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405. But It Looked So Good

“Last weekend,” Stan began, “my wife and I went to dinner with another couple we really enjoy.”

Continuing, he said, “We go to dinner with them about once a month.  When we are finished with dinner, we go either to their house or to ours to have dessert, conversation, and, sometimes, play a game.”

“Sounds like a nice thing to get to do,” I responded.

“It is,” Stan replied, “we are blessed with good friends.”  Continuing, he said, “This last time it was our turn to have them back to our house.  In preparation for that, we went to the bakery over on Grand Avenue and bought a lemon meringue pie.”

“One of my favorites!” I said.

“Mine, too,” Stan replied, “but not this time.”

“What happened?” I asked.

“We served the pie.  It looked so very good.  I took my first bite and realized something was terribly wrong.  Rather than the sweet lemony taste, it was the taste of salt.”

“Salt?” I responded.

“Yes,” Stan replied, “it tasted like salt.”

“The next day, we took the pie back to the bakery and told the woman behind the counter.  Her response was something like, ‘Oh, no, they did it again!’.  Whoever made the pie had used salt rather than sugar.”

“Kind of hard to imagine,” I said, “but I guess they do look the same and if a person is not paying attention it could happen.”

“Exactly,” Stan replied.  “And I saw the same thing in Matthew’s gospel this morning when I was journaling about something Jesus said.  And before you ask, no, Jesus was not talking about salty lemon pie!”

“But Jesus was talking about the same thing when He took the scribes and Pharisees to task for looking good on the outside while being less-than-good on the inside.”

“I have to be aware of the same thing constantly,” Stan continued.  “Looking good on the outside is fine, but it is the inside that really counts.  God knows everything about me, both the outside and the inside.  It is the inside He is most concerned about, and so should I.”

“No one should take a figurative bite of me, get a sour look on their face, and say, ‘But it looked so good on the outside’.  What happened?”

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Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!  For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence.  Matthew 23:25.

Prayer:  Thank you, Lord, that I can come before you.  I confess that too often I may look good on the outside, but the inside is filled with those things that are less-than-good.  That is not anything you do not already know, but you make it clear what you want me to do about it.  I confess and I ask for your forgiveness.  I ask you to lead my repentance so that what is on the inside of me looks as good or better than the outside.  Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus.  Amen.

406. Better Late Than Never

“Something wonderful happened at our church service yesterday,” Stan began.

“What was that?” I asked.

“An elderly gentleman,” Stan responded, “who has been attending church services for many years responded to an altar call and dedicated his life to Christ.”

“He had been going to church for a long time and just now became a Christian?” I asked.

“Yes,” Stan replied.  “And the pastor asked the man if he would be willing to tell the congregation about it.  He did and spoke for a few minutes.  Very heartwarming.”

Continuing, Stan said, “The week before, the pastor had presented a message on a verse in the apostle Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth.  The verse deals with Paul’s admonition for the church to test themselves to see if they are in the faith.”

“And is that what the man did?” I asked.

“That is what he said,” Stan replied.  “He told the church that he had spent the week thinking and praying about his faith.  About whether or not it was real.  He said he concluded that it was not, and that he was going to make it real while he still had time on this side of eternity.”

Concluding, Stan said, “Accepting the free gift of salvation through Christ’s finished work on the cross is essential for each one of us.  I don’t know of anything that better shows the truth of the adage, ‘Better late than never’!”

“Sooner is best, but later is better than never in making the decision that comes from a heartfelt testing or examination of where a person is on the scale of faith.”

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Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves!  Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you — unless indeed you fail the test?  2 Corinthians 13:5.

Prayer:  Thank you, Lord, for your provision of life eternally with you through the finished work of Christ Jesus on the cross.  Thank you for bringing me to the truth of your provision of salvation.  You know that it took me a long time to come to that point, but I finally got there by your leading to examine myself and the condition of my faith.  Thank you for that leading.  I pray for each person who thinks he or she is yours.  I lift them to you in prayer that you will open them to truly examine themselves and their relationship with you so that they will see whether or not they pass the test.  Thank you that I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus.  Amen.

407. Glorifying The Word

“In the apostle Paul’s second letter to the church in Thessalonica,” Stan began, “he asked the church to pray for some specific things that still need prayer today.”

“What things?” I asked.

“First,” Stan replied, “Paul asked that the church pray for him and those with him.  Second, that the word of the Lord would spread rapidly.  Third, that the word of the Lord would be glorified.”

“And you think we still need to pray for those things?” I said.

“Well,” Stan replied, “Paul and his companions are no longer here so they don’t need the prayer.  But there are plenty of ‘Pauls’ out there who do need our prayer.”

“And,” he continued, “the part about the word ‘spreading rapidly’ is certainly a whole lot easier today with the technology we have.  The word can spread around the world almost instantly, but it doesn’t happen on its own.  Someone has to do it and prayer is needed.”

“But,” he added, “I think the part about glorifying the word is most needed in prayer.”

Continuing, he said, “It is my prayer each day that the word of the Lord would truly be glorified by each person who hears and accepts it.  And the first person I pray for in this regard is me.”

“You?” I asked.

“Yes, me,” Stan responded.  “I pray each day that in every aspect of my being I will truly glorify the word of the Lord so that others may believe and, in turn, glorify the Lord and His word.”

Concluding, he added, “And for me to glorify the word of the Lord requires the same things as for me to be a disciple.  Deny self, take up my cross, and follow Jesus wherever He wants to lead, whatever the cost.  I am to give my all to the Holy Spirit to lead me in glorifying exactly as God intends.”

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Finally, brethren, pray for us that the word of the Lord may spread rapidly and be glorified, just as it did also with you.  2 Thessalonians 3:1.

Prayer:  Thank you, Lord, for your life-giving word.  Thank you that you want your word to be spread all over the world and that you want it to make a difference in eternal destinations and in lives on this side of eternity.  I confess that too often I do not glorify your word in the ways you intend.  Please forgive me.  And please lead me, and help me to follow, in getting myself out of your way, in taking up what you have for me to do, and in following you wherever you lead so that I will truly glorify you and your word exactly as you intend.  Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus.  Amen.

408. Pre-Paid Special Delivery

“Last week,” Stan began, “I ordered a new coffee maker online.  It arrived the other day.”

“Good one?” I asked.

“No,” was Stan’s one-word reply.  “I don’t know what’s wrong with it, but it makes terrible coffee. I’m going to send it back.”

“That’s always a hassle,” I said.  “Too bad.”

“No hassle this time,” Stan replied.  “I contacted the online seller and it sent everything I need to send the coffee maker back without charge.  They will have a carrier pick it up and get it back to the seller.  Not only do I not have to pay anything to return it, I don’t even have to package it up.  I just need to give the carrier the return label with the coffee maker.  Everything else is taken care of.”

“That sounds like great service,” I replied.

“It certainly is,” Stan said, “and it reminds me of the special delivery I have been provided by God.”

“What do you mean by that?” I asked.

“The apostle Paul mentions this at the beginning of his letter to the church in Galatia,” Stan said.  “Paul points out that Jesus gave Himself for our sins so that He might deliver us out of this present evil age.”

“And,” Stan continued, “on the cross, through his finished work, Jesus paid the price for this delivery.  Pre-paid special delivery!  And it’s not just for when my time here is done and I step into eternity to be with God forever.  No, it is for this side of eternity as well, as I draw ever closer to God by knowing Him and His Son.”

“Delivered out of this present evil age,” I repeated.  “By pre-paid special delivery.  Sounds like a very good thing to me.”

“It is, my friend,” Stan replied.  “A very good thing!  All that is needed is that it be accepted as the free gift it is.”

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Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us out of this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father.  Galatians 1:3, 4.

Prayer:  Thank you, Lord, for your provision of the free gift of salvation to spend eternity with you when it is time.  And thank you for delivering me out of this present evil age, all through the finished work of Christ Jesus on the cross.  Thank you for those who brought me to the truth of your pre-paid special delivery that was available simply by my accepting it.  I want to be involved in all you want in helping others to see and to accept that truth.  Please help me in following your lead in everything you have for me to be and to do on this side of eternity while I wait to step on to the train to be with you forever.  Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus.  Amen.

409. Eternity Is A Long Time

“One of my neighbors,” Stan began, “is a financial planner.  Her primary focus is on helping people in having enough money and other resources to provide for themselves in their later years.”

“That sounds like a good thing,” I responded.

“It can be as long as the right perspective is kept in mind,” Stan replied.

“What ‘right perspective’?” I asked.

“Treasure in heaven versus treasure on earth,” Stan replied.  “And my neighbor really has it right,” Stan continued.  “She is a committed believer and she makes the eternal perspective more important than the earthly one with all of her clients.”

“Do they all listen?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” Stan replied, “that is between them, as well as being in God’s domain.”

“But,” he continued, “from all appearances my neighbor has a very thriving business.”

“And I know from talking with her about what she does, she makes it very clear to her clients that life on this side of eternity is short, while life in eternity is for a long time, as in ‘forever’.”

“She presents the right perspective of where to lay up the treasure.”

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For what will a man be profited, if he gains the whole world, and forfeits his soul?  Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?  Matthew 16:26.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for making clear the importance of the eternal perspective. Life here is short and eternity is a long time! I thank you for making known to me the choice of being with you in eternity and I thank you for leaving me on this side of eternity for as long as you want for your purposes to be accomplished in and through me before I get on the train. I ask you to lead me, and to help me follow, in all you have for me in making known to others the choice they can make for both here and there. Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus. Amen.

410. Ignoring The Message Because Of The Messenger

“I’m sure you’ve heard the expression about killing the messenger because you don’t like the message.”

“Heard it and experienced it!” I responded.  “Not literally killing the messenger, but certainly being displeased with someone because of what he or she had to tell me.  It’s important for me to focus on the message, not on the messenger.”

“Exactly,” Stan replied.  “And I saw something similar in Mark’s gospel earlier this morning.”

“What’s that?” I asked.

“Jesus was in His hometown teaching in the synagogue.  The people were amazed at His teaching, but it is also recorded that they were offended by Him.”

“Offended by Jesus?” I replied.  “How foolish is that?”

“That’s another subject for another day,” Stan replied, “but the point here is that the people were amazed at Jesus’ teaching; they liked the message, but they didn’t like the messenger. They took offense because they saw Jesus as just a carpenter, just a local who was a son and brother of people they knew.”

Continuing, he said, “They did not see Jesus as the Messenger, with a capital ‘M’, who had everything for them to hear.  They lost sight of the message because of a wrong attitude about who was delivering the message.”

“For me,” Stan added, “this is a vital lesson to keep my spiritual ears open to what God has to tell me through whatever means He wants to use.  I am not to miss out on something the Lord God Almighty has for me just because of a wrong attitude about how or through whom the message is delivered.”

Concluding, he added, “I am to be open to the message God has for me.  Period.”

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And when the Sabbath had come, He began to teach in the synagogue; and the many listeners were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get these things, and what is this wisdom given to Him, and such miracles as these performed by His hands?  Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, and brother of James and Joses, and Judas, and Simon?  Are not His sisters here with us?”  And they took offense at Him.  Mark 6:2, 3.

Prayer:  Thank you, Lord, that you want me to hear, receive, and embrace all you have for me.  I confess that too often I am not as open as you intend for me to know all you have for me because I am too focused on the messenger rather than the message;  I am too focused on my self-focused preconceptions of how and through whom you will speak to me.  Please forgive me.  And please, Lord, Lead me in being totally open, just as you intend, so I will always hear your message, regardless of how and through whom or what you choose to deliver it.  Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus.  Amen.

411. Do You Want My Help Or Not?

“Stan,” I began, “I had a real frustration last night with one of my neighbors.”

“What happened?” Stan asked.

“This one neighbor who is also a friend,” I replied, “called and asked me to come over and help him with a project he was working on.  He was trying to finish a letter he was going to send out and was having some trouble putting in some family pictures that were on his computer.”

“Were you able to help him?” Stan asked.

“Yes and no,” I replied.

“What do you mean by that?” Stan asked.

“Well,” I said, “I think I could have helped him because I have done that sort of thing many times.  I know how to do it, but it turned out my neighbor wouldn’t listen to anything I tried to tell him.”

“Why did he ask for your help if he wasn’t going to listen?” Stan asked.

“Great question!” I replied.  “I’m not sure, but after a while I decided to let him do what he was going to do.  I went home.”

“Sounds a lot like what I do too often,” Stan replied, “in dealing with the Holy Spirit.  I ask for His help and then don’t listen.  I ask Him to lead and then I don’t follow.”

“Why do you do that?” I asked.

“Same reason as you neighbor, I suppose,” Stan said.  “I think I know what to do without really wanting or needing any help.  Bad and foolish choice on my part.  If I do that often enough, pretty soon the Holy Spirit will quit talking and trying to help.  He will, in essence, decide it is time to go home after He concludes I really don’t want His help.”

“I pray,” Stan concluded, “not to be so foolish.”

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Do not quench the Spirit.  1 Thessalonians 5:19.

Prayer:  Thank you, Lord, for your gift of the Holy Spirit to live in me and guide, help, and counsel in every area of my life.  I confess that too often I fail to listen to His voice by choosing to go it on my own.  Please forgive me.  And please, Lord, lead me and help me to follow in listening to everything He has to say to me.  Help me to not quench the Spirit by not listening to His voice.  Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus.  Amen.