11. Gave Versus Gives

Stan opened our time together one morning by saying, “I have something to say to you that I am not sure you will understand.  I say that because I am not sure I understand.”

I thought, “Wow, this must be a big one, how could he expect me to understand if he doesn’t?”

“Go ahead, Stan, tell me and I will try to follow.”

He began, “First of all, I think there is a difference between eternal life and life eternal.”

“How so?” I replied.

“I think that life eternal is what you and the rest of us got when we accepted our free ticket to Glory.”

“OK, I can agree with that,” I replied.  “What about the eternal life part?”

“That is for this side of eternity,” was his response.

“How do you figure that?” I asked him.

“I do that on the basis of where Jesus defined what is meant by eternal life.”

“Where’s that?”

“John 17:3, where Jesus said, ‘This is eternal life, that they know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.’”

“Let me see if I understand what you mean,” I responded.  “You are saying that eternal life is all about knowing God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.  And that that is to occur on this side of eternity before we go to spend eternity with them.”

“Bingo,” was Stan’s response.  “That is exactly what I am saying.”

“One more thing I want you to chew on.  All of this is a big subject, and we will take it slowly.  I want you to pray about it, asking God’s guidance through His Holy Spirit to help you understand.  In addition, I want to say something else about the difference between life eternal and eternal life.”

“What’s that,? I asked.

“Consider that Jesus gave us life eternal through His death on the cross — and He gives us eternal life through His resurrection into a new life.  Note the difference between ‘gave’ and ‘gives.’  One is permanent and can’t be changed, while the other is an on-going process.”  

With that Stan closed our time together and said, “Lots to pray about!”

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

Prayer:  Lord, there is so much to know and to understand about you.  Thank you that you want me to know you, and that you have set aside all of my remaining time on this side of eternity to do just that.  Please, Lord, lead me in knowing you and please help me to follow where you want to lead.  Amen.

10. Let’s Talk About Easter

Stan began the conversation by saying,”I would like to talk with you about a dear friend who had a most wonderful outlook on life.”

“She’s gone now to be with the Lord, but she was an example like no one I have ever encountered.”

“What made her so special?” I asked.

“She lived her Christianity,” he replied.

“Tell me about her.”

“Well, she was a very humble woman, even though she and her husband had accumulated considerable material wealth by the time they passed on.  But you would never have known it by their lifestyle.  As I said, very humble. Very generous, but not pretentious about it.”

“She and her husband had four children, a large number of grandchildren, and a few great-grandchildren.”

“The large family would get together often for dinner and other occasions.  With that many people, there was bound to always be someone who was grumpy, out-of-sorts, and complaining about one thing or the other.”

“That sounds a lot like my family,” I replied.

“Mine, too” Stan said, but with this woman around, there was always a difference.”

“How so?”

“Whenever there was a dispute, or someone was complaining about what was going on in the world, or something else negative, my friend would say, ‘Let’s talk about Easter’ and the whole mood of the conversation would change because they all knew what she meant.”

“And what was that?” I asked.

“On Easter morning so long ago, Jesus was raised from the tomb on the third day following His crucifixion.  He was raised to a new life so that everyone who claims His finished work on the cross is also given a new life in and through Him.  In living that new life, we have hope and comfort — with nothing whatsoever to complain about.”

“When my friend said, ‘Let’s talk about Easter,’ the immediate focus of the conversation was changed to what they all had to be joyous about, rather than complaining about anything.  A valuable lesson for the right perspective!”

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Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.  1 Peter 1:3.

Prayer:  Lord, thank you for the resurrection of Christ Jesus.  Thank you for giving me a new life through His resurrection.  Please, Lord, help me focus on the wonder of that new life.  And please help me in not focusing on anything that keeps me from growing in that new life.  Amen.

9. Getting There

One day as Stan and I were finishing our time together, I asked him, “You have anything for me to do to prepare for our next get-together?”

“Well, yes,” he replied.  “Spend as much time as you can praying and hearing from God as to what He has in mind for you.”

“One other thing I would like you to do is to read Matthew 16:24.  Read it as many times as necessary so you get to the point of thinking you understand what it says.”

I wrote down “Matt 16:24.” 

“See you tomorrow, Stan.”

“Lord willing,” he replied.

All the way back to my place I kept thinking about Stan and how thankful I was about being able to spend time with him.  He seemed to be so far along in his relationship with God.  I was careful not to think of him as a “mature” Christian, but as a “maturing” one!  And I wondered about how he got to where he seems to be.  I decided to see if I could get him on that subject when we meet on Thursday.

I was also thinking about Matthew 16:24.  I did not know what it said, but I was wondering about it and if I was going to be able to have any sort of intelligent answer for Stan about what I thought it meant.

The first thing I did when I got home was to take my Bible off the shelf and find Matthew 16:24.  I found it:  “If any one wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.”

The first thing I noticed is that what Jesus said is optional. He used “if,” not something like “you must.”  But if I am to choose to “come after” Him, there are two requirements:  take up my cross and follow Him.  I could get a grasp on the “follow Him” part, but I was not so sure about the “take up my cross” part.  Did that mean that I had to be physically crucified?  “Wow”,   I thought, “that would hurt.”  Or did He mean something else?  What is my “cross”?  This was something I was going to have to ask Stan to see what he would say.

I then noticed that my Bible for the Matthew verse referred to a similar verse in Luke’s gospel where it said I am to take up my cross “daily.”  Obviously, this meant something that is to be an ongoing part of my life.  Every single day.  A lifestyle.  Be crucified every single day?  What did this mean?  I sure hoped Stan could help me with this!  But what was it that he had suggested that I do?  He said to pray.

So pray I did.  I got on my knees and asked God to help me with understanding His word.  What did He want me to know and to understand?  I prayed to be open to seeing, understanding, receiving, and embracing all He had for me — in eternity and on this side of eternity.  A peace overflowed me and I had the sense that taking up my cross meant that I was to deliberately choose every day to be who He intended and to do what He intended.  If that is what He wants of me, am I capable to doing and being that? 

Sure a lot to think about!  Sure a lot to plan on asking Stan about.  I was thinking about the fact I was clearly on a journey with God that this was all new to me.  I wondered where He was taking me, what it meant, and how was I going to get there.

__________________________________

And He said to them, “Follow Me.”  Matthew 4:19.

Prayer:  Lord, you want me to follow you, and I thank you for that.  However, you know that I am too often reluctant to follow you when I cannot see where we are going.  Please help me to overcome that reluctance and to follow you wherever you want to lead.  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.”

“Like what?”

“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. 

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.”

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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.

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.

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.

4A. Some Basic Background

I was back at 12 Baskets shortly before 4:00.  Stan came in right after I did. He 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 become a Christian until I was well into my adulthood.”

“I had attended church almost my entire life.  As a child and teenager, I went to church with my mother just about every Sunday.”

“In spite of going to church for years” he continued, “none of it meant much to me.   I don’t know if I just was not paying attention or what, but I do know that the truth of the gospel was never presented in a way that made me want to ask for a ticket.”

 “Well,” I replied, “something obviously changed somewhere along the road.  What was it?”

“When I was well into my career and we were living near San Francisco,” Stan replied, “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 of Christianity.”

Continuing, he said, “My wife became a Christian 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,” Stan added.  “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. She 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!’”

“Academic exercise?” I said. “I bet it turned out to be more than that.”

“You are right about that,” Stan replied, “but you are getting ahead of the story.”

“During this time,” Stan continued, “Liz, my dear neighbor, gave me a copy of the book, Born Again, written by Chuck Colson.  It’s a fabulous book about his journey to Christianity.”

“I am a slow learner and a 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’s all true. I made my decision to accept the free gift of salvation, and I got my ticket!”

“What happened after that?” I asked.

“I had a strong start in the beginning,” Stan replied, “but I 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,” he continued, “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 so I would 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 about the Holy Spirit, but I didn’t let on by asking him.

Continuing, Stan said, “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 brought people into my life to help. That is why I am spending so much of the time I have left on this side of eternity seeking to help others grow in their relationship with God. I was helped, and now it is my turn to help.”

Stan’s sincerity and obvious deep commitment to knowing God and seeking God’s 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.”

“Do you understand,” Stan asked, “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.”

“What’s that?” I asked.

“Pray,” was Stan’s one-word response.  “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 began looking 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:  Thank you, Father, for your free gift of salvation through the finished work of Christ Jesus, resulting from His life, death, and resurrection. Thank you, too, that you want you and me to develop a personal relationship that only gets deeper the longer I pursue knowing you. Father, I need your help and 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.  Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus. Amen.

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Things to think (and journal) about:

1.  What is your biggest take-away from this devotional?

2.  What does this devotional say about God and about us as His people?

3.  What is God saying to you to do personally?

4.  Who can you share this with to make a difference?

_____________________________

Comments, questions, suggestions, and the like can be addressed to The Storyteller at: waiting4thetrain@gmail.com.

4. Setting Some 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, in pursuing spiritual maturity. I give a lot of prayerful thought to that.”

Continuing, he said, “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 with people who are serious about the walk from conversion to transformation into greater spiritual maturity.”

He then 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?” He asked.

“Can I think about that?” 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!”

Continuing, he said, “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 is something I want to pursue.”

“Good,” was his response.  “Can you be back here this afternoon at 4:00?”

“Yes.”

“Great!” he replied.  “We can spend some time and, perhaps, decide if we should get together on a regular basis.”

With that, Stan got up and 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.”

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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:  Thank you, Father, for all of your provision of life eternally with you when it is time. Thank you, too, for what you have and want for me while you keep me on this side of eternity. I want to pursue knowing you as deeply as possible. Please help me in following your every step as you lead me to where you want me to be on the road from conversion towards transformation. Thank you I can and do bring these prayers before you in the name of Jesus. Amen.

_________________________________

Things to think (and journal) about:

1.  What is your biggest take-away from this devotional?

2.  What does this devotional say about God and about us as His people?

3.  What is God saying to you to do personally?

4.  Who can you share this with to make a difference?

_____________________________

Comments, questions, suggestions, and the like can be addressed to The Storyteller at: waiting4thetrain@gmail.com.


3. Seeking and Finding Help

It was getting close to lunch time and I was hungry. I asked the ticket man if he would like to get a bite to eat. He said he knew a great little spot just around the corner called “Twelve Baskets.” 

“That’s an unusual name,” I said. 

“It refers to the baskets of bread left over after Jesus fed a crowd of people long ago,” he said. 

“It’s the place of choice for lots of ticket holders.” 

“Lead the way,” I said. 

As we entered the cafe, the ticket man nodded his greeting to people he obviously recognized, but as we were seated, he seemed to be looking for one particular person. 

“Are you supposed to meet someone here?” I asked with a little disappointment. 

“No,” he responded, “but I was hoping he would be here so I could introduce you.” 

“Who?” I asked. 

“A man I think can help you with some of the questions you have about your ticket.”  

We ordered lunch and engaged in some small talk. I had so many questions for him, but I just didn’t know where to start. 

Halfway through our meal, the ticket man looked up and said, “There he is—the man I want you to meet.” 

The ticket man waved at him, and he came over to the table. The ticket man explained that I was a new ticket holder with lots of questions. 

“Be glad to help in any way I can,” said the gentleman. “Stop by my table when you are done, and we can talk.” 

“Thank you very much,” I replied.” 

I finished lunch with the ticket man, who 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 spending so much time with me.” 

“My pleasure,” he responded. 

I looked around to see where the gentleman was seated. He motioned me over. I headed in his direction, not knowing I was about to begin an amazing journey. 

I sat down, stuck out my hand, and said, “I’m sorry, but I didn’t catch your name when we were introduced.” 

“You can call me Stan,” he responded. “How do you happen to be here today?” 

I told him about getting my ticket and going to the train station, then to the park. “All that’s happening to me is new and foreign,” I continued. “I don’t really know what’s going on.” 

He nodded knowingly, with a kind smile. “When I first got my ticket, I had no idea what it meant,” he said. “I didn’t go to the train station as you did; I simply didn’t know what to do or where to go.” 

“Did you ever find out?” 

“Yes,” he said. “Some very kind ticket holders, who had been down the same road, took time out of their busy lives to help me. They were so helpful that I decided to spend my life doing the same.” 

Then, more solemnly, he asked, “Are you interested in finding out what this ticket is all about?” 

“Absolutely,” I replied. And so it began. 

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Bible verses to consider: 

Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17. 

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. 

Prayer: Thank you, Father, for new beginnings. Thank you for your provision of life eternally with you when it’s time. And thank you for your provision of people to help others understand what you have for them while they wait to join you in eternity. I want to know, receive, and embrace all you have for me. Please help me follow every step of your lead, as you show me those steps through all 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: Having a spiritual mentor is a great step in knowing how to proceed down the path from conversion towards spiritual maturity. Do you have such a mentor? Would you like one? Why or why not? What are the ways to find one?