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51. Faithfulness

“Stan,” I began, “I want to thank you for your faithfulness in being here.  You haven’t missed a single time you said you would be here.”

“You know what my friend?” was Stan’s reply.

“What?”

“That is what I want to hear from my heavenly Father!  I want Him to say to me that He is thankful for my faithfulness.”

“Not only in being here when I said I would, but in everything.  I want Him to be able to say, ‘good job, Stan, you have been faithful in everything I had for you to be faithful about.’”

“Isn’t faithfulness just an expression of faith?” I asked.  “Kind of an expression of my faith in God?”

“I don’t think so,” was Stan’s reply.  “It is much more than that.”

“Faithfulness, for me, is getting myself out of God’s way so He can do exactly what He wants in and through me.  If that means not doing something else I may want to do so I can be where He wants me, doing what He wants, that is faithfulness.”

“Being faithful and true to what God has for me to be and to do;  that is what gets me out of bed each morning,” Stan said with a big smile.

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Well done, good and faithful servant, you were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.  Matthew 25:23.

Prayer:  Lord, I thank you for your faithfulness to me in everything.  I ask that your Holy Spirit’s fruit of faithfulness be made alive in me so that I am faithful to you in everything you have for me to be and to do.  I ask for your help in being faithful as you define faithfulness.  Amen.

50. Who do You See?

“There’s another point about the transfiguration that I want you to see,” Stan said.

“And what is that?”

“After God the Father had spoken from the cloud affirming Jesus and telling the disciples to listen to Him, there was no more voice.  In addition, Moses and Elijah were not there any longer.”

“Yeah, I remember,” I responded.  “Then they went down the mountain.”

“But there was something else before then, and that is what I want both of us to remember.”

“Tell me.”

“Mark’s account says the disciples looked around and saw only Jesus.”

Stan then went on, “That is what I want my entire life to be, that I look around and see no one but Jesus.”

“I want every single aspect of my being to be so focused on Him that He is all I see.”

“You’re right, Stan,” I said. “There is so much to look at in the world that I can be very easily distracted from what is important.  I, too, only want to see Jesus.”

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They looked around and saw no one with them any more, except Jesus only.  Mark 9:8

Prayer:  Lord, I am constantly distracted by all of the things of the world.  I know you want me to focus on seeing only Jesus.  That, too, is what I want, but I need your constant help in not being distracted by what is not important.  Lord, please help me in what I want to see.  Amen.

49. Listen

“The ninth chapter of Mark’s gospel,” Stan began, “has the story of the transfiguration.”

Continuing, he said, “Jesus went to a mountain and took with him Peter, James, and John.”

“I remember the story,” I said.  “Jesus was changed in appearance, thus, it is called the ‘transfiguration’.  Elijah and Moses appeared and were talking with Jesus.”

“That’s right,” Stan said, “and the disciples had no idea of what to make of what they were seeing.  The gospel account actually says they were ‘terrified.’  And I can well imagine that it was true.”

“An interesting point,” Stan continued, “is that Mark’s account doesn’t indicate how the disciples knew who they were seeing, but that is besides the point.”

“What is the point?” I asked.

“I think,” Stan replied, “that what happened next is the point.”

“A cloud formed.  And out of the cloud came a voice that said, ‘This is My beloved Son, listen to Him’.”

Continuing, Stan said, “God the Father was clearly speaking and telling the disciples what to do.  They were told to listen to Jesus.”

“And,” he added, “I hear the same thing every single day from the indwelling Holy Spirit.  Listen!”

“The Father did not say, ‘hear My Son’; He said ‘listen’ to Him.  And there is an important difference between hearing and listening.  I need to remind myself of that difference on a continual basis and truly focus on the listening part. If I hear, but do not listen in that I am not paying enough attention, I am way off base.”

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This is My beloved Son, listen to Him!  Mark 9:7

Prayer:  Lord, thank you that you want me to listen to Jesus.  I know there is an important difference between hearing and listening. And I confess that too often I do not truly listen to what you have for me to hear, understand, and obey. Please forgive me. And please, Lord, lead me in not being distracted from all you have for me; help me to truly listen to you. Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus. Amen.


48. Peace

As I sat down, Stan had a big smile on his face.  “What’s so funny?” I asked.

“On the way over here this morning I walked passed an old camper van that had all sorts of bumper stickers on the back of it.  Right next to each other were two stickers about peace.”

“One said ‘Visualize World Peace;’ the other said ‘Visualize Whirled Peas.’  That struck me as very clever and funny!”

“Peace is a very illusive thing,” I said.

“Depends on what kind of peace you are talking about,” Stan responded.

“Peace is peace,” isn’t it?”

“No,” Stan said, “there is the peace the world seeks to have, and there is the peace of God.”

He the added, “Jesus said He did not come to bring peace as the world knows peace.  And He also said that He spoke the words He did so that we can have peace in Him.  Peace in Jesus is the only peace that matters.”

“This seems like a really big subject that is more than a little confusing,” I said with a bit of frustration.

“Oh, yeah,” Stan resounded.  “It is a big one.  And it is extremely important.  We will be coming back to this over and over.”

“But for the moment,” he added, “it is important to focus on what Jesus said about having peace in Him.  He said He spoke the words He did for that purpose. He didn’t talk just to hear Himself talk. No, He spoke the words so that we can have peace in Him.”

“Thus,” Stan continued, “it is essential to know what it is that Jesus said.  I can’t just sit around and wish I had peace.  I have to know how to have peace, and that begins with knowing what Jesus said.”

“I can’t just sit and wonder what Jesus said and what He meant by what He said. No, I have to make the effort to know.”

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These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace.  In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.  John 16:33.

Prayer:  Lord, I know that peace is available only through you.  I want that peace.  I ask you to open me to pursue the peace you offer.  I surrender to the peace you have for me through your Holy Spirit.  Please, help me to receive and embrace all of the peace you have for me.  Thank you that I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus. Amen.

47. The Basics — Walk Humbly With God

“The third basic we touched on the other day,” said Stan,” deals with walking humbly with God.”

“This,  I believe, is at the heart of everything dealing with a Christian disciple’s life on this side of eternity.”

Stan continued, “One of the hardest things in my Christian life has been to do what this basic says, to walk humbly.  To do so requires moment-by-moment denial of self.”

“Self does not want to be humble, it wants to be in charge.  I struggle with this constantly,”  Stan admitted.  “It is the old reminder that He is God and I am not!”

I added, “Yes, I have to constantly remind myself that He is the creator and I am the created.  For the created being to fail to be humble in walking with the Creator is contrary to our respective roles.”

Stan then added, “Through the years of drawing ever closer to God through my journaling time with Him, I have the sense that something special has occurred.  I know that that is true, but I have to keep in focus that even though God has created a special relationship, it does not make me special.”

“I’m not sure I understand what you are getting at Stan.”

“A special relationship is what God wants with each one of his disciples.  Just because a lot of those bound for Glory do not reach for that sort of relationship with Him on this side of eternity, does not mean that those who do are special.  Rather, they are the norm of what He wants.”

Continuing, Stan added, “And it is to be a humble walk that begins with a humble surrender at the foot of the cross.  It took a humble heart for me to admit that I cannot save and I cannot sanctify myself.  That is the work of my Creator.  My role as a created one is to continue to walk  humbly with Him wherever He wants to lead after I have denied self and taken up the cross He has for me.”

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For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives

Himself.  Galatians 6:3

Prayer:  Lord, I know you want me to walk humbly with you.  I also know that you know how difficult that is for me.  Please help me in being constantly reminded that a special relationship with you does not make me special.  And I ask you to move in me to create the exact kind of humble walk you want for me.  Amen. 

46. The Basics — Kindness and Mercy

Stan opened our conversation with, “The second basic we talked a little about the other day has to do with loving mercy.  Some of the Bible translations use the word ‘kindness’ instead of ‘mercy,’ but let’s lump them together under ‘mercy.”

“God wants us to love mercy, loving to receive it as well as show it.”

Stan continued, “While grace is receiving what we do not deserve, mercy is not getting what we do deserve.”

“The cross of Christ is the greatest demonstration of God’s mercy towards me.  He took upon Himself all of the punishment I deserve so that I can be perfectly right with God the Father.  When I stand before Him in eternity, there will be nothing to condemn because in His mercy I am forgiven.”

“That demonstration of mercy is to be my blueprint for showing mercy to others on this side of eternity.”

Continuing, Stan said, “Too often I am tempted to retaliate against those I think have wronged me.  When those kinds of thoughts occur to me, I know it is the work of Satan who does not want me to show mercy.”

“Why would Satan not want you to show mercy?” I asked rather innocently.

“Satan knows that he cannot affect my eternal destination.  That was settled for all time when I accepted the free gift of salvation.”

“However, Satan can affect my testimony on this side of eternity.  If he can get me to fail to show mercy to another person, my testimony is muted and any possibility of impacting that person regarding his or her life and eternal destination may be lost.”

My response was, “When mercy is looked at from that standpoint, I can certainly see why God wants me to love mercy!”

“Amen,” was Stan’s closing.

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Love mercy.  Micah 6:8

Prayer:  Lord, I thank you for your mercy in not giving me what I deserve.  I thank you for the finished work of Christ Jesus on the cross that paid the full price for my salvation.  I ask you to help me in showing mercy to others in ways that will help them see your mercy.  Amen.

45. The Basics — Do Justice

“The other day,” Stan began, “We were talking about the basics of what God expects from us.  The things that we need to get a handle on before going on to the more complex assignments He may have for us.”

“Yeah, I remember,” I said.  “The first one had to do with justice.”

“That’s right,” Stan replied.

“It is natural for a person to want to receive justice, to want to be treated fairly by others, but God wants us to show justice as well in everything we do.  We must be absolutely just in how we treat others.”

“As an example,” I chimed in, if I have told someone I will do such and such, I need to make certain I keep my word.”

“Yes,” Stan replied.  “And if I have borrowed something from someone, I am to be absolutely certain to give it back — or to pay back if it has been a loan.”

“It is kind of embarrassing,” I replied, “to think of all of the times I have borrowed something and then failed to follow through with my promise to give it back.”

“We can avoid those embarrassing memories if we just commit to living a life of absolute integrity.  Commit and then follow through”

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Whatever you want others to do for you, do so for them.  Matthew 7:12

Prayer:  Lord, you are absolutely just, and you want me to be just in all of my dealings with everyone.  You know there is no problem with my wanting to be treated justly, but you also know how much I need your help in being just. I give that all to you and ask you to move in me in exact accord with your will.  Amen.

44. The Basics

“Are you a football fan?” Stan asked me one morning.

“Not really,” was my response.  “I watch a few games, but I’m not really a fan.”

“Ever heard of Vince Lombardi?” Stan asked.

“Sure, but I don’t know a whole lot about him.”

“There’s a famous story about him that has some real application to what you and I talk about.”

“What’s that?” I asked.

“After losing a crucial championship game the previous season, Vince Lombardi, who coached the Green Bay Packers professional football team, began the 1961 training camp by gathering the players, holding up a football, and saying, ‘This, gentlemen, is a football.’”

“In other words,” Stan continued, “he was going back to the very basics. The point is obvious.  Knowing the basics is essential for proceeding to the more complex.  The same is true with our relationship with God.”

“Do you have any basics for my relationship with God?” I asked.

“It is not I who have the basics, it is God,” Stan responded. 

“In one of the books of the Old Testament, God used one of His prophets to proclaim the basics of what God wants for each one of us.”

“If I get the basics right,” Stan went on, “I am ready to proceed with what God has for me to be and to do.”

“What are those basics?” I asked.

“Do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God.”

“Each one of those basics is essential.  It is just like a child who crawls before standing up to walk and eventually to run.  Master the basics to be prepared for what the Lord has in store.”

“We’ll talk more about all of this in the future, but for now I suggest you begin to focus on these basics.  Pray about what the Lord wants you to see.”

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And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.  Micah 6:8.

Prayer:  Lord, thank you for showing me the basics of what you want in order for us to grow in an ever-deepening relationship.  Please, Lord, help me with the basics so I will be prepared for all of the more complex things you have for me to be and to do.  Amen.

43. Being used to Answer Prayers

“Do you think you have ever been used to answer another person’s prayer?” Stan asked me one morning.

“I don’t know,” I said.  “I have never thought about that.”

“How about you?” I asked Stan.  “Has God used you in that way?”

“All the time,” he responded.  “That is part of the process of being His.”

Continuing, Stan said, “I take seriously my role as being a blessing to others.  I believe I am to bless others in God’s name and for His sake so that others have their vision of God expanded and enhanced.”

“What kind of blessing are you talking about?  Money?”  I asked.

“Blessings can be financial and they can be more valuable than financial.  For example, blessing another person with the truth of God is priceless.”

“Such truth can change a person forever.  It can change his or her eternal destination, as well as how he or she lives on this side of eternity.  Such people can then become a blessing to others in their own right.”

“And on and on it goes,” said Stan.  “That is how the church is built.  That is how God uses people to answer prayers.”

“You never know what words will make a difference.  Just the other day I shared with a friend who was struggling with something he had read in the Bible.  He told me later that he had been praying about his question.  The words I was able to share from insight I had been given by God were a big breakthrough for him.”

“It was a blessing from God through me.”

“Stan,” I asked, “How can I be used by God in those ways?”

“Have an open heart that receives and embraces all that God has for you.  Then, keep an alert spiritual ear to hear what you may provide to others as an answer to their prayers.”

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Pray without ceasing.  1 Thessalonians 5:17

Prayer:  Lord, I know you want to use your people to help others in whatever way they need.  I ask you to move in me to have a totally open spirit so I hear the needs of others, along with receiving and embracing the provision you have to pass to them through me.  Amen.

42. It’s a Building

“Sorry I am a bit late,” I said, “but I had to park a long way away.”

“That’s OK,” said Stan.

“I walked by that church at 4th and Elm,” I remarked.  “Haven’t been by it for a long time.  It sure is a beautiful church.”

“How can you say that?” Stan asked.

“Just look at it; it’s beautiful.”

“A beautiful building, by itself, doesn’t make a beautiful church,” Stan countered.  “It’s the people who are the church, not the building.”

“OK, I stand corrected,” I kind of muttered, “but it sure is a beautiful building.”

“I can agree with that,” Stan said, “but I have been in some magnificently beautiful buildings that are totally dead as the home of a church.”

I chimed in, “Yes, my wife and I were in Europe a few years back.  Saw some amazing cathedrals that seemed really dead.”

“Don’t have to go to Europe to see that, and you don’t even have to go into a cathedral to see that,” Stan said.

“In fact,” he continued, “I have been in some pretty ugly buildings that were just as dead as churches, and I have been in ugly buildings that had beautiful churches.  It is all a matter of who is sitting in the pews or on the chairs inside of the building.”

“Be a part of a vibrant church.  It is essential.  Beautiful church buildings can be a delight to the eyes, but God is more interested in what is inside of that building.”

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Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it.  1 Corinthians 12:27.

Prayer:  Lord, I know your desire is for your church to be strong and vibrant so it makes a difference for you.  I pray for each person in each body of believers that each one will be only what you intend.  Please help us focus on building up the body of Christ, not on constructing beautiful buildings.  Amen.