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30. Be Careful What You Water With

“What’s up, Stan?” I asked as I saw him with a big smile on his face.

“I was just thinking about a story my neighbor told me last night.”

“Fill me in,” I said.

“My neighbor has a five-year-old granddaughter,” Stan began.  “It seems that last summer she wanted to grow some pumpkins for Halloween..”

“So my neighbor took her to the store and they bought some pumpkin seeds and some potting mix to plant them in.”

“They went home and did all that was necessary to get the seeds planted in a big pot on my neighbor’s patio.”

“Each day, his granddaughter would come over with anticipation to see if the seeds had sprouted.”

“Finally, after a few days, the plants began to peak through the soil.  The granddaughter was delighted beyond words.”

“She instructed her grandfather to be sure to water the plants so there would be really big pumpkins in time for Halloween.  That was his assignment,” Stan said as he could hardly contain his laugh.

“What makes the story so funny?” I asked.

“Well, it seems that my neighbor is not much of a gardener.”

“How so?” I asked.

“Well, after the seeds sprouted and the plants began to grow, they withered up and began to die.  This was very disconcerting to both my neighbor and his granddaughter.”

“After all of the plants died, they decided to try again with some new seeds.”

“Same result,” Stan said.  “Again the seeds sprouted and the plants died, even though my neighbor was watering them very diligently.”

“This is the kicker,” Stan said with a laugh.  “My poor neighbor was using the same watering can he had used to mix up some weed killer.  Hard for plants to grow when you are feeding them poison!” Stan said with a big laugh.

“Did he confess to his granddaughter?” I asked.

“Yeah, he did, and she decided that was the end of growing pumpkins with her grandfather.”

“When Halloween came, they went to the store and bought a pumpkin!”

Stan continued, “I think that story is really funny because I can relate it to every aspect of my life.  If I am not careful what I use in ‘watering’ my relationships, and especially the one with God, all of those  relationships will dry up, wither, and die just like the pumpkin plants.”

“Just as I have to be careful what watering can I am using, making sure it is a clean one, I have to be careful what I allow into my life so all of my relationships grow and flourish, especially with God.”

“There are all sorts of things just waiting to poison relationships.  Choose to avoid them.”

Stan concluded, “And choose to let God do the watering in all of your relationships, for he is the One who will produce the growth.”

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Neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. 1 Corinthians 3:7.

Prayer:  Thank you that you know exactly what you want from every one of my relationships, especially my relationship with you.  I open myself to receive all that you have for me.  I ask for your help in nurturing each of my relationships for that you are honored and glorified.  Amen.

29. Drawing Near

One morning Stan was back on the subject of how he got started journaling and how much the whole process had meant to him.

“I was making my way through the Bible after starting with the fifteenth chapter of John’s Gospel, and going a chapter each day,” he began.

“I went through the Book of Acts and the various letters, sensing that something really special was happening to me, but  just couldn’t put my finger on it.”

“I had this wonderful sense of being ever closer to God, but not knowing why,” he continued.  “And then one morning I read James 4:8 and it all made sense.”

“What was that?” I asked.

“The verse says, ‘Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.’ That is what was happening to me,” Stan exclaimed very excitedly.

“As I deliberately chose to draw closer to God, He responded in a magnificent manner by drawing close to me.”

“And round and round it goes,” Stan continued.  “As God draws closer to me, I again choose to draw closer to Him and He responds.”

“Closer and closer we get.  And deeper and deeper our relationship grows!  It is precious beyond my wildest dreams.”

“Does that happen with everyone?” I asked.

“That is the plan,” Stan replied.  “Unfortunately, not everyone who is bound for Glory takes the step to choose to go in that direction — and it is a choice.  It does not happen automatically.”

Continuing,  he said, “God does not force Himself on anyone, but if a person has the genuine desire to know Him, and chooses to draw near to Him, he or she better get ready, for something wonderful is about to happen!”

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

Prayer:  Thank you, Lord, for drawing ever closer to me when I choose to draw near to you.  I am so thankful that this is your plan for developing our relationship.  Please continue to move in me to want, with every fiber of my being, to draw ever nearer to you.  Amen.

28. Whose are You?

“Yes and no” was my response when Stan asked me if I thought I could do whatever I want.

“Why did you answer that way?” he asked.

“Yes, I can do whatever I want, whenever I want, because I have the free will do do so,” was my response.

“Without any limits?” he asked.

“That’s the ‘no’ part of my answer.  ‘Yes’, without limits, but ‘no’ from the standpoint of wanting to avoid the consequences that may flow from the ‘yes’ part.”

“Who do you think guides you in your decisions?” Stan asked.

“Depends on who I am listening to at the time.”

“If I am listing to myself, spouting off selfish wants, I am more apt to do whatever that self-focused being is ranting about.”

“But if I am listening to the voice of God within me through His Holy Spirit, the exact opposite is the result.”

“You are right,” said Stan.  The Holy Spirit is called the ‘Helper’ and the ‘Counselor’ for very good reasons.  If a person will choose to listen to Him, what that person is and does is totally opposite of listening to the voice of self.”

“One of the consequences of listing to and following self is an interruption in the fellowship with God, and that is not a good thing!”

“It’s all about choice, isn’t it?” I asked.

“Yes.  God did not create a race of unthinking robots who are programmed to do whatever He wants.  He knows what He wants each one of His children to be and to do, but He wants us to choose Him and His way.  He wants us to exercise our free will to choose Him.”

“When a person chooses to belong to God, and then chooses to walk his own path away from God, God will move heaven an earth to come along side of that person to lead him or her back to the lighted path.”

“Have you ever experienced that?” I asked.

“More times than I want to admit, but He is so faithful in showing me that I am His and no longer my own.  He leads.  The question is whether I will follow!”

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You are not you own for you have been bought with a price.  1 Corinthians 6:19-20.

Prayer:  Thank you, Lord, that I am not longer my own because I have accepted the finished work of Christ Jesus on the cross.  You know how often I want to be my own by following my own selfish desires.  You know and I know.  I need and ask for your help in truly choosing to be yours in every aspect of my being.  Amen.

27. What’s that Ticking Sound?

Again, out of the blue, Stan had one of his questions.  “Do you know one of the greatest questions you can ever be asked?”

“I’m sure I can come up with an answer,” I replied with a smile, “but I bet it won’t be the one you have in mind. Tell me what you think.”

“What makes you tick?”

“Are you asking me, or is that the question?”

“That’s the question you should hope someone asks.’

“Please explain,” I responded.

“Your life, my life, as well as the life of any professed Christian, should be so different from what the world has grown to expect that a person wants to know why that is so by asking ‘What makes you tick?’”

“And,” Stan continued, “each one of us has to be prepared with an answer that may affect that  person’s life and eternal destination.”

“The ticking sound that makes us tick and what makes us different from the world is the heartbeat of the Risen Christ living in us.  That is what we are to demonstrate and share with the watching world.”

“Great thoughts, Stan, but do you always do that?”

“I think you know me better than that!” he exclaimed with a smile, “but that is the goal; that is what I aim at every single day.”

“Am I entitled each day to hear the Lord’s ‘well done’?” Stan said, almost as if he was talking to himself.  “Absolutely not!” He said emphatically, “but the hope of that is what stirs me each morning and sets me on the intended path.”

“As I explained to you at the beginning,” Stan said, “I am a maturing Christian, not a mature one.  With each step in the maturing process, the ticking sound is to get louder, and more and more people are to ask, ‘what’s that ticking sound?’”

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Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to every one who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.       1 Peter 3:15.

Prayer:  Lord, that I manifest you in every aspect of my life is your desire.  I know that and you know that, and you also know how much I need your help.  I ask for your help so that I am always ready, willing, and able to provide the answer you want for whoever asks.  Amen

26. The Right Perspective

Stan began the conversation with “There’s an interesting story about a woman in Matthew’s Gospel.  She did something for which the disciples of Jesus condemned her, but Jesus, Himself, gave her high praise.”

“How could there be such a distinction in their reactions?” I asked.

“This, along with everything, absolutely everything, has to be seen in the right perspective.”

“What did this woman do that caused the different reactions?” I asked Stan.

“Jesus was reclining at a table at the home of someone who was hosting him.  A woman came up behind Him and poured some very expensive perfume on His head.”

“Why did she do that?” I asked.

“Jesus said it was done to prepare His body for burial.  And He said it was a good thing.”

“What about the disciples?”

“They condemned the woman, saying that she wasted what could have been sold for money to give to the poor.”

“Who was right?” I asked.

“Jesus is always right,” Stan said with a laugh.  “In fact,” he continued, “Jesus criticized the disciples rather harshly and told them to leave the woman alone, for she had done a good deed to Him.”

“Jesus went even further and gave this woman higher praise by saying that wherever the Gospel is preached what this woman had done would be spoken of in memory of her.”  

I responded, “That is an amazing testimony for Jesus to say that she would be remembered in that way!  I would love to be in that position!”

“I agree,” said Stan.  “And there is a valuable lesson here to see the amazing contrast in the perspectives of the disciples and of Jesus. They had all witnessed the same event, but had totally different reactions.”

“Praise by the only One who counted, and condemnation by those in the dark about the truth.”

Stan concluded, “I need to see clearly and to be quick to praise in line with what Jesus praises.  Not always easy, but that is what I know I need to do.”

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Why do you bother the woman?  For she has done a good deed to Me.  Matthew 26:10.

Prayer:  Lord, you know how quick I am to criticize others.  It is such a self-focused thing I do way too often.  I ask you to move in me to help me to see everything from your perspective so I will know what you praise, why you praise it, and will join you in that praise.  Amen.

25. A Lie in Your Pocket

Stan surprised me one morning when he said, “Do you realize you are carrying around a lie in your pocket?”

“What in the world do you mean by that?” I responded.

He pulled out a five-dollar bill and laid in on the table.

“Turn it over.  What does it say on the back?”

I looked and responded, “You mean where it says ‘In God we trust”?

“That’s what I am talking about.”

He continued, “While it is fair to say that I trust in God or that you trust in God, I can say with confidence that our country as a whole does not trust in God.  It’s a lie.”

“Does that mean we should take that off of our currency?” I asked with a bit of alarm.

“Not at all,” he responded.

“At one point in the history of our country, it was entirely fair and accurate for our currency to say that.  I believe it will be again one day.”

“And,” he continued, “one of my daily prayers is that God will move in our county to bring us, individually and as a nation, to confession, repentance, revival, conversion, and transformation.”

“That we would truly trust in Him is my prayer.”

“That is a worthy prayer,” I said.  “I will try to remember to add that to the things I pray about regularly.

“I have a suggestion for helping you to remember.  “Use a dollar bill as a bookmark in your Bible.  Every time you open your Bible you will see that bill and remember to keep our country in your prayers.”

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Whenever the devil speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar, and the father of lies.  John 8:44.

Prayer:  Lord, our country is a mess.  You know that and I know that.  We have gone so far away from you and from your desire for our nation.  I ask you move in our country, one person at a time, to bring us to confession, repentance, conversion, revival, and transformation so that we are truly a nation that can proudly and truthfully say that we trust in you.  Amen.

24. Be Ready to Ask

One morning as Stan and I were ending our time together, he said, “I noticed a new bakery on the way over here.  They have some really good looking pastries.  Want to meet there tomorrow?”

“Sounds good to me.  Where is it?”

Stan gave me the address and we agreed to meet there at 7:30.

As I walked into the new place the next morning, I saw Stan sitting at a table near the back of the bakery.

“Just got here,” he greeted me.  “Smells like something good is going on here!”

Just then a waitress came to our table.  “Can I get you some coffee while you decide what you would like?”

“Sure thing,” Stan replied.

By the time the waitress brought our coffee, we both had decided what we wanted.

We gave her our orders, and then Stan added, “In a little while when you bring us our food, we will pray and thank God for His blessing.  Is there anything you would like us to pray about?”

Looking a bit surprised, the waitress said “Let me think about that.”

After she left, I said to Stan,“That was an amazing thing you just did.  Do you do that often?”

“Only as the Spirit leads.”

“Do you think she will have anything for us to pray about?”

“We’ll see”, was his response.

When the waitress returned with our food, Stan looked at her expectantly, but didn’t ask about any prayer request.

“I’ve been thinking about what you asked,” she said.  “How did you know to ask?”

“My younger brother is in terrible shape.  He has a bad addiction to some pain pills.  He really needs help.  Would you pray for him?”

“Sure will”, was Stan’s response.  “Not that God doesn’t know, but what’s his name?”

She told us, left the table, and we prayed.

When we were finished praying, Stan said, “That is why we were led here today.  It is going to be real interesting to see how God answers that woman’s prayer for her brother.”

“Do you think we will know?”, I asked.

“That is up to the Lord,” was Stan’s response.

“The obvious point is to be ready at all times to pray for whoever He brings with whatever needs.”

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First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers. Petitions, and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men.  1 Timothy 2:1

Prayer:  Lord, please help me be sensitive to the needs of others and to lift them to you in prayer so that you will provide all they need in ways that will open them to the truth of your love, grace, mercy, and every provision.  Amen.

23. Besieged?

Stan started our conversation with, “Last night I was re-reading some of my journal entries from the Book of Psalms and found something I think will interest you.”

“What’s that?”

“In Psalms 32:21, David gives thanks to the Lord for His loving provision of protection in a besieged city.”

“That’s good,” I replied, “but we don’t have any besieged cities today, do we?”

“Every single one”, was Stan’s somewhat somber reply.  “Every city, every town and village, and, yes, every single life is besieged.”

“By what?”

“The world, the flesh, and the devil.”

“If a person doesn’t think we are under siege, he or she is not paying attention or simply doesn’t care.”

“Being a bit melodramatic this morning aren’t you?”

“No, I’m serious about this.  We are constantly confronted with seemingly-endless temptation and attacks on our beliefs and faith.”

“But I am equally serious about God being our refuge if we will only choose to call on Him for His help in overcoming being besieged.”

“He has provided all we need to be victorious and a conqueror in the name of Jesus.  It is available for the asking.  Just ask.”

“Is asking all we need to do?”

“Yes, in one sense; no, in another.  Asking is all we need to do to have available God’s refuge, but beyond asking it is essential to listen to His response and to obey.”

“We can’t just ask for God’s help and then go merrily on our way without making the necessary changes in what we think and do.”

“We have to take God and His every provision seriously.  Claim and embrace all He offers.”

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Blessed be the Lord, for He has made marvelous His lovingkindness to me in a besieged city.  Psalm 32:21.

Prayer:  I am constantly besieged.  I am weak, but you are strong.  I ask for and claim your strength and lovingkindness in providing protection from all that besieges me.  Amen.

22. Which Group?

“There’s an interesting story in Luke’s Gospel I want to point out to you,” was Stan’s opening remark one morning.

He continued, “It has to do with different groups of people who were interested in Jesus.”

“Tell me what you have in mind.”

“It’s in the sixth chapter of Luke’s Gospel.  Jesus had just appointed the 12 apostles and they were coming down the mountain with Jesus.”

“In the seventeenth and eighteenth verses of that chapter, it says they were greeted by ‘a great multitude of His disciples’ and ‘a great throng of people’ who came to hear Him, be healed of their diseases, and have their unclean spirits removed.”

“So, it seems to me,” Stan continued, “that there are two distinct groups who are mentioned.”

“The first is the group of people who were already disciples of Jesus; the second is a group of the ‘great throng’ who came to get what they could for themselves.”

“It isn’t mentioned, but just like today, there was a third group that wasn’t even there.”

“What group is that?” I asked.

“That third group consists of the people who have no interest whatsoever in Jesus.”

“That disinterest can come from ignorance, having never heard of Jesus, or it can come from rejecting Him because they just consider Him irrelevant to their lives.”

“So,” Stan continued, “the really big point about this is that each person has to decide which group he or she is going to be in, be a disciple of Jesus or be a disciple of self, only interested in what Jesus can do for them, not the other way around.

“I suppose,” I added, “that the first group of those who are disciples of Jesus can be further divided into two groups.”

“I think I know your point,” Stan said, “but go ahead and tell me.”

“Just like today, disciples can be divided into two groups, those who are serious about being disciples, and those who are just sort of hanging around.  It’s like what the station master told me when he encouraged me to leave the station platform and return after I have done all there is to do.”

Stan smiled and said, “You, my friend, are making great progress!”

And I smiled too.

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If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. Matthew 16:24.

Prayer:  Lord, I want only to be your disciple.  You know how difficult it is for me to get myself out of your way so I will be ready to be who and what you have for me to be.  I need and I ask for your help in taking up my cross, whatever the cost, and following you, wherever you want me to be.  Amen.


21. Joining God

“Do you read any daily devotionals?” I asked Stan one morning.

“Over the years, I have read many devotionals.  Some I have stuck with and others did not appeal to me as much.”

“Do you have a favorite one?”

“By far my favorite is one by Henry and Richard Blackaby.  It is called Experiencing God Day-by-Day.  As with many of the books I have read over the years, this devotional was given to me by a friend.”

“I am not familiar with that one” I replied.

“Are you at all familiar with Henry Blackaby’s work in the area of experiencing God?”

“Can’t say that I am,” was my response.

“The bottom-line approach of Blackaby is that a person should always be watching for how God is moving to accomplish His will and purposes, and then join Him in what He is doing.”

“Can you give me an example?” I asked.

“Lots of them, but I will start with just one,” Stan responded.

“Say, for example, your next-door neighbor begins to ask you questions about your faith or your church and seems genuinely interested.  What are you going to do, ignore him and his questions?”

“Or are you going to have an answer for him about your faith.  Or invite him to go with you to church?”

“It could very well be that God is moving in this person’s life.  And it could be that God put you where you are so you can join Him in what he wants to do in your neighbor’s life.”

“I can understand that,” was my response.  “What a privilege to be a part of what God is doing in another person’s life by joining Him!”

Stan responded, “And it doesn’t have to be another person, it can be you.”

“How so?”

“If you sense that God is working in your life — or wanting to work, the biggest and best thing you can do is to choose to join God in what He wants to do in and through you.”

“Surrender to God and tell Him you will join Him in whatever He wants to do.”

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

Prayer:  Lord, you are constantly moving to accomplish your will and your purposes.  I am grateful for that and want to be a part of what you are doing.  Please open me to see all you are doing, see how I can join you in what you are doing, and help motivate me to join you.  Amen.