tell me his story?”

“Not at all,” Stan said. “In fact, he encourages it because it’s a part of his personal testimony.”

“In what way?” I asked.

“As my neighbor tells the story,” Stan replied, “early in his married life he called to wish his dad a happy birthday. His mother answered the phone and he spent a few minutes talking with her.  Then he heard his mother say to his dad, ‘It’s your son and he would like to talk with you.’  Apparently not knowing that his voice could be heard, his dad said in a cranky voice something like, ‘What’s he want now?’ His mom said, ‘He would like to wish you a happy birthday’.”

“Wow!” I said, “hearing what his dad said must have hurt his feelings, knowing his dad thought he would only call because he wanted something.”

“That’s what my neighbor said,” Stan replied. “He talked with his dad and wished him a happy birthday, but that the conversation was really strained because of his hurt feelings about what his dad had said.”

“Did he say if he told his dad that he had hurt his feelings?”

“I asked him the same thing,” Stan replied, “and he said that’s not the kind of relationship they had. He said that at that time both he and his dad were not Christians, and that his dad passed away before my neighbor came to faith.”

“So it’s likely that your neighbor’s response as a Christian would be different if both of them were alive today,” I commented. “Is that the point of his testimony about this?”

“It is in a way,” Stan replied, “about what a person can miss by not growing up in a Christian home, but the main point he makes is about his relationship with his heavenly Father.”

“In what way?”

“The difference between the response of his earthly father and that of His heavenly Father who never responds to his prayers with, “What’s he want now?!”

“And,” I responded, “I suppose that your neighbor’s story could be used to emphasize that our prayers are not to to be about what we want, but are to focus on what God wants.”

“Good supposition, my friend,” Stan replied with a smile.

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Bible verses to consider:

Fathers, do not exasperate your children, that they may not lose heart. Colossians 3:21.

And it came about that while He was praying in a certain place, after He had finished, one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray just as John also taught his disciples.” Luke 11:1.

Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Matthew 6:10.

And He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and began to pray, saying, “Father, if Thou art willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Thine be done.” Luke 22:41-42.

Prayer:  Thank you that you are my loving heavenly Father and that you do not get tired of hearing from me.  Please lead me in my prayers so I pray only in accordance with your will, seeking to know you in an ever-deepening personal relationship. You know the limits of earthly fathers and how too often they do not respond to their children the way you intend. I lift each earthly father to you and ask that you would draw them to you and open them to want to know you and all you have for them so that they will call on you as their heavenly Father. Please open them to see, understand, receive, and embrace all you have for them in their roles as fathers.  Thank you I can and do bring all of these prayers before you in the name of Jesus.  Amen.

Think on this: Have you accepted God as your heavenly Father so you know you will spend eternity in His presence when your time here is completed? If no, why? What is in the way? How is (or was) your relationship with your earthly father? If you are a father, how often do you look to your heavily Father for help in being the earthy father He intends for you to be? If you sense the need for change, how is that going to happen? Is that what you want? Why or why not?

May 11, 2022 — Nothing to be Ashamed About

“The other day,” Stan commented, “I was again looking at the apostle Paul’s letter to the church in Rome and I was reminded that something he wrote in a single verse in the very first chapter is the reflection of how I came to faith.”

“A single verse?” I said. “What’s it say?”

“Paul wrote that he was not ashamed of the gospel,” Stan replied.

“So?”

“Because the people God brought into my life were not ashamed of the gospel and were not ashamed of sharing their faith with me,” Stan replied, “is why and how I was introduced to the truth of what Christ accomplished by His finished work on the cross.”

“Because they were not ashamed,” I said, “you now have the assurance of salvation and redemption, is that it?”

“The assurance of life eternally with God when it’s time,” Stan replied, “along with the opportunity to pursue the eternal life of knowing Him and Jesus before then.” 

“If those people,” he continued, “had been ashamed of the gospel and ashamed of sharing their faith, I wouldn’t be where I am today, and I wouldn’t be on the way to where I know I’m going when my time here is done.”

“So,” I said, “do you think there are people out there who will never know the truth because someone was or is ashamed to tell them?”

“I do,” Stan replied, “and it makes me wonder about them. There’s nothing to be ashamed about.”

“Well,” I replied, “if there’s nothing to be ashamed about, why would some Christians act like there is by not sharing the gospel with others?”

“That’s a good question, my friend,” Stan said rather solemnly. “One we could talk about for a long time.”

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Bible verses to consider:

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to every one who believes. Romans 1:16.

Jesus therefore was saying to those Jews who had believed in Him, “If you abide in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” John 8:31-32.

Every one therefore who shall confess Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever shall deny Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven. Matthew 10:33-33.

Prayer:  Thank you, Father, for the truth of the gospel. Thank you for the people you brought into my life who were not ashamed of that truth and were not ashamed of sharing it with me so I would know. Because of them I was able to come to the truth and be able to accept your free and gracious provision of life eternally with you when it’s time. I confess that too often I do not share the truth of the gospel with others so they will also know that truth. Help me to never be ashamed of the gospel and never be ashamed to share the truth. Please, Father, help me in following every step of your lead so I do share the truth and I do help others to be free from all that is keeping them from you. Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus.  Amen.

Think on this: Has someone shared the truth of the gospel with you? If so, have you accepted all that God has for you: life eternally with Him and the eternal life of knowing Him and Jesus on this side of eternity? If you have not accepted God’s provision, why? What’s in the way? If you are a Christian, how are doing in sharing the truth with others? Is there something that makes you “ashamed” of the gospel? If so, what it that all about? If you sense the need for change in how you share the truth of the gospel, how is that going to happen? Is that what you want? Why or why not?

May 10, 2022 — Need Help in Overcoming?

“There was a point in my life,” Stan commented one morning “when some things happened that I was not sure I could handle. There were some significant setbacks that seemed like too much for me to overcome and survive.”

“What was that all about?” I asked.

“I had made some decisions that in retrospect turned out to be foolish,” Stan replied.

“Things are usually a lot clearer in hindsight,” I offered.

“That’s right,” Stan said, “but in the situation in which I found myself I had no job, no income, no prospect, and things looked bleak. I tried my hand at starting a business, but it was not a roaring success and I soon closed the doors on that.”

“But, as God would have it,” he continued, “all of this came at a point in my life when I was just beginning to pursue a more serious relationship with and commitment to Him and He had something to show me.”

“What was that?” I asked.

“That the important stuff had been taken care of,” Stan replied, “and that God would take care of the rest.”

“What important stuff?”

“Salvation and redemption,” Stan said, “resulting in the assurance of life eternally with God when my time here is done.”

“And that took care of your problems?”

“The one that matters the most,” Stan said. “The problem of overcoming the world and all that the world was seeking to throw at me.”

“How could that be?” I asked.

“God says so,” Stan replied.  “Both Jesus and the apostle John address this.  First of all, Jesus said that I am to take courage, which means to not be afraid, for He has overcome the world. He also said that I was to seek first the kingdom of God and the other stuff would be added. I did seek first His kingdom and claimed His promise that He would provide what I needed.”

“And what did the apostle John have to say about this sort of overcoming?” I asked.

“He wrote in his first letter,” Stan replied, “that if I’m born of God I have overcome the world and that my victory in that overcoming is my faith.”

“Victory in faith,” I commented. “That’s very reassuring.”

“It is,” Stan replied, “and there’s great confidence and assurance for me to know that whatever happens, I’m going to be okay.  More than okay!  I’m not going to be overcome by the world.”

“Since you’re sitting here telling me about it,” I responded with a smile, “it looks like you succeeded in overcoming.”

“I did,” he replied, “but not on my own.” “It was through faith in God and in all He provides for  victory over what may seem like too much to overcome.”

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Bible verses to consider:

These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace.  In the world you have tribulation, but take courage, I have overcome the world.  John 16:33.

For whoever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is victory that has overcome the world—our faith.  1 John 5:4.

But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you. Matthew 6:33.

Prayer:  Thank you, Father, for sending your only begotten Son to overcome the world. Thank you for those who brought me to the truth so that I could be born again through accepting all that Christ accomplished through His life, death, and resurrection. Thank you for the victory in faith that results from my surrendering to all you have for me in overcoming all that the world seeks to throw at me, trying to drag me down.  I confess that there are too many times when I do not claim your victory as fully as you intend.  Please forgive that foolishness.   And please help me in following every step of your lead to claim your victory over the world in every aspect of my being.  Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus.  Amen.

Think on this: Have you accepted God’s provision for overcoming the world in the sense that you know you will spend eternity in His presence? If no, why? Do you not know His free and gracious gift of life eternally with Him is available simply to be accepted? If you do have the assurance of salvation and redemption, how are you doing in relying solely on Him for all you need in overcoming whatever the world may try to throw at you? If you sense the need for change in how you rely on God in your life, how is that going to happen? Is that what you want? Why or why not?

May 9, 2022 — Don’t just do Something, Stand there

“I was talking with one of my neighbors the other day,” Stan commented one morning, “and he was able to affirm for me something about my faith walk I tend to forget from time to time.”

“Good to have neighbors who can do that,” I replied. “What’d your neighbor have to say?”

“He told me that he had grown up in a non-Christian home and that his parents had built in him a strong work ethic that involved little idleness.”

“Nothing wrong with a strong work ethic, is there?” I asked.

“Not at all,” Stan replied. “But my neighbor told me about how, once he came to faith, he saw that something his mom had said to him often was the exact opposite of what he needed to live the Christian life.”

“What was that exact opposite all about?” I asked.

“My neighbor said that one of his mom’s favorite expressions was, ‘Don’t just stand there, do something,’ and he said that one day while reading John’s gospel it struck him that Jesus was recorded as saying something kind of the opposite of what his mom had always said.”

“Kind of the opposite? In what way?”

“Rather than saying, ‘Don’t just stand there, do something,’ Jesus, in essence, said, ‘Don’t just do something, stand there’.”

Stand there doing nothing, rather than going and doing something?” I asked.

“Not quite,” Stan replied. “Rather than running off to do ‘something’ that may or may not be in God’s will, we are to stand there, doing the one and only thing that will assure that everything else falls into place.”

“Which is what?”

“Abide in Him.”

“Oh,” I replied, “I kind of remember that. Isn’t that where Jesus said something about that apart from Him we can do nothing?”

“That’s it!” Stan replied. “If we are doing something — or anything — apart from abiding in Him, it’s a nothing.”

Continuing, he added, “It may sound like there’s a big choice, choosing between something and nothing, but actually I don’t think that’s the case.”

“How so?”

“Seems to me,” Stan replied, “that if I’m going to be a disciple, that has to begin with abiding in Jesus so I’m not going off on my own doing what I want to do apart from Him, but am taking up what He has for me to take up, and then following Him.”

“So,” I replied, “would it be fair to say that there’s a close connection between abiding and discipleship?”

“Very close connection,” Stan said. “Maybe even an inseparable connection!”

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Bible verses to consider:

I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing. John 15:5.

You did not choose Me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask of the Father in My name, He may give to you. John 15:16.

And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” Luke 9:23.

Prayer: Thank you, Father, for your provision of life eternally with you through the finished work of the cross when my time here is completed, as well as the provision of a new life of abiding in Jesus for as long as you keep me on this side of eternity. I confess that too often I choose not to abide in Jesus because I choose to abide in something or someone else, including me. Please forgive the foolishness of seeking to live the life you have given me without abiding as you intend. As well, please help me to follow every step of your lead so I do, in fact, choose to abide in Jesus in all you have for me to be and to do. Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Think on this: Have you accepted God’s free and gracious provision of Jesus’ finished work on the cross so you will spend eternity in God’s presence when it’s time? If no, why? What is standing in the way? If you do have the assurance of salvation and redemption, how are you doing with abiding in Jesus on this side of eternity? Do you believe what He said, that apart from Him you can do nothing? Why or why not? If you sense the need for change in how you abide in Jesus, how is that going to happen? Is that what you want? Why or why not?

May 6, 2022 — Follow Me and Stay Real Close

“I’ve mentioned him before,” Stan said one morning, “but you may not remember about my neighbor who has been blessed to be able to travel and see much of the world.”

“I do remember,” I replied. “And he likes to tell stories about his travels, right?”

“That’s right,” Stan said. “I was talking with him last night and he told me a story about someone who may have been an angel he met at an airport near London.”

“An airport angel!” I responded. “What was that all about?”

“It seems that my neighbor and his wife were in England. After spending a few days in London, they made their way to the airport to pick up a rental car so they could drive around various parts of the country.”

“Was he used to driving on the left-hand side of the road?” I asked.

“No,” Stan replied, “and that’s part of the story.”

Continuing, he added, “As he was picking up the rental car and getting all of the instructions on driving, he asked for directions on how to get to Salisbury.”

“They wanted to visit the cathedral?”

“That’s right,” Stan replied, and continued, “as he was getting directions from the rental car person about going through several round-about traffic circles to get away from the airport and onto the road to Salisbury, he was getting a quite concerned about whether he was going to be able to manage.”

“I can imagine,” I said. “Driving on the left, going through round-about traffic circles, and heading somewhere he had never been. Could be kind of unnerving!”

“But then the ‘angel’ appeared,” Stan responded with a smile.

“What happened?”

“While my neighbor was trying to write down what the person was telling him, a British gentlemen spoke up, saying he had overhead the conversation, and that he was heading in that direction. If they wanted to do so, they could follow him.”

“Wow!” I said, “what a blessing. Did they take him up on his offer?”

“They certainly did,” Stan replied, “and my neighbor said that not only did the ‘angel’ help them in getting to Salisbury, something the man said as they headed out was a real reminder for his faith walk.”

“What’s that?”

“As the man got in his car,” Stan replied, “he said to my neighbor something like, ‘Follow me, and be sure to stay real close’.”

“Follow me and stay real close,” I repeated. “That has a wealth of spiritual application! Jesus talked a lot about following Him. I don’t remember that Jesus said we are to stay real close, but that’s probably a given. Maybe this British fellow really was an angel!”

“I can’t say for certain,” Stan replied, “but I do know that God sends people into our lives for His purposes. We just have to keep our eyes and ears open to what they may have to say!”

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Bible verses to consider:

Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it. Hebrews 13:2.

And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” Luke 9:23.

This is My Son, My Chosen One; listen to Him! Luke 9:35.

Prayer: Thank you, Father, for sending your only begotten Son as the way to your eternal presence when it’s time, along with the ability to follow Him while you keep me on this side of eternity. I confess that too often I do not follow Him at all, and too often I do not follow Him as closely as you intend. Please forgive the foolishness of that. And please, Father, help me in following every step of your lead as closely as possible so your will is done in and through me. Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of the One I am to follow. Amen.

Think on this: Have you made the decision to follow Jesus as the only way to the Father so you know you will spend eternity in God’s presence when it’s time? If no, why? If you do have the assurance of salvation and redemption, how are you doing with following Jesus on this side of eternity? Are you following Him at all? Are you following Him as closely as God intends? If you sense the need for changes in how you follow Jesus, how are those changes going to happen? Is that what you want? Why or why not?

May 5, 2022 — Don’t Limit Yourself by Thinking it’s an Exaggeration

“Back when I was growing up on the farm,” Stan mentioned one morning, “there was one particular farmer who lived near us who had a tendency to exaggerate.”

“About what?” I asked.

“Just about everything,” Stan replied. “If his wheat crop produced sixty bushels to the acre, it suddenly became seventy or more. If it snowed three inches at his farm, it wasn’t long before it was almost a foot. If you told him how hot it was at your place, it was always much hotter at his. Those sorts of things.”

“I’ve known people like that,” I commented. “The truth just doesn’t seem to be enough.”

“You’re right,” Stan said. “And I was reminded of the exaggerating farmer and the general subject of exaggeration earlier this morning when I was reading in the apostle Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus.”

“Paul wrote about exaggerating?”

“Not really,” Stan replied. “Paul wasn’t writing about exaggeration or exaggerating, but something he wrote could, I think, be seen as an exaggeration.”

“Seen as an exaggeration? How? What was he writing about?” 

“The power of the indwelling Christ that is available to each believer,” Stan replied. “How Paul described that power might be seen by some people as an exaggeration, but I think it’s a solid truth we can and are to rely upon.”

“What’s the part that might be seen as an exaggeration?” I asked.

Stan pulled out his phone, opened the Bible app, and said, “Just listen to this: ‘Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us’.”

“Wow!” I responded. “That is a powerful statement. Exceeding abundantly beyond all we ask or think!”

“Powerful indeed,” Stan said. “No exaggeration. And that power is available to each one of us. All we have to do is claim it, embrace it, and live it.”

“So,” I said, “I guess that if we don’t do that, we may miss out on all that God has for us.”

“Good guess, my friend!” Stan replied with a smile.

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Bible verses to consider:

Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21.

And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever, that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not behold Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you, and will be with you. John 14:16-17.

It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority; but you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth. Acts of the Apostles 1:7-8.

Prayer: Thank you, Father, for your power that resides within me, the power to be and to do all you have for me in living this life before I board the train to spend eternity in your magnificent presence. I confess that too often I do not rely on the power that you have made available to me through the indwelling Holy Spirit. Please forgive that foolishness, and please help me in following every step of your lead in total reliance on all you have for me, taking fully as truth what is said in your Word. Help me to claim, embrace, and live all you have for me. Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Think on this: There is no limit on what God can and will do in and through a believer. Do you agree with that? Why or why not? Do you sense that you may not be experiencing all of the power that the apostle Paul describes as being available? If so, what is that all about? Would you like to experience more than you are experiencing at the present? If so, how is that going to happen? Might it have something to do with your understanding (or lack of understanding) of what God has for you to experience as He keeps you on this side of eternity?

May 4, 2022 — Overcoming Inertia

“I have a question for you, Stan,” I said one morning after Ricky had taken our breakfast orders.

“Let’s see if I have an answer,” Stan replied with a smile. “What’s up?”

“It seems to me,” I said, “that some people in the church move along quickly in a growing relationship with God, but there are others who seem to never make any progress in that direction. You have any idea why that happens?”

“I not only have an idea about that,” Stan replied, “I can pretty much guarantee that I know at least one person’s answer because I’m a prime example of one who was real slow in wanting to develop a relationship with God.”

“Why do you think you were slow in wanting that?”

“Many reasons,” Stan replied, “but the bottom-line best answer for me is that I simply didn’t realize the wonder than awaited me in drawing ever closer to God in a deepening relationship.”

“For me,” he continued, “once I had accepted God’s free and gracious gift of salvation through the finished work of Christ on the cross, I just kind of sat there.  I wasn’t going backwards, but I sure wasn’t going forward either.”

“So,” I replied, “the problem was kind of like the failure to overcome inertia. A stationary object won’t move without effort.”

“Exactly,” Stan responded.  “I was a stationary object that didn’t move off of where I was because I couldn’t see any reason for doing so. As a result, I didn’t exert any effort to move from where I was.”

“But you eventually found a reason,” I said more as a statement than a question.

“That’s right.  Once I began to have an idea about what was expected of me in response to what God had done for me through the finished work of the cross, I began to overcome the inertia.  But it was a slow process that, I think in retrospect, was a little irritating to God.”

“God got irritated with you for not moving?” I asked.

“Well,” Stan replied, “as a matter of fact, I don’t know if God gets irritated, but if He does, He had lots of reasons to be irritated with me!”

“Then what?” I asked.

“One day I was praying,” Stan replied. “I was being totally open in telling God I didn’t know what to do about drawing closer to Him. And all of a sudden it was like a flash that showed me that God was waiting with more than I could even imagine.  He was waiting for me to give Him all of me in exchange for all of Him.”

“All of Him in an exchange?” I stated. “God does that?”

“I think He does,” Stan said. “And even more, I have come to believe that’s what Jesus talked about when He talked about the three steps of discipleship.”

“How’s that?”

“Getting me out of the way so I could take up all that God had for me to take up in following Him.”

“As simple as that?” I asked.

“As simple as that,” Stan replied. “But remember that just because it’s simple doesn’t mean it’s easy. Overcoming inertia never is!”

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Bible verses to consider:

So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. Philippians 2:12-13.

And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” Luke 9:23.

Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. James 4:8.

Prayer:  Thank you, Father, that you have provided the way for me to be in your presence for all of eternity when my time here is done. Thank you, too, for the eternal life of knowing you and Jesus in an ever-deepening personal relationship before then. I confess that too often I do not pursue knowing you and Jesus the way you intend. I do that because I choose to do something else apart from you. Please forgive the foolishness of that approach to living the life you have given me. And please help me to follow your every step into the deepest possible personal relationship based on knowing and following you and Jesus. Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of the One I am to follow. Amen.

Think on this: Have you overcome the inertia of being separated from God so you know you will spend eternity in His presence when it’s time? If no, why? Do you not see that as something vital? If you do have the assurance of salvation and redemption, how are you doing with drawing ever closer to God in a deepening personal relationship? If you sense you are stuck and having trouble in overcoming the inertia that keeps you from moving closer to God, and you want to change, how is that going to happen? Is that what you want? Why or why not?

May 3, 2022 — No First Step, No Journey

“We went to dinner the other night at the Good Fortune Chinese Restaurant,” Stan commented one morning after Ricky poured our first cup of coffee.”

“I haven’t been there for awhile,” I replied. “Still good?”

“Great in every way,” Stan said. “Great people serving great food. As well, I always enjoy the fortune cookies at the end of the meal.”

“You get a good one?”

“I did,” he said. “It was one I had seen before, and you’ve probably heard the expression, but it is one that reflects a lot on the truth of my faith walk.”

“Faith walk in a fortune cookie!” I said with a smile. “What was it?”

“The longest journey only begins with a first step,” Stan said.

“You’re right,” I said, “I’ve heard that before. But what does it have to do with your faith walk?”

“Two things,” Stan replied. “First, there was the big step of coming to faith. That took me a long time, but I finally took that essential step. Then there was the part about the spiritual journey God had for me after I came to faith. It also took me a long time to take the first step in that journey.”

“Why?”

“Fear,” Stan replied. “I was afraid of taking steps in the wrong direction, steps on a journey God did not intend for me. So I did nothing, considering it was better to be safe than sorry.”

“Better safe than sorry,” I repeated. “How’d that work out?”

“I may have thought I was safe,” Stan replied, “but in retrospect, I was really sorry that I was so reluctant to begin the journey God had for me.”

“However,” he continued, “in God’s magnificent grace and mercy, He soon made it clear to me that without stepping out I was never going to get to where He intended for me to be.”

“No first step, no journey!” I responded. “Is that it?”

“That’s it,” Stan replied.  “By just sitting there doing nothing, I was on a self-defined journey, just being carried along by what seemed best to me. However, God showed me that wasn’t what He had in mind and that He wasn’t worried about whether I would step out and fall down, as long as I relied on Him in getting back up.”

“Did you step out and fall down?”

“Many times,” Stan replied.  “My walk with God was clearly not a straight path, and I’m not sure it was or is intended to be a straight path. But I can tell you that each time I stumbled and fell down, God was there to pick me up, dust me off, bandage my wounds, and set me back on the path of the journey with Him.”

“So,” I said, “it was kind of a gradual process, a gradual journey in the right direction.”

“Gradual, indeed,” Stan replied. “As I look at my journey with God, there are a lot of things He had and has for me to see about His will that I can see a whole lot clearer if I take the first step, then the second, knowing that if the third and subsequent steps are not in accordance with His will He will make that clear.”

“For me,” he added, “it was better to take small steps, little by little, being guided by God.”

“You know,” I said, “as I think about it, I have seen several people who thought they knew what God had for them to do.  They took off running in the direction they thought best, ran into a brick wall, fell down, and never got back up.”

“I’ve seen that, too,” Stan replied, “and I think it’s important to remember that it is not about how many times you fall down, but about how many times you get back up with God’s help.”

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Bible verses to consider:

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10.

But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. Ephesians 2:13.

I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, entreat you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing forbearance to one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Ephesians 4:1-3.

Prayer:  Thank you, Father, for the salvation you granted me through my acceptance of the finished work of the cross. Thank you, too, that once I was granted the assurance of salvation and redemption, that you had a journey for me to travel with you for as long as you keep me on this side of eternity. I confess that I was reluctant to begin that journey, and that too often I am reluctant to continue that journey the way you intend. Please forgive the foolishness of that approach to walking the journey you have for me. Please help me in following every step of your lead exactly as you intend, knowing that if I step in a direction that is other than your intent that you will be there to guide me. Please lead and help me to follow. Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Think on this: Have you made the essential step that assures you of life eternally with God when it’s time? If no, why? If you have made that step and have the assurance of salvation and redemption, how are you doing in your journey with God on this side of eternity? Are you following His lead as He intends? If you sense the need to make some changes in how you are taking the steps in the journey God has for you, how are those changes going to happen? Is that what you want? Why or why not?