35. Love Takes Time

Stan opened our time together with a statement and then a question.

“Early on in our relationship, you told me you and your wife are separated.  Has there been any progress in getting back together?”

“A little”,  I responded.  “We have had some decent telephone conversations. I am hopeful.”

“I will continue to pray for you and your wife”, Stan said.

“Thank you.”

“Did you know her very long before you got married?” Stan asked.

“A few months”, I replied. “But we lived in different towns and we did not really spend much time together before we got married.”

Shifting gears, Stan asked, “How much time do you spend with God each day?”

“It varies”, I responded.  “Some days quite a bit of time.  Not so much other days.  It depends on what is going on.”

“It takes time and effort to get to know anyone”, Stan stated.  “And that is especially true with God.”

“A quick five minutes here and five minutes there really doesn’t cut it”, Stan said rather firmly.

Continuing, Stan added, “Love takes time.  That’s true whether you are talking about a friend, a potential spouse, or the Lord God Almighty.  Love doesn’t just happen.”

Trying to offer some sort of defense, I said, “My wife doesn’t seem that interested in spending much time with me.”

“What about God?”, Stan asked.

“What about Him?”

“Do you think He is interested in spending time with you?”

“He’s probably pretty busy”, was my somewhat lame response.

 Stan bristled a bit and responded, “I can give you absolute assurance that God wants to spend a lot of time with you.  The real question is what about you?  How much time do you want to spend in getting to know and be in love with Him?”

“It has to be a priority, my friend.  You will never get to know God as well as is possible unless you take the time.”

“God has all the time in the world”, Stan said with a smile.  “Take advantage of His availability and desire to spend time with you.  Get to know Him as deeply and as intimately as possible.”

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

Prayer:  Lord, thank you for wanting me to know and to love you.  I need and ask for your help in making that a priority.  I ask you to draw me ever closer and open me to want to know you as well and as deeply as humanly possible.  Amen.

34. Learn From Stumbling

“Did it again,” Stan said with a bit of a sheepish grin.

“Did what?” I asked.

“Made a fool of myself,” was Stan’s answer.

“Sounds like confession time,” I kind of mocked him.  “Tell me about it.”

Stan began, “Just as I was about to get here a couple of minutes ago, I passed a woman on the sidewalk who was, to say the least, very attractive.  As we passed, I stared at her and stumbled over a slight raise in the sidewalk.”

He continued, “Thankfully, I did not fall down, but I stumbled.  The woman turned around and laughed.  Boy, was I embarrassed!”

“Learn anything?” I asked.

“You bet!” Was Stan’s reply.  “Keep my focus where it is supposed to be.”

“That will keep me from being laughed at by beautiful women; and it will keep me from being laughed at by the world, the flesh, and the devil,” was Stan’s very somber response.”

He continued, “It is kind of a funny story, but what is not funny is the very valuable lesson.  God is constantly walking with me to keep me from stumbling, but I too often do not walk with Him and, as a result, do stumble.”

“The main question when I stumble is whether or not I regain my balance and not fall.  In this instance, I did not fall down.  I regained my balance and learned the folly of not keeping my focus where it should be.”

“Aren’t you making too big a deal of looking at a beautiful woman?” I asked Stan.

“No.  Jesus addressed this very issue.  He said if my eye causes me to stumble, pluck it out.  In today’s language, He is saying if my eye causes me to stumble, don’t look.”

I responded, “Sorry I was do dense; I see what you mean.”

“It is not what I mean that is important, it is what Jesus means,” was Stan’s response.

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If your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out, throw it away from you. Matthew 18:9.

These things I have spoken to you, that you may be kept from stumbling.  John 16:1.

Prayer: Lord, you know all about me. You know all of my weaknesses. You know, and I know, that looking where I am not to look is not your will. Please, Lord, help me. Lead me in what to look at, and in what not to look at. Lead and please help me to follow. Amen.


33. The Land of the Living

“Once a person has settled the question of where he or she is going when the time here is completed,” Stan began, “there is only one thing left to do.”

“And that is . . .,” I responded with an open question.

“Live in the land of the living.  Live the life that is intended for this side of eternity.”

“Can you expand on that?” I asked Stan.

“Sure,” was his response.  “I will talk about what I know best, and that is my personal experience.  I settled where I am going when I step into eternity by accepting the free gift of Christ Jesus’ finished work on the cross.  Done deal.  Ticket bought, paid for, issued, and accepted.”

“No more question about where I am going,” Stan said and then added, “The only question is who am I going to bring with me.”

“It’s like I am going to stand before the Lord and hear Him say, ‘welcome Stan’ and then ask, ‘are you all by yourself?’”

“I don’t want to have to answer that question with a ‘yes’,” Stan said seriously.  “I am left here for one purpose.”

“Tell me,” I said.

“My purpose is to glorify and magnify God, and to bless others in His name and for His sake so that their vision of God is expanded and enhanced.  Then those people will go on to glorify and magnify God and bless others — and on and on it goes,” was what Stan had to say.

“It can only be done in the land of the living,” Stan concluded.  “When I step into eternity my opportunity to bring others with me will be at an end.  I want it to end well,” he concluded.

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Psalm 116:9 — I shall walk before the Lord in the land of the living.

Prayer:  Lord, I thank you for the free gift of salvation and that I know where I am going when my time here is done.  You have left me here for your purposes, and I ask you to lead me to those you want me to help on this side of eternity.  Please, Lord, bring before me those you want me to bring with me when I meet you in eternity.  Amen.

32. Bearing Witness

“Let’s talk about being a witness,” Stan opened our conversation one morning.

“What kind of witness are you talking about?” I asked him.

“Well, let’s start with being a witness in court.  What does that look like?” Stan asked.

“A witness gets on the stand and tells what he or she saw, what was witnessed,” I responded.

“I can agree with that,” Stan said.

He then added, “What about being a witness from the Christian standpoint?”

“Well, I suppose,” I began, it is telling another person what it means to be a Christian.”

“On what do you base that supposition?” Stan responded.

“I guess I shouldn’t have said, ‘I suppose,” I said rather defensively.

“Yeah, let’s not ‘suppose’ anything,” was Stan’s reply.  Let’s focus on fact.  What is the fact of being a Christian witness?”

“Since I am having a bit of trouble with this,” I said to Stan, “why don’t you tell me what you think?”

“OK,” he said.  “Being a Christian witness is not just telling someone anything,” he said with emphasis.  “If you have to use words, you may be on the wrong track.”

“What do you mean by that?” I asked.

“Being a Christian witness is a lifestyle,” Stan replied.  “In John’s Gospel, Jesus is recorded as having said that when we have the Spirit of Truth in us, that Spirit will bear witness of Jesus, and that we will also bear witness.”

“Is there a key to that?” I asked.

“I believe there is,” Stan replied.  “The key is getting self out of the way so that the Holly Spirit can do the witnessing He is intended to do.  It is choosing to allow God’s Spirit to do all He wants to do in and through us.”

Stan continued, “No one should ever conclude from being with me, or with you, ‘what a wonderful person he is!’  No, the conclusion should be ‘I have just been with someone who bears a strong family resemblance to the Risen Christ.’”

Concluding, Stan said, “That is what I think being a Christian witness is all about.”

“More to chew on,” was my response.

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When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of Truth, who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness of Me.  John 15:26.

Prayer:  Lord, you have provided the Spirit of Truth to witness to me about you, and to lead and guide me in being to others a witness of you.  I ask for your help in being the witness you intend so that you will make a difference in lives and eternal destinations through me.  Amen

31. Hothead

“Looking kind of downcast this morning,” I said to Stan.

“You are too observant,” he said with a slight smile.

“Want to talk about it?” I asked.

“Promise you won’t think less or me?” 

“Promise,” I said.

“Well, I blew it again yesterday afternoon,” Stan began.

“How?” I asked.

“My wife and I went out to do some shopping, which we always enjoy.  We were going to have some lunch and then go to a favorite store to see about some Christmas gifts.   But I ruined it before we even got started.”

“What happened?” I asked him.

“I happened,” he said with a bit of drama.  “I let my ugly old self rise up and get angry with a driver who took the parking place I had my eye on.”

“Rather than just let it go, I really lost my cool.  I said some ugly things that made me realize I am not where I like to think I am in my relationship with God.”

“Do you know what it means to close someone’s spirit?” he asked me.  But before I could even answer, Stan said with frustration, “What I said closed my wife’s spirit so much that I had, in a thoughtless instant, ruined what could have been a very nice outing.”

“After my outburst, my wife said she had lost her enthusiasm for doing anything with me. We went home and I spent a frosty afternoon and evening.”

“Will I ever learn?” Stan said, more to himself than to me.

Stan continued, “I have read in Proverbs countless times that a hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but only when I do the stirring do I realize fully the truth of that verse.”

“Is it fair to say that the parking spot wasn’t as important as you thought it was?” I poked a jab at Stan.

Stan responded, “Amen!”

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A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but the slow to anger pacifies contention.  Proverbs 15:18.

Prayer:  Lord, you know my tendency to be hot-tempered and to overreact in ways that are so contrary to what you want.  Ways that can be so terribly destructive.  I ask for your forgiveness and for your help in changing so that I am only who you intend.  Also, that I am only the person you can and will use, as well as being only who I am needed to be.  Amen.

30. Be Careful What You Water With

“What’s up, Stan?” I asked as I saw him with a big smile on his face.

“I was just thinking about a story my neighbor told me last night.”

“Fill me in,” I said.

“My neighbor has a five-year-old granddaughter,” Stan began.  “It seems that last summer she wanted to grow some pumpkins for Halloween..”

“So my neighbor took her to the store and they bought some pumpkin seeds and some potting mix to plant them in.”

“They went home and did all that was necessary to get the seeds planted in a big pot on my neighbor’s patio.”

“Each day, his granddaughter would come over with anticipation to see if the seeds had sprouted.”

“Finally, after a few days, the plants began to peak through the soil.  The granddaughter was delighted beyond words.”

“She instructed her grandfather to be sure to water the plants so there would be really big pumpkins in time for Halloween.  That was his assignment,” Stan said as he could hardly contain his laugh.

“What makes the story so funny?” I asked.

“Well, it seems that my neighbor is not much of a gardener.”

“How so?” I asked.

“Well, after the seeds sprouted and the plants began to grow, they withered up and began to die.  This was very disconcerting to both my neighbor and his granddaughter.”

“After all of the plants died, they decided to try again with some new seeds.”

“Same result,” Stan said.  “Again the seeds sprouted and the plants died, even though my neighbor was watering them very diligently.”

“This is the kicker,” Stan said with a laugh.  “My poor neighbor was using the same watering can he had used to mix up some weed killer.  Hard for plants to grow when you are feeding them poison!” Stan said with a big laugh.

“Did he confess to his granddaughter?” I asked.

“Yeah, he did, and she decided that was the end of growing pumpkins with her grandfather.”

“When Halloween came, they went to the store and bought a pumpkin!”

Stan continued, “I think that story is really funny because I can relate it to every aspect of my life.  If I am not careful what I use in ‘watering’ my relationships, and especially the one with God, all of those  relationships will dry up, wither, and die just like the pumpkin plants.”

“Just as I have to be careful what watering can I am using, making sure it is a clean one, I have to be careful what I allow into my life so all of my relationships grow and flourish, especially with God.”

“There are all sorts of things just waiting to poison relationships.  Choose to avoid them.”

Stan concluded, “And choose to let God do the watering in all of your relationships, for he is the One who will produce the growth.”

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Neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. 1 Corinthians 3:7.

Prayer:  Thank you that you know exactly what you want from every one of my relationships, especially my relationship with you.  I open myself to receive all that you have for me.  I ask for your help in nurturing each of my relationships for that you are honored and glorified.  Amen.

29. Drawing Near

One morning Stan was back on the subject of how he got started journaling and how much the whole process had meant to him.

“I was making my way through the Bible after starting with the fifteenth chapter of John’s Gospel, and going a chapter each day,” he began.

“I went through the Book of Acts and the various letters, sensing that something really special was happening to me, but  just couldn’t put my finger on it.”

“I had this wonderful sense of being ever closer to God, but not knowing why,” he continued.  “And then one morning I read James 4:8 and it all made sense.”

“What was that?” I asked.

“The verse says, ‘Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.’ That is what was happening to me,” Stan exclaimed very excitedly.

“As I deliberately chose to draw closer to God, He responded in a magnificent manner by drawing close to me.”

“And round and round it goes,” Stan continued.  “As God draws closer to me, I again choose to draw closer to Him and He responds.”

“Closer and closer we get.  And deeper and deeper our relationship grows!  It is precious beyond my wildest dreams.”

“Does that happen with everyone?” I asked.

“That is the plan,” Stan replied.  “Unfortunately, not everyone who is bound for Glory takes the step to choose to go in that direction — and it is a choice.  It does not happen automatically.”

Continuing,  he said, “God does not force Himself on anyone, but if a person has the genuine desire to know Him, and chooses to draw near to Him, he or she better get ready, for something wonderful is about to happen!”

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

Prayer:  Thank you, Lord, for drawing ever closer to me when I choose to draw near to you.  I am so thankful that this is your plan for developing our relationship.  Please continue to move in me to want, with every fiber of my being, to draw ever nearer to you.  Amen.

28. Whose are You?

“Yes and no” was my response when Stan asked me if I thought I could do whatever I want.

“Why did you answer that way?” he asked.

“Yes, I can do whatever I want, whenever I want, because I have the free will do do so,” was my response.

“Without any limits?” he asked.

“That’s the ‘no’ part of my answer.  ‘Yes’, without limits, but ‘no’ from the standpoint of wanting to avoid the consequences that may flow from the ‘yes’ part.”

“Who do you think guides you in your decisions?” Stan asked.

“Depends on who I am listening to at the time.”

“If I am listing to myself, spouting off selfish wants, I am more apt to do whatever that self-focused being is ranting about.”

“But if I am listening to the voice of God within me through His Holy Spirit, the exact opposite is the result.”

“You are right,” said Stan.  The Holy Spirit is called the ‘Helper’ and the ‘Counselor’ for very good reasons.  If a person will choose to listen to Him, what that person is and does is totally opposite of listening to the voice of self.”

“One of the consequences of listing to and following self is an interruption in the fellowship with God, and that is not a good thing!”

“It’s all about choice, isn’t it?” I asked.

“Yes.  God did not create a race of unthinking robots who are programmed to do whatever He wants.  He knows what He wants each one of His children to be and to do, but He wants us to choose Him and His way.  He wants us to exercise our free will to choose Him.”

“When a person chooses to belong to God, and then chooses to walk his own path away from God, God will move heaven an earth to come along side of that person to lead him or her back to the lighted path.”

“Have you ever experienced that?” I asked.

“More times than I want to admit, but He is so faithful in showing me that I am His and no longer my own.  He leads.  The question is whether I will follow!”

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You are not you own for you have been bought with a price.  1 Corinthians 6:19-20.

Prayer:  Thank you, Lord, that I am not longer my own because I have accepted the finished work of Christ Jesus on the cross.  You know how often I want to be my own by following my own selfish desires.  You know and I know.  I need and ask for your help in truly choosing to be yours in every aspect of my being.  Amen.

27. What’s that Ticking Sound?

Again, out of the blue, Stan had one of his questions.  “Do you know one of the greatest questions you can ever be asked?”

“I’m sure I can come up with an answer,” I replied with a smile, “but I bet it won’t be the one you have in mind. Tell me what you think.”

“What makes you tick?”

“Are you asking me, or is that the question?”

“That’s the question you should hope someone asks.’

“Please explain,” I responded.

“Your life, my life, as well as the life of any professed Christian, should be so different from what the world has grown to expect that a person wants to know why that is so by asking ‘What makes you tick?’”

“And,” Stan continued, “each one of us has to be prepared with an answer that may affect that  person’s life and eternal destination.”

“The ticking sound that makes us tick and what makes us different from the world is the heartbeat of the Risen Christ living in us.  That is what we are to demonstrate and share with the watching world.”

“Great thoughts, Stan, but do you always do that?”

“I think you know me better than that!” he exclaimed with a smile, “but that is the goal; that is what I aim at every single day.”

“Am I entitled each day to hear the Lord’s ‘well done’?” Stan said, almost as if he was talking to himself.  “Absolutely not!” He said emphatically, “but the hope of that is what stirs me each morning and sets me on the intended path.”

“As I explained to you at the beginning,” Stan said, “I am a maturing Christian, not a mature one.  With each step in the maturing process, the ticking sound is to get louder, and more and more people are to ask, ‘what’s that ticking sound?’”

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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.

Prayer:  Lord, that I manifest you in every aspect of my life is your desire.  I know that and you know that, and you also know how much I need your help.  I ask for your help so that I am always ready, willing, and able to provide the answer you want for whoever asks.  Amen

26. The Right Perspective

Stan began the conversation with “There’s an interesting story about a woman in Matthew’s Gospel.  She did something for which the disciples of Jesus condemned her, but Jesus, Himself, gave her high praise.”

“How could there be such a distinction in their reactions?” I asked.

“This, along with everything, absolutely everything, has to be seen in the right perspective.”

“What did this woman do that caused the different reactions?” I asked Stan.

“Jesus was reclining at a table at the home of someone who was hosting him.  A woman came up behind Him and poured some very expensive perfume on His head.”

“Why did she do that?” I asked.

“Jesus said it was done to prepare His body for burial.  And He said it was a good thing.”

“What about the disciples?”

“They condemned the woman, saying that she wasted what could have been sold for money to give to the poor.”

“Who was right?” I asked.

“Jesus is always right,” Stan said with a laugh.  “In fact,” he continued, “Jesus criticized the disciples rather harshly and told them to leave the woman alone, for she had done a good deed to Him.”

“Jesus went even further and gave this woman higher praise by saying that wherever the Gospel is preached what this woman had done would be spoken of in memory of her.”  

I responded, “That is an amazing testimony for Jesus to say that she would be remembered in that way!  I would love to be in that position!”

“I agree,” said Stan.  “And there is a valuable lesson here to see the amazing contrast in the perspectives of the disciples and of Jesus. They had all witnessed the same event, but had totally different reactions.”

“Praise by the only One who counted, and condemnation by those in the dark about the truth.”

Stan concluded, “I need to see clearly and to be quick to praise in line with what Jesus praises.  Not always easy, but that is what I know I need to do.”

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Why do you bother the woman?  For she has done a good deed to Me.  Matthew 26:10.

Prayer:  Lord, you know how quick I am to criticize others.  It is such a self-focused thing I do way too often.  I ask you to move in me to help me to see everything from your perspective so I will know what you praise, why you praise it, and will join you in that praise.  Amen.