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41. Are You the One?

Stan opened our conversation with, “I saw something interesting this morning.”

“What’s that?” I responded.

“In the beginning of chapter 11 of Matthew’s Gospel there is the account of John the Baptist sending some of his disciples to ask Jesus if He was the ‘Coming One’ or if they should look for someone else.”

“What’s so interesting about that?” I asked.

“Well, I was given the thought that God asks me something along the same line.  He does not, of course, ask me if I am the ‘Coming One’, but He does ask me if I am the one He can use in a particular situation, or whether He should look for someone else.”

“I’m not sure I am following you,” I responded.

Stan went on, “There is no doubt whatsoever that God’s will is going to be done and that His purposes are going to be accomplished.  The only question is whether I am going to be a part of what He is doing.”

“I have to be alert to what God is doing, and be willing to join Him in His activity.”

“If it turns out that I am too self-focused to see what He is doing and/or too self-absorbed to be a part of what He is doing, He will look for someone else, and it will be my lost opportunity to be involved with Him.”

Stan concluded, “It is not a question of affecting my eternal destination, but it surely affects what God has for me to do on this side of eternity.  And I don’t want that to happen — and neither does God!”

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Are you the Coming One, or shall we look for someone else?  Matthew 11:3

Prayer:  Lord, every moment of every day you are moving to accomplish your will and your purposes.  I do not always see what you are doing.  Even when I do see, I do not always take the steps to be a part of what you are doing.  You show me what you are doing so that I will choose to be a part of your activity.  I surrender all of my self-focus to you so you can know that my answer will be “yes” when you ask if I am the one you can use.  Amen.

40. Cleaning Out Some Clutter

“Do you consider yourself to be a disciplined person?” Stan asked.

“In some ways, yes, and in some ways, no,” was my response.  “What about you?” I asked Stan.

“I was a mess at one time,” Stan said.  “And if I am not careful, messiness can creep into my life when I am not paying attention.”

“In what ways were you a mess?” I asked.

“There were many,” Stan said, “but I will give just one for now.  We can revisit this whole subject another day.”

“Alcohol was a problem for me,’ Stan began.  ‘I come from a long line of alcoholics.  I do not consider myself as being an alcoholic, but I was certainly alcoholic.”

“What’s the difference?” I asked.

“Alcohol became too important to me.  I was looking forward too much to feeling the sensation that alcohol gave me.  It wasn’t that I couldn’t control the drinking, it was that drinking was simply too important.   I focused too much on alcohol.”

“How the Lord took alcohol out of my life is another story for another day, but the important thing right now is what removing that clutter meant to me and my relationship with the Lord.’

Stan continued, “With the clutter of alcohol in my life, there were also a lot of other things that came along with it..”

“Such as?”

“Wrong relationships, improper motivations, missteps of all sorts.  Those sorts of things.”

“When the alcohol was gone, those things went away also.  One of the things that really surprised me was the number of people who I considered friends that no longer wanted to be around me if I wasn’t joining them in drinking.”

“At first, I was disappointed at that, but then realized they were part of the clutter that needed to be removed.”

With a real determined look on his face, Stan said, “It is crucial for me to examine all of my relationships on an on-going basis, especially my relationship with God, to make certain everything is as it should be and that there is not clutter that needs to be cleaned out.”

“And I recommend it for you, my friend.  I think it is real important.  Clearly one of the most important thing you can do.

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If any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.  2 Corinthians 5:17

Prayer:  Lord you know all of the things you want to remove from my life, the things that are nothing more than clutter in the way of the relationship you want with me.  I, too, want those things removed.  Please, Lord, move in me in accord with your will to remove all you know that needs to be removed.  And replace that clutter with what you want.  Amen.

39. Is it Salty Enough?

Stan and I sat across from one another at breakfast.  “Would you pass me the salt?” I asked.

Stan handed me the salt shaker and I promptly shook it over my scrabbled eggs.

“That was interesting,” Stan said.

“In what way?”  was my response.

“First, you didn’t even check to make sure it was salt in that shaker.  Second, you didn’t even taste your scrabbled eggs before you started shaking the container over them.”

“You think I should have tasted to see if it was really salt?”

“Yep.”

“I always put salt on my scrambled eggs, so there was no need to taste them first.”

“But you never know.  You could have ended up with really salty eggs.  Or they could have been covered with something else if it wasn’t salt in the shaker.”

“Stan, are you always that careful with your own food?”

“Yes, I usually am,” was Stan’s reply.  I enjoy food too much and hate to waste money too much to risk ruining a perfectly good meal!”

Stan continued, “And I have another point I want to make about salt.”

“O.K.”, I said.  “Let’s have it.”

“Salt has two basic purposes, to enhance flavor and to preserve.”

“Jesus told His disciples that they are the salt of the earth.  He had a very important reason for saying that.”

“Which was what?” I asked.

“His disciples are to enhance and preserve. They are to make a difference for Him on this side of eternity.  They are to shine light into the darkness to remove it, thereby enhancing His presence.  And they are to preserve the goodness of His presence by being His disciples.”

I chimed in, “And that consists of denying self, doing what He has for me to do, and following Him wherever He leads.  Right?”

Stan responded, “That is what being a disciple is all about.”

“And it is not a once for all time thing,” Stan continued.  “Choosing to accept the free gift of salvation is a one-time forever decision.  But choosing to be a disciple of Jesus is a daily, moment-by-moment choice.”

“It is choosing to be the salt and light He intends,” Stan concluded.

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Let you light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.  Matthew 5:16

Prayer:  Lord, you know how hard it is for me to be and to do what you intend.  I ask for your help in leading me to be the salt and light you want for your purposes to be accomplished in and through me.  Please, Lord, lead as you choose, and help me to follow wherever you want to take me.

38. A Hunger Strike?

I didn’t feel like eating much one morning, so I didn’t order anything other than coffee.

“On a hunger strike?” Stan asked with a smile.

“No, just not up to eating anything this morning.  But don’t let me stop you” I responded.

“No chance of that!  I’m always hungry in the morning”

“But, you know what?” Stan asked with a serious look on his face.

“What?”

“I was once on a spiritual hunger strike,” Stan said.  “Didn’t eat for a long time, and it was not a good thing.”

“I simply refused to feed on all that God had for me.  I was a believer and I had the Holy Spirit living in me, but I purposefully chose not to feed on Him.”

I was surprised to hear Stan talking like that so I asked him, “What was that all about?”

“Self” was his one-word answer.  “I simply refused to get self out of the way of what the Spirit had for me.  He had all I needed for everything, but I refused to eat.”

My response was “Why did you do that?  Why would anyone do that?”

“It’s all part of the natural man.  It’s called free-will.”

“God knows what He wants for each of us, but He does not impose His will.  He lets me choose.  Sometimes I wish He would just make me do what He know is best for me, but that is not how it works.”

Stan continued, “God wants me to choose Him of my own free will.  In that way, free will is a very good thing.  But when I use my free will to choose a course that is contrary to what God wants for me there are consequences, none of which is good.”

“I’m not sure I understand,” I said to Stan.

“Welcome to the club” Stan replied with a smile.  “I can’t say I understand all there is to know about free will, but I do know that when I choose His will over mine it opens the door for me to feed on all He has for me through His Holy Spirit.”

Continuing, Stan said, “This is a subject we will re-visit.  It is important and deserves our full attention.  For the time being, however, I say choose to get self out of the way and feed on all God has for you.  Don’t be on a hunger strike!”

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The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  Galatians 5:22, 23

Prayer: Lord, I thank you for the Spirit of Truth Who lives in me.  I confess that I do not listen to Him as often or as much as you want.  You know that, and I know that.  I ask you to help me to want to feed on all of His fruit.  To feed on all He has for me in every aspect of my life.  I ask for your help in choosing what is right and best for me.  Amen.

37. Cultivating Hard Ground

“I grew up on a farm,” Stan said.  “My dad grew wheat, barley, and oats.  He was a good farmer.”

“I don’t know much about farming,”  I said.  “I grew up in a city.”

“Farming can be a tough way to make a living, especially the way my dad did it.”

“How so?” I asked.

“He was a dry-land farmer, which means there was no irrigation.  All of the needed moisture had to come from the sky.”

“Some years there was plenty of moisture and the crops were good, but that was not always the case.”

Stan continued, “But regardless of the moisture, the ground had to be cultivated every year.  The soil had to be prepared for the seeds to be planted.  That meant plowing and breaking up the hard soil so the planted seeds could sprout and grow.”

“Were there times when the seeds didn’t produce anything?’ I asked.

“Not too often because, as I said, my dad was a good farmer.  But there were farmers around who did not do what was required to produce a good crop.  What their farms yielded was often less than my dad’s.”

Stan continued, “There is a lot of similarity between being a good farmer and being a maturing Christian!”

“In what way?” I responded.

“We all have hard hearts.  That is part of the natural human condition.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.”

“We can cultivate the hardness of our hearts so that we are receptive to the seeds God wants to plant and to nurture.”

“So,” I responded with a question, “it is possible to produce no crop, a little crop, or an abundant crop.  Is that the point?”

“Exactly,” said Stan.  “How a person cultivates determines what and how much is produced in his or her life.”

Continuing, Stan said, “If I cultivate with knowing God’s word and listening to His voice, the soil will be prepared properly.  If I don’t, it won’t.”

“It is all a matter of getting self out of the way so that what God wants will be planted, will sprout, will grow, and will produce an abundant harvest.”

“This seems like a really big subject,” I responded.

“It is at the heart of true Christian living,” Stan said.  “Yes, it is a big subject.  Jesus addressed it over and over with different parables.  You and I will spend a lot more time talking about this, but for the moment get the picture clear in you mind.”

“What picture is that?”

“We all have hearts that are hard and need to be cultivated to break up that hardness.  Cultivate that hard soil with the proper tools that God has made available.”

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Sow with a view to righteousness, reap in accord with kindness; break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the Lord until He comes to rain righteousness on you.  Hosea 10:12

Prayer:  Lord, you know the hardness of my heart apart from you.  You have provided all I need to break up that hardness so you can plant, grow, and reap all you want in and through me.  I submit to all of your provision.  Please, Lord, break up that hard soil, plant your seeds, and cause them to grow exactly as you want.  Amen.

36. Let Me Help You

The server filled my coffee cup and left the table.

I took a sip of coffee and it was much hotter than I expected.  Jerking the cup away from my lips, about half of it was spilled on the table.

As I grabbed some napkins to clean up, Stan did the same and said, “Let me help you.”

My rather embarrassed responses was, “No, I’ve got it.”  Stan put down his napkins and let me clean up the mess.

When the table was dried of the spilled coffee, Stan said, “What just happened here?”

“I spilled my coffee,” I said rather defensively.

“What else happened?”

“I cleaned it up,” I answered.

“Anything else?” was Stan’s reply.

Knowing he was wanting to get at something I didn’t see, I said, “Go ahead and tell me.”

“I offered my help in cleaning up and you refused that offer,” was Stan’s response.

“So?  Did I offend you by that?”

“No, I wasn’t offended,” Stan replied, “but I think there is a real lesson here.  A lesson I keep trying to learn myself.”

“What’s that?”

“I have in me the Holy Spirit.”  You, along with every believer, have the same Holy Spirit.  Jesus called Him the “Helper.”

Stan continued, “Numerous times each day, the Holy Spirit says to me, ‘Let me help you with such and such.’”

“Way too often, my response is the same as yours was about my offer to help clean up the spilled coffee.  I will say, ‘no, I’ve got it.’  I rely on myself and my own abilities, rather than relying on the Helper sent from God to help.”

“If I will only accept His help in everything I face, I will stay on the intended path.  When I choose to ignore the Helper and refuse to accept His help, that is when I am on the wrong path, going in the wrong direction.”

“That’s a helpful perspective, Stan,” I replied.  “And I can imagine that if a person keeps refusing the offered help, pretty soon the Helper will stop offering His help.  Do you think that is true?”

Stan replied, “Not only do I think that is true, I also know that I never, ever, want that to happen.  That is why I am constantly asking for and accepting His help.”

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But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.  John 16:7

Prayer:  Lord, you know how terribly self-focused I am, and how I think I can do things on my own without taking into account the Helper you have provided.  Please, Lord, lead me in constantly seeking, receiving, and embracing all of the help you have for me in everything, the big and the little.  Amen. 

35. Love Takes Time

Stan opened our time together with a statement and then a question.

“Early on in our relationship, you told me you and your wife are separated.  Has there been any progress in getting back together?”

“A little”,  I responded.  “We have had some decent telephone conversations. I am hopeful.”

“I will continue to pray for you and your wife”, Stan said.

“Thank you.”

“Did you know her very long before you got married?” Stan asked.

“A few months”, I replied. “But we lived in different towns and we did not really spend much time together before we got married.”

Shifting gears, Stan asked, “How much time do you spend with God each day?”

“It varies”, I responded.  “Some days quite a bit of time.  Not so much other days.  It depends on what is going on.”

“It takes time and effort to get to know anyone”, Stan stated.  “And that is especially true with God.”

“A quick five minutes here and five minutes there really doesn’t cut it”, Stan said rather firmly.

Continuing, Stan added, “Love takes time.  That’s true whether you are talking about a friend, a potential spouse, or the Lord God Almighty.  Love doesn’t just happen.”

Trying to offer some sort of defense, I said, “My wife doesn’t seem that interested in spending much time with me.”

“What about God?”, Stan asked.

“What about Him?”

“Do you think He is interested in spending time with you?”

“He’s probably pretty busy”, was my somewhat lame response.

 Stan bristled a bit and responded, “I can give you absolute assurance that God wants to spend a lot of time with you.  The real question is what about you?  How much time do you want to spend in getting to know and be in love with Him?”

“It has to be a priority, my friend.  You will never get to know God as well as is possible unless you take the time.”

“God has all the time in the world”, Stan said with a smile.  “Take advantage of His availability and desire to spend time with you.  Get to know Him as deeply and as intimately as possible.”

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

Prayer:  Lord, thank you for wanting me to know and to love you.  I need and ask for your help in making that a priority.  I ask you to draw me ever closer and open me to want to know you as well and as deeply as humanly possible.  Amen.

34. Learn From Stumbling

“Did it again,” Stan said with a bit of a sheepish grin.

“Did what?” I asked.

“Made a fool of myself,” was Stan’s answer.

“Sounds like confession time,” I kind of mocked him.  “Tell me about it.”

Stan began, “Just as I was about to get here a couple of minutes ago, I passed a woman on the sidewalk who was, to say the least, very attractive.  As we passed, I stared at her and stumbled over a slight raise in the sidewalk.”

He continued, “Thankfully, I did not fall down, but I stumbled.  The woman turned around and laughed.  Boy, was I embarrassed!”

“Learn anything?” I asked.

“You bet!” Was Stan’s reply.  “Keep my focus where it is supposed to be.”

“That will keep me from being laughed at by beautiful women; and it will keep me from being laughed at by the world, the flesh, and the devil,” was Stan’s very somber response.”

He continued, “It is kind of a funny story, but what is not funny is the very valuable lesson.  God is constantly walking with me to keep me from stumbling, but I too often do not walk with Him and, as a result, do stumble.”

“The main question when I stumble is whether or not I regain my balance and not fall.  In this instance, I did not fall down.  I regained my balance and learned the folly of not keeping my focus where it should be.”

“Aren’t you making too big a deal of looking at a beautiful woman?” I asked Stan.

“No.  Jesus addressed this very issue.  He said if my eye causes me to stumble, pluck it out.  In today’s language, He is saying if my eye causes me to stumble, don’t look.”

I responded, “Sorry I was do dense; I see what you mean.”

“It is not what I mean that is important, it is what Jesus means,” was Stan’s response.

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If your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out, throw it away from you. Matthew 18:9.

These things I have spoken to you, that you may be kept from stumbling.  John 16:1.

Prayer: Lord, you know all about me. You know all of my weaknesses. You know, and I know, that looking where I am not to look is not your will. Please, Lord, help me. Lead me in what to look at, and in what not to look at. Lead and please help me to follow. Amen.


33. The Land of the Living

“Once a person has settled the question of where he or she is going when the time here is completed,” Stan began, “there is only one thing left to do.”

“And that is . . .,” I responded with an open question.

“Live in the land of the living.  Live the life that is intended for this side of eternity.”

“Can you expand on that?” I asked Stan.

“Sure,” was his response.  “I will talk about what I know best, and that is my personal experience.  I settled where I am going when I step into eternity by accepting the free gift of Christ Jesus’ finished work on the cross.  Done deal.  Ticket bought, paid for, issued, and accepted.”

“No more question about where I am going,” Stan said and then added, “The only question is who am I going to bring with me.”

“It’s like I am going to stand before the Lord and hear Him say, ‘welcome Stan’ and then ask, ‘are you all by yourself?’”

“I don’t want to have to answer that question with a ‘yes’,” Stan said seriously.  “I am left here for one purpose.”

“Tell me,” I said.

“My purpose is to glorify and magnify God, and to bless others in His name and for His sake so that their vision of God is expanded and enhanced.  Then those people will go on to glorify and magnify God and bless others — and on and on it goes,” was what Stan had to say.

“It can only be done in the land of the living,” Stan concluded.  “When I step into eternity my opportunity to bring others with me will be at an end.  I want it to end well,” he concluded.

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Psalm 116:9 — I shall walk before the Lord in the land of the living.

Prayer:  Lord, I thank you for the free gift of salvation and that I know where I am going when my time here is done.  You have left me here for your purposes, and I ask you to lead me to those you want me to help on this side of eternity.  Please, Lord, bring before me those you want me to bring with me when I meet you in eternity.  Amen.

32. Bearing Witness

“Let’s talk about being a witness,” Stan opened our conversation one morning.

“What kind of witness are you talking about?” I asked him.

“Well, let’s start with being a witness in court.  What does that look like?” Stan asked.

“A witness gets on the stand and tells what he or she saw, what was witnessed,” I responded.

“I can agree with that,” Stan said.

He then added, “What about being a witness from the Christian standpoint?”

“Well, I suppose,” I began, it is telling another person what it means to be a Christian.”

“On what do you base that supposition?” Stan responded.

“I guess I shouldn’t have said, ‘I suppose,” I said rather defensively.

“Yeah, let’s not ‘suppose’ anything,” was Stan’s reply.  Let’s focus on fact.  What is the fact of being a Christian witness?”

“Since I am having a bit of trouble with this,” I said to Stan, “why don’t you tell me what you think?”

“OK,” he said.  “Being a Christian witness is not just telling someone anything,” he said with emphasis.  “If you have to use words, you may be on the wrong track.”

“What do you mean by that?” I asked.

“Being a Christian witness is a lifestyle,” Stan replied.  “In John’s Gospel, Jesus is recorded as having said that when we have the Spirit of Truth in us, that Spirit will bear witness of Jesus, and that we will also bear witness.”

“Is there a key to that?” I asked.

“I believe there is,” Stan replied.  “The key is getting self out of the way so that the Holly Spirit can do the witnessing He is intended to do.  It is choosing to allow God’s Spirit to do all He wants to do in and through us.”

Stan continued, “No one should ever conclude from being with me, or with you, ‘what a wonderful person he is!’  No, the conclusion should be ‘I have just been with someone who bears a strong family resemblance to the Risen Christ.’”

Concluding, Stan said, “That is what I think being a Christian witness is all about.”

“More to chew on,” was my response.

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When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of Truth, who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness of Me.  John 15:26.

Prayer:  Lord, you have provided the Spirit of Truth to witness to me about you, and to lead and guide me in being to others a witness of you.  I ask for your help in being the witness you intend so that you will make a difference in lives and eternal destinations through me.  Amen