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October 12, 2021 — Being Allowed to be a Part of what God is Doing

“I was reading in Luke’s gospel the other day,” I commented on morning, “and there’s a story that has always made me wonder.”

“Wonder about what?” Stan asked.

“How,” I replied, “as a practical matter, it could have happened.”

“What were you looking at?” Stan said.

“The story where Jesus was getting ready to enter Jerusalem and go to the cross,” I replied. “Where He sent two disciples to go and get a donkey colt for Him to ride on.”

“What about it?” Stan asked.

“How Jesus told the disciples to tell anyone who asked what they were doing, that ‘the Lord has need of it’. How is the owner of the colt going to give it to some strangers just because they said that?”

“Seems to me,” Stan replied, “that this may be another instance of where God moved to allow some people to be a part of what He was doing.”

“How so?” I asked.

“In the first instance,” Stan said, “I don’t think Jesus needed to have these people loan Him the donkey colt. He could have just made one appear like He did with the water into wine or the feeding of the five thousand with virtually nothing.”

“You really think that?” I asked.

“God can do whatever He wants,” Stan responded. “He doesn’t need us, but He does want us to be involved in what He’s doing. In this instance, I think by telling the disciples to tell the owner of the colt that He had need of it, Jesus was allowing the owners to be involved in what God was doing, even though they may not have understood it at the time.”

“You ever experience anything like that?” I asked.

“Being allowed to be a part of what God is doing?” he asked.  “Is that what you’re asking?”

“Yeah, that’s it,” I replied. “That ever happen to you?”

“Only all of the time, if, and I emphasize ‘if,’ I’m open to seeing, being led, and following!”

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Bible verses to consider:

And it came about when He approached Bethphage and Bethany, near the mount that is called Olivet, He sent two of the disciples, saying, “Go into the village opposite you, in which, as you enter you will find a colt tied, on which no one yet has ever sat; untie it, and bring it here. And if anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ thus you shall speak, ‘The Lord has need of it.’” Luke 19:29-31.

Prayer: Thank you, Father, that you allow me to be a part of what you are doing to accomplish whatever it is you want. I confess that too often I am not involved in what you are doing because either I am not open to seeing how you want to involve me, or I choose to not be involved.  Please forgive that foolishness, and please help me in following every step of your lead so I am involved with what you are doing to accomplish your purposes exactly as you intend. Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Think on this: Have you chosen to be involved with God for eternity when your time here is completed? If no, why? What’s in the way of accepting His free and gracious gift of life eternally with Him? If you do have the assurance of salvation, how are you doing with choosing to be involved in God’s kingdom purposes on this side of eternity? If you sense you are being called to be more involved with what God is doing, how is that going to happen? Is that what you want? Why or why not?

October 13, 2021 — How do I do this “Working Out” Thing?

“Stan,” I said one morning, “quite often you talk about working out the salvation that has been worked in by the finished work of Christ on the cross.”

“That’s right,” Stan replied. “It’s an important subject that I believe is at the heart of discipleship.  Do you have a question about it?”

“I do,” I said. “Where Paul wrote about that in the letter to the church in Philippi, he says to work out that salvation with fear and trembling. I wonder how I’m supposed to do that; is it all about my self-efforts or is something else involved?”

“I would say that it’s both you and something else,” Stan responded. “However, I don’t think the ‘you’ part is involved with your self-efforts. I think it’s the exact opposite.”

“Exact opposite,” I said. “In what way?”

“Rather than self-effort,” Stan said, “I think it’s all about denial of self-effort.”

“Like the first step of being a disciple?” I asked. “Denying self?”

“That’s what I see,” Stan replied, “getting myself out of God’s way so He can do what Paul wrote about in the immediately following verse.”

“Which is what?” I asked.

“So God can do His work,” Stan said. “Paul points out that it’s God who is at work in the person, doing His will and His work for His pleasure.”

“God’s will, God’s work, and God’s pleasure,” I said. “That’s kind of like God does, or at least wants to do, everything. He provided the way for life eternally with Him, He provides the eternal life of knowing Him and Jesus before then, and He works out the salvation that He worked in.  What’s left for the individual person to do?”

“Get out of His way!” Stan exclaimed. “Let God do what He wants to do. Be a disciple who is fully and continually surrendered in every way there is to surrender.”

“Is it really as simple as that?” I asked.

“As simple and as complicated as that,” Stan replied with a smile.

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Bible verses to consider:

So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. Philippians 2:12-13.

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:16.

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, for all you have done in providing the way to spend eternity in your presence when it’s time, along with the eternal life of knowing you and Jesus in an ever-deepening personal relationship before then. Thank you also for working in and through me to work out the salvation you have worked in through the finished work of Jesus on the cross. I confess that too often I do not get me out of your way so you can do all you want to do in and through me.  Please forgive that foolishness and please help me in following every step of your lead so you can and will do all you want. Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Think on this: Have you accepted God’s free and gracious provision of life with Him in eternity that does not end? If no, why? What’s in the way? If you do have the assurance of salvation, how are you doing with working out the salvation that God has worked in? Do you agree with the premise of this devotional that it is God’s will, God’s work, and God’s pleasure being accomplished and that your role is to get out of His way so He can do what He wants? Why or why not? If the salvation worked in by the finished work of Jesus is not being worked out in your life and you sense changes are in order, what are those changes and how are they going to occur?

October 14, 2021 — Have you told Him lately?

“A neighbor stopped by last night to ask if I would watch his house for a few days,” Stan commented one morning. “He wants me to take in the mail and just keep an eye out to see that everything is okay.”

“They going somewhere?” I asked.

“Yeah,” Stan replied. “He said they’re going on a road trip down the coast to get out of the heat.”

“Good for them,” I said. “That should be much cooler. When are they leaving?”

“Tomorrow,” Stan replied. “And my neighbor mentioned that he had taken his car over to Mike’s Auto Repair to have the oil changed and checked out before they head out on the road.”

“Good idea to make sure everything is okay before they leave,” I commented.

“That’s what my neighbor said he wanted,” Stan replied. “He also said that when he picked up the car there was a spiritual lesson waiting for him.”

“A spiritual lesson at Mike’s?” I said. “What was that all about?”

“Apparently Mike had indicated everything was fine with the car,” Stan replied, “but my neighbor said that when he got in the car he was reminded of something that may not be fine.”

“What’s that?” I asked.

“Well,” Stan replied, “he indicated that when he started the car, the music he heard on the radio was from Mike’s favorite station. Mike must have been listening to it when he took the car out for a test to see if everything was okay.”

“What music did he heard?”

“It’s a song that was first recorded a long time ago, and has been done by a lot of different people, but the version my neighbor heard was a country version of ‘Have I told you lately that I love you.’”

“And what wasn’t fine about that?” I asked.

“My neighbor said he was immediately convicted by the Holy Spirit asking him how long it had been since he had told God that he loved Him.”

“Oh,” I responded. “That’s a good question for me as well.”

“And me,” Stan replied.

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Bible verses to consider: 

And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. Deuteronomy 6:5

And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. Mark 12:30.

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

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, . . . Galatians 5:22.

Prayer:  Thank you, Father, that you so loved the world, including me, that you gave your only begotten Son so that I can have life with you for eternity when my time here is completed, as well as the eternal life of knowing you and Jesus before then. Thank you, too, for allowing me to love you with all of my being. I confess that too often I do not tell you how much I love you. As well, I do not demonstrate my love for you the way you intend. Please forgive me and please help me in following every step of your lead so I do love you, I do tell you that I love you, and I do demonstrate that love by the way I live the life you have given me. Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Think on this: Do you love God? If so, do you tell Him and do you demonstrate that love by the way you live your life? If you sense you may need to make some changes in loving God, in telling Him, and in demonstrating your love for Him, how are those changes going to occur? Is that what you want? Why or why not?

October 15, 2021 — Solitaire or Double Solitaire?

“I was talking with my next-door neighbor last night,” Stan began, “and he had a story to tell me about his grandchildren and a couple of decks of cards that has significance for his faith walk.”

“Grandchildren, cards, and faith walk?” I replied. “What’s that all about?”

“Well,” Stan said, “it seems his two teen-age grandchildren were visiting and he was somewhat bothered by how much time they spent on their cell phones texting, looking at social media sites, and that sort of thing.”

“Yeah,” I responded, “that can take a lot of time and attention, some of it not so good. So did your neighbor do anything about it?”

“He did,” Stan replied. “He taught them how to play old-fashioned solitaire with a deck of cards.”

“But couldn’t they have done that with an app on their phones?”

“Of course,” Stan said, “but that would have defeated the purpose of trying to get them off of their cell phones!”

“Okay,” I replied, “so he taught them to play solitaire with real cards. What’s the spiritual lesson?”

“It turned out that the grandchildren really enjoyed playing,” Stan said, “but as they both sat at the table playing individual solitaire, my neighbor was given the idea to introduce them to double solitaire so they could play together, helping each other out.”

“But I still don’t see the spiritual significance,” I commented.

“We are not to be solitary Christians,” Stan replied. “While we are to pursue an ever-deepening personal relationship with God, that personal relationship is to result in being involved in the Christian community helping others.”

“Helping others in what way?” I asked.

“Ways,” Stan replied. “Plural. Each of us is to help other believers in whatever ways they need, whether it’s physical needs, encouragement, growing in their own personal relationship with God, whatever.”

“So,” I said, “I’m not to sit there playing solitaire when there’s someone who is available for double solitaire. Is that the point?”

“You got it my friend,” Stan replied. “And it’s to be a life, not just a game!”

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Bible verses to consider:

And they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Acts of the Apostles 2:42.

And all those who had believed were together, and had all things in common. Acts of the Apostles 2:44.

And it came about that when He had reclined at table with them, He took the bread and blessed it, and breaking it, He began giving it to them. Luke 24:30.

So also you, since you are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek to abound for the edification of the church. 1 Corinthians 14:12.

Prayer: Thank you, Father, for all of your provision in everything: life eternally with you when it’s time, the eternal life of knowing you and Jesus ever more deeply before then, and all of the physical provision you make available. I confess that too often I tend to want to keep it all for myself, rather than sharing it with others as you intend. Please forgive my selfishness. Please help me in following every step of your lead to not be a solitary Christian, but to be involved with the Christian community exactly as you intend, sharing all you have for me to share. Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Think on this: Sharing God’s provision should be a natural consequence of the first step of discipleship, that of denying self. Do you agree with that? Why or why not? If you have the assurance of salvation for when your time here is done, how are you doing with sharing the truth of that assurance with others so they can have the same thing? How about sharing with others what God shows you about Him. How about sharing physical resources? If you sense a calling for change, how is that going to happen? Is that what you want? Why or why not?

October 18, 2021 — Cleaning out some Clutter

“It’s interesting to me,” Stan said one morning, “how, if I’m open to seeing and hearing, God always has lots to show and tell me. It happened again yesterday when I took the dog for a walk in the neighborhood.”

“What happened?” I asked.

“As I was walking by one of my neighbors, a man I know quite well,” he replied, “I saw that he was working in the garage. He had stuff stacked in the driveway and it looked like he was doing a major clean out.”

“I can certainly relate to the need to do that!” I commented. “My garage is a mess.”

“Yeah,” he replied. “Easy to get clutter. That’s what my neighbor said when I stopped to talk. I asked him if I could help, but he said this was something he needed to do by himself. He said he needed to ‘own the clutter’.”

“Own the clutter,” I repeated. “What did he mean by that?”

“I asked him the same thing,” Stan replied. “He said that unless he took personal responsibility for getting rid of the clutter, there was a much greater likelihood of it coming right back. But if he did all of the work to get rid of it, he found that he was a lot more careful about keeping the clutter away.”

“Makes sense,” I commented. “I’m not sure I’ve ever thought about it in that way.”

“There was something else he said,” Stan responded, “that I believe was from God, something my neighbor said that not only had a real impact on his faith walk in regard to the clutter that can get in the way, but something I can apply to myself.”

“What’s that?” I asked.

“My neighbor was real transparent in talking about how alcohol had been a problem in his life, something that amounted to a lot of clutter. He described himself as not being an alcoholic, but being someone who was too attached to alcohol. He said that one day the Lord clearly spoke to him through the Holy Spirit and indicated the need to get rid of that clutter.”

“And did he?” I asked.

“He said he did,” Stan replied. “He said it was not easy because it meant some major changes in his life, friends, activities, and all sorts of things. If alcohol was no longer going to be a part of his life, and the clutter that went with the alcohol was also to be gone, he knew it was important for him to take ownership of all of that and do what he needed to do in following God’s lead away from the clutter.”

“But alcohol isn’t ‘clutter’ to everyone, is it?” I asked.

“Probably not,” Stan replied. “I don’t know. That’s not anything I know much about. All I know is what my neighbor told me about himself. It was clutter for him, he took ownership of it, now it’s gone, and he feels like a new person. And, for me, that’s a valuable lesson to apply to all that is and can be clutter in my life.”

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Bible verses to consider:

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.

Do not call to mind the former things, or ponder things of the past. Isaiah 43:18.

Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. John 3:3.

Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. Romans 6:4.

Prayer: Thank you, Father, for showing me the things you want removed from my life, the things that clutter my relationship  with you. I confess that too often I do not listen to you and do not do what is necessary to remove that clutter. Please help me in following every step of your lead so I do take ownership of such clutter and take the steps to remove it so our relationship can grow deeper and clearer just as you intend. Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Think on this: Is there what can be described as ‘clutter’ in your life — things that interfere with having an ever-deepening relationship with God in Christ? If so, why is that? Why would you allow that sort of clutter? If you sense the need to remove such clutter from your life, how are you going to take ownership of it and proceed to get rid of it? Is that what you want? Why or why not?

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The book, Waiting for the Train — Biblical Food for Growing Before Going, by S. Tory Teller (Foreword by Josh McDowell). Available at amazon.com as well as from the publisher at www.s-toryteller.com

October 19, 2021 — Does your Praise Depend on Miracles?

“How many people do you think it takes to make a ‘multitude’?” Stan asked me one morning.

“I’m not sure,” I replied. “Probably quite a few. Why do you ask?”

“I was reading in Luke’s gospel earlier this morning,” he replied, “and I was just wondering how many people may have had the wrong perspective at the same time.”

“What were you reading?” I asked.

“It was Luke’s account of when Jesus was ready to enter Jerusalem right before He was going to go to the cross.”

Responding, I said, “And you think some people, maybe a whole bunch of them, had the wrong perspective about something dealing with that?”

“Not only the wrong perspective then,” Stan replied, “but there are a lot of people who have the same attitude and approach today.”

“What same attitude and approach?”

“Needing miracles to sustain their praise of God,” Stan replied.

“Needing miracles to sustain praise,” I repeated. “What’s that all about?”

“In Luke’s account,” Stan said, “he records that when Jesus was approaching Jerusalem, the whole multitude of disciples began to praise God for all of the miracles they had seen Jesus perform. Luke specifically mentions ‘the whole multitude,’ so that’s when I was wondering how many people were wrong at the same time.”

“Wrong in what way?” I asked.

“The people were praising God because of the miracles they had seen Jesus perform, not because Jesus was there to provide the way for them to have life eternally with the Father. And it can be the same today.”

“Same how?”

“Rather than being content to praise God for all He has already done in providing the way to Him for both sides of eternity,” Stan said, “it’s too easy to get sidetracked and only praise God when I think He’s worthy of praise because He has done something special for me.”

“Something special, like a miracle?” I asked.

“Yeah,” Stan replied. “And if there’s no miracle, there’s no praise.”

“Kind of like asking God,” I added, “‘What have you done for me lately?’”

“That’s it,” Stan replied. “And I don’t think God really likes it very much when I link my praise of Him to miracles.”

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Bible verses to consider:

And as He was now approaching, near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the miracles which they had seen.  Luke 19:37.

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence, and if anything worth of praise, let your mind dwell on these things. Philippians 4:8.

Prayer: Thank you, Father, for all there is to praise you. You have provided the free and gracious gift of life eternally with you when it’s time. You have provided the eternal life of knowing you and Jesus in an ever-deepening personal relationship on this side of eternity. I confess that too often I don’t praise you for all you have done for me. I do that because of my self-focus of always wanting more — and not necessarily more of you. Please forgive me and please help me in following every step of your lead into the deepest possible life of continual praise of you. Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Think on this: Do you praise God for His free and gracious gift of life with Him eternally when your time here is done? If no, is that because you have not accepted His provision? If you do have the assurance of salvation, how are you doing with praising God solely on the basis of who He is and what He has already done, without linking your praise to wanting and needing miracles? If you sense you are being called to deeper and more consistent praise of God, how is that going to happen? Is that what you want? Why or why not?

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The book, Waiting for the Train — Biblical Food for Growing before Going, by S. Tory Teller (Foreword by Josh McDowell). Available at amazon.com and from the publisher at s-toryteller.com

October 20, 2021 — Don’t stop at once

“Telling stories,” Stan commented one morning, “is an important part of a person’s faith walk.”

“In what way?” I asked.

“Several different ways,” Stan replied. “As we have talked about several times, each of us is to have a story of how we came to faith.”

“Such as the power and impact of a personal testimony?” I said.

“That’s it,” Stan replied.  “Hearing how a person came to faith can have a significant impact on possibly leading someone else in the same direction.”

“In addition,” he added, “stories can help others understand, embrace, and apply Biblical truth that might otherwise get by them.”

“Isn’t that what Jesus did with telling parables?” I asked.

“He certainly did,” Stan replied. “And how Jesus told parables when He walked the earth can still have a powerful impact on my faith walk today, what I am to do and not do.”

“Got an example?” I asked.

“Sure do,” Stan replied.  “This morning while I was reading in Luke’s gospel about the parable of the sower, I saw something that both applied and applies to me.”

“Applied and applies?” I repeated. “Like in the past and in the present?”

“Yes, and also in the future,” Stan added.

 “How so?”

“As you will remember,” Stan said, “the first part of this particular parable concerns people who hear the word of God, but the devil comes and takes it from their heart so they may not believe and be saved.”

“I do remember that,” I said, “but how does that relate to you?”

“For me,” Stan replied, “I had to hear the word of God several times before I came to faith and was saved.  It was clearly like Satan was snatching away the word to keep me from being saved.  If I had only heard the word of God once, I wouldn’t be where I am today in my relationship with God.  But, thankfully, those who cared enough about my salvation kept telling me. They didn’t give up.”

“And we are to do the same thing?” I replied. “Is that what you are saying?”

“That’s it,”Stan said. “Don’t tell other people just once and be content to let Satan snatch away the word so they won’t come to faith and be saved. The price of walking away is too high. The people you are talking to may not understand, but you do. Don’t stop at once!”

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Bible verses to consider:

And those beside the road are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their heart, so that they may not believe and be saved. Luke 8:12.

How then shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring glad tidings of good things!” Romans 10:14-15.

Prayer:  Thank you, Father, for the truth of your free and gracious provision for life with you eternally that a person can accept by faith. Thank you for those people you sent into my life to tell me more than once so Satan would not keep snatching the word from my heart. I confess that too often I do not continue to tell others the truth of your provision so they have repeated opportunities to be saved.  Please help me in following every step of your lead so I present the truth to each person you bring before me, as many times as you want, to give them every opportunity to accept the truth of your provision. Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus.  Amen.

Think on this:  Have you come to faith in Christ so that Satan can no longer snatch the word of truth from your heart? If no, why? Is there a reason Satan has been allowed to keep you from the truth? All you need to do is accept by faith all that God has for you for both sides of eternity. If you do have the assurance of salvation, how are you doing with helping others to come to the same point by telling them the truth and helping them overcome Satan’s snatching? As well as you would like? As well as God would like? If you sense changes may be in order, how are those changes going to happen?

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The book:  Waiting for the Train — Biblical Food for Growing before Going, by S. Tory Teller (Foreword by Josh McDowell). Available at amazon.com and from the publisher at s-toryteller.com 

October 21, 2021 — Ready or not, here I come!

“I was out in the front yard yesterday doing some weeding in the flower beds,” Stan commented, “and I saw some of the neighborhood children playing in a way that reminded me of a warning Jesus gave to His disciples.”

“What’s that?” I asked.

“The children were playing Hide and Seek,” Stan said. “I saw one of the children cover her eyes and count to one hundred while the other children ran off to hide.”

“I suppose she then went looking for the other children,” I responded. “What about that reminded you of anything other than a game for children?”

“When the girl finished counting to one hundred,” Stan replied, “before she went looking for the other children, she shouted, ‘Ready or not here I come!’”

“So?”

“Jesus talked about that,” Stan replied. “And I’m fairly sure that one day He’s going to say the same thing, or something close to it.”

“In what way?” I asked.

“Jesus is coming back,” Stan replied. “He has made that abundantly clear.”

“When is He coming back?” I asked.

“No one on this side of heaven knows when that’s going to be, but it’s a fact and we need to be prepared.  It’s not going to like the children’s game where the ones who are not prepared can go hide and hope He doesn’t find them.”

“So,” I replied, “if I’m ready, I can look forward to His return; but if I’m not ready, He’s coming anyway.”

“That’s how it seems to me,” Stan responded.

“If people aren’t ready,” I asked, “will they have time to get ready?”

“There’s plenty of time to get ready,” Stan replied, “but, I’m afraid, time to do that will be over once Jesus says, ‘Ready or not, here I come.”

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Bible verses to consider:

Be on guard that your hearts may not be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of life, and that day come on you suddenly like a trap; for it will come upon all those who dwell on the face of the earth. But keep on the alert at all times, praying in order that you may have strength to escape all these things that are about to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man. Luke 21:34-36.

But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. Take heed, keep on the alert; for you do not know when the appointed time is. Mark 13:32-33.

Prayer: Thank you, Father, for giving Jesus in the first place so that all who believe can look forward to life with you eternally when it’s time. Thank you, too, for the warning that Jesus is coming back at a time only you know and that it is essential that all prepare for His second coming. I confess that too often I do not bother to tell others about that truth. Please forgive my lack of caring for those people who do not know they need to be ready. Please help me in following every step of your lead so that I make known the truth to each person you bring before me, the truth that Jesus came in the first place, that He’s coming back, and that they need to prepare so they are ready. Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the glorious name of Him who is coming back. Amen.

Think on this: Have you accepted the truth that Jesus came in the first place to provide the way for you to spend eternity in God’s presence when it’s time? If no, Why? If you do have the assurance of salvation, how are you doing with telling others that Jesus came the first time and that He’s coming back so they need to be prepared? If you sense changes are needed in what you tell others, how are those changes going to happen? Is that what you want? Why or why not?

October 22, 2021 — Which Part of “Always” and “All” is so hard to understand?

“You may remember,” Stan commented one morning, “that one of my neighbors was in the hospital a few weeks ago.”

“I do remember,” I replied. “You told me a couple of different things that his hospital stay taught him about his faith walk.” [Note to reader: See Postings for August 3, 2021 (“You don’t get to pick and choose”) and August 6, 2021 (“The Importance of being intentional about your Faith”).]

“How’s your neighbor doing?”

“I checked on him yesterday afternoon,” Stan said. “He’s still weak, but he’s recovering. Everything seems to be on track.  He said that he’s been able to spend more time than usual reading and focusing on God’s word. In fact, he said something yesterday about maybe that was another reason he has gone through all that he has.”

“In what way?” I asked.

“That maybe God wanted him to spend more time with Him and with His word,” Stan replied, “so God slowed him down.  In any event, my neighbor said he is really thankful for all he has gone through with the hospital and with his recovery.”

“It’s not always easy to be thankful for everything that comes into our lives,” I commented.

“You’re right,” Stan said, “it’s not always easy to be thankful for all things, but my neighbor said  that’s one of the things God has him focusing on.”

“How so?” I asked.

“He indicated he had really zeroed in on something the apostle Paul wrote in his letter to the church in Ephesus, something that showed him thankfulness in a new light, in kind of the same way that he had talked about concerning the ‘all things’ that Paul wrote about in Romans 8:28.”

“That ‘all things’ means exactly what it says,” I replied. “Is that it?”

“That’s it,” Stan said. “We don’t get to pick and choose which things we see as God causing to work together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. I think it’s to be the same way with my thankfulness.”

“Thankfulness?” I replied. “How so?”

“If I take to heart what Paul wrote, which I do,” Stan said, “I am to be always thankful for all things. Always and all.”

“Always and all,” I repeated. “That’s a really high standard. How am I supposed to do that?”

“Choose, my friend,” Stan said. “And allow the Holy Spirit to ask you which part of ‘always’ and ‘all’ is so hard to understand. And then follow His lead!”

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Bible verses to consider:

Always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father. Ephesians 5:20.

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love Him, to those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28.

Prayer: Thank you, Father, for everything you bring into my life for your purposes. I confess that too often I am not always thankful for all things because I am too focused on myself and what I want apart from you. Please forgive that selfishness. Please help me in following every step of your lead in truly being thankful all of the time for everything, knowing that you do cause all things to work together for good to those who love you and are called according to your purpose. I do love you and I do sense I am called according to your purpose, so please, Father, help me to be always thankful for everything you bring into my life. Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Think on this: Do you agree that to be always thankful for all things is a very high standard? Why or why not? Whether or not you agree that it is a high standard, how are you doing with being thankful in that way? As well as you would like? As well as God would like? If you sense you are being called to deeper thankfulness to God, how is that going to happen? Is that what you want to happen? Why or why not?

October 25, 2021 — Praying for the Backslidden

“You ever encounter backslidden Christians?” I asked Stan one morning.

“You might as well ask me if I like blueberry pancakes or if I ever take a breath,” Stan replied with a smile.  “It seems to me that the fact of Christian backsliding is as old as Christianity itself.”

“Actually,” I replied, “come to think about it, didn’t Jesus say something to the apostle Peter at one point about backsliding?”

“He did,” Stan said. “Jesus didn’t use the term ‘backsliding,’ but I think that’s what He was talking about. As well, Jesus told Peter about His solution.”

“Jesus has a solution for backsliding?” I asked.

“He sure does,” Stan said. “At least He did for Peter and I think it’s no different today.”

“What’s that?”

“Prayer.”

“What kind of prayer?”

“Intercessory prayer,” Stan said. “Jesus interceded on behalf of Peter because He knew that Peter was going to deny that he even knew Him. To me, that seems like big-time backsliding, to go from walking closely with Jesus for three years to denying that he even knew Him.”

“If Jesus knew what Peter was going to do,” I asked, “why didn’t He just pray that Peter wouldn’t do it. Couldn’t He have done that?”

“Sure,” Stan replied, “Jesus could have done that. But I don’t think it would have had the same impact for the future — for what God had in mind for Peter down the road.”

“Down the road?” I said. “How so?”

“God had a role for Peter to play in building the church after Jesus’s death, resurrection, and ascension. I believe it was important for Peter to repent so deeply that he would be moved in the way that God could use him to help strengthen other believers to help them in their faith walk and to keep from backsliding.”

“So,” I said, “it was more that Jesus prayed for Peter to return from backsliding rather than to not backslide in the first place.”

“That’s what it seems to me,” Stan replied, “and I think it’s the same today. There’s tremendous power in the personal testimony of someone who has walked with God, walked away from Him, and then turned back. It’s a strength that God can use and I think that God wants us to pray continually for those who have backslidden, that they will return to strengthen others.”

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Bible verses to consider:

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Luke 22:31-32.

Then he (Peter) began to curse and swear, “I do not know that man!” And immediately a cock crowed. And Peter remembered the word which Jesus had said, “Before a cock crows, you will deny Me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly, Matthew 26:74-75.

He (Jesus) said to him (Peter) the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?” And he said to Him, Lord, you know all things; You know that I love You.” Jesus said to him, “Tend My sheep.” John 21:17.

Prayer: Thank you, Father, that you have a role for each Christian to play in building your kingdom and in strengthening other believers. Thank you for the illustration of how you used the apostle Peter in a mighty way even though at one point he had denied even knowing your Son after he had walked with Him for three years. There are many who have followed the same path as Peter, walking away from you. I pray for each one of those people that they will be moved to return to you and be open to using all you have shown them to help others who may be in the same backslidden state with their faith. Please, Father, open each one to see, receive, claim, and demonstrate all you have for them as they walk with you again. Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus. Amen.

Think on this: Do you know any backslidden Christians, perhaps, even, yourself? If so, what is your attitude about those people? Do you pray for them? Have you ever seen how God uses a “returning” Christian in ways that may differ from how He uses someone who has never backslidden? If you have seen that, how did you react to what God was doing, with rejoicing or with maybe a little bitterness (kind of like the brother of the prodigal?) If the latter, what was that all about?

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The book: Waiting for the Train — Biblical Food for Growing before Going, by S. Tory Teller (Foreword by Josh McDowell). Available at amazon.com as well as from the publisher at s-toryteller.com