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201. Limit God at Your Own Risk

“It’s interesting to me,” Stan said, “how God uses memories to communicate to me things He wants me to see and to keep before me.”

“What do you have in mind?” I asked.

“When I first became a Christian and was in a Bible study class,” Stan responded, “the class leader said something that was clearly well-intended, but turned out to be off-base and limiting.”

“Sounds serious,” I responded.

“Yes and no,” Stan replied.  “I don’t want to make too big a deal about it, but there is a lesson in what the leader did and did not do.”

“What is it he told you?” I asked.

“He was talking about his personal prayer life and what he did every day, indicating that it was the way I should approach God.”

“What was wrong with that?”

“It did not seem wrong at the time.  And, again, I know he meant well, but what he said, in essence, was that I was to get on my knees every morning for fifteen minutes and pray.  And that I was to have a set list of things I was to pray about.”

“Sounds like a plan to me,” I responded.

“Yes, it was a plan,” Stan replied, “but it was a very limiting plan that left little room for a real growing relationship with God.”

“How so?” I asked.

“I would get on my knees each morning with my list.  I would watch the clock to make sure I was there for fifteen minutes, and then I would get up, put God back on the shelf until the next day, and proceed with my day.”

“I see what you mean,” I responded.

“Yeah,” Stan said, “as I matured in my relationship with God, it became real clear that He does not want to be put on the shelf and only taken down and communicated with on my schedule.”

“No,” he continued, “God wants a relationship with me that involves ongoing communication throughout every day I have remaining on this side of eternity.”

“As I have said many times,” Stan concluded, “eternal life on this side of eternity is all about knowing God the Father and His Son Jesus.  No time limit and no set rules.  If I am limiting God, I do so at the risk of not knowing Him as He intends.”

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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:  Thank you, Lord, that you want to have a personal and ever-deepening relationship with me.  Thank you that you lead me in that relationship.  Please help me to follow.  And, Lord, please forgive all of the times I have not pursued knowing you as you intend.  I ask you to open me as fully as you can so that I continually want to draw closer to you and know you as deeply as possible on this side of eternity.  Thank you that I can and do bring all of these prayers before you in the name of Jesus.  Amen.

200. They Went Because They Were Sent

“One more thing,” Stan began, “about Barnabas and Saul going out from the early church at Antioch.”

“Let me see if I remember what we have talked about with that.” I replied.

Continuing, I said, “In the first place, the voice of the Holy Spirit was heard because they were focused on the Lord.”

“Secondly, the Holy Spirit told them that He had particular work for them to do.”

“That’s right,” Stan replied, and then said with a smile, “You were paying attention!”

 Continuing, he then said, “And the third part, and maybe the most important part, is that they went.”

“That,” he added, “is an essential lesson for me.”

He then said, “If I hear the voice of the Holy Spirit and do not respond in obedience, what is the point of hearing His voice?”

“I have to always remember that the Holy Spirit speaks to me for a reason,” Stan continued, “and He really does not like to waste His breath.”

“When He speaks, I am to hear and to listen.  Then I am to obey.”

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So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia and from there they sailed to Cyprus.  Acts of the Apostles 13:4.

Prayer:  Thank you, Lord, that you have work for me to do for you.  And thank you that you use your Holy Spirit to speak to me.  Please forgive me all of the times I have failed to listen to His voice by following in obedience.  I want only to be who and what you intend for me on this side of eternity by being obedient to what you have for me.  Please lead and help me to follow you in every aspect of my being.  Thank you I can and do bring all of these prayers before you in the name of Jesus.  Amen.

199. Standing in the Way

“The other day,” Stan began, “we talked about the the early church in Antioch and how the people listened to the Holy Spirit.”

“Yes,” I replied, “it was about what the Holy Spirit spoke to them while they were concentrating on ministering to the Lord.”

“That’s right,” Stan responded, “and there is another part of that I would like to focus on this morning.”

“What’s that?” I asked.

“It has to do with what the Holy Spirit said about what He had for Barnabas and Saul.”

Continuing, Stan said, “The Holy Spirit talked about what He had called them to do.”

“Called?” I asked.

“Yes, the Holy Spirit had something particular for them to do and it was a calling,” was Stan’s response.

“And,” he continued, “I think there is an important point about that.”

“Go ahead,” I replied.

“No one,” Stan responded, “is to stand in the way of what the Holy Spirit wants to do, whether it is with the individual or with another person.”

Continuing, he emphasized, “If the Holy Spirit has indicated He has a particular calling for a person, no one, including the person called, is to stand in the way of what the Holy Spirit wants to do in and through that person.”

“And,” Stan stated further, “it is the Holy Spirit who makes the calling clear.  It is not up to me to name my own calling.”

“But the essential part is that I am never to stand in the way of what the Holy Spirit has indicated He wants to do, whether it is with me or with another person.”

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The Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.  Acts of the Apostles 13:2.

Prayer:  Thank you, Lord, that you have work for me to do for you on this side of eternity.  Please forgive me all of the times I have ignored what you have told me you wanted me to be and to do.  I give you all of me for your purposes.  Please, Lord, open me to see, understand, receive, and embrace all you want.  And please help me to get myself out of your way so it is you, not me, I follow.  Thank you that I can and do bring all of these prayers before you in the name of Jesus.  Amen.

198. One Size Fits All — Or Not

“My wife and I,” Stan began, “are getting ready for a trip.  We are going where there may be some rain so we are taking some rain gear with us.”

Continuing, he said, “I was looking at an on-line catalog and saw some rain ponchos that were described as ‘One size fits all.’”

“That’s pretty normal for such a thing isn’t it?” I responded.

“Yeah, I suppose,” Stan replied, “but there is a whole lot of difference in the size between me and my wife.  She’s petite and I am not!” He said with a smile.

“So the same poncho will fit each of you much differently,” I added.

“Exactly,” Stan said.  And there is a spiritual lesson here.”

“About ponchos?” I asked.

“Not ponchos,” Stan replied, “but about sizes fitting all.”

“Let’s have it,” I responded.

“With the robe of righteousness that comes to each believer who accepts Christ’s finished work on the cross, it is clearly true that one size does fit all.”

Continuing, Stan said, “Each person who puts on that robe finds that it fits perfectly and he or she is ready to step into eternity properly dressed when the time comes.”

“But,” Stan then said, “there is a difference for this side of eternity.”

“In what way?” I asked.

“One size does not fit all on this side of eternity in the sense that we all are to be and do the same.  God has different roles for each one of us to fill.”

Stan then added, “What God has for me to be and to do is perfectly fitted for me, but that does not mean it is the same for you.”

“Each person who has settled his or her eternal destination is to find the intended role on this side of eternity by pursuing God and asking, hearing, and obeying what He has to say.”

“It is not a one-size-fits-all for this side of eternity.”

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I put on righteousness, and it clothed me;  my justice was like a robe and a turban.  Job 29:14.

Prayer:  Thank you, Lord, that I am clothed with the righteousness of Christ for when I step into eternity to be with you.  Thank you that you provided the way through Him and His finished work on the cross. Thank you that you gave that to me to accept as your free gift.  Now that my eternal destination with you is settled, you intend that my life on this side of eternity is to be different for you.  I give you all of me to mold, shape, and transform exactly as you want for your purposes.  Thank you that you want to use me, and that what you want is perfectly fitted for me.  And I thank you that I can and do bring all of these prayers before you in the name of Jesus.  Amen.

197. Seeking to Hear God

“Another interesting lesson in the Book of Acts,” Stan said one morning.

“Interesting in what way?” I asked.

“Mainly a personal application for me,” Stan replied.

“Tell me about it,” I said.

“It concerns the first missionary journey for the apostle Paul. He and Barnabas, along with, I think, John Mark, were on the island of Cyprus, sharing the Gospel.”

Continuing, Stan said, “When they got to Paphos they ran into an influential man named Sergius Paulus.  He is the one who has a great lesson for me.”

“In what way can some person that long ago have a personal impact on you today?” I asked.

“It has to do,” Stan replied, “with what the Bible says this fellow did.”

“And that was what?” I asked.

“It says that he summoned Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God.”

“That,” Stan said, “is exactly what I am supposed to do every single day.  I am to seek to hear the word of God.”

“In the case of the Sergius fellow, he sought Barnabas and Saul to hear from them.  I am to seek the Holy Spirit and the written word of God to hear from and about Him.”

“And,” Stan continued, “you know what is really great about this?  What I seek, I will find.”

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This man summoned Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God.  Acts of the Apostles 13:7.

Prayer:  Thank you, Lord, that you allow me to seek you and your word.  Please forgive me for all of the times I have not and do not seek you, but seek only what I want apart from you.  I choose to seek you and all you have for me.  Please, Lord, open me to not only seek, but to find, and to make you and your word the integral part of all of my being.  Thank you that I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus.  Amen.

196. What’s the Plan?

“I have a question for you, Stan,” I said one morning.

“Fire away,” he replied.

“We talk about a lot of different things.  Do you plan on what we will talk about or does it just happen?” I asked.

“Let me put it this way,” Stan replied.  “I firmly believe that you, my friend, will benefit a whole lot more from God’s plans than from mine.”

Continuing, he said, “Thus, I spend a lot of time in prayer before we get together seeking the Lord’s will and direction for what we talk about.”

He then said, “I learned that lesson through a lot of trial and error.  Mostly error,” he said with a smile.

“Far too many times I thought I knew what would be best in a particular situation and proceeded with my plans rather than seeking God’s plans.”

Continuing, Stan then said, “God has a wonderful way of upsetting my plans and, in essence, saying, ‘Don’t you wish you would have asked Me first?’”

“It’s just like the saying,” I replied, “If all else fails, read the instructions!”

“Amen to that,” Stan replied.  “And not only read the instructions, but listen to the Instructor!”

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“For I know the plans that I have for you,” declares the Lord.  Jeremiah 29:11.

Prayer:  Thank you, Lord, that you have plans for me.  And thank you that your plans are much better than mine.  Please forgive all of the times I have proceeded on my own without asking for your input and direction.  Thank you that you teach me.  Please help me to be teachable.  I choose to get out of your way with my own plans and ask that you show me all of the plans you have for me.  Show me and please help me to obey.  Thank you I can and do bring all of these prayers before you in the name of Jesus.  Amen.

195. Choose to be Amazed

“You may or may not remember,” Stan began, “but when we were first getting together I told you about my early days of journaling and being told not to rush through the Bible.”

“I do remember,” I replied, “and that has had an impact on how I look at reading the Bible.”

“Before you mentioned that to me,” I continued, “I had been thinking about a reading plan for getting through the Bible in a year.”

“There is nothing wrong with such a plan to get a general overview,” Stan replied, “but I think it is more important to take it slowly and really focus on what God has to say to me each day, regardless of the number of verses I cover.”

“And,” Stan continued, “that brings me to something I want to mention that has to do with a single verse that really had an impact on me earlier this morning.”

“Let’s have it,” I said.

“We’ve talked some about the story in the Book of Acts concerning the fellow with two names who tried to keep his boss from the truth of the Gospel.”

“Several things about that,” I replied.  [Note to the reader:  See postings 171.1 and 176.1.]

“One more thing,” Stan said with a smile.

Continuing, he said, “After all of the efforts of the two-named fellow, Paul’s telling him off, and the Lord blinding him for a time, the fellow’s boss believed.”

“And the key part in that for me,” Stan exclaimed, “is that the fellow’s boss was amazed at the Lord’s teaching.”

“What is key about that?” I asked.

“What is key for me,” Stan replied, “is that I choose to be amazed at the Lord’s teaching.  And for me to be amazed, I have to pay sufficiently close attention to what it is God wants to teach me.”

“It is real hard, if not impossible,” Stan continued, “for me to be amazed if I am not paying attention!”

“Thus,” Stan concluded, “this is another valuable lesson for me to take my time as I make my way though the Bible.”

“In order for me to not miss being amazed with anything God has for me, I have to take the time to choose to be amazed.”

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Then the proconsul believed when he saw what had happened, being amazed at the teaching of the Lord.  Acts of the Apostles 13:12.

Prayer:  Thank you, Lord, that you want to amaze me.  Please forgive me all of the times I have failed to be amazed because I did not take the time to see how you wanted to amaze me.  You are amazing!  Please open me to see, understand, receive, and embrace all you have to amaze me.  Help me to focus on you, not on myself, so I can truly be amazed all of the time.  Thank you I can and do bring all of these prayers before you in the name of Jesus.  Amen.