September 17, 2021 — To Draw Near to God, You have to First Draw Nearer

“As I recall,” I said to Stan one morning, “you have said that James 4:8 is one of your favorite Bible verses, is that right?”

“It is,” Stan replied. “What James wrote in that verse about drawing near to God and having Him respond by drawing near to me had a significant impact on my beginning faith walk.  As well, that verse is a continuing focus for an ever-deepening personal relationship with God.” [Note to reader: See Day 12, “Choosing to Draw Closer to God” in Waiting for the Train: Biblical Food for Growing Before Going (www.s-toryteller.com)].

“How close is ‘near’?” I asked.

“I don’t know that there’s an answer to that question,” Stan said, “probably as near as God wants it to be. However, I think that may be the wrong question.”

“How so?”

“Rather than focusing on how close ‘near’ is,” Stan said, “it seems to me that the question should be, ‘How do I draw nearer?’”

“Oh,” I responded, “as in I have to choose to draw nearer before I can be near. Is that what you’re saying?”

“Exactly,” Stan replied. “In my faith walk, until I chose to move from where I was, which was a long way from God, to be closer or nearer to Him, there was no possibility to be ‘near’ to Him.  It’s a process that I believe is to continue for the entire time I have on this side of eternity.”

“So,” I said, “it’s like a person chooses to draw nearer to God. Then God responds by drawing near to that person so, in turn, the person then chooses to draw ever-nearer to God. Is that it?”

“That’s what it seems to me,” Stan replied. “I don’t think it’s a one-time thing, a single move closer or nearer. It starts with a single move nearer, but that’s just the beginning. It’s to be an ongoing choice to draw ever-nearer to be as near to God as possible.”

“Kind of like the difference between describing yourself as a ‘maturing Christian’ rather than a ‘mature Christian.’ Is that a fair statement?”

“You got it, my friend,” Stan replied. “Drawing ever closer to God in an ever-deepening personal relationship is a life-long process. If I ever consider myself as close to God as I’m going to get, or if I consider myself to be a ‘mature Christian,’ with no further room for maturing, I believe I will be heading in the wrong direction!”

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Bible verses to consider:

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

The Lord is with you when you are with Him. And if you seek Him, He will let you find Him; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you. 2 Chronicles 13:2.

Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it shall be opened. Matthew 7:7-8.

And this is eternal life, that they may know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent. John 17:3.

Prayer: Thank you, Father, that you do draw near to me when I choose to draw nearer to you. I confess that too often I do not choose to draw ever-nearer to you because I think I’m near enough. Please forgive that foolishness. And please help me in following every step of your lead into an ever-deepening relationship — a relationship that grows only closer and closer for every moment I have remaining on this side of eternity. Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Think on this: Do you consider yourself as close to God as possible? Are you pursuing an ever-deepening personal relationship with God for as long as you remain on this side of eternity? Are you continuing to grow before you go? If no, why? Do you believe that maturing as a Christian is a life-long process and that there really are no “mature” Christians in the sense that no one is as mature as possible? Why or why not? If you sense you are being called to draw nearer to God, how is that going to happen? Is that what you want? Why or why not?

September 16, 2021 — God Chose; Now it’s Your Turn

“What are you guys going to have for breakfast this morning,” Ricky asked as he filled our coffee cups.

“I’m going to have the blueberry pancakes,” I responded.

“Good choice,” Ricky replied. “Cook got in a bunch of very sweet and very plump blueberries from the farm out on Watkins Road. How about you, Stan, what are you going to have?”

“I’m going to make the same choice,” he replied.

“Two orders of blueberry pancakes, coming right up,” Ricky said and then hurried away.

“Did you notice the spiritual significance of what Ricky said,” Stan asked.

“Spiritual significance of blueberry pancakes?” I said. “What spiritual significance?”

“The part where he said, ‘Good choice’,” Stan replied. “Life in general and life with God specifically is all about choice. It’s about what I choose to do in response to what God chose to do. It’s like God made His choice of what to do, now it’s my turn to choose.”

“What did God choose to do?” I asked.

“The answer to that question could fill volumes,” Stan replied, “but I think Jesus gave the answer in one brief phrase that’s recorded in Luke’s gospel.”

“What’s that?” I asked.

“Luke records that Jesus said to not be afraid for God the Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom.”

“Chosen gladly to give the kingdom,” I repeated. “That’s quite a phrase!”

“It sure is,” Stan replied. “And it all boils down to whether or not I choose to accept what God has chosen to give.  In the first place, God the Father chose to give Jesus the Son so that all who believe in Him can have life eternally with the Father when it’s time.”

“As well,” he continued, “there’s the choice of pursuing the eternal life of knowing God the Father and Jesus the Son on this side of eternity. God has chosen to make that knowledge available, but it’s up to me to choose to pursue it.”

“And is that all part of ‘the kingdom’ that God has chosen to give?” I asked.

“As I see it,” Stan replied, “everything that God has for me to pursue on both sides of eternity is part of ‘the kingdom’ that He has chosen to give. It’s up to me, and it’s up to each one of us, to choose to accept what is freely available. God chose, now it’s our turn to choose!”

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Bible verses to considere:

Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom. Luke 12:32.

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

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:16.

And this is eternal life, that they may know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent. John 17:3.

Prayer: Thank you, Father, for choosing to give all you have given. You chose to give your only begotten Son, you chose to give me the eternal life of knowing you and Jesus, and you chose to give all there is to give about your kingdom. You chose to do all of that, but too often I choose not to accept what you have chosen to give.  Please forgive that foolishness. And please, Father, help me to follow every step of your lead in choosing to accept, receive, and embrace all you have chosen to give. Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Think on this: Have you chosen to accept God’s free and gracious gift of life eternally with Him that He chose to give you? If no, why? What’s standing in the way? If you do have the assurance of spending eternity in His presence, how are you doing with choosing to accept all that God has chosen to give to you on this side of eternity? What does “the kingdom” God has chosen to give look like to you? If you sense you may have failed (and are failing) to choose to accept, receive, and embrace all of the kingdom that God has for you, how is changing that choice going to happen? Is that what you want? Why or why not?

September 15, 2021 — Is that Stewardship or Selfishness?

“Last Sunday at church,” I mentioned one morning, “the pastor presented a special financial need about a couple of people who are planning a short-term mission trip. They need to raise some more money before they will be able to go.”

“That’s great,” Stan replied. “The church needs people who are willing to go and do what Jesus said to do — make disciples.”

“I believe that,” I said, “but I have to admit something that crossed my mind when the need was presented.”

“What’ that?” Stan asked.

“There can be a fine line between being a good steward and being selfish,” I replied.

“In what way?” Stan asked.

“I’ve been saving some money each month to buy something I have really been looking forward to having,” I said. “The amount I have saved is almost exactly what these people need for their mission trip. When the need was presented, my first thought was about the money I have saved.”

“And did you have a second thought?” Stan asked.

“I did,” I replied. “I thought about how I had been such a good steward in saving for what I wanted, rather than buying it on credit. Then there was a third thought, one I think came directly from the Holy Spirit.”

“What was that?” Stan asked.

“The fine line,” I said.

“Between stewardship and selfishness?”

“That’s it,” I replied. “And it became very clear to me that God had led me to save the money I had saved, not for myself, but for what He is going to accomplish through those people going on the mission trip.  If God wants me to have what I was saving for, He will provide it. If He doesn’t, it’s not that important!”

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Bible verses to consider:

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

Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; for body discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. 1 Timothy 4:7-8.

Whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved. How then shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? Romans 10:13-15.

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Matthew 28:19-20.

Prayer: Thank you, Father, for all you have provided, the blessings of life eternally with you when it’s time, along with the eternal life of knowing you and Jesus in an ever-deepening personal relationship before then. Thank you, too, for all you provide with material blessings. I confess that too often I selfishly keep for myself what you provide rather than being the steward you intend and making available to others what you have provided. Please forgive that foolish selfishness, and please help me in following every step of your lead so I am only the steward you intend in all things. Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Think on this: Do you agree that there can be a fine line between stewardship and selfishness? Why or why not? Does stewardship only pertain to physical things  — or are we intended to be good stewards of all that God provides, including spiritual blessings? If stewardship includes all of God’s blessings, how are you doing with that stewardship? As well as you would like? As well as God would like? If you sense the need for changing from selfishness to stewardship, how is that going to happen?

September 14, 2021 — A Different Disciple’s Prayer

“Stan,” I said one morning, “you know that part in Matthew’s gospel where Jesus taught the disciples how to pray?”

“I do,” he replied. “What about it?”

“Well,” I said, “it seems that some people call that the ‘Lord’s Prayer,’ some call it the ‘Our Father,’ and some call it the ‘Disciples’ Prayer.’ Do you think it matters?”

“Matters what it’s called?” Stan asked. “Not in the least. What’s important is that Jesus was teaching His disciples about how to pray. However, I do have something that I think is important about having a different kind of a disciple’s prayer, one that I pray regularly for myself.”

“A different kind of disciple’s prayer? I said. “What’s that?”

“Praying to be a disciple,” Stan replied. “Praying that I will be open to all that God has for me to be as I embrace the steps of being a disciple.”

“You really think it’s necessary to pray about that?” I asked.

“Absolutely,” Stan exclaimed. “I believe that if I don’t ask God to help me in getting myself out of His way by denying self, if I don’t pray for the willingness to take up what He has for me to take up, and if I don’t pray for the desire to follow Him wherever, whenever, and however He wants to lead, I don’t think it’s going to happen all by itself.”

“Any particular reason for that?” I asked.

“As we’ve talked about before,” Stan replied, “I think it all hinges on a single, very small word.”

“What word is that?”

“If,” Stan replied. “Jesus said that ‘if’ I want to be His disciple there are certain things I need to do. And I know that I need all of the help God has for me in all things, but especially this. That’s the reason I pray what I call a different disciple’s prayer—a prayer to be a disciple.”

“And how often do you pray that?” I asked.

“It’s a constant prayer,” Stan replied, “because I’m always in need of all of the help God can provide!”

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Bible verses to consider:

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. Matthew 16:24.

And he who does not take up his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me. Matthew 10:38.

And He (Jesus) 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, that you allow me to choose to be a disciple by denying myself, taking up what you have for me to take up, and by following you wherever, however, and whenever you want to lead. I confess that too often I do not choose to be a disciple because I choose to do what I want to do apart from you. I pray that you will help me with all of the help you have available so I am open to being the disciple you have for me to be. Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Think on this: Before people can be a disciple they have to choose to accept by faith God’s provision of salvation and redemption. Have you done the first part so you know you are going to spend eternity in God’s presence? If no, why? What’s in the way? If you do have the assurance of salvation, how are you doing in being a disciple on this side of eternity? As well as you would like? As well as God would like? If you sense you are not the disciple you are intended to be, and changes are in order, how are those changes going to happen? Is that what you want? Why or why not? Some people think that all Christians are disciples. Do you agree with that? Why or why not?

September 13, 2021 — Which Part of “Everything” did you Forget?

“Back before we moved here,” Stan commented one morning, “there was a fellow in our church who had a personal testimony about the devastation of sin that can result from forgetting a single word.”

“Forgetting a single word?” I replied. “What word?”

“Everything,” Stan said.

“Which is it?” I responded. “A single word or everything?”

“Both,” Stan replied. “The single word is ‘everything.’ That’s the word the apostle Paul used when he wrote to the church in Ephesus about standing firm again evil. And this was the point of the fellow’s testimony: he didn’t do everything to stand firm, and it cost him dearly.”

“In what way?” I asked.

“His marriage, his family, his home, just about everything in his life was gone because he had not done all he could to stand firm against the destruction that Satan wanted. He said that the only good that came from it was he was awakened to the reality of sin’s destructive power. He confessed, repented, and has drawn ever closer to God through the ordeal.”

“Did God restore his marriage, family, and all that had been lost?” I asked.

“He did not,” Stan replied. “At least not yet. God restored the man, but there were consequences of his sin that have remained, and that is part of this man’s testimony.”

“How so?” I asked.

“He said he believes that he has gone through what he has,” Stan said, “so that the warning to others about  the danger of forgetting ‘everything’ in standing firm is even more impactful. It’s a serious warning for each of us. Even though we may have the assurance of salvation for when we step into eternity, Satan is still seeking to draw us away from God on this side.”

“And we are to stand firm in everything?” I responded. “Is that the point you’re making?”

“It’s not just me who is making the point, my friend,” Stan said. “It’s in God’s word, I take that warning seriously, and I think you should as well!” 

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Bible verses to consider:

Therefore, take up the full armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and have done everything, to stand firm. Ephesians 6:13.

Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. Ephesians 6:11.

Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. James 4:7.

Prayer:  Thank you, Father, for your provision of all I need to resist Satan and to stand firm again him. I confess that too often I do not do everything I can, and, as a result, he is able to interfere with my relationship with you. Even though he cannot affect my eternal destination to be with you when my time here is completed, he can impact my effectiveness as yours on this side. Please, Father, help me in following every step of your lead to do everything I can to stand firm and prevent him from doing that. Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Think on this: Have you accepted by faith Jesus’ victory over Satan on the cross and, therefore, know you are going to spend eternity in God’s presence when your time here is completed? If no, why? It’s available as a free and gracious gift that only needs to be accepted by faith. If you do have the assurance of salvation, how are you with doing “everything” to stand firm against what Satan wants to do in interfering with your relationship with God in Christ on this side of eternity? As well as you would like? As well as God would like? If you sense changes may be necessary in your “everything,” how are those changes going to happen? Is that what you want? Why or why not?

September 10, 2021 — Praying for Boldness

“Long before we moved here,” Stan commented, “we were involved with a church that had a pastor who was a gifted evangelist. I never saw him pass up an opportunity to share the gospel. I once had lunch with him at a cafe and I think he presented the gospel to every single person. He began with the waitperson and ended with the cashier.”

“I often wish I could be that bold,” I responded, “but I’m not.”

“You ever pray about that?” Stan asked.

“Pray for boldness?” I said. “Not sure I ever thought about that. Do you?”

“I do,” Stan replied, “and I take my cue from the apostle Paul.”

“Why? Did Paul pray for boldness?”

“I’m going to have to guess that he did,” Stan responded, “because he asked others to pray for him that he would be bold.”

“That really strikes me as something I wouldn’t have expected,” I said. “The apostle Paul had a huge impact on spreading the gospel in the early days of the church, and he asked people to pray for him that he would be bold. Of all people, I would never have guessed!”

“Exactly,” Stan replied. “And if asking for help in being bold was good enough for Paul, it certainly is good enough for me!”

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Bible verses to consider:

Pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak. Ephesians 6:19-20.

Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving; praying at the same time for us as well, that God may open up to us a door for the word, so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ, for which I have been imprisoned; in order that I may make it clear in the way I ought to speak. Colossians 4:2-4.

Prayer:  Thank you, Father, for the truth of the gospel. Thank you for those who were bold enough to present it to me so I could by faith accept your free and gracious provision of life with you eternally when it’s time. I confess that too often I am not bold in telling others that they can have the same opportunity to have redemption and salvation. Please, Father, help me in being bold so I present the truth of the gospel to every person you intend by bringing them before me. Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Think on this: If you have the assurance of spending eternity in God’s presence when it’s time, is it because someone was bold in presenting the truth of the gospel to you? If so, have you thanked that person? How are you doing in presenting the truth of the gospel to others so they have the same opportunity to accept by faith God’s free and gracious provision? Do you lack the boldness you would like? If so, have you prayed about that, asking God to grant you the boldness He wants you to have? Have you asked others to pray for you? If no, why? Do you believe God will provide boldness if you ask Him? Why or why not? Who is it that wants you to be shy about sharing your faith so that others may believe? Whose voice is the most important to you?

September 9, 2021 — Looking Beyond where you are to what Awaits

“The other day,” Stan said, “we talked a little bit about how people should be ready for whatever God wants to do in and through them.

“We did,” I replied, “with the focus on if you’re ready you don’t have to get ready.” [Note to reader, see the Posting for August 27, 2021 (“A Ready Person Doesn’t Have To Get Ready”].

“You’re right,” Stan said. “And this morning I would like to look at kind of the same situation from a little different perspective.”

“In what way?” I asked.

“How sometimes there are certain things we have to go through if we’re going to get to do other things. I’m going to use a really simple example and then relate it to something Jesus did that has an impact on my faith walk.”

“Okay,” I replied, “Let’s have the simple.”

“Ricky doesn’t serve breakfast in bed.”

“What’s that mean?” I asked.

“If you want to have breakfast here, you have to get out of bed and come here,” Stan replied. “Ricky isn’t going to bring it to you in bed.”

“Got it!” I replied.  “What about the Jesus part that relates to your faith walk?”

“Luke’s gospel,” Stan said, “records that when the days were approaching for Jesus’ ascension, He was very resolute about getting to Jerusalem.  Jesus knew what awaited Him there — all He was going to go through leading up to His crucifixion, death, burial, and resurrection, but that it was all going to lead to what He was really looking forward to.”

“What’s that?”

“His ascension,” Stan replied. “That’s what Luke focuses on in saying that’s why Jesus was set on getting to Jerusalem on time. Jesus knew that He was going to ascend to the Father, but that there were things that had to be done first. Same with me.”

“Same with you?” I said. “How so?”

“While nothing I go through can be compared to what Jesus experienced,” Stan replied, “if I’m going to spend eternity in God’s presence, or if anyone is going to do so, a decision has to be made. In the case of Jesus, Luke describes it as Jesus resolutely setting His face to go to Jerusalem. With me, it’s like I had to resolutely set my face on spending eternity in God’s presence.”

“And how does a person do that?”

“By being resolute in accepting by faith God’s free and gracious provision of life eternally with Him.”

“Being ‘resolute’,” I said, “as contrasted to being ‘wishy-washy’?”

‘That’s one way to put it,” Stan replied. “I would put it more in terms of making a genuine faith commitment and then following that commitment up by pursuing maturity in my faith by setting my face resolutely in the direction of being a disciple.”

“And,” he concluded, “it’s just like Jesus. He knew it was time for Him to get to Jerusalem so He could fulfill what God the Father had for Him, and I am to do what God has for me as long as He leaves me here while I look forward to what awaits!”

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Bible verses to consider:

And it came about, when the days were approaching for His ascension, that He resolutely set His face to go to Jerusalem. Luke 9:51.

And He was passing through from one city and village to another, teaching, and proceeding on His way to Jerusalem. Luke 13:22.

And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them. And it came about that while He was blessing them, He parted from them and was carried up into heaven. Luke 24:50-51.

Prayer: Thank you, Father, for giving your only begotten Son so that I could by faith believe in Him and accept your free and gracious gift of life eternally with you when it’s time. Thank you that Jesus did what you had for Him to do in preparing for me the way to you. Jesus did not disobey, but went to Jerusalem for the cross, His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension. I confess that too often I do not do what you have for me to do because I selfishly don’t want to do it. Please forgive me and please help me in following every step of your lead so I do whatever you have for me to do regardless of the cost. Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Think on this: Jesus was looking beyond the cross to His ascension so He could return to the Father. Do you look beyond what you may go through to the time you will spend eternity in God’s presence? If no, is that because you have not accepted by faith God’s free and gracious provision? If you do have the assurance of salvation, how are you doing in looking forward to being in God’s eternal presence and not focusing on all the stuff that gets in the way on this side of eternity? If you sense there should be some differences in your focus, how is that going to happen?

September 8, 2021 — Don’t wait for Tychicus

“If I’m open to being led by the Holy Spirit when I’m reading the Bible,” Stan commented one morning, “there’s virtually no limit to the impact He can have on my faith walk.”

“I can believe that,” I replied, “but I bet you have something specific for me. What do you have in mind?”

“The importance of not waiting for Tychicus,’

“The importance of not waiting for Tychicus,” I repeated. “What’s a Tychicus and what does that have to do with your faith walk?”

It’s a ‘who,’ not a ‘what’,” Stan replied. “Tychicus was a friend and a companion of the apostle Paul. In at least a couple of places in the Bible, he is mentioned as someone Paul was sending to the church to let them know how Paul was doing.”

“Okay,” I replied, “but what does that have to do with your faith walk?”

“Rather than waiting for someone else to tell me how another person is doing,” Stan said, “It seems to me that I am to take the initiative and find out for myself how that person is doing.  Check in with them regularly to see what’s going on with them. Do they need prayer or other support? Is there anything I can do for and with them?”

“Oh,” I replied, “as in not waiting to hear but to find out on your own, because if you don’t take the initiative you may never find out.”

“Exactly,” Stan said. “In Paul’s day there was no instant communication. The process of letting other people know anything was slow. Not so today. I believe I am to take advantage of the ability to have almost instant contact with fellow believers and see how they’re doing. If I don’t, I may never find out on this side of eternity what I could have done for them.”

“And,” I replied, “I suppose the same thing in true with those who have not yet come to faith. If I check on them and see how I might help them, I may very well have a role in helping them with their eternal destination.”

“And their life on this side of eternity,” Stan added.

“Don’t wait for someone to send Tychicus,” I said. “There may not be one for them to send, and he may never show up. Is that the point?”

“You got it my friend,” Stan replied. “Don’t wait for Tychicus, go and find out for yourself!”

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Bible verses to consider:

But that you also may know about my circumstances, how I am doing, Tychicus, the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, will make everything known to you. Ephesians 6:21.

As to all my affairs, Tychicus, our beloved brother and faithful servant and fellow-bondslave in the Lord, will bring you information. Colossians 4:7.

Prayer: Thank you, Father, that you bring people into my life who you want me to care about. I confess that too often I do not go out of my way to find out how those people are doing. I do not find out if there is anything you would have me do with and for them because I am too focused on myself, not on what you have for me. Please forgive me of that foolish focus on myself. And please help me in following every step of your lead so I do reach out to the people you have for me to contact so I can be who you intend doing what you have for me to do to make a difference for you and your kingdom. Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Think on this: Are there people in your life you should check on more often than you do to see how they’re doing? If so, why is that? If you think they will let you know if they need anything, is that just a self-focused excuse to not be involved in what the Lord may have for you to be and to do? If you sense you are just “waiting for Tychicus,” and you should be more pro-active in taking the initiative to find out how others are doing and if there is anything you can do to help them, how is that sort of change going to occur in your life? Is that what you want? Why or why not?

September 7, 2021 — Is one more important than the others?

“Stan,” I said one morning, “last night I was looking at what the apostle Paul wrote about the fruits of the Spirit in his letter to the Galatians.”

“Singular,” Stan replied.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“It’s fruit of the Spirit, not fruits. They all come from the Spirit in a single package, not nine separate packages.”

“Okay,” I said, “last night I was reading about the fruit of the Spirit, and I have a question. Do you think any one of the fruit is more more important than the other ones listed?”

“Well,” Stan replied, “I don’t think any is more important in the broad sense, but I do think that one of them may control or at least impact all of the others.”

“One may control or impact all of the others,” I repeated. “In what way? Which one? Love?”

“No,” Stan said, “even though ‘love’ is listed first, I actually think it’s the one that Paul listed last that is the one that has the biggest impact on all of the others. But let me emphasize that this is just the opinion of only one person, a person who has a lot of trouble with the last-listed fruit.”

“You talking about yourself?”

“I am,” Stan replied.

“And you have trouble with self-control?”

“I do,” he said. “And without self-control, there is no way for me to manifest the other eight fruit as I think God intends. If I don’t control myself, how can I manifest love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and gentleness the way God intends?”

“Maybe that’s why Jesus said that the first step in discipleship is to deny self,” I replied. “Denying self is kind of like controlling it, don’t you think?”

“More than ‘kind of like,’ my friend,” Stan said. “I think it’s the central key that unlocks discipleship and the manifestation of the fruit of the Spirit!”

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Bible verses to consider:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23.

And as he (Paul) was discussing righteousness, self-control and the judgment to come Felix became frightened and said, “Go away for the present, and when I find time, I will summon you. Acts of the Apostles 24:25.

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 the Holy Spirit to live in me to help, guide, counsel, and lead me in the way you have for me to live this life you have given me while I wait to step into eternity to be in your presence forever. Thank you for the fruit of the Spirit that you intend to manifest in and through me. I confess that too often I do not get myself out of your way so you can manifest all you intend.  Please help me in following every step of your lead so that each listed fruit is manifested just as you intend, to make a difference for you and for your kingdom. Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Think on this: Do you see the listing of the fruit of the Spirit as nine individual things, each operating separately — or as one inseparable whole? Do you think it make any difference? Why or why not? If you were asked which of the listed nine fruit is the most “important,” what would you list as number one? Why? Do you agree with Stan’s view of the importance of self-control? Why or why not? How are you doing with controlling or denying yourself? If you sense change may be appropriate, how is that going to happen?

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The Book: Waiting for the Train — Biblical Food for Growing Before Going, by S. Tory Teller, Foreword by Josh McDowell — http://www.s-toryteller.com

September 3, 2021 — The “Just As” kind of Love

“One of our neighbor couples invited us over for dinner the other night,” Stan commented one morning. “It was a small dinner to celebrate their wedding anniversary. Just the four of us.”

“How long have they been married?” I asked.

“Next year will be their fortieth anniversary,” Stan replied.

“Forty years,” I commented. “That’s quite a milestone.”

“It is,” Stan said. “We talked about that last night. The husband particularly had some great things to say what a difference his faith walk has made in his view of marriage.”

“How so?” I asked.

“He said he and his wife weren’t committed believers when they got married and it was almost fifteen years later that they both became Christians.”

“And becoming Christians made a difference in their marriage?” I asked.

“Big time,” Stan replied. “And the husband indicated that for him it all came from reading and focusing on what the apostle Paul wrote in a single verse in his letter to the church in Ephesus.”

“A single verse,” I repeated. “Must have been some verse! What’s it say?”

“That husbands,” Stan said, “are to love their wives just as Christ also loved and gave Himself for the church.”

“Just as,” I replied. “Isn’t that a high standard?”

“Not only is it a high standard,” Stan said, “I would say it’s a really high standard! Consider what Jesus did in loving and giving Himself for the church. Out of the love of the Father in giving Jesus, and out of the love of Jesus in going to the cross in obedience to the Father, all who believe have the incredible gift of life eternally with God when it’s time, along with the gift of the eternal life of knowing Him and Jesus in an ever-deepening personal relationship on this side of eternity.”

“Wow,” I responded, “taking the ‘just as’ view of Jesus’ love would have to make a huge difference in a marriage, don’t you think?”

“Indeed I do, my friend,” Stan replied. “Indeed I do! In a marriage and in all of our relationships.”

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Bible verses to consider:

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her. Ephesians 5:25.

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you, and gave Himself up for us, as an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma. Ephesians 5:1-2.

Prayer: Thank you, Father, for giving Jesus so that all who believe can have life eternally with you when it’s time. Thank you, too, for the gift of the eternal life of being able to know you and Jesus in an ever-deepening personal relationship on this side of eternity. The truth of Scripture is that we are to love “just as” Jesus loved. That is a very high standard that I can meet only by and through following as you lead me. I confess that too often I don’t even attempt to love in the way you intend. Please forgive me. And please help me in following every step of your lead so I do, in fact, love “just as” Jesus loved. Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in His precious name. Amen.

Think on this: Do you think that loving “just as” Jesus loved is an impossibly high standard? Why or why not? Can you do it on your own? Remember that the first-listed fruit of the Spirit is love. How does that relate to being able to love “just as” Jesus loved? If you sense your love may not rise to the “just as” level and you want to do something about it, how is that going to happen?