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323. Call it What it is: Disobedience

“Can you imagine,” Stan asked, “how long this place would stay in business if, after about 45 minutes, I asked Ricky when our breakfast is going to be ready. What if I asked him that and his response was something like, ‘I haven’t put in the order yet, but I am going to.’”

“Probably not very long,” I responded.

“Same question with a different perspective,” Stan said.  “How deep do you think my relationship with God is going to get if, when He asks ‘Have you obeyed yet?’ my response is something like, ‘I haven’t yet, but I am going to do so pretty soon.’”

“Same sort of answer,” I replied.  “Not very deep.”

“Exactly, my friend,” Stan said. “God wants my obedience, and saying I am going to obey is not the same thing as obeying.”

Continuing, he said, “The only thing that satisfies God’s desire for my obedience is my obedience.”

“And what do you think gets in the way of obedience?” I asked.

“Loving myself more than I love God.  Loving what I am doing and what I want to do apart from God more than loving what I am doing in obedience to what God wants.”

“It’s all about love?” I asked.

“That’s what Jesus said,” Stan replied.  “And I believe Him when He said that if I love Him I will obey Him.”

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

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

Prayer:  Thank you, Lord, for making it clear through your word and your voice what it is you want of me in terms of my obedience.  I confess that way too often I do not obey even though I say I will.  Please forgive me.  And please help me to follow every aspect of your leading and your wanting to lead me in obedience.  Please, Lord, draw me ever closer so my obedience expresses my love for you just as you want.  Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus.  Amen.

324. Sad Ending With A Great Lesson

“We’ve talked a little bit,” Stan began, “about the fellow known as the ‘rich young ruler’.”

“We have,” I responded.  “He’s the one who went away disappointed after talking with Jesus, never to be heard from again.”

“That’s right,” Stan replied, “and this morning I would like to focus on something about him we didn’t talk about before, something that has a real impact on me and my relationship with God.”

“What do you have for me, Stan?” I replied.

“In Mark’s gospel account,” Stan responded, “it says that after the young fellow asked Jesus about eternal life and told Jesus he had done everything he thought he needed to do, Jesus looked at him with love and, in essence, told the young man that he lacked the most essential thing, which was a personal relationship with Jesus.”

“To me,” Stan continued, “the important part of this is that, in the first instance, Jesus looked at the young man with love.  Then Jesus told him what he lacked.”

“For a long time before I responded to Jesus,” Stan said, “He looked at me with love, telling me what I lacked. And every single day He continues to look at me with love, watching for my continual response.”

“Everything Jesus did and does is motivated by His love for me.  I just have to get my self-focus out of the way in order to see it so I can respond.”

Concluding, Stan said, “The rich young man wouldn’t get himself out of the way so he could see and accept Jesus’ love.  As you said, he went away never to be heard from again.  Sad ending for him, but a great lesson for me.”

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And looking at him, Jesus felt love for him, and said to him, “One thing you lack:  go and sell all you possess, and give it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.  Mark 10:21.

Prayer:  Thank you, Lord, for making it so clear what you have for me, and that it all flows from your amazing love.  I confess I was way too slow in responding to your love and all you have for me, and that I am often too slow to respond now.  Please forgive me.  And please lead me and help me to follow you exactly as you want into an ever-deepening relationship with you.  Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus.  Amen.

325. Christian Maturity: A Constant Reminder

“There are times when we get together,” Stan began, “when I knowingly repeat myself.”

Continuing, he said, “And I want you to know that I do that as much for me as for you, my friend.”

“You repeat yourself for yourself?” I asked.

“I do,” Stan replied. “Just when I think I know something about God and my relationship with Him, I find that I have forgotten an essential and have to be reminded.  It is not uncommon for me to have forgotten multiple essentials.  God uses the Holy Spirit in me to remind myself!”

“For example,” Stan continued, “this morning, I was thinking about our time together and I was kind of patting myself on the back for being mature so I am able to help you mature as a Christian. All of a sudden the Holy Spirit said, in essence, ‘not so fast’.”

“The Holy Spirit went on to remind me about something He has said many times,” Stan said and then continued before I could ask anything. “Describing anyone as a ‘mature Christian’ is not the right approach.  I am to prefer the term, ‘maturing Christian’ because ‘mature’ connotes that there is no further to go in the process of maturing.”

He continued, “I think that maturing as a Christian is a life-long process that is intended by God to not stop until I have taken my last breath on this side of eternity.  It is to stop only when I get on the train, not while I am waiting for the train.”

“Also,” Stan said, “I believe that when I get to the point of thinking I am spiritually mature, I am on the wrong path and heading in the wrong direction.  It is time for the Holy Spirit to speak up and it is time for me to listen to His reminder.”

“There will always be more to learn about God, and there will always be more steps in growing in that direction.”

“After all,” he concluded, “Jesus said that eternal life is about knowing God the Father and Jesus the Son.  If I think I know God as well as I need to know Him and can stop maturing as a Christian, Satan laughs all the way to wherever he is going.”

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I say to every person among you not to think more highly of yourself than you ought to think.  Romans 12:3.

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:  Lord, thank you for all you do to open me to what you want me to hear and to know.  I want to spend the rest of my days on this side of eternity maturing in my understanding of you and of what you have for me to be and to do here before I leave to spend the rest of eternity with you.  I confess that too often I think too highly of myself and my supposed maturity as a Christian.  Please, forgive me when I begin to think I know all I need to know about you and our relationship.  Please help me in never stopping but always wanting to grow in my relationship with you.  Thank you that I can and do bring all of these prayers before you in the name of Jesus.  Amen.

326. What Kind of Temple is That?

“One of my neighbors,” Stan began, “recently returned from a trip to the Far East.”

Continuing, he said, “Last night she had a group of neighbors over to see pictures from the trip.”

“Good ones?” I asked.

“Yes,” Stan replied.  “Very interesting. And she is a great photographer!”

“At one point, she was showing pictures of some of the temples she had visited.  One of the other neighbors, in looking at a particular picture, asked her what kind of temple it was.”

“What was it?” I replied.

“She said she didn’t know about that particular one.  She had seen many and didn’t know what kind of temple that was.”

“That question and my neighbor’s response,” Stan continued, “reminded me of something I have heard the Holy Spirit say to me more than once about a particular temple.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Well,” Stan replied, “as a Christian, I am a temple of God and the Spirit of God dwells in me.  I think that places on me certain responsibilities to maintain that temple fit for its occupant.”

“When I do not maintain the temple as I should, both physically and spiritually, and I allow it to fall into disrepair,” Stan continued, “the Holy Spirit will step in and ask me, “What kind of temple is this?”

“And your response is what?” I replied.

“If I am honest,” Stan said, “I will confess that I have gotten way off base in allowing the temple, in essence, to become uninhabitable.  I will follow that confession by repentance in getting the temple back in shape so the Spirit of God is able to live in me with full manifestation of His presence.”

“Then the Holy Spirt will get a different answer when He asks, ‘What kind of temple are we talking about?’”

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Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?  1 Corinthians 3:16.

Prayer:  Thank you, Lord, that you have made me a temple in which you dwell.  I confess that way too often I allow that temple to fall into disrepair and, in essence, become somewhere you do not want to dwell.  Please forgive all of that.  And please, Lord, lead me in maintaining the temple, not just in physical appearance, but in its inner appearance so that you not only dwell there, but your presence is manifested in every aspect of my being.  May the answer to the question of “What kind of temple is that?” always be answered, “That is a temple of God!”  Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus.  Amen.

327. Giving Out of Love

Note from The Storyteller:  If you have not read postings prior to the one that follows, I recommend that you do so.  There is insight that may help as you walk the road toward spiritual maturity.  All of the prior postings can be found at the following website:  www.waiting4thetrain.com.  Also, please forward this email to everyone you think would be interested in and may benefit from the devotional postings.  Thank you!

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“When I first began a more serious walk with God,” Stan began, “I read a book on giving from the Christian perspective.  The author said something I really did not understand or appreciate at that point.”

“What was that?” I asked.

“As I remember it,” Stan replied, “the essence of what the author said is that the day tax deductions for giving to the church are done away with is the day the church will come alive.”

“No tax deduction for giving?” I responded.  “Do you think that will happen?”

“I don’t know,” Stan replied.  “Certainly possible.  But the author of that book clearly understood the essence of Christian giving.”

“If,” he continued, “I view giving as only a means for reducing my tax liability, I am way off base.  There is nothing wrong with wanting to reduce my taxes, but that cannot be my sole motivation.”

“The apostle Paul addressed this in his first letter to the church in Corinth when he wrote about the necessity of giving out of love, not so he would get something out of it.”

“Also,” he continued, “the apostle Peter said the same thing when he and John were approached by that lame man who was looking for them to give him something.  Peter said he did not have any money, but what he did have was the love of Christ, and he gave that to the man by healing him of his lameness in the name of Jesus.”

“So,” I asked, “where does that kind of giving come from?  It seems so contrary to what I normally think.”

“It is contrary to ‘normal’ in the sense of being contrary to the natural self,” Stan replied, “and I can only give out of the love of Christ by getting me out of the way and allowing the Holy Spirit to direct all of His giving through me.  He only gives out of His first fruit, which is love.”

“If we come to the day when tax deductions for giving to the church are done away with, giving will be based solely on love.  I pray that the church will, indeed, come alive.”

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And if I give all of my possessions to feed the poor, . . . and do not have love, it profits me nothing.  1 Corinthians 13:3.

But Peter said, “I do not possess silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you:  In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene—walk!”  Acts of the Apostles 3:6.

Prayer:  Thank you, Lord, that you give so that I will give.  You bless me with all I need, and you bless me beyond my needs so that I will bless others in your name.  I confess that too often I fail to give to others out of my selfishness.  I may call it “being a good steward,” but you know the truth. Please forgive me.  And please fill me to overflowing with your love so that I give all you have for me to give with a heart of love, totally emptied of self.  Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus.  Amen.

328. Who is This?

“I was focusing on Matthew’s gospel again this morning during my journaling time,” Stan said, “and I saw that Matthew recorded for me an absolutely essential question.”

Continuing, he said, “It was the essential question that one day I had to address and answer.”

“What was that?” I asked.

“As Jesus was entering Jerusalem with a large crowd going before Him, Matthew records that all of the city was stirred to ask, ‘Who is this?’”

Continuing, Stan said, “That is the essential question I had to ask.  And it is the essential question each one of us has to ask.  ‘Who is this?’”

“Not only ask,” Stan said, “but I had to be open to hearing the answer that would change everything.  By getting the answer right and by accepting that answer, my eternal destination was changed forever.”

“Is it,” I asked, “a question that needs to be asked more than once?”

“Not in the sense of my eternal destination when it is time to get on the train.  That only took getting the answer right, and accepting it, once.  But I certainly need to be open to asking ‘Who is this?’ in regard to everything I am and everything I do on this side of eternity.”

“Who is this who wants me to deny myself?”

“Who is this who wants me to take up my cross?”

“Who is this who is seeking to lead me?”

“Who is this who wants me to follow Him?”

“And,” Stan added, “the Holy Spirit also asks the same question regarding me, but with a slightly different twist. He asks, in essence,  who do I think I am that I can ignore the ‘Who’ in the ‘Who is this’?”

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And when He had entered Jerusalem, all the city was stirred, saying, “Who is this?”  Matthew 21:10.

Prayer:  Thank you, Lord, for leading me to ask and to accept the answer about who you are.  Thank you for showing me so that I am assured that my eternal destination is to be with you forever when it is time.  And thank you for showing me who you are and what you want for the rest of the time I have on this side of eternity.  I confess that too often I do not ask and do not want to hear what you have for me.  Please forgive me.  And please, Lord, lead me exactly as you want.  And help me to follow you, wherever you want, and whatever it may cost. Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus.  Amen.

329. What Did You Do With That?

“A friend of mine,” Stan began one morning, “publishes a weekly online blog that deals with varying subjects about Christian giving.”

“Good stuff?” I asked.

“Always,” Stan replied.  “My friend is a deep thinker. One of his recent blogs had to do with how it seems the church is not held adequately accountable for reporting results of what has been done with money donated to the church.”

“And,” Stan continued, “his thoughts made me think about what God is going to ask me when I stand before Him.”

“What’s that?” I asked.

“He is going to ask me what I did with what He gave me,” Stan replied. “He already knows the answer, but He is going to ask anyway.”

Continuing, he said, “Not only can I look forward to that question when I step into eternity, God’s Holy Spirit living in me continually asks the same question on this side of eternity.”

“And your answer is what?” I asked.

“Depends on how honest I am,” Stan said rather solemnly, but then added with a smile, “if I can honestly give an answer God is pleased with on this side of eternity, I know it is going to go well when I stand before Him in eternity.”

“Sounds like great motivation,” I replied.

“You got it, my friend,” Stan said.  “Each day God gives me opportunities to respond to people He brings before me. And He places me in circumstances with the opportunity to respond.  He provides continuous opportunities for me to do His will by denying self, taking up my cross, and following Him wherever He wants to lead.”

Concluding, Stan said, “It is always a matter of choice how I respond to God’s opportunities. My daily prayers include that I will be committed to having a good answer for God when He asks, ‘What did you do with that?’”

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Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.  Matthew 25:45.

Prayer:  Thank you, Lord, for all that you provide to and for me.  Thank you for the truth that you do ask what I do with what you provide.  You ask not because you do not already know, but you ask in order to teach me to do with your provision what you intend.  Please forgive all of the times I use selfishly what you provide.  And please, Lord, lead and help me to follow in using all of your provision exactly as you want.  Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus.  Amen.