507. Avoid A Void

“For me,” Stan began, “it’s real important that I keep clutter out of my life.”

Continuing, he said, “It doesn’t matter whether I am talking about my desk or my workbench in the garage.  If I am not diligent about keeping the space cleaned, the next thing I know it’s all cluttered again.”

“Been there, done that,” I replied.  “Actually, am there, doing that!”

“A cluttered desk or workbench is one thing,” Stan responded.  “A cluttered life is a whole different story.”

Continuing, he said, “Early in my life as a new Christian, I knew a fellow who was also a new Christian. I had baggage when I came to faith, but this fellow had a very heavy load of stuff he brought with him.  He was upfront about the fact that all sorts of bad decisions had resulted in some really bad habits and addictions.  He said he was so thankful that God had freed him of all of those things.”

“That’s great!” I responded.  “Good for him.”

“But it didn’t last,” Stan said sadly.

“How so?” I asked.

“It’s just like what Luke’s gospel records of what Jesus said about getting rid of the bad stuff in my life. If I don’t put good stuff where the bad stuff had been, it’s likely that the bad stuff will come back and may very well be worse than before.”

“Is that what happened to the fellow you knew?”

“Sorry to have to say that it did,” Stan replied.

“He did not follow through the way he needed to in order to be filled with what God had for him to be filled with.  In retrospect, it was clear that there had been no real surrender to being filled with the Holy Spirit.”

Continuing, he said, “When the bad stuff was removed from this fellow’s life, there was a void where those things had been.  And, as I have seen too often in my own life, if I do not choose to fill a void with good stuff, it will be filled, most likely, with less-than-good stuff.”

“It is essential for me,” Stan concluded, “that I avoid a void in my life.”

“Avoid a void,” I repeated.  “I can remember that!”

Concluding, Stan said, “If I don’t allow myself to be filled to overflowing with the presence of the Holy Spirt, any void that is left by getting rid of what I have removed, or what God has removed, from my life, will be filled.   And what it’s filled with is pretty much guaranteed to be far less preferable than the Holy Spirit!”

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When the unclean spirit goes out of a man, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and not finding any, it says, “I will return to my house from which I came,” and when it comes, it finds it swept and put in order.  Then it goes and takes along seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they go in and live there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first.  Luke 11:24 – 26.

Prayer:  Thank you, Father, that you want to remove from me everything that can and does get in the way of an ever-deepening relationship with you.  Thank you, too, for the presence of the Holy Spirit in me who is there to fill me to overflowing with His presence.  I confess that too often I do not seek His full presence to fill any void that is left by removing what you want removed from my life.  Please forgive that foolishness.  Please, Father, help me in following every step of your lead in choosing to be filled, continually filled, to overflowing with the presence of the Holy Spirit exactly as you intend so that there are no voids in my life that can be filled with anything else.  Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus.  Amen.

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Things to think (and journal) about:

1.  What is your biggest take-away from this devotional?

2.  What does this devotional say about God and about us as His people?

3.  What is God saying to you to do personally?

4.  Who can you share this with to make a difference?

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Comments, questions, suggestions, and the like can be addressed to The Storyteller at: waiting4thetrain@gmail.com.

506. What Does “All Things” Mean?

“I ran across the term, ‘all things’ in two different places while I was journaling his morning,” Stan began.

Continuing, he said, “I wondered what it meant so I did some quick research.”

“And what did you find?” I asked.

“Very technical,” Stan said with a smile.  “It turns out that ‘all things’ means ‘all things’.”

“I would never have thought that,” I responded.  “Let’s dig deeper.  Where was it you ran across the use of the term?”

“First, there was the very familiar Romans 8:28 verse that says that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.”

“Yeah, I’ve heard that one,” I replied.

“The second one was in the apostle Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus where he implored the Ephesians to alway give thanks for all things.”

“So,” I said, “two different perspectives.  One dealing with what God does and one dealing with what I am to do.”

“Exactly, my friend,” Stan responded.  “The verse from Romans says what God does and what He will do with those people who love and are called by Him, while the verse from Ephesians says what I am to do.  However, I think there are choices involved on my part in both instances.”

“First,” he continued, “looking at the verse from Romans, it is limited to those who love God and who are called according to His purpose.  If I limit my love for God or if I don’t respond to God’s call the way He intends, I will have missed the mark of God’s ‘all things’.”

He then added, “And looking at the verse from Ephesians, if I fail to give thanks for ‘all things’, whatever they are, I will again be missing the mark of what God desires from me.”

“Bottom line,” Stan concluded, “I think it goes right back to where we started.  I am to take to heart the ‘all things’ God has for me to take to heart.  I am not to forget that ‘all things’ means what it says!”

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And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.  Romans 8:28.

Always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father.  Ephesians 5:20.

Prayer:  Thank you, Father, for your provision of everything.  Thank you that you do cause all things to work together for good to those who love you and are called according to your purpose.  Please forgive all of the times I have not been thankful for all things that flow from you.  And please forgive me when I do not see how you are working for my good.  Please, Father, lead me and help me to follow in always being thankful for all things, knowing what you mean by that.  Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus.  Amen.

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Things to think (and journal) about:

1.  What is your biggest take-away from this devotional?

2.  What does this devotional say about God and about us as His people?

3.  What is God saying to you to do personally?

4.  Who can you share this with to make a difference?

_____________________________

Comments, questions, suggestions, and the like can be addressed to The Storyteller at: waiting4thetrain@gmail.com.

505. Still In The Beginners’ Class?

“I’ve been teaching a class in church for the past few years,” Stan began.

“What class is that?” I asked.

“It has gone by different names at different times,” Stan replied, “but it’s a class of the basics, intended for new Christians who are seeking to know more.”

“That’s great,” I replied.  “That sort of thing can be really helpful.”

“Essential,” Stan said, “but it took me a long time to get there.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“When I first became a Christian,” Stan replied, “I attended that sort of class.  Over and over.  I think the class was called, ‘Christianity 101’.  I sat in the same class every Sunday for a long time.”

“Then,” he continued, “one day after class the man who taught the class asked if he could talk with me about something.”

“What was that?” I asked.

“He said that he enjoyed having me in the class and was glad I was there, but he wondered if I knew that it was intended to be a ‘passing-through’ class.”

“What did he mean by that?” I asked.

“I asked him the same thing,” Stan replied.  “And he took me to fifth chapter of the letter to the Hebrews, where the writer covers the matter of moving from being a student to being a teacher.”

“Student to teacher?” I replied.

“Yes,” Stan said.  “It is another way of saying that I am to be constantly moving towards Christian maturity.”

Continuing, he said, “If I haven’t matured enough in my faith to be able to teach others what I have learned, I am heading in the wrong direction.  I am not giving enough attention to what I am supposed to be learning about my faith walk with God.”

Concluding, Stan said, “I am very thankful for the teacher of that class, as well as for the writer of Hebrews, who showed me that I, along with every maturing Christian, am to be used by God in helping others to mature in their faith.  That, I think, is what it’s supposed to be all about!”

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For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for some one to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food.  Hebrews 5:12.

Prayer:  Thank you, Father, for those who teach your word.  Thank you for the truth that you want me to mature in my walk with you so that I, too, am able to teach others what you have taught me.  I confess that too often I have not matured sufficiently to be able to teach anyone anything about you.  Please forgive me.  And please, Father, help me to follow every step in your lead in getting beyond the basics, stepping out in faith to greater knowledge and understanding of you so that you can use me for your purposes in helping others mature in their faith.  Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus.  Amen.

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Things to think (and journal) about:

1.  What is your biggest take-away from this devotional?

2.  What does this devotional say about God and about us as His people?

3.  What is God saying to you to do personally?

4.  Who can you share this with to make a difference?

_____________________________

Comments, questions, suggestions, and the like can be addressed to The Storyteller at: waiting4thetrain@gmail.com.

504. Not Enough Of God To Go Around?

“What are you guys going to have?” Ricky asked as he was ready to take our order.

I ordered, and Stan said, “I’ll have a stack of blueberry pancakes.”

“Sorry, Stan,” Ricky replied.  “No blueberries this morning.  The fellow who delivers all of the produce said there had been an unexpected run on them at the market and that there weren’t  any blueberries for him to buy.”

“That’s okay,” Stan replied.  “I’ll have some plain buttermilk ones today.  I know they will be terrific.”

“That must be a disappointment,” I said as Ricky left.  “I know how much you like blueberry pancakes.”

“Life won’t end,” Stan replied.

“Besides,” he continued, “this gives me an opportunity to mention a related lesson that is recorded in Mark’s gospel.  One about never having to be concerned that there is not going to be enough of God to go around.”

“What’s that about?” I asked.

“It has to do with my relationship with God.” Stan replied.  “If I have a relationship with Him and I seek for that relationship to grow ever-deeper, it will happen.  I never need to be concerned that I will exhaust the supply of what God has for me.”

“More will be given as I pursue it,” Stan said.

“On the other hand,” he continued, “if I don’t have a relationship with God or if I don’t pursue that relationship for all that it can provide, I will not be able to experience all that God has for me.”

“It would be kind of like God ran out of what He could provide,” Stan continued, “that there is not enough of Him to go around.  That wouldn’t be true, of course, but it would seem like that. As well, it is likely that even what I had could be eroded and taken away.”

“So,” he concluded, “when I am pursuing my relationship with God, I go full throttle and don’t let up.  I don’t want to miss out on anything and everything He has for me!”

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For whoever has, to him shall more be given; and whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him.  Mark 4:25.

Prayer:  Thank you, Father, for the abundant provision of yourself to me.  Thank you that what you have for me in my relationship with you will never cease to grow as long as I seek and pursue it.  I confess that too often I fail to seek after all you have for me, that I fall into a sense of being content with where I am with you.  Please forgive me.  And please, Father, lead me and help me to follow in pursuing everything you have for me in my relationship with you, knowing beyond a doubt that what you have for me is unending.  Please help me to follow every step of your lead in knowing you and your Son.  Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus.  Amen.

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Things to think (and journal) about:

1.  What is your biggest take-away from this devotional?

2.  What does this devotional say about God and about us as His people?

3.  What is God saying to you to do personally?

4.  Who can you share this with to make a difference?

_____________________________

Comments, questions, suggestions, and the like can be addressed to The Storyteller at: waiting4thetrain@gmail.com.

503. Big Dreams; Little Obedience?

“Do you dream much?” I asked Stan one morning.

“When I’m sleeping or when I’m awake?” Stan responded.

“I was thinking more about when you are awake, daydreaming rather than night dreaming,” I replied.

“I do,” Stan said.  “I have lots of dreams about what I would like to see.  For my family, for my friends, for the church, for our country, for the world.  Lots of dreams!”

“What about for yourself?” I asked.

“Used to,” Stan replied.  “I used to have all sorts of dreams about what I would become, what I would do, how I would make my mark on the world.  Yeah, lots of dreams.”

“Used to? I said.  “Not any more?”

“That’s right, my friend,” Stan replied.  “I really don’t focus so much on what I dream I will become.  I think the better approach for me is to focus on what I am becoming, not dream about it.”

Continuing, he said, “If I focus on obeying what God has for me to obey, rather than dreaming about what I am going to do, there is a strong likelihood that what God has to accomplish in and through me will be done.”

“I think the apostle Paul covered this subject,” Stan added, “in his letter to the church in Ephesus, where he pointed out that God’s plans are a whole lot greater than my dreams.”

“He wrote that?” I asked.

“”In essence,” Stan replied.  “I think Paul was pointing that out to me when he wrote about the great abundance of God that is beyond anything I can think about.”

Continuing, he said, “Sure, I can dream dreams about me, but I think that what God wants is my obedience to what He has for me, not my dreams about what I want or what I can do for Him on my own initiative.”

“No,” he added, “I think God does not want my big dreams with little obedience.  He wants my obedience.  Period.  As I focus on Him and His will, he will direct what He wants me to focus on.  And I think that is my obedience, not my own dreams.”

Concluding, Stan said, “I am to give all of me, including what I may be tempted to dream about, to the indwelling Holy Spirit.  He is the power in me and He will work according to that power.  I am to give it all to Him, and obey what He gives back in terms of His direction.”

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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.  Ephesians 3:20

Prayer:  Thank you. Father, that you make clear what it is you have for me to be and to do while you keep me on this side of eternity.  Thank you, too, that what you show me is way beyond what I can dream for myself.  I confess that too often I spend my time dreaming about what I would like, rather than focusing on obeying  what you show me you want.  Please forgive me.  And please, Father, help me in following every step of your lead, rather than dreaming about where I may lead myself.  Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus.  Amen.

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Things to think (and journal) about:

1.  What is your biggest take-away from this devotional?

2.  What does this devotional say about God and about us as His people?

3.  What is God saying to you to do personally?

4.  Who can you share this with to make a difference?

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Comments, questions, suggestions, and the like can be addressed to The Storyteller at: waiting4thetrain@gmail.com.

502. Keeping From Stumbling

Mid-sentence Stan jumped up and left the table.  I turned to see where he was going, and saw that he was helping up someone who had stumbled coming through the door of the restaurant.

“Nice job!” I said as Stan returned to the table.

“I saw him stumble, lose his balance, and I knew he was probably going down,” Stan replied.  “Fortunately, all that he suffered seems to be  bit of embarrassment.”

Continuing, he said, “I don’t remember what we were talking about before, but what just happened raises a point about something I saw the other day in the apostle Peter’s second letter.”

“What’s that?” I asked.

“Peter’s statement near the beginning of his letter about the way I can avoid stumbling and how I can take advantage of all that God has for me to be and to do on this side of eternity.”

Stan then added, “After Peter had listed the various steps that God has for me to take in my pursuit of spiritual maturity, Peter tells me that if I do those steps I will not stumble.”

“Not stumble,” I responded, “as in never?”

“I think that is what Peter is telling me,” Stan replied, “but there is an implied ‘if’, and he puts it in terms of doing the steps he lists.  If I do them, the likelihood of my stumbling in my walk is eliminated.  If I don’t do them, there is always the likelihood that I will stumble.”

“Stumble, as in loosing your salvation?” I asked.

“No,” Stan replied, “I have the assurance of life eternally with God when it is time because of my acceptance of the finished work of Christ that resulted from His life, death, and resurrection.”

Continuing, he said, “What I think Peter is telling me here is about the danger of stumbling on the path of transformation towards spiritual maturity.  And that is on this side of eternity while I am waiting for the train that will take me to glory.”

“It’s like the fellow who just stumbled and fell down coming in here,” Stan concluded, “I need to watch my step all along the way as long as God keeps me on this side of eternity.”

“What happens if you do stumble?” I asked.

“Confess and repent, Stan replied.  “Turn to God.  He will pick me up, dust me off, bandage any wounds, and set me back on His intended path.”

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Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you.  2 Peter 1:10, 11.

Prayer:  Thank you, Father, for your provision of life with you eternally when it is time through my acceptance of the finished work of Christ resulting from His life, death, and resurrection.  Thank you, too, for the opportunity to pursue knowing you and Jesus on this side of eternity through an ever-deepening walk with you.  I confess that too often I do not pursue knowing you as you intend because I choose not to do so.  Please forgive me.  And please, Father, help me in following your lead in wanting to know you as deeply as humanly possible by choosing to walk with you on the path towards spiritual maturity, from conversion to transformation.  Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus.  Amen.

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Things to think (and journal) about:

1.  What is your biggest take-away from this devotional?

2.  What does this devotional say about God and about us as His people?

3.  What is God saying to you to do personally?

4.  Who can you share this with to make a difference?

_____________________________

Comments, questions, suggestions, and the like can be addressed to The Storyteller at: waiting4thetrain@gmail.com.

501. How Could Peter Do That?

“Stan,” I said, “I’ve been thinking about some the things we have discussed, and I have a question.”

“Not sure I will have an answer,” Stan replied, “but fire away.”

“We talked about the apostle Peter and his confession of Jesus as the Christ [See Posting Number 350, “Knowing the Right Answer”], and we have talked about Peter’s denial of Jesus [See Posting Number 382, “Are You Known as a Christian”], and I just don’t understand how Peter could deny even knowing Christ after saying what he did earlier about Jesus being the Christ.”

“There are certain questions,” Stan responded, “that I think will remain unanswered until I step into eternity to be with God forever, and this may be one of them. However, I think I can see one answer by simply looking at myself.”

“Yourself?” I asked.

“Yes,” Stan replied.  “There is no doubt in my mind that I am a Christian.  I have accepted the free gift of salvation through the finished work of Christ by His life, death, and resurrection.  Like Peter, I got the answer right to Jesus’ question of ‘Who do you say I am?’”

“And,” Stan continued, “there is no doubt in my mind that I, like Peter, deny knowing Jesus by thoughts, words, and actions that are clearly contrary to what God expects of someone, like me, who has professed Christ as Lord and Savior.”

“So,” I replied, “you see yourself to be like Peter.”

“I do,” Stan said. “Just like Peter, I am a human fully capable of failing to deny myself, failing to take up my cross, and failing to follow Jesus wherever He wants to lead, at whatever cost there may be.  I am fully capable of doing that in spite of what I have said, and regardless of the commitments I have made to be fully God’s.”

Concluding, Stan said, “And it is real important for me not to be too quick to chastise Peter.  I was not there.  Peter did what he did.  Jesus forgave Him.  Who am I to judge?”

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And Simon Peter answered and said, “Thou art the Christ, the son of the living God.”  Matthew 16:16.

Then he (Peter) began to curse and swear, “I do not know this man!”  Matthew 26:74.

Prayer:  Thank you, Father, for all you show me about being yours.  Thank you for showing me how easily I can move a long distance apart from you, regardless of the commitments I make to the contrary.  Thank you, too, for your forgiveness when I come to you and confess of my failings.  I also thank you for your help in my repentance so that my walk with you is in accord with your desire for my discipleship.  Please help me to follow your lead in denying myself, doing what you have for me to do, and in following you wherever you want without regard to cost.  Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus.  Amen.

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Things to think (and journal) about:

1.  What is your biggest take-away from this devotional?

2.  What does this devotional say about God and about us as His people?

3.  What is God saying to you to do personally?

4.  Who can you share this with to make a difference?

_____________________________

Comments, questions, suggestions, and the like can be addressed to The Storyteller at: waiting4thetrain@gmail.com.