The material that appears in this devotional blog is based on 20+ years of journaling devotions and prayers. It is intended to help the reader in the process of maturing as a Christian, whether as a new believer or someone who, for whatever reason, has not moved very far along on his or her spiritual journey.
The format of this blog follows from the first chapter where the storyteller has become a Christian, but doesn’t know what to do. Proceeding to find out, the storyteller is led to a man named Stan who becomes the storyteller’s spiritual mentor through regular discipling.
Each blog entry consists of a one-point conversation between Stan and the storyteller dealing with the process of maturing as a Christian. Each entry ends with a Biblical reference and a prayer.
It is my hope and prayer you will enjoy this journey!
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- 1. Waiting for the Train
(The Assurance of Salvation and What We Are to Do About it)
I approached the platform outside of the train station and was surprised there was no one waiting for a train.
As I stood on the platform looking in both directions to see if a train was coming, the station master approached and said, “Need any help?”
“I’m waiting for a train,” I replied. “Can you tell me when the next one is due to arrive?”
“Depends on where you are headed,” was his reply.
“This is what I have,” I said as I showed him my ticket. “I think it’s good for a one-way trip to Glory. I can’t read the date as it is kind of blotted out with something that looks like blood.”
“Where did you get this?” The station master asked, and then added, “Do you know what it means?”
“I got it from a fellow who was on a corner downtown, a fellow who was talking about Glory and giving out tickets.”
“I know him,” the station master replied. “He’s a good one!”
The station master then asked, “How much did you pay for your ticket?”
“I didn’t pay anything; the fellow gave it to me,” I replied and then asked, “should I have paid something for it?”
“No, it’s good just as it is. You didn’t need to pay anything for it,” the station master replied. “In fact,” he added, “that’s the only way it works. It is a free gift and has to be accepted on its terms. Someone else paid the full price for it so it is free to all who accept it.”
Continuing, he said, “You’d be surprised how many people show up here with a ticket they say they bought. There’s a lot of shock and sadness when I have to tell them that their ticket is not good. But that is another story for another day.”
The station master then asked, “Do you think you can just come to the station and get on any train you want, whenever you want?”
“Well, I’m not sure, and now it doesn’t seem like it, but I’m real tired of where I am and I’m anxious to leave. The fellow who gave me the ticket made Glory sound so good, I want to get there as soon as I can.”
“That’s not how the ticket works,” the station master replied. “Do you see any people just standing around waiting for a train?”
“No, I don’t; is that unusual?”
“No, that’s part of how the ticket works,” was his response.
I then asked, “Can you tell me more about the train to Glory and what the ticket means? I am sort of confused. Is the ticket any good? Do I need a reservation?”
The station master smiled and replied, “Yes, the ticket is good, and, no, you don’t need a reservation. The ticket is all you need. When the train arrives, there will be a seat for you.”
“Great!” I replied, and then added, “Well, when is the next train going to get here?”
The station master smiled and said, “I don’t know.”
“What do you mean you don’t know? That sure seems like a funny way to run a railroad.”
“It’s not up to you and it’s not up to me,” was his somewhat solemn response.
“Well, then, I have a question.”
“If I don’t know — and you don’t know — when the train will arrive, what am I supposed to do in the meantime?”
“Give away tickets.”
“I don’t have any tickets, and, besides, I don’t see anyone here to whom I could give a ticket,” I said with a bit of an exasperated whine in my voice.
“Everyone who comes here and belongs on the train station platform already has a valid ticket,” the station master said. He then added, “You are supposed to leave here and find people who don’t have tickets. You will be given tickets to give away when the time is right.”
“But if I leave here, I might miss the train when it comes.”
“Won’t happen” was his quick reply.
“How can you be so sure of that?” I said with a bit of panic.
His calm response was, “The train will only come when you are on the platform, and you will know when it is time to come back to catch the train.”
Still being a bit unsure of all that was going on, I asked, “What about if I just stay here until the train comes. What would happen then?”
The station master laughed and said, “You might get awfully tired of standing! Do you see anything to sit on? I want you to note especially that there are no rocking chairs and none of those fancy chairs that recline. This platform is intended for one purpose only, and that is to get on the train, not hang around doing nothing.”
He continued, “However, I can assure you that if you choose to just stand around waiting for the train it will eventually arrive for you, but that will be pure folly.”
“What a waste of the time you have remaining on this side of eternity, ” he said, “when there are so many people who not only don’t have a ticket, they don’t even know there is a train.” He then added, “And there are way too many ticket holders who don’t know the true meaning of what they have been given.”
In a voice of real authority, the station master said, “Go and tell people about the train, give out tickets as the opportunity arises, explain what the ticket means, and come back when it is time to get on the train. You will have done what was expected when you were given your ticket.”
“But,” I said a bit overwhelmed, “I don’t know how to do any of that. What will happen?”
“As you are open to learning,” he responded, “you will be taught.”
And then with his gentle smile, the station master concluded, “I will be waiting here to greet you and to open the train door for you when it is time.”
He then repeated himself by saying, “Go.”
And that is what I am seeking to do.
Just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead. James 2:26.
Prayer: Lord, I thank you for the assurance of salvation. I thank you I know where I am going when it is time for me to get on the train. It is clear that you have work for me to do on this side of eternity before then. I ask you to lead me in accord with your will, and I ask for your help in following all you have for me to be and to do. And I thank you I can bring all of these prayers before you in the name of Jesus. Amen.
- 2. A Different Calling
While I walked away from the train platform, I had the recurring urge to look back. Each time I did, the station master was waving to me as if to say, “Be on your way.” I eventually stopped looking back.
I walked towards the city park a few blocks away. On my way to the park, I passed several people and wondered if I should stop and talk to them about getting tickets to Glory. I decided to not stop, but proceeded to the park.
I got to the park and looked around. Seeing a man sitting by himself on a bench. I went up to him and asked, “Mind if I sit on the bench?”
In a somewhat gruff voice, he responded, “It’s not my bench. Besides, this is a free country.”
I sat down next to him somewhat reluctantly. Several times I tried to open a conversation with him, hoping we could get on the subject of the train and tickets. However, he was not much of a conversationalist — and I was very nervous and unsure of myself.
The man eventually got up and walked away without my having said anything to him that might have affected his life and his eternal destination. I felt disappointed in myself and wondered if I should just go back to the train platform and just wait for the train. I thought to myself, “I better not do that, it might just make the station master unhappy.”
I got up from the bench and walked across the park to where I saw a small crowd gathered around someone. As I got closer, I saw that the man talking to the crowd was none other than the man who had given me my ticket to Glory. As he talked, more and more people asked him for a ticket.
“Oh, I wish I could be like that man” was the thought running through my head. When the crowd had dispersed and I was left alone with the man, he asked, obviously not remembering me, “Do you want a ticket?”
“You gave me one a while back, one day downtown,” was my response.
“Sorry,” he replied. “I give away so many tickets I can’t always remember everyone.”
“What are you doing in the park?”, the ticket man asked me.
I told him about going to the train station and talking with the station master who told me to leave the train platform and give away tickets.
I told him about my experience with the man on the bench and how I felt like a failure.
“There are no failures among those who have tickets,” was his quick response. “Some may feel like failures because they are not very good at giving out tickets, but there are lots of other things they can do.”
“Like what?” I asked eagerly.
“Just for examples, they can help those who are good at giving away tickets, and they can help ticket holders understand what the ticket truly means. There are all sorts of things they can do.”
I didn’t want to seem dense to the man, but I was really curious what he was talking about, so I said, “Can you explain a little bit more about this?”
“Sure,” was his reply. “Getting the ticket to Glory is not the end of the story, it is just the beginning. Unfortunately, for too many ticket-holders that is not the case and they do not do anything other than clutch their ticket.”
He continued, “They hold onto their ticket real tightly, thinking that is all they need. They are certainly correct in thinking that is all they need to get to Glory, but they fail to recognize that they are called to be something they have not been, and do some things they have not done, before they get on the train.”
“I think I am beginning to understand,” I told the man. “But who is it that helps the ticket holders be what they haven’t been and do what they haven’t done?”
“Other ticket holders who are doing what God wants to do in and through them,” he said.
“You don’t know how happy that makes me,” I replied with a very large smile. “Maybe that is what I am supposed to do!”
“Could be, and probably is,” the ticket man responded as he patted me on the back. And then he added, “I know it is!”
He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ. Ephesians 4: 11, 12
Prayer: Lord, you gave me salvation for when I step into eternity, and I thank you for that. You also have left me here on this side of eternity to be used by you for your will and your purposes. I am not certain what it is that you have for me to be and to do, but I know you will show me. That is what I ask. Please show me; please lead me; please help me to follow you. And I thank you that I can and do bring all of these prayers before you in the name of Jesus. Amen.
- 3. So it Began
It was getting close to lunch time and I was hungry. I asked the ticket man if he would like to go get a bite to eat. He said he did and knew of a great little spot just around the corner called “12 Baskets.”
“That is kind of an unusual name, do they have a lot of baskets?” I asked.
“The name has to do with the baskets of bread that were left over after Jesus fed a whole bunch of people a long time ago,” was his response. He added, “It is the place of choice to eat for lots of ticket holders.”
“Lead the way,” I said.
As we entered the cafe, the ticket man nodded his greeting to several people he obviously recognized, but he seemed to be looking for a particular person as he kept looking around the room where we were seated.
“You seem to be looking for someone. Are you supposed to meet him or her here?” I asked with a little disappointment.
“No, I am not supposed to meet him, but I was hoping he would be here so I could introduce you to him,” was his response.
The ticket man added, “I think he may be able to help you with some of the questions you have about the ticket and what it means.”
We ordered our lunch and engaged in some small talk while we ate. I had so many questions I wanted to ask the ticket man, but just didn’t know where to start.
About half way through our meal, the ticket man looked up and said “There he is. There is the fellow I want you to meet.”
The ticket man waved at him and he came over to the table. I was introduced, and the ticket man explained to him that I was a fairly new ticket holder and had lots of questions.
“Be glad to help in anyway I can,” said the gentleman. “Stop by my table when you are done and we can talk.”
“Thank you very much,” I replied. “I will be over in a few minutes.”
The ticket man and I finished our lunch and he said “Sorry to eat and run, but I need to get back to the park.”
“And I need to get over and talk with your friend,” I said. “Thank you for your time; I really appreciate being able to spend this time with you.”
“My pleasure,” he said as he got up to leave.
I looked around to see where the gentleman was seated. He saw me and motioned me to come over. I headed over towards his table, not knowing that would be the beginning of an amazing journey for me.
I sat down, stuck out my hand, and said, “I am sorry, but I did not catch your name when we were introduced.”
“You can call me Stan,” was his response.
Stan began our conversation, “How do you happen to be here today?”
I told him about the train platform and the park. “All that is happening to me is new and foreign. I don’t really know what is going on.”
He nodded knowingly with a kind smile. “When I first got my ticket, I had no idea what it meant or what I was supposed to do with it,” he told me. “I didn’t go to the train station as you did, but I simply did not know what to do or where to go.”
Somewhat innocently, I asked him, “Did you ever find out?”
“Oh, yeah,” he responded with a big smile. “Some very kind ticket holders who had been down the same road took time out of their busy lives to help me.”
He added, “They were so kind and helpful that I decided to spend my life doing the same.”
With a somewhat solemn look, he said to me, “Are you interested in finding out what this ticket is all about?”
“Absolutely,” I replied. And so it began.
Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17.
Prayer: Lord, thank you for new beginnings. Thank you for your provision of your people to help others understand what it is you may have for them. I want all you have for me. I know you will show me your way and that you will lead me as I choose to follow. Amen.
- 4. Ground Rules
As I sat across from Stan, he said, “I want to establish some ground rules.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“I spend a lot of my time talking to ticket holders. I try to help them understand where they are and where they should be going in this life, on this side of eternity, and I give a lot of prayerful thought to that.”
He continued, “My time is limited and I am led to help those who are serious about wanting to be helped. With the obvious exception of this time with you, most of my time is scheduled with pre-arranged times to get together.”
Stan pulled out his calendar and opened it. I was amazed to see that it was virtually filled with names for dates and times.
“Do you want me to add you for some time next week?”
“Can I think about it?” I asked.
“Of course,” he replied, “and I like your answer. It shows you are not quick to jump into something without giving it some thought!”
He then went on to say, “Much and maybe most of what I will relate to you will be based on my personal experience. You will be free to ask me any questions you want at any time. However, if I don’t answer, you are not to push for an answer.”
“I understand, and I agree to whatever ground rules you want. I see that you are serious about what you are doing. I would like to talk with you some more to see if having regular times together should be pursued.”
“Good,” was his response. “Can you be back here this afternoon at 4:00?”
“Good. We can spend some time and, perhaps, decide if we should get together on a regular basis.”
With that, Stan said, “I need to get going. I have an appointment and I don’t want to be late. See you back here at 4:00.”
And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost. Revelation 22:17.
Prayer: Lord, I thank you for what you want to do. I thank you for the people you bring into my life to help me to know you. Please help me to always be open to whoever you send and to whatever you have for them to say. Amen.
- 4A. Background
I was back at 12 Baskets shortly before 4:00. Stan came in right after I did, sat down, ordered a glass of iced tea, and began talking.
“I don’t want to bore you with a lot about me, but I think it is important for you to get a handle on where I came from and how I got to where I am.”
“It’s up to you,” I said.
So he began. “I didn’t get my ticket until I was almost 40 years old.”
“I had attended church almost my entire life. As a child and teenager, I went to mass with my mother just about every Sunday, and I had regular instruction in the Catholic Church.”
“In spite of going to church for years, none of it meant much to me, I don’t know if I just was’t paying attention or what, but I know the truth was never presented in a way that made me want to ask for a ticket.”
“Well, something obviously changed somewhere along the road. What was it?”
“When I was well into my career and we were living near San Francisco, my wife and I, with our two children, moved to a new neighborhood. Two doors away was a couple, Ray and Liz, who had tickets to Glory and were obedient in sharing the truth.”
“My wife accepted a ticket long before I did, but I remained open. My dear wife was encouraging without nagging.”
“Ray and Liz introduced us to the church they were involved with. We began attending that church every Sunday, hearing excellent teaching the likes of which I had never heard before.”
“At some point, my wife said she was going to attend a five-year Bible study for women, and encouraged me to attend the men’s version that met on Monday nights. I knew virtually nothing about the Bible and thought it might be a good ‘academic exercise!’”
Continuing, Stan said, “At some point my dear neighbor Liz gave me a copy of of the book, Born Again, written by Chuck Colson. It is a fabulous book!”
“I am a slow learner and tough nut to crack,” Stan said with a smile. “After regularly attending an excellent church, reading the Colson book, and being in my third year of Bible study, I finally came to the realization that it is all true — and I got my ticket!”
“What happened after that?”
“I had a strong start in the beginning, but didn’t really advance very far. It took me a long time — many years —to pursue seriously a growing relationship with God.”
“In spite of all of my best efforts I simply could not develop having a daily time of being in touch with God. I had no doubt that such was essential for me to get to where God intended for me to be, but it just didn’t happen.”
“I eventually came to the conclusion that I did not have the right person to lead me and I was not mature enough to be led by the Holy Spirit.”
When Stan said that, I had no clue what he meant, but didn’t let on by asking him.
Stan continued by saying, “I just didn’t have someone in my life who had been down the right road. Through the grace of God, He has led me and that is why I am spending so much of my time on this side of eternity seeking to help others grow in their relationship with God.”
Stan’s sincerity and obvious deep commitment to knowing God and His will for his life led me to interrupt him by saying, “I would like to get into your appointment schedule to be able to have regular times with you.”
“You understand that having the relationship with God that God wants is up to you, not me, and that I can only help, not make that relationship happen.”
“Yes, I understand,” I replied.
“How about each Wednesday morning at 8:30?”
“Can we do it more often than that?”
“Let’s start there and see what happens.”
“Where?” I asked.
“How about right here?”
“I will be here. Is there anything I should do before then to get ready for our meeting?
“I may have some ‘assignments’ for you later on, but for now I want you to do the most important thing you can do.”
“Pray. Ask God to show you where He wants you to be and what He wants you to be doing before it is time for you to get on the train.”
With that we parted and I looked forward to next Wednesday.
The Jesus said to His disciples, “if anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” Matthew 16:24
Prayer: Lord, I need your guidance. You know more about what I need than I do, so please move in me exactly as you want. Please open me to see, understand, receive, and embrace all you have for me. Amen.
- 5. Waiting for Wednesday
As I left Stan and walked out of the cafe, I experienced a joy of anticipation. I couldn’t exactly put my finger on it, but I had the sense that something significant was about to happen in my life. I purposefully avoided going by the train station.
On my way home there were two things Stan had said that kept rolling over in my mind. The first is what he had said about the Holy Spirit. The second was about praying to be shown where God may be taking me.
I was not really acquainted with the Holy Spirit. I knew He was part of the Holy Trinity, but I was not familiar with what role, if any, He could and would play in my daily life. As to praying, it occurred to me that maybe I should pray and ask for help in my understanding of the Holy Spirit. When I got back to my apartment that is exactly what I did.
Although I had some experience with prayer, I was not what could be called a “praying man.” I got on my knees next to the bed and didn’t know how to begin, but all of a sudden I had this amazing sense of peace and the desire to just be quiet and allow myself to be taken into God’s presence. This had never happened to me before! It was amazing as my mind was filled with thoughts of God I had never experienced. And there was an incredible feeling of peace that I could not understand or describe, but knew was real. It was like there was a voice inside of me that told me not to be concerned with praying, but to bask in the knowledge that prayers were being offered on my behalf. Only later did I learn that this is one of the roles of the Holy Spirit!
I spent quite a bit of time each morning on my knees before the Lord. As I began my time with Him I asked that He guide me. I would ask and then be quiet — quiet enough so I could hear His voice over my own thoughts. It soon became clear to me that this was something that should be discussed with Stan to see if he would affirm the reality of what I thought was happening to and with me. I was convinced in my own mind that something of significance was happening to me, but since it was so new to me it seemed wise to run it by a mature Christian. From that thought, I began to make a list of questions I would have for Stan when I saw him on Wednesday.
By Tuesday night I had a long list of questions to discuss with Stan. I could hardly sleep that night because of my excited anticipation to spend time with him the next morning. As I lay on my bed thinking about our meeting, I prayed and asked God to give me sleep. The next thing I knew the sun was coming up and it was Wednesday.
And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7
Prayer: Lord, you grant peace. It is one of the fruits of your Spirit. Thank you for all of the peace you pour out for me. Please help me to understand all you have for me. Please, Lord, open me to the depths of my being to receive and embrace all you have. Amen.
- 6. The Wrong Thing to Say
I got to 12 Baskets early, walked in, and looked for Stan. I didn’t see him, but took an empty table near the door and waited, somewhat afraid he wouldn’t be there. At exactly 8:30 he walked in and joined me at the table.
“How are you doing?” He asked with a bright smile and then added, “What have you been doing since we were last together?”
Before I could answer, he held up his hand and said, “Let’s order breakfast; I’m starved.”
With that, he motioned to the waiter. When he arrived, Stan said to him, “I’ll have my usual.” I glanced at the menu and made a quick decision.
Stan said, “Sorry for the interruption. Where were we?”
“I was getting ready to tell you what I have been doing since I last saw you.”
“Right,” he said. Go ahead.”
“I have really been anticipating our time together,” I began. I have spent a lot of time praying, and I have made a list of things I would like to talk with you about.”
“Great!” was his response.
“And I feel really fortunate to be able to spend time with a mature Christian.”
Stan held up his hand and said, “Stop right there.”
Somewhat taken aback, I said “Did I do or say something wrong?”
“No, not really wrong, but I think your perspective is a bit off.”
“How so?” I asked.
“I think it is wrong to described anyone as a ‘mature Christian.’ I prefer the term, ‘maturing Christian’ because ‘mature’ connotes that there is no further to go in the process of maturing.”
Stan went on to say, “I am convinced that maturing as a Christian is a life-long process that is not intended by God to stop until we have taken our last breath on this side of eternity.”
“As part of the same thinking process, I believe that if I ever get to the point of thinking I am spiritually mature, I will be on the wrong path and heading backwards. There will always be more to learn about God, and there will always be more steps in growing in that direction.”
I started to apologize for what I said, but he interrupted me and said, “There is nothing to apologize about; many people describe themselves or others as being ‘“mature Christians.’”
“It may just be my personal quirk, but I am convinced I am right and I want you and I to be on the same page from the beginning.”
“I understand what you are saying, Stan, and I appreciate your perspective as a maturing Christian,” I said with emphasis.
He smiled and said, “I think you are going to be a good student!”
By then the waiter had returned with our breakfast. “Would you like to thank the Lord for this wonderful meal?” Stan asked.
Since I was not used to praying in public, I was a little hesitant, but said a quick silent prayer, “Please lead me Lord.” And He did as I prayed over our food and time together.
We both started to eat and I asked Stan, “Can I ask you a question?”
“I would prefer finishing my breakfast before I get to talking in earnest. Once I start talking, I tend to keep going. I’m afraid my breakfast would get cold, and I do not like to eat cold food or waste good money!”
“Let’s eat and then get down to business,” he said. And so we did.
I say to every person among you not to think more highly of yourself than you ought to think. Romans 12:3
Prayer: Lord, thank you for all you do to open me to what you want me to hear and to know. I want to spend the rest of my days maturing in my understanding of you and of what you have for me to be and to do. Please, Lord, help me in never stopping to grow in my relationship with you. Amen.
- 7. The Wife of His Youth
Wanting to get to know Stan better, I said, “The first time we were together you mentioned your wife. Are you still married to her?”
Stan’s eyes sparkled as he said, “Yes, I am still married to my high school sweetheart. We have been married a long time.” With a chuckle, he added, “Sometimes my wife says we have been married for a very long time.”
“We have a very good marriage, but it is only through the grace of God.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“We were married very young. I was 20 and my bride had just turned 18. We were not Christians. We spent the first five years of our marriage in college, with our son being born right before we celebrated our fourth wedding anniversary. We were poorer than the proverbial church mice.”
“I had no idea how to be a husband, and I had the totally wrong notion of what being married really meant.”
“In addition, I had been married for almost 20 years before I became a Christian.”
“It was even longer before I began a deeper relationship with God and was shown the truth of Proverbs 5:18.”
“What is Proverbs 5:18?” I asked.
“Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth,” Stan said without having to consult his Bible.
“Please tell me more.”
“My bride is certainly the wife of my youth, but the question is did I rejoice in her then, and do I rejoice in her now? I certainly did love her, but only the grace and instruction of God led me to rejoice in her.”
“To rejoice is to show great joy and delight. The verse in Proverbs does not say to rejoice in her when I feel like rejoicing, but to rejoice in her. Period. That means at all times, under every circumstance. To love and to rejoice are choices that can and are to be made.”
“All of this did not become really clear to me until I read this verse in Proverbs and really focused on what it meant — and how woefully short of it I was.”
“Am I now the ‘perfect’ husband?”, Stan said more as a statement than a question.
“Hardly,” he answered his own statement, “but as I am open to being the husband I am needed to be, and the one God can use for His purposes with my wife and in our marriage, He leads me to where He wants me to be.”
“The biggest question is whether I will follow His lead. With His grace I will!”
Stan then added, “There is another thing about that verse in Proverbs that I think is important”
“What’s that,” I asked.
“It says to rejoice in the wife of your youth, but it surely means to rejoice in your wife whether she is of your youth or otherwise. So I like to read that verse as saying, in essence, to rejoice in the wife you married when you were younger than you are today.”
Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth. Proverbs 5:18
Prayer: Lord, you know how terribly inadequate I can be as a husband. I need and ask for your constant help in truly rejoicing in my wife. She is your very special provision. Please help me to be the man and husband she needs me to be, as well as the one you will be able to use for your purposes in our marriage and in her life. Amen.
- 8. Theology of the Golf Ball
Out of the blue one day, Stan asked, “Do you play golf?”
“I do,” I said. “I really enjoy it, but I am not very good.”
“You just described my game,” Stan said with a laugh. “My hope is that I will live long enough to shoot my age!”
He continued, “I want to tell you about a friend of mine who taught me a valuable lesson without even knowing he was part of the learning process.”
“Sounds interesting; go on,” I replied.
“I had a dear friend named Dick. He is gone now; got on the train a few years ago. I sure do miss him!”
“Dick and I played a lot of golf together. At first, neither of us would mark our golf ball to be able to identify it so we wouldn’t hit the wrong ball.”
“After a while, I noticed that Dick would always find his golf ball whenever we were looking for it in the rough.”
“We would find a ball, and Dick would say, ‘Yeah, that’s the one I hit.’”
“To avoid that temptation, I put my initial on my ball so I would always know that I was hitting the right ball.”
“A couple of years later, I changed my ball mark to a cross, thinking that substituting the cross for my initial is the essence of Christianity — putting Christ in place of myself.”
“That is a great lesson,” I replied.
“But that is not all,” Stan continued.
“Having my ball marked with a cross has accomplished several things.”
“First of all, of course,” he said, “it makes certain I am hitting the right ball.”
“Secondly, “when I stand over my ball and see the cross, it certainly puts my focus on the right thing — to represent Christ on the golf course.”
“And, there have been lots of times when someone I am playing has asked why I mark my ball with a cross. That has opened up many opportunities to share the truth of the cross.”
“In addition to Dick unknowingly giving me what I call ‘the theology of the golf ball,’ he opened up a lot of thought about marking every area of my life with the cross so that another person would see a difference and be curious as to what it is that motivates me, curious enough to give me an opportunity that might change his or her life and eternal destination.”
“And, my friend, I encourage you to think about what parts of your life can and should be marked with the cross.”
Concluding, Stan added, “The only way I know of to mark any part of my life with the cross begins with denying self by putting aside everything that is contrary to the cross governing my life.”
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 thank you for every learning opportunity you present to me. Please help me to be aware of what it is you want me to learn and to apply to my life. In this instance, I ask you to open me to see how I can mark each area of my life for you so that you can use me to make a difference with whoever you bring before me. Amen.