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September 30, 2021 — Are you in, but still in and out?

“The other day,” Stan began, “I wanted to get together with a friend to discuss a project we are working on at the church.  I asked him if the next day would work, but he said I had better call beforehand because he was going to be in and out all day.”

“So,” I responded, “have you gotten together?”

“Not yet,” Stan replied, “but I’m going to call him again as soon as we are done here this morning.”

“Well,” I said, “I hope he won’t be in and out again today.”

“Me, too,” Stan replied. “And that’s the same prayer I have for myself every day regarding God’s will.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Even though I am ‘in’ concerning my eternal destination because I’ve accepted God’s free and gracious provision, there are too many times on this side of eternity when I am in and out of God’s will for me.”

“In and out of God’s will?” I said. “Why’s that?”

“Choice,” was Stan’s one-word answer. “Too often I choose to go my own way, following after what I want to follow rather than following God in Christ.”

“Missing the third step of discipleship?” I responded. “Failing to follow after you have denied yourself and have taken up what God has for you to take up?”

“Yeah,” Stan said, “and it’s not just the third step I miss. Way too often I also miss the first two steps!”

“How can you avoid that?” I asked.

“Seems to me,” he replied, “that the apostle Paul addressed that in a single phrase of a sentence in the third chapter of his letter to the church in Philippi, the letter he also sent to me and to all of us.”

“What phrase is that?”

“That I may be found in Christ,” Stan said.

“Found in Him,” I commented, “rather than being found in and out. Is that what you’re saying?”

“You got it, my friend,” he replied. “First be ready to be in eternity with God when it’s time, and then be in Christ for this side of eternity. In, not in and out!”

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Bible verses to consider:

(That) I may be found in Him (Jesus). Philippians 3:9.

But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 1:30-31.

There is therefore now no condemnation for this who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1.

And He (Jesus) was saying to them all, “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 your free and gracious provision available to be accepted so I will be in your eternal presence when the time comes. Thank you, too, that I can be in Christ in the sense of being entirely His on this side of eternity. I confess that too often I’m in and out in my relationship with you because I choose to be apart from you, following after what I want, rather than what you have for me. Please forgive that foolishness, and please help me follow every step of your lead so that I am always in the place you intend for me to be in an ever-deepening personal relationship with you in and through Jesus. Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in His precious name. Amen.

Think on this: Do you know that you will be in God’s eternal presence when your time here is done because you have accepted His free and gracious gift? If no, why? What’s in the way? If you do have the assurance of salvation, how are you doing in being in Christ on this side of eternity? Are you more in and out than you are in? If so, why is that? If you sense there should be less in and out in your relationship with God, how is that going to change? Is that what you want? Why or why not?

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The Book.  If you haven’t looked at it yet, Waiting for the Train: Biblical Food for Growing Before Going, by S. Tory Teller (Foreword by Josh McDowell), can be seen and ordered at amazon.com and the following website: www.s-toryteller.com

September 29, 2021 — How are you going to remember what you don’t know?

“At different times,” Stan commented one morning, “we’ve talked about the importance of spending time reading and studying the Bible.”

“We have,” I replied. “But I have to admit that sometimes I find that hard to do. I get distracted with other things and just don’t spend much time in God’s Word.”

“I’ve been there,” Stan said. “For way too long and way too often, I simply didn’t spend much time in the Bible. But I do now, and earlier this morning, in Luke’s gospel, I saw something that Jesus said that seems like a very good reason for studying the Bible.”

“Jesus talked about studying the Bible?” I asked.

“I think He did,”Stan replied. “And in one short sentence, Luke records that Jesus gave the reason for studying God’s Word.”

“What did He say?”

“Remember Lot’s wife,” Stan said.

“Remember Lot’s wife,” I repeated. “What’s that mean?”

“You remember the story of Lot and his wife?” Stan asked.

“A little,” I replied. “Didn’t that have something to do with God’s destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah?”

“The whole subject of that destruction is another story for another day,” Stan said, “but in a nutshell, Lot and his wife headed out of town before God’s destruction took place. However,  Lot’s wife looked back, apparently with longing over what she was leaving, and she became a pillar of salt.”

“Don’t look back with longing over what God has for you to leave,” I replied. “Is that the point?”

“That’s it,” Stan replied, “and unless I know the story of Lot and his wife by reading and studying the Bible, I wouldn’t have a clue as to what Jesus meant when He said to remember Lot’s wife.”

“You can’t remember what you don’t know,” I commented.

“You’re right,” Stan replied, “and I believe that God has a whole lot of things He wants me to know about Him and His word, things I won’t know and won’t be able to remember, unless I spend time with Him and in His word!”

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Bible verses to consider:

Remember Lot’s wife. Luke 17:32.

But his wife, from behind him, looked back; and she became a pillar of salt. Genesis 19:26.

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17.

Prayer: Thank you, Father, for the availability of the Bible so I can read and study your word. Thank you for the voice of the Holy Spirit who opens me to know, understand, and remember your word. I confess that too often I do not spend time with you in your word listening to your voice. The result is that I do not know and I cannot remember what you have for me. Please forgive that foolishness. And please help me in following every step of your lead so I know and remember all you have for me in your Word and from your voice. Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Think on this: God gave us His Word so we will know Him and what He has for us. Do you agree with that? Why or why not? In order to remember what God has for us, it’s necessary to spend time with Him and His Word so we will know what we are to remember. How are you doing with that? If you sense you are being led into a deeper knowledge of what God has for you in His Word and from His voice, how is that going to happen?

September 28, 2021 — The Greater Fool

“One of my friends from our old town called last night,” Stan commented one morning.

“Everything okay with him?” I asked.

“By and large,” Stan replied, “but he was feeling a bit low and kind of foolish over some money he lost in an investment.”

“What happened?”

“You familiar with the idea of ‘The greater fool’ in the investment world?” Stan asked.

“I think so,” I replied. “Isn’t that where a person, for example, buys a stock that is going up in price, thinking that he will be able to sell it at a higher price to someone else, who is described as ‘The greater fool’?”

“That’s it in a nutshell,” Stan said. “And when the stock doesn’t continue to go up, the person who hoped to find a ‘greater fool’ turns out to be the last greater fool.”

“Is that what happened with your friend?” I asked.

“Afraid so,” Stan replied. “The best part is that it was not a whole lot of money, and my friend seems to have learned the difference between investing and speculating.”

“As well,” he continued, “our conversation was able to go in the direction of what the apostle Paul wrote about not being foolish in relation to understanding the will of God in every aspect of our lives.”

“Paul wrote about that?” I responded.

“He did,” Stan said. “Just one short sentence in his letter to the church in Ephesus that has also been made available to each of us.  Paul simply wrote to not be foolish, but to understand the will of God.”

“Not be foolish, but understand,” I repeated. “How am I supposed to do that?”

“Well,” Stan replied, “it seems to me that before I can begin to understand God’s will, I have to know His will. And knowing God’s will comes from spending time in His word and listening to His voice. As I seek to understand His will, He will make it clear!”

“And if I don’t seek to understand God’s will,” I commented, “it’s kind of like choosing to be foolish.”

“I think you’re right about that, my friend,” Stan replied. “It seems to me that if that is what I choose, it’s like I’m be choosing to be a greater fool!”

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Bible verses to consider:

So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of God is. Ephesians 5:17.

For the word of the cross is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  1 Corinthians 1:18.

Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do, and does not do it, to him it is sin. James 4:17.

Fools mock at sin, but among the upright there is good will. Proverbs 14:9.

Prayer:  Thank you, Father, for those you sent into my life to show me the foolishness of not accepting by faith your free and gracious provision of life eternally with you when it’s time. Thank you, too, for providing the way for me to understand your will by drawing ever closer to you in a deepening personal relationship. I confess that there have been too many times when I have been foolish in not seeking to understand your will, but have chosen to follow my will apart from you. Please help me in following every step of your lead as you show me your will in ways I will understand, accept, and embrace. Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Think on this: Have you overcome the foolishness of not having the assurance of salvation by accepting God’s free and gracious provision of life eternally with Him for when you step into eternity? If no, why? If you do have the assurance of salvation, how are you doing in pursuing to understand God’s will for every part of your life by drawing ever closer to Him? As well as you would like? As well as God would like? If you sense changes are in order for how you seek to understand, accept, and embrace God’s will, how are those changes going to happen?

September 27, 2021 — The Encouragement of Adversity

“A few weeks back,” Stan said one morning, “I had an appointment with a pastor over in Grangerville to see if I could provide any help with a discipleship class he was thinking of putting together.”

“How’d that go?” I asked.

Rather than answer, Stan said, “You ever been encouraged by adversity?”

“Encouraged by adversity? I’m not sure.”

“Well, I was,” Stan replied.

“How so?” I asked.

“The appointment was for nine o’clock. It’s about an hour’s drive, so I got up early to spend time with the Lord and pray about the meeting. I had a quick bite to eat, got in the car and saw  that it was just about out of gas.  I drove to Fred’s Fuel only to find I was behind three other people filling their cars.”

“That can be aggravating,” I commented.

“I was more than a little bothered by the fact I hadn’t done that the day before,” but that’s the way it was. I filled the car, started on my way, only to run into some road construction near the summit going over Weston Mountain. The construction crew was just getting set up and the road was blocked. I finally got through that, but was stuck behind a number of trucks that were going very slowly. There was no way to get by them.”

“More aggravation,” I said. “Were you thinking maybe it wasn’t your day?”

“No,” Stan replied. “That’s when I started thinking about being encouraged by what was going on. It occurred to me that if there were these things trying to get in the way, what I was doing must be important in God’s view!”

“Oh, I see,” I responded. “You were thinking that if the adversary was going to these lengths to discourage you, he must think what you were going to do was something he wanted to prevent. Is that it?”

“That’s it,” Stan said. “And the more I thought about what was going on, especially when I tried to call the pastor at nine o’clock only to find I had no cell service, the more encouraged I got. I just knew the Lord had something special in mind.”

“Did you ever make it to Grangerville?” I asked.

“Sure did,” Stan replied. “Had a fabulous meeting with the pastor. Everything is all set for him to begin the discipleship class next week. I can’t wait to hear what God is going to do in making new and more deeply-committed disciples to help build the kingdom!”

“And,” he concluded, “what God showed me about how He can use Satan’s attempts at adversity to encourage me, leads me to pray for each member of that class that they will see the same thing, knowing that Satan and his adversity will seek to discourage them, but that God can and will use that to encourage them!”

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Bible verses to consider:

But I shall remain in Ephesus until Pentecost; for a wide door for effective service has opened to me, and there are many adversaries. 1 Corinthians 16:8-9.

Be of sober spirit,  be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 1 Peter 5:8.

Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. James 4:7.

Prayer: Thank you, Father, that you allow adversity to show me that what you have for me to be and to do for you and your kingdom is affirmation that I am in your will. I confess that too many times I have allowed Satan’s adversity to discourage me and keep me from being in your will. Please forgive me for that. And please help me in following every step of your lead to be encouraged exactly in accordance with your will, knowing that if I am being and doing what you have for me, Satan is unhappy and will seek to discourage me.  Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus. Amen. 

Think on this: Do you believe that you can be encouraged by adversity? Why or why not? Have you ever stopped doing something for God because of adversity? If so, who was causing that adversity, and what was it all about? If you sense you may be too easily discouraged from doing what God has for you because of possible adversity and you sense changes may be appropriate, how are those changes going to happen? Is that what you want? Why or why not?

September 24, 2021 — The Discipleship of Serving God

As we sat down, a person we hadn’t met before came to the table. She said, “Hi, my name is Julie. Ricky has the day off today, and I will be your server. Can I get you some coffee before you order breakfast?”

“Sure thing,” Stan replied. “Two regulars.” He then added, “Glad to meet you, Julie!”

As she left to get the coffee, Stan commented, “What Julie just said opens the door to talk about something I was looking at earlier this morning in Luke’s gospel. Something Jesus said about serving.”

“What’s that? I asked.

“The importance of choosing who and what I’m going to serve,” he replied.

“What are the choices?”

“They’re just about endless,” Stan replied, “but Jesus put them into two basic categories, God and non-God. Jesus used the term, ‘mammon’ for what I call ‘non-God,’ but the basic choice is between serving God and serving everything that can get in the way of serving God.”

“Like self?” I asked.

“That’s right,” Stan said. “Self, along with the world, the flesh, and the devil. As I said, the individual choices are almost endless, but they all boil down to just two: God or something else.”

“Didn’t someone in the Old Testament have something to say about such choices?” I asked.

“These choices run throughout the entire Bible,” Stan said, “but you may be thinking about what Joshua had to say about choosing for yourself who you are going to serve. And, in regard to that, I think it’s important to note that Joshua said to choose for yourself ‘this day’ whom I am going to serve. It’s a daily choice.”

“Daily choice,” I repeated. “That’s kind of like what Jesus said about being a disciple, that after denying self, I am to take up what He has for me to take up ‘daily’.”

“More than ‘kind of like,’ my friend,” Stan said. “I put it in the category of being exactly like what the discipleship of serving God looks like!”

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Bible verses to consider:

You cannot serve God and mammon. Luke 16:13; Matthew 6:24.

And if it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. Joshua 24:15.

And He was saying to them all, “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 giving me the opportunity to serve you. I confess that too often I do not choose to serve you because I choose to serve myself as well as choosing to serve other things apart from you. Please forgive me for those choices, and please help me in following every step of your lead in choosing only to serve you with all of my being, each day that you have for me. Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Think on this: The first step in choosing to serve God is to accept His free and gracious provision of life eternally with Him when our time here is completed. Have you done that? If no, why? If you do have the assurance of salvation, how are you doing in choosing to serve God on this side of eternity? As well as you like? As well as God wants? If you sense changes are needed in who and what you choose to serve, how are those changes going to happen? Is that what you want? Why or why not?

September 23, 2021 –Victorious Christian Living: Which Book is Best?

“The other day,” I commented, “I was looking online at one of the book sellers to see about getting a book on the subject of victorious Christian living. I was stunned.”

“In what way?” Stan asked.

“When I put in the search for ‘victorious Christian living,’ it said there were 727 different books listed under that category. How am I supposed to figure out which one is best?”

“Over the years,” Stan replied, “I have read many books on that subject. Some were very good, some not so much. But I have settled on one that I think clearly is the best.”

“Which one is that?” I asked.

“The Bible,” Stan replied. “It tells me all I need to know about living the life God has for me to live on this side of eternity once I decided where I’m going to live when my time here is done.”

“But,” he continued, “for probably way too long after I came to faith, I was reluctant to spend time in God’s word, allowing Him to show and tell me what He had for me in living the Christian life He had given me.”

“Any particular reason for that?” I asked.

“The usual,” Stan replied. “Wanting what I wanted to do apart from God. Thinking it would be too hard to understand the Bible, so why even try. Wanting to rely on someone I thought probably knew more than I did, rather than making the effort to find out for myself. All sorts of things, but the bottom-line was probably just the simple failure to do what Jesus said about discipleship: get myself out of the way so He could show me what He had for me as I choose to follow Him.”

“Didn’t the apostle Paul have something to say about this whole subject?” I asked.

“Without a doubt,” Stan replied. “Paul, along with the other writers of the New Testament. I put them in the category of being the experts on victorious Christian living. I believe that the words God had for them to write clearly make up the book that is the best one on the subject. I just need to spend time with it being led by God to see and to hear all He has for me in living this life before I go to spend eternity in His presence!”

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Bible verses to consider:

All Scripture in inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17.

But flee from these things, you man of God; and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness. 1 Timothy 6:11.

Therefore, if a man cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work. 2 Timothy 2:21.

Prayer: Thank you, Father, for the provision of your word and the voice of the Holy Spirit to lead me in knowing how it is you want me to live this life before I step into eternity to be in your presence forever. I confess that too often I do not pursue what you have for me in living this life because I choose to pursue other things and other voices apart from you. Please help me in following every step of your lead into the deepest possible relationship of knowing how to live victoriously the life you have for me to live. Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Think on this: If you are not living a victorious Christian life is it because you have not yet accepted God’s free and gracious provision of life eternally with Him and are not a Christian? If so, why? What’s holding you back? If you do have the assurance of life eternally with God when your time here is finished, how are you doing in living the victorious life He has for you to live on this side of eternity? As well as you would like? As well as God is willing to provide? If you sense you need to spend more time in His word and in listening to His voice, how is that going to happen?

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Waiting for the Train — the book. See http://www.s-toryteller.com

September 22, 2021 — What do you have to grumble about?

“I had an interesting discussion with one of my neighbors last night,” Stan commented one morning. “What he had to say about his own faith walk is a real warning to me.”

“How so?” I asked. “What was he talking about?”

“Grumbling,” Stan replied.

“Grumbling?” I repeated. “How so?”

“”He said that grumbling was a problem for him and that one day he was really taken to task by the Holy Spirit through a friend who asked him what he had to grumble about.”

“How did that come about?”

“My neighbor said that it was common for him and a group of other people from the church to go to breakfast every Sunday after the church service. One Sunday, as they were having breakfast, he started his usual grumbling.”

“About what?” I asked.

“The church service. The music wasn’t any good. The pastor’s message was too long. It was too cold in the sanctuary. He had a hard time finding a parking space. All sorts of things.”

“That sounds like a lot of grumbling,” I commented.

“My neighbor said the same thing,” Stan replied. “And he said that one of his friends at the table took him to task by saying something like, “You sure do grumble a lot.”

“Wow!” I responded. “That must have hurt.”

“My neighbor said that it didn’t hurt so much,” Stan replied, “but that he was instantly convicted by what his friend said. He took it to heart, and then, when he got home, he took it to God in prayer, asking if his friend was right.”

“Then what?” I asked.

“My neighbor said that the Holy Spirit clearly spoke to him and opened him to see, rather than all the stuff he grumbled about regularly, that he had a lot for which to be thankful.”

“Like what?” 

“The assurance of salvation,” Stan replied. “Along with the eternal life of being allowed to know God the Father and Jesus the Son in an ever-deepening personal relationship before he steps into eternity. God’s provision of all he is allowed to enjoy. The freedom to be a part of what God is doing to establish and build His kingdom.  All sorts of things, but he said that the real clincher was when the Holy Spirit made it clear why he grumbled so much.”

“”Why was that?”

“Failure to take the first step of discipleship,” Stan said, “the failure to deny self. And it’s the same for me and I think for each one of us. If I don’t get my feelings of self out of the way, I can too easily have the tendency to grumble.”

“Keep in focus that we really have nothing to grumble about,” I commented.

“Exactly,” Stan replied. “A grumbling Christian is not a pretty sight!”

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Bible verses to consider:

Do all things without grumbling or disputing. Philippians 2:14.

Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer. 1 Corinthians 10:10.

Prayer: Thank you, Father, for showing me that I have nothing to grumble about, but have an infinite number of things about which to be thankful, beginning with your provision of life eternally with you when it’s time. Thank you for the gift of being allowed to know you and Jesus in an ever-deepening personal relationship. I confess that too often my tendency is to grumble when things don’t go my way, I don’t get what I want, and all of that self-focus. Please forgive my self-centered grumbling, and please lead me in focusing on all of your provision for which I have to be thankful. Help me not to be a grumbling Christian. Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Think on this:  A grumbling Christian is not a pretty sight. Do you agree with that? Why or why not? Do you have the assurance of salvation for which you can be thankful? If no, why? If you do have the assurance of knowing you will spend eternity in God’s presence, does your thankfulness for that outweigh any tendency to grumble about anything on this side of eternity? If you sense some changes in not grumbling may be in order, how are those changes going to occur? Is that what you want? Why or why not?

September 21, 2021 — A Life of Obedience

“As we’ve talked about before,” Stan commented, “I think the apostle Paul was a master at saying something significant for my faith walk in just a few words, often in a single phrase. I saw another example earlier this morning.”

“What’s that?” I asked.

“In his letter to the church in Philippi,” Stan said, “where Paul was writing about Jesus having gone to the cross to accomplish all that He did by His finished work, Paul inserted a nugget of truth about how I am to be obedient to God for as long as I have a breath to take on this side of eternity.”

“How so?”

“Where it says that Jesus ‘humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death’,” Stan replied. “It seems to me that what Paul was pointing out is that Jesus was obedient to His Father for as long as He lived. In His case, that was only thirty-three years and it ended on the cross, but He was obedient to the end.”

‘And you think it’s to be the same for yourself?” I asked.

“Absolutely,” Stan replied. “I think it’s to be the same for me. I am to be obedient to the end regardless of how long it takes to get there, and regardless of how the end comes. I am to be obedient to the point of my death.”

“Just like Jesus,” I commented.

“Just like Jesus,” Stan repeated.

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Bible veres to consider:

And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Philippians 2:8.

Father, if Thou art willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Thine be done. Luke 22:42.

If you love Me, you will keep My commandments. John 14:15.

Prayer: Thank you, Father, for the life of obedience you have given me to live here before I step into eternity to be in your presence forever. I confess that too often I do not obey you. I do that because I choose disobedience over obedience. Please forgive me. And please help me to live the same obedient life that Jesus lived so I will obey all you have for me to obey for as long as you keep me here, regardless of how long that may be. Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Think on this: Obeying God for as long as He keeps us on this side of eternity is what we are to do. Do you agree with that? Why or why not? Why did Jesus go to the cross in obedience to the Father? How are you doing in obeying God for the life He has given you to live here before you step into eternity? As well as you would like? As well as God would like? If you sense some changes in your obedience may be in order, how are those changes going to occur? Is that what you want? Why or why not?

September 20, 2021 — Whose “Go” are you Following?

“Last Sunday at church,” I commented one morning, “the pastor’s message was on the Great Commission.”

“What was his focus?” Stan asked.

“What I got out of the message was two-fold,” I replied. “First, he was talking about that the Great Commission is about making disciples, not just converts.”

“That’s a good point,” Stan replied. “I think Jesus focused on the discipleship part rather than the conversion part because the conversion part is a given. People can’t become disciples until they come to faith. What was your second take-away from the message?”

“That Jesus said to ‘go,’ and that I need permission to stay.”

“Again,” Stan said, “that’s a really good point. And the ‘go’ part means that I go from where I am to where God wants me to be. It may be going across the room, across the street, across town, or across the world. Wherever He has for me to go I am to go and make disciples.”

“However,” Stan then said, “there’s always other voices that also says, ‘go’ that I have to be careful to ignore.”

“What other voices?” I asked.

“The voice of self, along with the voices of the world, the flesh, and the devil, that are constantly trying to get in the way of my listening to the voice of God. Those voices try to convince me that God doesn’t really want me to go anywhere with Him, that I can go wherever I want apart from Him.”

“Kind of like those voices try to convince you that you can give yourself permission to stay, that you can ignore God’s ‘go.’ Is that it?”

“That’s it, my friend,” Stan replied. “And I have to always remember who it is who does not want me to go and make disciples, wherever that ‘go’ may lead me, and whatever that ‘go’ may cost me. I have to be alert to whose ‘go’ or ‘not go’ I’m following!”

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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 I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. Matthew 28:19-20.

Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. James 4:7.

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

Prayer: Thank you, Father, for your free and gracious provision of salvation and redemption that I could accept and then go forward to pursue being a disciple. Thank you, too, for the command to go and make disciples. I confess that too often I do not go where you have for me to go because I choose to stay where I am or I choose to go elsewhere. Please forgive that disobedience to what you have for me. And please help me in following every step of your lead to go where you want me to go, wherever that might be, doing whatever you have for me to do, however you have for me to do it. Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Think on this: Are you pursuing discipleship after your conversion? If no, is that because you have not yet accepted by faith God’s free and gracious gift of salvation? If that’s the case, what is standing in your way? If you do have the assurance of salvation and are pursuing discipleship, how are you doing with the Great Commission to go and make disciples, remembering it is about discipleship, not just conversion? If you are having trouble with the “go” part, how can that disobedience be changed? Is that what you want? Why or why not?

September 17, 2021 — To Draw Near to God, You have to First Draw Nearer

“As I recall,” I said to Stan one morning, “you have said that James 4:8 is one of your favorite Bible verses, is that right?”

“It is,” Stan replied. “What James wrote in that verse about drawing near to God and having Him respond by drawing near to me had a significant impact on my beginning faith walk.  As well, that verse is a continuing focus for an ever-deepening personal relationship with God.” [Note to reader: See Day 12, “Choosing to Draw Closer to God” in Waiting for the Train: Biblical Food for Growing Before Going (www.s-toryteller.com)].

“How close is ‘near’?” I asked.

“I don’t know that there’s an answer to that question,” Stan said, “probably as near as God wants it to be. However, I think that may be the wrong question.”

“How so?”

“Rather than focusing on how close ‘near’ is,” Stan said, “it seems to me that the question should be, ‘How do I draw nearer?’”

“Oh,” I responded, “as in I have to choose to draw nearer before I can be near. Is that what you’re saying?”

“Exactly,” Stan replied. “In my faith walk, until I chose to move from where I was, which was a long way from God, to be closer or nearer to Him, there was no possibility to be ‘near’ to Him.  It’s a process that I believe is to continue for the entire time I have on this side of eternity.”

“So,” I said, “it’s like a person chooses to draw nearer to God. Then God responds by drawing near to that person so, in turn, the person then chooses to draw ever-nearer to God. Is that it?”

“That’s what it seems to me,” Stan replied. “I don’t think it’s a one-time thing, a single move closer or nearer. It starts with a single move nearer, but that’s just the beginning. It’s to be an ongoing choice to draw ever-nearer to be as near to God as possible.”

“Kind of like the difference between describing yourself as a ‘maturing Christian’ rather than a ‘mature Christian.’ Is that a fair statement?”

“You got it, my friend,” Stan replied. “Drawing ever closer to God in an ever-deepening personal relationship is a life-long process. If I ever consider myself as close to God as I’m going to get, or if I consider myself to be a ‘mature Christian,’ with no further room for maturing, I believe I will be heading in the wrong direction!”

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Bible verses to consider:

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

The Lord is with you when you are with Him. And if you seek Him, He will let you find Him; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you. 2 Chronicles 13:2.

Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it shall be opened. Matthew 7:7-8.

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

Prayer: Thank you, Father, that you do draw near to me when I choose to draw nearer to you. I confess that too often I do not choose to draw ever-nearer to you because I think I’m near enough. Please forgive that foolishness. And please help me in following every step of your lead into an ever-deepening relationship — a relationship that grows only closer and closer for every moment I have remaining on this side of eternity. Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Think on this: Do you consider yourself as close to God as possible? Are you pursuing an ever-deepening personal relationship with God for as long as you remain on this side of eternity? Are you continuing to grow before you go? If no, why? Do you believe that maturing as a Christian is a life-long process and that there really are no “mature” Christians in the sense that no one is as mature as possible? Why or why not? If you sense you are being called to draw nearer to God, how is that going to happen? Is that what you want? Why or why not?