January 19, 2021 — Can You Give Before Receiving?

“The other day,” I began, “we were talking about the apostle Paul’s farewell message to the church in Ephesus.”

“That’s right,” Stan replied.  “Paul had some things to say that I think are important in a continually-deepening faith walk.” [Note to reader:  See “What’s Your Farewell Message Going To Be?”, posted January 15, 2021].

“After we talked about that,” I said, “I read those verses and saw something I’m not sure I understand.”

“What’s that?” Stan asked.

“The part where Paul says that Jesus said something about it being more blessed to give than to receive.  I couldn’t find in any of the four gospels that Jesus is recorded as having said that.  Was Paul wrong or did I miss something?”

“Well,” Stan replied, “in the first place, I don’t think you missed anything.  From what I know, there is nothing recorded in the Bible that Jesus said that other than in Paul’s farewell message to the church in Ephesus.”

“However,” he continued, “even though Paul didn’t know Jesus personally while Jesus walked the earth, Paul spent a lot of time with Him from the moment when Jesus came into his life on the road to Damascus.  Jesus changed everything about Paul and his relationship with God in and through Christ.  I don’t know everything they talked about, but if Paul said that Jesus said that, I’m going to go with Paul on that one!”

“I suppose there’s some dispute about whether Jesus said that,” I replied.

“Pretty good supposition,” Stan said with a smile.

“But,” he continued, “don’t let that get in the way of the truth of what Paul said.  It is more blessed to give than to receive.  However, I also think there’s a qualification.”

“What qualification?” I asked.

“In the context of giving what I have received from God,” Stan replied, “I can’t give it until I have received it.  I can’t bless someone with what I have to give them until I have received the blessing of it having been given to me.”

“So,” I said, “it’s a blessing to receive and then another blessing to give.  Is that it?”

“That’s what I see,” Stan replied.  “Blessing upon blessing!”

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In every thing I showed you that by working hard in this manner you must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He Himself said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”  Acts of the Apostles 20:35.

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, . . . . John 3:16.

Receive the Holy Spirit.  John 20:22.

. . . freely you received, freely give.  Matthew 10:8.

Prayer:  Thank you, Father, for all you have given and for all you have allowed me to receive.  You have given me life eternally with you when it’s time.  You have given me the eternal life of being allowed to know you and Jesus before I step into eternity.  I choose to receive and embrace all you have to give me.  I ask for your help in giving to others what I have received from you, not only in the sense of material things, but, more importantly, in the sense of the spiritual blessings you have given and I have received.  Please help me in following your lead to give what I have been given.  Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus.  Amen.

Think on this:  Have you received God’s free and gracious gift of life eternally with Him when it’s time?  If not, why?  If you have received that gift, are you pursuing the gift of being able to know God the Father and Jesus the Son on this side of eternity?  If not, why?  If you are pursuing that, is your pursuit as diligent as you would like?  As God would like?  Are you blessing others with what you have received as fully as you think God would like?

January 18, 2021 — It’s Who You Know

“I was talking with a neighbor last night about something that may have opened him to consider Christianity,” Stan began.

“Great!” I exclaimed.  “How did that happen?”

“My neighbor has been looking into a new job,” Stan replied.  He submitted an application for a position over at Smithson’s.  He said it sounded like a perfect job for him, that he met all of the qualifications, the job interview went well, and all of that stuff.  He was excited about the prospects.”

“So,” I asked, “did he get the job?”

“He did not,” Stan replied.  “Seems that someone else who knows the head of the company got the job.”

“Oh,” I said, “I’ve seen that sort of thing happen lots of times.  It can be all about knowing the right person.”

“And that’s exactly what I was able to talk about with my neighbor,” Stan said.  “About knowing God the Father and Jesus His Son.  They are the ultimate insiders to know.  After all, Jesus said that knowing Him and His Father is eternal life.”

“So,” I said, “your neighbor was open to hearing what you had to say?”

“He was,” Stan replied.  “I have tried talking with him many times before about Christianity, my faith, and all that is involved, but he has never been interested before.”

“But he was this time?”

“Seems so,” Stan replied.  “He didn’t immediately respond with a confession of faith, but he was open in a way he had never been before.  To me, this was another example of why it’s important for me to always be ready to present the truth of the gospel.”

Continuing, he added, “I can never know how God may be moving in other people to open them to want to know Him.  My role is to be available with the truth, present it, and leave the results in God’s very capable hands.”

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Bible verses to consider:

Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to every one who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.  1 Peter 3:15.

Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned, as it were, with salt, so that you may know how you should respond to each person.  Colossians 4:6.

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

Prayer:  Thank you, Father, for the people you brought into my life to share with me the truth of the gospel so I could accept your free and gracious gift of salvation.  I confess that too often I am not prepared to present the truth to others so that they, too, can have the assurance of salvation.  Please help me in being prepared to present the truth to each person you bring before me.  Help me in being obedient to what you have for me to do while I am being who you intend.  Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus.  Amen.

Think on this:  Do you have the assurance of spending eternity in God’s presence when your time here is finished?  If not, why?  If you do have that assurance, was there a particular person who brought you to that truth?  If so, have you thanked that person? If you know the truth, are you prepared to share it with each person God brings before you?  If not, why?  Do you want to be prepared to take advantage of every opportunity that God may present?  Why or why not?  If you do want to be prepared, do you know how that can happen?

January 16, 2021 — Just Leave Me Alone

“Sometimes,” Stan began, “I allow myself to really get down over all the bad stuff that goes on in the world.  Some days it seems that Satan is roaring louder than other days and I really need to get out there and defeat him and all he’s trying to do.”

“That’s a pretty normal reaction to all that’s going on, isn’t it?” I asked.

“It is,” Stan replied, “but, when I reflect on it, that’s not how I’m supposed to respond to what’s going on.”

“How so?” I replied.

“If Satan can get me to focus on defeating him,” Stan said, “rather than focusing on the fact that Christ Jesus already defeated him by His life, death, and resurrection, Satan will be successful in diverting me from what God has for me to be and to do.”

Continuing, he added, “If my focus is on Satan and defeating him, I have less time to focus on living and spreading the news that the battle has already been won.”

“So,” I replied, “does that mean you just ignore Satan?”

“No,” Stan replied, “I think that would be foolish.  I don’t ignore him in the sense of denying that he can have an influence on me, but I don’t focus on defeating him.  Rather, I focus on resisting him, telling him I know he has already been defeated, that I have more important things to do, and to just leave me alone.”

“Does that work?” I asked.

“It does, my friend,” Stan replied. 

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Bible verses to consider:

Resist the devil and he will flee from you.  James 4:7.

Do not give the devil an opportunity.  Ephesians 4:27.

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

When Jesus therefore had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!”  And He bowed His head, and gave up His spirit.  John 19:30.

Prayer:  Thank you, Father, for the victory over Satan provided by Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. He finished what you sent Him to do; He defeated Satan and He provided me with the assurance of spending eternity in your presence when it’s time.  I confess that too often I allow myself to be pulled down into thinking I have to work to defeat Satan, rather than relying on the fact of his defeat.  Please, Father, help me in keeping his defeat in the proper perspective and to not waste my time trying to do what you have already done.  However, I do need and ask for your help in resisting Satan so he will flee and leave me alone.  Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus, the Victor.  Amen.

Think on this:  Do you believe that Satan has been defeated and you don’t need to defeat him?  Why or why not?  Do you believe that there’s a difference between defeating Satan and resisting him?  How are you doing with the resisting part?  How would you like to be doing?  If you need help, do you know where to find that help?

January 15, 2021 — What’s Your Farewell Message Going To Be?

“Today,” Stan began, “I want to talk about a farewell message.”

“Farewell message?” I responded.  “You’re not leaving are you?”

“Not that I know of!” Stan replied with a smile.  “God will let me know when it’s time to head to the train station, and He hasn’t told me that yet.”

“Well, then,” I said, “what kind of farewell message are you talking about?”

“The kind of farewell message the apostle Paul gave to the church in Ephesus,” Stan replied.

“What was that?”

“Paul was in Ephesus,” Stan said, “talking with the elders of the church.  He was leaving and wouldn’t be back so he was recounting to them what he had done.  I don’t think he was patting himself on the back; he was encouraging the elders to carry on in the same way he had done.”

“What same way?”

“To declare the whole purpose of God,” Stan replied.  “That’s how Paul put it.  I think I’m to have the same farewell message when it’s time for me to leave.”

“Whole purpose of God?” I responded.  “That’s a really big subject isn’t it?”

“Not so much,” Stan replied.  “While I think it’s to take an entire lifetime to declare God’s whole purpose, I also think it’s real simple to state what that purpose is all about.”

“What’s that?” I asked.

“To reconcile the whole world to Him,” Stan replied.  “I think that’s the declaration of God’s whole purpose.  It’s why the Father gave His Son so that all who believe can have life eternally with Him when it is time.”

Continuing, he added, “It’s also why He allows us to have the eternal life of knowing Him more deeply while He keeps us on this side of eternity.”

“So,” I responded, “it’s a simple as that?  That’s God’s whole purpose?”

“I think so,” Stan replied.  “As simple, and as complicated, as that.”

“And,” he concluded, “I want to be able to have the same farewell message as Paul did; that when it’s time for me to leave, I will be able to say that I did what I could to declare God’s whole purpose!”

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Bible verses to consider:

For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God.  Acts of the Apostles 20:27.

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 has sent.  John 17:3.

Prayer:  Thank you, Father, for the free and gracious gift of life in your eternal presence when it’s time for me to step into eternity.  Thank you, too, for the opportunity to draw ever closer to you in a deepening relationship while you keep me here.  Your whole purpose is to reconcile me and the world to you through Jesus Christ.  That’s the message of your whole purpose.  I confess that too often I do not declare that purpose as you intend.  I do not tell others and I do not live a life that declares your whole purpose.  Please help me to do so in order that others may come to realize and accept all you have for them on both sides of eternity.  Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus.  Amen.

Think on this:  Do you agree that the whole purpose of God is to reconcile the world to Him through Jesus Christ?  Why or why not?  Have you accepted His provision of life eternally with Him when it’s time?  If not, why?  If you have accepted God’s provision of salvation for eternity, do you think you are living a life that declares His whole purpose?  Why or why not?  What would God have to say about that?  If you would like to live a life that will have the kind of farewell message reflected by the apostle Paul, do you know how to do that?

January 14, 2021 — The Tool In The Drawer

“You ever have someone give you something,” Stan began, “that you have no idea what it is, what it’s for, or how you might use it?”

“I’m not sure,” I replied.

“Well, I did,” Stan said.  “And it was a valuable lesson for my faith walk.”

“How so?”

“Last year for my birthday, one of my neighbors gave me a tool.  I thanked him, but I had no idea what it was supposed to do.  I just couldn’t imagine that I would ever have a need for it, so I just put it in a drawer.”

Continuing, Stan said, “Then yesterday one of the keys on my computer keyboard got stuck and quit working right in the middle of something I was trying to write for my Bible study class.”

“Computers are great,” I replied, “but when they stop working I generally have no idea what to do.”

“Same with me,” Stan replied, “But when the key was stuck, I remembered the tool my neighbor had given me and it occurred to me that it might be what I needed.”

Continuing, he said, “So I rummaged through the drawer until I found the tool.  It was exactly what I needed to fix the keyboard.”

“That must have made you happy,” I replied.

“Sure did,” Stan said, “and it also gave me an idea for what I was writing about for the Bible study.”

“How so?” I asked.

“That God has provided everything I need for every aspect of my faith walk with Him.  The apostle Peter, in his second letter, put it in terms of everything being ‘granted’, but just because something is available it doesn’t mean that I always understand and always take the steps necessary to make it a part of my life.”

“No,” Stan continued, “it doesn’t just happen.  I have to choose to pursue knowing by choosing to receive what God has provided.”

“Choosing to receive,” I repeated.  “How do you do that?”

“It’s no different from anything else,” Stan replied.  “When Ricky comes by with the coffee pot and asks if you want some more coffee, you have a choice to make.  Either to receive what he is offering, say ‘No, thanks,’ or ignore him.”

“God offers me everything I need,” Stan continued.  “It is up to me to choose to receive it.  He won’t force anything on me, but once I receive what He has available, there’s a good chance I will recognize what it’s for.”

“And,” he concluded, “I can say that it is usually so that my relationship with God is deepened and my faith walk towards being who and what He intends is strengthened!”

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Bible verses to consider:

Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.  2 Peter 1:2, 3.

And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”  John 20:22.

Prayer:  Thank you, Father, that you have provided all I need for both sides of eternity.  You have granted me the assurance of life eternally with you by accepting salvation through the finished work of Jesus.  And you have provided all I need on this side of eternity in order to be and to do what it is you have for me.  I confess that too often I do not receive what you have provided because I choose not to receive it.  Please forgive me.  And please, Father, help me in following your lead in being open to truly receive all you have for me so that I will manifest you in and through my life.  Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus.  Amen.

Think on this:  God has available everything we need for both sides of eternity, but He does not force us to accept it.  Do you agree with that?  Why or why not?  Do you sense there are things that God has available that you have not received?  If so, do you want them to be a part of your eternal destination and life before then?  Do you know how to do that?

January 13, 2021 — Agreeing About God’s Will

“At one point in my life,” Stan began, “before we moved here, a friend of mine was thinking about making some radical changes in his life.”

“What was that all about?” I asked.

“He said he had the sense that God wanted him to go to Northern Africa,” Stan replied.

“And do what?”

“He didn’t know any specifics,” Stan said.  “He said he just thought that God wanted him to go there for some sort of kingdom work.”

“Did he ask for your advice?” I asked.

“He did,” Stan replied.  “We spent a lot of time together talking and praying about what he should do.”

Continuing, he said, “The sense I had was that the man shouldn’t do what he was sensing God wanted him to do.”

“So you encouraged him not to go?” I asked.

“That’s right,” Stan replied.  “It just didn’t seem right to me.”

“Did he listen to you?” 

“He listened,” Stan replied, “but he did not follow my advice.”

“How did that make you feel?” I asked.  “Were you upset about that?”

“Not at all,” Stan responded.  “I took my approach from a similar thing that happened with the apostle Paul as recorded in the Book of Acts.”

“What’s that?” I asked.

“At one point, Paul was determined to go to Jerusalem.  Many of his friends told him they thought that was a really bad idea, but they could not persuade Paul to change his mind.”

Continuing, he added, “And how that situation was resolved is a valuable lesson for me in dealing with this sort of situation.”

“How was it resolved?” I asked.

“One verse in the Book of Acts speaks volumes to me about this,” Stan replied.  “What it says is that when his friends concluded that Paul could not be persuaded about going to Jerusalem, they quit talking about it, other than saying, ‘The will of the Lord be done!’”

“That really nails it!” I replied.  “Good solution for when there’s a difference of opinion as to what God may or may not want a person to do.”

“Exactly!” Stan said.  “Get self out of the way and let God do what He’s going to do.”

“And,” he concluded, “agree to disagree about the particulars, but do agree that the will of God is going to be done.  There should be agreement that God’s will is going to be done and then choose to be a part of what He’s doing, rather than fighting against it.”

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Bible verses to consider:

And since he (Paul) would not be persuaded, we fell silent, remarking, “The will of the Lord be done!”  Acts of the Apostles 21:14.

Father, if Thou art willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not my will, but Thine be done.  Luke 23:42.

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

Prayer:  Thank you, Father, that your will is going to be done and that your purposes are going to be accomplished.  Thank you, too, for the opportunity to be a part of what you are doing to accomplish your will and your purposes.  I confess that too often I think I know your will and I am reluctant to accept that what I think you have shown me may be in conflict with what you have shown someone else.  Please help me in putting your will above mine, knowing that others will also follow your will even though it may be different from what I think they should do.  Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus.  Amen.

Think on this:  Have you been in a situation where you thought you knew what God intended for another person to do, but couldn’t convince that other person?  If so, what did that feel like?  How did you handle it?  Were you able to “agree to disagree”?  If not, why?  Also, if not, what could have enabled that to happen?  Do you agree that no one person has the exclusive knowledge of God’s will for another person?  Why or why not?

January 12, 2021 — The Fresh Cup Of Coffee

Stan had been busy talking.  His half-filled cup of coffee had turned cold.  Ricky came by with a fresh cup of hot coffee.

“Thanks,” Stan said to Ricky.  “Thanks for watching out for me!”

“You’re welcome,” Ricky replied as he hurried away.

“You see the spiritual significance of that?” Stan asked.

“What spiritual significance?” I asked.  “He just brought you a fresh cup of hot coffee.”

“At least two things,” Stan replied.

“If the first instance,” he continued, “this is just like what Jesus said to the church in Laodicea in the Book of Revelation.”

“How’s that?” I asked.

“Lukewarm,” Stan replied.  “If Ricky had just filled my half-cup of cold coffee with hot, the whole thing would have been just lukewarm.”

Continuing, he added, “In the Book of Revelation, Jesus said he would spit out the church in Laodicea because it was only lukewarm, neither hot nor cold.”

“Spit out,” I said.  “That’s pretty descriptive of how Jesus views lukewarm Christians.”

“A real warning,” Stan replied.  “Be hot! Be on fire!”

Stan then added, “A second point of the fresh cup of coffee is that Ricky beat me to the punch.  I was just getting ready to ask him to empty the cup of the cold so it could be filled with the hot.”

“To me,” he continued, “being emptied so I can be filled is exactly what God wants and has for me.”

“Being emptied to be filled?” I replied.  “In what way?”

“In order for me to be filled with the Holy Spirit and all He has for me through His fruit,” Stan said, “I have to choose to be emptied of everything that can and does get in His way.”

‘Such as what?” I asked.

“Mainly self,” Stan replied.  “I have to choose to get me and all of my self-focus out of the way so the Holy Spirit can fill me, and keep on filling me, with all that He has available.”

“So,” I asked, “if you’re not emptied like that, the Holy Spirit won’t fill you?”

“It’s not so much ‘Won’t’,” Stan replied.  “It’s more ‘Can’t’!”

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So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth.  Revelation 3:16.

And the disciples were continually filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.  Acts of the Apostles 13:52.

. . . be filled with the Holy Spirit.  Ephesians 5:18.

And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit . . . . Acts of the Apostles 2:4.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control; . . . . Galatians 5:22, 23.

Prayer:  Thank you, Father, for the gift of the Holy Spirit to live in me to help, guide, and counsel me in my faith walk with you.  I confess that too often I do not empty myself of all that keeps me from being filled to overflowing with what you have for me.  Please, Father, help me in following your lead so that I truly empty myself of that which is in the way of your filling. Please fill me and keep on filling me with what you have.  Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus.  Amen.

01Think on this:  What does it mean for a person to be described as a “lukewarm” Christian?  Where are you on that temperature scale?  Is being filled with self a part of the natural human condition?  Why or why not?  Do you agree that people must be emptied of self before they can be filled with what God has for them?  Why or why not?  If you do agree with that, what does that kind of emptying and filling look like?  How are you doing with that?  How would you like to be doing?  If you think a change is needed, do you know how that can happen?

January 11, 2021 — Being Poured Out

As Ricky placed the stack of blueberry pancakes in front of Stan along with a container of  syrup, he said, “I just filled this with fresh maple syrup from Vermont; enjoy!” 

After thanking the Lord for His provision, Stan poured a generous portion of the maple syrup on the pancakes.

“What I just did,” Stan said, “is what I’m supposed to do throughout the rest of this day, along with every day I have remaining.”

“What are you talking about?” I asked.  “I saw you pray over our breakfast and then put some syrup on your pancakes.  How is that supposed to affect what you do the rest of the day?”

“I poured out the syrup,” Stan replied, “and I am to pour out what God puts in me.”

“How so?” I asked.

Responding, Stan said, “I am to pour out into the lives of each person God brings before me what God has graciously put into my life.”

Continuing, he added, “God has given me the gift of life eternally with Him when my time here is done.  And I am to tell others that the same provision is available to them.”

“So they, too, may believe,” I replied.

“Exactly,” Stan exclaimed.  “And I’m to help others who have come to faith to see the availability of a more mature walk with God on this side of eternity.”

“Going from being converted towards transformation?” I replied.  “Is that what you’re saying?”

“That’s it, my friend,” Stan said.  “I am to pour out into the lives of others what God has put in so that there will be a difference.  Not only a difference in eternal destinations, but a difference in lives on this side of eternity.”

Concluding, Stan said, “It’s just like these blueberry pancakes.  They wouldn’t be the same if I didn’t pour out the maple syrup Ricky put into the container.  Eternal destinations and lives here won’t be any different if I don’t  pour out what God has put in.”

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But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all.  Philippians 2:17.

He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, “From his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water.  John 7:38.

Prayer:  Thank you, Father, that you want to fill me with all you have.  Please help me in wanting to be filled.  Thank you, too, that you want me to pour out into the lives of others what you have put into me.  You want your living water to flow from me into others, but I confess that too often I am reluctant to be the conduit you intend.  Please forgive me and please open me to be who and to do what you intend with each person you bring before me.  May eternal destinations and lives be changed because I am obedient in pouring out what you have put in.  Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus.  Amen.

Think on this:  It’s easy to be filled with self rather than with what God wants us to be filled with.  With what does God want to fill you?  Do you feel you are filled with that?  Why or why not?  What does it mean to pour out what has been put in?  Are you doing that?  If not, why?  If you aren’t doing it and you want to do so, do you know how that can happen?

January 9, 2021 — Are You Perplexing?

“Often,” Stan began, “if I’m paying close enough attention, I get to see an important lesson for my faith walk in even a few words in the Bible.”

“You have something for me about that?” I asked.

“I do,” Stan replied.  “In the apostle Paul’s letter to the church in Galatia he expressed some frustration at how some of the people in the church had turned against his teaching.”

Continuing, Stan said, “At one point Paul wrote, ‘I am perplexed about you.’  That struck me as a valuable lesson.”

“That Paul was perplexed with some people a long time ago has some relevance to you today?” I responded.  “How so?”

“I don’t want to hear the Holy Spirit say that He’s perplexed about me,” Stan said.

“And why might the Holy Spirit say that?” I asked.

“He might say it, and actually has many times,” Stan replied, “when I wander away from the truth and pursue what I want to do apart from what God has for me.”

Continuing, he said, “The Holy Spirit often has grounds to say to me, in essence, ‘After all you have been given, and after all that you have been shown, you still walk away to follow your own way, refusing to deny yourself. That perplexes Me!’”

“You’re right,” I replied, “not a good thing to hear from the Holy Spirit.”

“But,” I continued, “if the Holy Spirit does say that, do you have an answer or something to do in response?”

“I do,” Stan said, “and it involves confession, repentance, and getting back on track so I am no longer perplexing and the Holy Spirit is no longer perplexed by me!”

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I am perplexed about you.  Galatians 4:20.

Prayer:  Thank you, Father, for all you have done to provide me with the assurance of salvation through your free and gracious gift.  Thank you, too, for the opportunity to know you and your Son more deeply in an ever-growing relationship while you keep me on this side of eternity.  I confess that way too often my relationship with you is perplexing to you.  In spite of all you have done and in spite of all you are willing to do in and through me, I wander away on my own, seeking to do what I want to do apart from you.  Please forgive me for perplexing you in those ways.  And please, Father, help me in following your lead into the relationship you intend so I no longer perplex you.  Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus.  Amen.

Think on this:  Do you think you have every perplexed God by things you have thought, said, and/or done?  If not, maybe you need to think more deeply!  If you do think you have perplexed God, what was that all about?  Do you think God expects to be perplexed by you?  Why or why not?  If you think you may be perplexing to God about your relationship with Him, and you want to stop being perplexing, what would it take for that to happen?  Do you know how it can happen?

January 8, 2021 — The Guardrails Of Discipleship

“I drove over to Johnsonville yesterday,” Stan began.  “I took the old road over the summit, going through Weston.”

“That’s a beautiful drive,” I replied.  “Was it nice?”

“Sure was,” Stan responded.  “There was a bit of a slowdown near the summit, where the highway people are installing a guardrail, but that only gave me more of a chance to stop and enjoy God’s magnificent scenery.”

“Putting in a guardrail?” I said.   “Is that because of the accident that happened up there a while back?”

“I think so,” Stan replied.  “That was a real tragedy when that couple went off the road and were killed in the crash.”

“While the guardrail is too late to protect that couple,” I responded, “it will probably save a lot of lives in the future.”

“Guardrails can do that,” Stan replied.  “Not only physical lives, but spiritual ones as well.”

Continuing, he added, “That’s what the apostle Paul told the elders of the church in Ephesus during his final visit with them.”

“He talked about guardrails?” I asked.

“Kind of,” Stan replied.  “He didn’t use the word, ‘guardrails,’ but he certainly did talk about guarding.  And I see it as Paul was talking directly to me as well.”

“Guarding what?” I asked.

“Paul put it in terms of the elders were to guard themselves as well as the church which they were to shepherd.”

“I can see how that could apply to you in the sense of guarding yourself,” I said, “but you don’t have a church to shepherd.  You’re not the pastor of a church.”

“That’s right,” Stan replied, “I’m not the pastor of a church, but I do see the role of one helping another believer towards spiritual maturity as similar.”

Continuing, he added, “Certainly similar in the sense that I need to be on guard, not only for my own faith walk, but on guard in how I seek to help you in your faith walk.”

“And how do you do that?” I asked.  “How to you keep on guard?”

“Build guardrails,” Stan replied.  “The guardrails of the Word of God; the guardrails of listening to the voice of God through the Holy Spirit; the guardrails of obeying what it is God shows me He wants me to obey.  All sorts of guardrails.”

“Sounds kind of like discipleship,” I said.  “You think that’s a fair statement?”

“I do,” Stan replied, “but I think it’s more than ‘kind of like’!”

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Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God, which He purchased with His own blood.  Acts of the Apostles 20:28.

If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.  Matthew 16:24.

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 allowing me to have a personal relationship with you while I wait to spend eternity in your presence.  Thank you, too, for wanting to guard me so I do not run off the road or path you intend for me.  Please help me in guarding my relationship with you, as well as in helping anyone you bring into my life that you want me to disciple or shepherd into a deeper relationship with you.  Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus.  Amen.

Think on this:  Guardrails are important to keep us from running off the road.  Do you have guardrails in your life to keep you on the path towards greater maturity in your faith walk?  If not, why?  What do such guardrails look like?  If you do have such guardrails, do you know that they need to be maintained in order to be secure?  What does that sort of maintenance look like?  If you don’t have guardrails or you aren’t maintaining them properly, do you want to have secure guardrails in place?  If so, do you know how to do that?