Blog

December 21, 2021 — Going Beyond the Casual Glance

“There’s a story in Mark’s gospel about Jesus and a blind man,” Stan commented one morning, “that strikes me as a pretty clear reflection of my faith walk, how it began and how it continues.”

“In what way?” I responded.

“Jesus was in Bethsaida, which was a village somewhere near the Sea of Galilee,” Stan said. “Some people brought a blind man to Jesus and asked Him to heal the man.”

“Did Jesus do that?” I asked.

“He did,” Stan replied, “and how He did that, and what He said to the man, is not unlike what I was told and continue to be told for my faith walk.”

“Okay,” I said, “what happened?”

“I don’t know why Jesus did it,” Stan said, “but the first thing he did was to take the blind man by the hand and lead him out of the village.  Then it says that Jesus spit on the man’s eyes.”

“Maybe that’s why Jesus led him out of the village.  Maybe He didn’t want the village people to see that.”

“Could be,” Stan said.  “After the spitting, Jesus laid His hands on the man and asked him if he could see anything.”

“Could he?”

“A little,” Stan replied.  “Then Jesus put His hands on the man’s eyes.  What happened next is the real important part for me and for my faith walk.  Mark records that the man looked ‘intently’ and began to see everything clearly.”

“So?” I asked. “What’s important about that?”

“That’s what I had to do to see God in Christ,” Stan said. “I had to look intently.  It couldn’t be just a casual glance.  And it’s the same thing for my faith walk and my ongoing personal relationship with God for it to continue to grow deeper.  I have to go beyond the casual glance and look intently at what God has for me to be and to do in being a disciple.”

“So,” I said, “after the man could see everything clearly from a physical standpoint, do you think it had an impact on his spiritual vision of being able to see who Jesus really was?”

“Sure thing,” Stan replied.  “I can just imagine the man breaking out with a chorus of ‘Once I was blind but now I see!”

“I don’t think so, Stan,” I replied.

“You’re probably right,” he said. “That guy wouldn’t have done that. But I sure can!”

_______________________________

Bible verses to consider:

And taking the blind man by the hand, He brought him out of the village; and after spitting on his eyes, and laying His hands upon him, He asked him, “Do you see anything?”  And he looked up and said, “I see men, for I am seeing them like trees, walking about.” Then again He laid His hands upon his eyes; and he looked intently and was restored, and began to see everything clearly.  Mark 8:23-25.

Prayer:  Thank you, Father, for healing my spiritual blindness by opening me to see you and to accept by faith all of your provision of life eternally with you and the eternal life of knowing you and Jesus. Thank you for those you sent to present the truth to me.  I confess that for too long I did not look at you with more than a casual glance.  Thank you for opening me to look intently at you and your provision so I would see clearly all you had and have for me.  Please, Father, help me in following every step of your lead so I see, accept, and embrace everything that is available from you.  Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus.  Amen.

Think on this:  Have you looked at God closely enough so you have the assurance of being able to spend eternity with Him when it’s time? If no, why? If you have not looked intently or closely enough to accept God’s free and gracious gift of salvation, what’s holding you back?  If you do have the assurance of salvation, how are you doing with looking intently at what God has for you to be and to do as a disciple?  As well as you would like? As well as God would like?  If you sense you need to look more intently, how is that going to happen?

December 22, 2021 — It’s more than just a Prayer

“Words are easy,” Stan commented one morning. “Living them is as whole lot harder.”

“I can agree with that,” I responded, “but why did you say that?”

“Earlier this morning, I was again focusing on Matthew’s gospel,” Stan said, “where Jesus taught the disciples how to pray.”

“Oh,” I said, “you mean the Lord’s Prayer?”

“Some people call it that, some call it the ‘Disciples’ Prayer’ or ‘The Our Father’,” he replied. “Doesn’t matter what you call it; it’s the meaning behind the words that’s important.”

“For example,” he continued, “the part at the beginning, where it says, ‘Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name’.”

“What about it?” I asked.

“Just think,” he replied, “how easy it is to say, ‘Hallowed or holy be Thy name,’ but how difficult it is to live a life where God’s name is truly treated as holy.”

“I’m not sure if I know what that means,” I admitted.

“In sum,” Stan said, “I think God’s name represents His character as holy. To miscast God’s name, as well as God Himself, as less than holy is clearly not what He intends.”

“Doesn’t one of the Ten Commandments have something to say about that?” I asked.

“Yes,” Stan replied, “the third commandment says not to take the name of God in vain, and, it seems to me, that includes a whole lot more than what I say. I can certainly take His name in vain by what I say, but there are also uncountable ways in which I can take His name in vain by the way I live my life.”

“Give me some examples,” I said.

“By not treating Him as holy, by disrespecting Him with the choices I make in living the life He has given me to live, by not reflecting His holy character by what I manifest,” Stan responded. “The list goes on and on!”

“So,” I replied, “I see why you said that saying the words is the easy part. Living them is a whole lot more difficult!”

__________________________________________

Bible verses to consider:

Pray, then, in this way: “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed by Thy name.” Matthew 6:9.

You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not leave him unpunished who takes His name in vain. Exodus 20:7.

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “You shall be holy for I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:14-16.

Prayer:  Thank you, Father, that you are holy and that you want me to manifest your holiness in this life you have given to live. I confess that too often I fall short of manifesting the holiness you intend. Please forgive me, and please help me in following every step of your lead in not just saying that you are holy, but in living this life just as you intend to reflect your holiness. Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the holy name of Jesus. Amen.

Think on this: Do you agree that taking God’s name in vain is not limited to what you say about Him? Why or why not? What about where it says, “Be holy for I am holy.” How are you doing with that? What does it mean to you to “be holy”? Can you do that on your own? Is there a connection between this and having the Holy Spirit truly living in you so His holiness can be and is manifested in and through you?”

December 23, 2021 — Is there a List?

“I was out in the front yard the other day,” Stan commented, “and one of the neighborhood  children came by and asked me a question about Christmas.”

“What was that?” I asked.

“He wanted to know where I thought I was on Santa’s list,” Stan replied.

“Oh,” I said, “the naughty and nice list! How did you respond?”

“I told him I thought I had made Santa’s ‘nice’ list, but I was going to have to wait for Christmas to see for certain.”

“Did he have anything to say about that?” I asked.

“As he headed on his way,” Stan replied, “he said he thought he had been really nice and he was looking forward to Christmas. That he could hardly wait.”

Continuing, Stan added, “As I was thinking later about that small conversation with the child, I was focusing on what a neighbor had asked me about a list just a few days ago.”

“Was he also asking about Santa’s list?” I asked.

“No,” Stan replied with a smile. “He asked me whether I thought God has a list of those people who are gong to come to faith.”

“You mean like predestination? That only those who are predestined are the ones who God has chosen to be on His list and that’s all that matters?”

“That’s it,” Stan replied. “That’s what my neighbor was wondering.”

“And what did you tell him?”

“Mixed bag,” Stan replied. “I told him I thought there are lots of verses in the Bible that a person can pick to argue either side, but that I like to cover all the bases.”

“Cover all the bases,” I repeated. “What’s that mean?”

“In case God doesn’t have a predetermined list of those who are going to come to Him in faith,” Stan said, “I see it as my role to give everyone an opportunity to know the truth so they can choose to come to Him in faith.”

“So,” I replied, “if a person is already on the list you haven’t lost anything by telling them about God’s provision. But if there is no list, you have given a person the opportunity to choose. Is that it?”

“That’s it, my friend,” Stan replied. “That’s what it seems to me. At one point in my life, someone went out of her way to tell me the truth. I don’t know whether or not it was all predestined, but I’m sure glad she told me!”

_______________________________

Bible verses to consider:

No one can come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. John 6:44.

For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me, unless it has been granted him from the Father. John 6:65.

The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9.

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

And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?” And He answered and said to them, “To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted.” Matthew 13:10-11.

Prayer: Thank you, Father, for your free and gracious provision of life eternally with you when it’s time through the finished work of the cross. I do not know whether I was predestined to come to the truth, but I am forever thankful for those who brought the truth to me so I could accept it.  I confess that too often I do not present the truth of the gospel to everyone so they, too, can accept it — whether or not there is a predetermined list. Please help me in following every step of your lead to present the truth to each person you bring before me. Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Think on this: Where do you stand on the issue of predestination? If you have come to faith, do you think it was predestined by God? If you have not come to faith, do you think it is because God doesn’t want you to come to faith? If so, spend time talking with God about it and listen to Him say that He does not want any to perish. Respond accordingly. It’s important!

December 24, 2021 — A Christmas Past

“This time of the year,” Stan commented, “always brings back a lot of memories of Christmas. Some good, some not so good.”

“Better to focus on the good, don’t you think?” I replied.

“You’re absolutely right,” Stan said. “And I was doing that the other night when I was telling a neighbor a story about when I was a child, probably about ten or eleven years old.”

“What was that?” I asked.

“Growing up on the farm,” Stan replied, “we lived quite a distance from the nearest town.  Each year when Christmas was a couple of weeks away, the whole family would drive to town together to do our Christmas shopping.”

“All in one day?” I asked.

“Yeah,” Stan replied, “things were different then. Only a few stores. No on-line shopping. Just go to town with the family and shop until you were done.”

“Each one of the kids,” he continued, “would save money throughout the year in order to buy gifts for the rest of the family on that day of Christmas shopping.”

“That seems like a good approach to teach generosity and gift-giving,” I replied.

“It was,” Stan said, “but the year I was remembering and telling my neighbor about had a different meaning.”

“How so?” I asked.

“That particular year,” Stan said, I had been selfish and I had not saved any money.  As the day to go Christmas shopping got closer, I got more miserable.  I didn’t know what I was going to do.  I had nothing with which I could buy any gifts and I certainly didn’t have a credit card! I was going to have nothing to give, and I was miserable.”

“Did you tell your parents what was going on?” I asked.

“I did not,” Stan said, “I didn’t want to admit I had been so foolish and spent everything on myself without thinking of anyone else.  However, my parents somehow knew about my predicament.”

“Parents can be good at that,” I commented with a smile. “So what happened?”

“What happened,” Stan replied, “is something about Christ and Christmas that I did not fully appreciate until I became a Christian many years later.”

“What was that?” I asked.

“As the family was getting in the car to head to town,” Stan replied, “my dad said he wanted to talk to me.  Fearing the worst, I went up to him ready for what he might say. The only thing he said as he handed me some money was that he hoped I would have a good time buying  Christmas presents for the family.  He had given me more than enough to buy Christmas presents for everyone!”

“You must have been relieved by that,” I commented.

“Master of the understatement!” Stan replied.  “I was so happy and relieved with what my dad did, I was almost floating on air the whole day while we were Christmas shopping.  I was able to buy a gift for each person in the family. I even had enough left over to buy a gift for my teacher.”

Continuing, he added, “As I became a Christian and have realized the magnificent provision of God’s free and gracious gift of Christmas, I have come to see my dad’s gift to me as a reflection of God’s provision.”

“Was your dad a Christian?” I asked.

“No, he wasn’t,” Stan replied, “but as I have reflected on my dad’s gift to me that allowed me to buy gifts for others, I have seen that God can use anyone to show someone else His grace and mercy.”

“The point of Christmas,” he continued, “is God’s free and gracious gift of Christ. That gift flowed and continues to flow out of His love.  I didn’t know that truth as a child who had nothing to give, but I know it now and it’s at the heart of everything.”

Concluding, Stan said, “Merry Christmas, my friend.  Remember the glorious truth of Christmas: we all had nothing, but we were given everything.”

__________________________________

Bible verses to consider:

And the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all of the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a savior, who is Christ the Lord.”  Luke 2:10-11.

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.

If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him. Matthew 7:11.

Prayer:  Thank you, Father, for the gift of Christmas. Through your provision of Christ who came into the world as a child, I have the assurance of life eternally with you when it’s time. As well, I have the gift of being able to pursue knowing you and Jesus more deeply while you keep me on this side of eternity. All of your provision flows out of your love, grace, and mercy, and I thank you! Please help me in sharing all you have given to me with every person you bring before me so they, too, can claim all of you have for them.Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of your Gift. Amen.

Think on this:  Christmas is filled with memories for all of us.  When you think about Christmas, what do you think about? Do you have the memory of when Christ was  born in you so that you have the assurance of salvation and redemption?  If no, why have you not created that memory?  If you do not know the true meaning of why we celebrate Christmas, do you know how to find out? If you do have the assurance of salvation, is there more you need to know about why Jesus came into the world and what He wants to do in and through you?

December 27, 2021 — Do You have any Conditions on Your Belief?

“Hey,” Stan said as I sat down, “you look kind of low this morning. Anything wrong?”

“You know, Stan,” I replied, “you’re really perceptive. Yeah, something’s wrong. My neighbor.”

“You want to talk about it?” he asked.

“He broke a promise to me,” I replied. “I really don’t want to talk about the details, but he promised that if I did such-and-such for him, he would do a different such-and-such for me.”

“Oh,” Stan said, “a conditional promise.”

“I don’t know what it’s called,” I replied. “All I know is that I held up my end of the bargain, he didn’t, and it hurt my feelings. And it’s made me wonder about whether he is really a friend.”

“Yeah,” Stan said, “those kind of things can be hurtful. I can’t say for certain whether or not God gets His feelings hurt, but I have sure seen a lot of times when people, including me, have not held up our end of the deal with God.”

“Like what?”

“Simple example,” Stan replied, “is where a person says to God, ‘If you get me out of this situation, I will do whatever you want’.”

“Oh,” I said, “I’ve heard that sort of thing referred to as a ‘fox-hole conversion,’ like where a soldier is in a war situation and he tells God that if He will rescue him, he will dedicate his life to God. But as soon as God does His part the soldier forgets his end of the deal.”

“Exactly,” Stan replied. “I saw that sort of thing in John’s gospel the other day where Jesus was talking about conditional belief.”

“Conditional belief?” I said. “What was going on?”

“There’s a story where a guy asks Jesus to do something for him, in this case he asked Jesus to heal his son.”

“Sounds like a reasonable request,” I replied.

“It would seem so,” Stan agreed, “but, based on Jesus’ reply, it looks to me like something else may have been going on.”

“How so?”

“When the man asked Jesus to heal his son,” Stan replied, “Jesus said that ‘you people’, which included the man, wouldn’t believe unless they saw ‘signs and wonders.’ Seems to me that what Jesus was implying is that the ‘you people’ did not believe, and that they were saying they would if Jesus did such-and-such for them.”

“Okay,” I said, “I get it. This was about a conditional promise. The man was, in essence, saying to Jesus that if Jesus would heal his son he would believe, but that Jesus could see right through through the guy and know he probably wouldn’t hold up his end of the bargain. Is that it?”

“That’s it,” Stan replied. “And it’s a valuable lesson for me and my faith walk. I am to believe. Period. I’m not to base my belief on anything other than what God has already done, not say to Him that I will believe if He does such-and-such. He has already done everything worthy of my belief. Nothing else required.”

“But isn’t it sometimes hard to believe?” I said.

“That’s another story for another day,” Stan replied, “but in a nutshell, the Bible has another account of a father who asked Jesus to heal his son. The difference is that in this instance the father believed, but he went on to ask Jesus to help him with his unbelief.”

“Help with his unbelief,” I repeated. “Will Jesus will do that?”

“Indeed He will, my friend. Just ask.”

____________________________________

Bible verses to consider:

Jesus therefore said to him, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you simply will not believe.” John 4:48.

Oh you of little faith, why did you doubt?  Matthew 14:30.

And Jesus said to him, “If You can! All things are possible to him who believes. Immediately the boy’s father cried out and began saying, “I do believe; help my unbelief.” Mark 9:23-24.

Prayer:  Thank you, Father, that you do not put conditions on your love for me.  Thank you, too, that you do not want me to put any conditions on my relationship with and love for you.  I confess that there are times when I want you to do exactly what I want and, like a spoiled child, I try to put conditions on my relationship with you.  Please forgive me of all of that foolishness.  And please, Father, help me in following every step of your lead into an ever-deepening relationship that has no conditions, just unconditional love and obedience.  Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus.  Amen.

Think on this:  Have you ever had people not hold up their end of a bargain about something? If so, how did that make you feel? Have you ever put conditions on your obedience to God, such as by saying you will do something in return for God doing something first? If so, what was that all about? Do you agree that our belief in and relationship with God is to be without condition, and that He is perfectly willing to help our unbelief? Why or why not? If you sense the need to reexamine whether your belief in God is without condition, how is that going to happen? Is that what you want? Why or why not?

S. Tory Teller’s book (Foreword by Josh McDowell), “Waiting for the Train: Biblical Food for Growing Before Going,” is available from Amazon.com and from the publisher at s-toryteller.com

December 28, 2021 — Keeping Fit while Waiting for the Train

“One of my elderly neighbors,” Stan commented one morning,” is a real inspiration for me.”

“In what way?” I asked.

“Plural,” Stan replied.  “Ways. Not only is he a committed Christian who has continued to pursue spiritual transformation and maturity as he has aged, he keeps physically fit so he will be able to pursue what God has for him to do before it’s time for him to get on the train to glory.”

“But isn’t God in charge of how long each one of us is going to stay on this side of eternity?” I observed.

“Absolutely,” Stan replied, “but my neighbor’s approach is that for as long as God chooses to leave him here, he wants to be as fit as possible so he can do what God has for him to do.”

“That is a real inspiration,” I commented.  “Any idea where he got that?”

“I asked him that very question one day,” Stan replied, “while we were together after he had asked me to join him on a long walk.”

“What’d he say?”

“He pointed to something the apostle Paul had written in his second letter to the church in Corinth, where Paul was writing about being renewed.”

“Being renewed?” I replied. “How so?”

“Paul was addressing the fact that he was getting older and what he called the ‘outer man’ was decaying, but that his ‘inner man’ was being renewed.  My neighbor said that he viewed what Paul had written to the church in Corinth to be a letter to him encouraging him to stay fit, both spiritually and physically, so that he would be and could do all that God had for him.”

“As long as he’s here?” I commented.

“That’s it,” Stan replied. “The body will decay as a part of the aging process. That’s a given. But it doesn’t mean that I am to ignore that each day I have a role to play in slowing and not encouraging the decay so I will be available for whatever God wants to do in and through me for as long as He wants.”

__________________________________

Bible verses to consider:  Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. 2 Corinthians 4:16.

This is the day which the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24.

So teach us to number our days, that we may present to Thee a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12.

Prayer:  Thank you, Father, for the free and gracious gift of being able to spend eternity in your presence when my time here is done. Thank you, too, for the life you have given me to live for you before I step into eternity.  Only you know how many days I have before it’s time to board the train.  I confess that too often I do not pursue the fitness you have for me, both spiritually and physically.  Please help me in following every step of your lead so I am as fit as I can possibly be.  Fit spiritually so I am drawing ever closer to you, and fit physically so I can do all you have for me to do in helping others come to the truth of your provision for 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 have the assurance of spending eternity in God’s presence when it’s time? If no, why? Do you not know it is a free and gracious gift that only needs to be accepted? If you do have that assurance, how are you doing in keeping fit before your time here is completed? Fit both spiritually so you are drawing ever closer to God in a deepening relationship, and fit physically so you can do what God has for you to do? If you sense changes are needed in either or both, how is that going to happen? Do you want it to happen? Why or why not?

December 29, 2021 — Bigger may or may not be Better

“Stan,” I asked one morning, “do you believe the common expression that ‘Bigger is better’?”

“It depends,” he responded.

“Depends on what?” I asked.

“What you’re talking about,” he said.  “For example, a few years ago my wife and I were on a road trip.  One morning we  stopped for breakfast. As is my custom, I checked the menu for blueberry pancakes.”

“Did they have any?” I asked.

“They did,” Stan replied, “and I told the waitress I would have a couple of them. Her response was to ask if I had ever seen their blueberry pancakes. Since I had never been there, I said, ‘No.’ She said they were big and one would probably be enough.”

“One pancake?” I said. “How could that be?”

“It was so big it hardly fit on a dinner plate,” Stan replied. “Bigger was not better!”

“Yeah” I said, “hard to beat the blueberry pancakes Cook makes and Ricky serves!”

“You got that right!” Stan replied. “For another example, we were once part of a very big church.  Same thing;  bigger did not necessarily make it better than some very small churches.  But, I do think there’s one thing that does make a church better by being bigger.”

“What one thing?” I asked.

“The percentage,” Stan replied.

“Percentage? What percentage?”

“Two aspects,” he said.  “The percentage of people who are believers, along with the percentage of the believers who are disciples.  With those two things, especially the second one, bigger is definitely better.”

“The bigger the percentage, the better,” I repeated.  “Kind of like, ‘The more the merrier’?”

“Again, it depends,” he replied.  “It depends on what the ‘more’ are ‘merrier’ about!”

“If,” he continued, “they are ‘merrier’ about being disciples and pursuing discipleship, clearly ‘more’ is better than ‘fewer’, just like a bigger percentage of disciples would be better than a bigger number of people just sitting there.”

“That would be kind of like a whole bunch of people sitting on the train station platform waiting for the train to glory,” I replied, “versus those who leave the platform to give away tickets and explain what the ticket means.  You think that’s a fair comparison?”

“Bingo and Amen!” Stan replied.

“And,” he added, “I like to remember what Jesus is recorded to have said, as well as what He didn’t say, at the very end of Matthew’s gospel.”

“What’s that?” I asked.

“Jesus said to go and make disciples,” Stan replied, “He didn’t say just to go and make believers.  And I think He would agree that bigger is better if we are talking about the percentage of believers who are truly disciples!”

_______________________________

Bible verses to consider:

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

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 sending Jesus into the world for all who believe to have the assurance of life eternally with you when it’s time to step into eternity.  Thank you, too, for the opportunity to be a disciple and to pursue the discipleship of knowing you and Jesus and observing all that He has commanded me while I remain on this side of eternity.  I confess that too often I do not pursue being the disciple you intend.  Please help me in being a true disciple by denying what I want to do apart from you, doing and being what you intend, and following you wherever you lead, whatever the cost, and whenever you intend, which is always.  Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus.  Amen.

Think on this:  Do you agree that there’s a difference between being a believer and being a disciple, and that all believers may not be disciples?  Why or why not?  If you do agree, do you see yourself as a disciple as well as being a believer?  If no, why?  What does being a disciple look like to you, and how would you describe discipleship to someone who may ask you to explain what it means?

December 30, 2021 — The Caesar Salad

“I’m heading over to Johnsonville this weekend,” I said to Stan one morning. “You know any good place I might have lunch on Saturday?”

“I do,” Stan said. “I was over there a couple of weeks ago. There’s a new place I tried and it was very good.”

“What’s it called and where is it?” I asked.

“It’s called Cathy’s Cafe and it’s on Grand Street right in the middle of downtown,” Stan replied. “Pretty easy to find.”

“Thanks,” I said. “I’ll check it out. What did you have?”

“A salmon Caesar salad that was fabulous. It not only tasted great, but the salad led me to reflect on my faith walk.”

“You must be kidding,” I said. “How could a salad relate to your faith walk?”

“I was thinking about something Julius Caesar is reported to have said.”

“That’s a different Caesar isn’t it?” I asked.

“It is,” Stan replied. “I don’t think Julius was much of a salad maker, but it occurs to me that  something he is reported to have said is the exact opposite of what we are supposed to do.”

“What’s that?”

“Supposedly, after a quick victory in a battle, Julius Caesar sent a letter to the Roman Senate that said, ‘I came; I saw; I conquered’.”

“So?”

“For me,” Stan replied, “and it seems that for all of us, the last part is not what God wants or expects from us.”

“After way too long,” he continued, “I came and I finally saw Jesus; then I surrendered to Him. I think that’s what God has for each one of us.”

“Come; see; surrender,” I repeated. “That sounds kind of like the first step of discipleship, the part about denying self. You think that’s a fair statement?”

“I do,” Stan replied. “I also think that God does too!”

_________________________________________

Bible verses to consider:

I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me. Galatians 2:20.

Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Galatians 5:24.

But may it never be that I should boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. Galatians 6:14.

And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, . . . Luke 9:23.

Prayer: Thank you, Father, for giving your Son Jesus to the world so that all who believe can have life eternally with you when it’s time. Thank you, too, for all you have for me while you keep me on this side of eternity — all that is available when I surrender all of me to all of you. I confess that too often I do not surrender to you, but I choose to surrender to self, and to the world, the flesh, and the devil. Please forgive that foolishness and please help me in following every step of your lead so I am fully surrendered to you all of the time. Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Think on this: Have you surrendered to God so that you know you will spend eternity in His presence when it’s time? If no, why? God’s free and gracious provision is available to be accepted. If you do have the assurance of salvation for eternal purposes, how are you doing with surrendering all to God in Christ on this side of eternity? If you sense changes may be in order for your surrender, how are those changes going to happen? Is that what you want? Why or why not?

December 31, 2021` — The Alphabet Book

“It’s interesting to me,” Stan commented one morning, “how, if we are open to seeing, God has all sorts of help for our walk of faith.”

“You have something specific in mind?” I asked, knowing he probably did.

“Yeah,” he replied, “one of my neighbors told me something that happened to him just the other day when he was looking through an old children’s book.”

“What was going on?” I asked.

“His first grandchild lives fairly close, at least close enough that his daughter has him watch the child a couple of afternoons a week.”

“It’s a real blessing to be able to be a part of a child’s life that way,” I commented.

“A blessing for both of them, the child and the grandparent,” Stan replied. “And what my neighbor told me turned out to be another blessing for his faith walk.”

“”How so?”

“It seems the child is getting old enough to begin to learn the alphabet on the way to reading,” Stan said, “and my neighbor was looking for an old book he had read to his children when they were about the same age.”

“What book was that?”

“It was an alphabet book,” Stan said, “something about reading each letter and connecting it to a picture in the book. Apparently it went something like, ‘Big A, little A, what begins with A?” Then there’s a picture of an apple. And that goes on with each letter of the alphabet, to a banana, cat, dog, etcetera.”

Continuing, he added, “My neighbor found the book in a box in the basement and was looking through it remembering his children sitting on his lap while he read it to them.”

“Nice memory,” I said. “But you indicated there was something about his faith walk. What was that?”

“The letter ‘R,’ Stan replied. “My neighbor said that when he got to R and was reading, ‘Big R, little R, what begins with R?’ he was struck by the word ‘repentance’.”

“Repentance?” I said. “In what way?”

“Big R repentance,” Stan said, “and little R repentance.”

“You’re going to have to help me here, Stan,” I responded.  “Two types of repentance?  Big R and little R?”

“That’s what my neighbor said,” Stan replied, “and the more I have thought about it, I think he may well have been in tune with the Holy Spirit on this one.  Let’s look at it this way: Big R repentance can be seen as repenting from being separated from God for eternity by accepting His free and gracious provision of life eternally with Him when it’s time.”

“You’re right,” I said, “that the big one — the big step that settles everything for eternity. Without that big repentance, nothing else matters. Seems to me that’s kind of like what the apostle Peter was writing about when he wrote that God does not want any to perish, but for all to come to repentance.”

“I agree,” Stan replied. “That’s the big one!”

“What about the little R repentance?” I asked.

“Seems to me,” he replied, “that’s the day-to-day, hour-by-hour, moment-by-moment  repentance that is essential for a closer walk with God on this side of eternity.”

‘The continual u-turns when I’m going in the wrong direction,” I said. “Is that it?”

“That’s it,” Stan said. “Those continual u-turns of repentance are essential for me in pursuing an ever-closer and ever-deepening relationship with God in and through the indwelling Holy Spirit of the Risen Christ.”

“So,” I said, “would it be fair to say that the big R repentance is a one-time thing, but the little R repentance is something done over and over?”

“That’s what my neighbor said he saw,” Stan replied, “and I think I agree with him. Big R, little R, what begins with R? Everything of importance begins with repentance!”

____________________________________

Bible verses to consider:

The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9.

Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? Romans 2:4.

This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. 1 Timothy 2:3-4.

And I gave her (the church in Thyatira) time to repent; and she does not want to repent of her immorality. Revelation 2:21.

In the same way, I tell you there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.  Luke 15:10.

Prayer:  Thank you, Father, for your free and gracious provision of the finished work of Christ on the cross.  That provision allowed me to accept it and change forever the direction of my destination in eternity.  Thank you for those who brought me to the truth of your salvation and redemption so I could repent from my separation from you.  Thank you, too, for the presence of the Holy Spirit who leads me in repenting on an ongoing basis as I work out the salvation you worked in.  I confess that too often I choose not to listen to His voice, and I choose not to change the direction I am going away from you on this side of eternity.  Please forgive that foolishness.  Please help me in following every step of your lead as you lead me to repent and choose to draw ever closer to you. Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Think on this: Have you repented from your separation from God so you know you will spend eternity in His presence when your time here is done? If no, why? It’s a free gift that only needs to be accepted. If you do have the assurance of salvation and redemption, how are you doing with the repentance on this side of eternity that will draw you ever closer to God in a deepening personal relationship? If you sense changes are necessary in that, are you willing to make those changes? If so, how is that going to happen? Do you agree with Stan that everything begins with repentance? Why or why not?

January 3, 2022 — The Distributor

“I met a new friend at church on Sunday,” Stan commented.  “It was someone I had seen from a distance, but I made the effort to get to know him a little bit. Interesting fellow.  I think we will be good friends.”

“Always great to make new friends,” I replied.  “What does he do for a living?”

“I asked him that,” Stan said, “and his response was something that really got my attention.”

“In what way?”

“He said that he’s a distributor.”

“A distributor?” I replied.  “That could mean a lot of things, some not so good!”

“I thought the same thing when he told me that,” Stan said, “but since I was meeting him at church I figured he couldn’t be too bad!”

“So what does he distribute?” I asked.

“At least two things,” Stan replied.  “His business is that he is the local distributor for one of the soft drink companies.  He distributes the products to all of the grocery stores and restaurants.”

“Big job,” I commented.

“It is,” Stan replied, “but he considers his second role as a distributor to be even bigger.”

“What’s that?”

“As a distributor of the Good News of Jesus Christ!  This man said that his role as the distributor of the soft drinks brings him into contact with a lot of people each day.  As he is led by the Holy Spirit, he takes advantage of every opportunity to help distribute the Good News of  what God has freely and graciously provided through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.”

“Wow!” I replied.  “Another big job!”

“Even bigger than the first one,” Stan commented.  “Makes me wonder if I’m the distributor God intends, distributing what He has for me to distribute.”

________________________________

Bible verses to consider:

Whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.  How then shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard? Romans 10:13-14.

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

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. Romans 10:17.

Prayer:  Thank you, Father, for giving your only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, so that all who believe can have the assurance of spending eternity in your presence.  Thank you for those who told me the truth of your free and gracious gift of life with you on both sides of eternity.  I confess that too often I do not tell others of the Good News that can save them just as it saved me.  Please help me in following every step of your lead so I am open to distributing the truth just as you intend so that others may know.  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 life eternally with God when your time here is done? If no, why?  Do you know how to accept God’s free and gracious gift of life eternally with Him, along with the eternal life of knowing the Father and the Son? If you do have the assurance of salvation and redemption for yourself, how are you doing in distributing the Good News to those who don’t know?  As well as you would like?  As well as God would like?  Are changes needed?  Why or why not?

____________________________

S. Tory Teller’s book, Waiting for the Train: Biblical Food for Growing Before Going, Foreword by Josh McDowell, is available from amazon.com and the publisher at www.s-toryteller.com