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.

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!”


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.

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!”


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.

12. Stumbling in the Dark

One morning I got to our meeting place before Stan arrived.  I sat down, ordered some coffee, and waited for him.  As he came in, he was limping a bit.

“What happened?” I asked him.

“No big deal, but I stubbed my toe last night.  I was trying to cross the dark bedroom and really did a number on my big toe.”

“Ouch,” I said, “I know how that can hurt.”

“It was nothing like what could have happened to me a few years ago.”

“What was that?”

“One night after a Bible study class, I was hurrying across a dark parking lot and stumbled over a curb and went flying.”

“Were you hurt?”

“Let me tell you about the remarkable provision of our Lord.”

“About two years before that fall, I had developed a blood clot that was pretty serious.”

“The doctor put me on blood thinning medication to help avoid more clots — and he told me to avoid at all costs hitting my head. He said that hitting my head would probably be the last thing I ever did.”

“As I was falling in the parking lot — and it was only a matter of a second or two, I was given the thought to not hit my head.  I turned my head and landed on my shoulder and hip, with a great deal of pain.”

“Some people would say that I was sure lucky to not hit my head, but I say that luck had nothing to do with it.  It was the Lord speaking to me with His loving provision to keep me from getting hurt more seriously, possibly fatally.”

“The Lord provides all I need all of the time.  My role is to be always thankful for all He does.”

“That was a good story, Stan, with a valuable lesson.”

“There’s more and I think it is even more valuable,” was his response.

“Please tell me.”

“What the Lord did in protecting me in the physically dark parking lot, He does in the spiritually dark areas of life that constantly confront me.”

“I am not always careful as I hurry through life and the result can be stumbling spiritually in my walk with the Lord.  When that happens and He brings me to my senses, I confess and repent. The result is that He always picks me up, dusts me off, bandages my wounds, sets me back on His lighted path, and says, ‘Go and sin no more.’”


From now on sin no more.  John 8:11.

Prayer:  Lord, I thank you for your protection and provision in every area of my life.  You know how often I rush through the day and the night without giving adequate attention to you and your provision.  Please forgive me.  Please lead me in every recognition of your provision.  Lead and please help me to follow.  Amen.

13. Being Relational

Stan began our time, together, “You seem kind of distracted this morning, is anything wrong?”

“You are really perceptive!  I didn’t think it showed, but, yes, there is something on my mind.”

“Care to tell me about it?” he asked.

“I ran into a friend of mine last night who said he had heard that I had become really religious.  He was kind of making fun of me, and it hurt.”

“I was not very good at explaining to him what I knew was happening in me — that everything in my outlook was changing.  I left my encounter with him feeling pretty low.”

“Not unusual,” Stan replied.  “Actually experienced that myself more than once.”

“You see, the thing is that the people who have not been born again don’t have the capacity to understand the difference between religion and relationship.  With your friend, he is probably thinking you have become some sort of “holier-than-thou sort of person.”

“What he doesn’t understand is that with religion it is a person trying to do something to please God, but with a relationship, it is God dong what He wants in and through the person.”

“Where does that capacity to understand come from?” I asked.

“The indwelling Holy Spirit is where it comes from.  Without Him, who is the Helper and the Counselor, it is impossible to have the right relationship with God the Father and Christ Jesus the Son.  It is a package-deal:  three in one, and no one without the package can understand.”

“So what am I supposed to do in response to someone like my friend?”

“Love him and be gentle.  Make him curious about why you are so different from who you used to be by being different.  Be gentle and get your feelings of self out of the way so the Holy Spirit to do His work in and through you.”

“You may just have an eternal impact on your friend!”


A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.  Proverbs 15:1.

Prayer:  Lord, thank you that you want to have a relationship with me.  Thank you that you are constantly working in and through me to draw us ever closer together in the relationship you intend.  Please, Lord, help me to always focus on you and to get myself out of your way so you can do what you want.  Amen.

14. For Pete’s Sake

“I’ve got another golf story for you,” Stan opened up the conversation.

“What have you got for me today?”

“I don’t do it so much anymore, but I used to play with a men’s golf group every Tuesday morning.  It was a large group and I usually did not play with the same people in my foursome.”

“One morning as I approached the golf cart to put my golf bag on, I was surprised to see a fellow named ‘Pete,’ as I had not seen him for some time.”

“I got into the cart, shook his hand, commented that I had not seen him for some time, and asked him how he was doing.”

“Pete told me that he had been dealing with throat cancer and hadn’t been able to play golf for several months.  I told him it was great to see him back on the course, but his response was that he had seen the doctor just the day before and was told that the cancer was back.”

“Pete went on to say that he was not going to pursue any further treatment, no radiation or chemotherapy, because it had been so painful.  He said that he was ‘ready to go.’”

“I sat there for just a few seconds, with nothing to say. Then the voice of the Holy Spirit in me encouraged me to speak to Pete about the importance of knowing where he was going.  And so I did.”

“I was able to get the words out, ‘Pete, if you have decided you are ready to go, it is of vital importance to know where you are going when you step into eternity.’”

“I then got out of the cart and retrieved from my golf bag a little booklet that contained the Gospel of John, explained salvation, how to get your ticket to Glory, and be assured of where you are going.”

“Stan, do you always carry those with you?”, I asked.

“Yeah, I do.  They come in real handy when the opportunity arises, as it did with Pete.”

“Pete and I spent the rest of the day on the golf course talking about eternity and whether or not he would be prepared when the time came.”

“Did Pete get his ticket that day?” I asked.

“I don’t know that he did,” was Stan’s response.  “He said he appreciated our time together and that he would give a lot of thought to what we had talked about.  I told him I would be praying for him — for his health and his salvation, and he thanked me.”

“That was the last time I saw Pete on this side of eternity,” Stan said. “A few weeks later I heard he was on Hospice and died shortly after that, but I am very hopeful I will see him on the other side.  At least there is a much greater likelihood of that happening than if Pete and I had not played golf together that day — and if I had not been obedient to the voice of the Holy Spirit.”

“It is vitally important that I always be ready to respond when God brings someone He wants across my path.  That person’s eternal destination may hang in the balance.”


Always be ready to make a defense to every one who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you.  1 Peter 3:15.

Prayer:  Lord, thank you for the salvation you have made available to me and to every person.  Please help me in being ready to make an eternal difference in each person you bring before me by sharing the truth of your provision.  Keep me aware always that I am where I am with you because people went out of their way to bring me to the truth.  May I do the same for whoever you want.  Amen.

15. The Journal of the Journey

“In one of our early meetings,” I said to Stan, “you indicated that it had taken you a long time to develop a growing relationship with God.  Will you tell me about that?”

“When I first got my ticket to Glory, or became a Christian, it was difficult for me to develop  spending a regular time with God.  I tried and tried, but nothing seemed to work.  I knew I was a Christian, but it was a very shallow type of Christianity.”

“How so?”

“Well, I was attending a good church regularly, had Christian friends, spent some time praying, was involved in some Bible study, and occasionally read a daily devotional.  But I was feeling real empty.”

“A friend of mine suggested that I start journaling with God.  I did not really know what that meant, but tired it.  After a day or two, I would find that the next entry came four or five months later.  It just didn’t work for me.”

“But, obviously, there was a breakthrough at some point.  How did that happen?”

“From a book my pastor had written.  In one part of that book he suggested that a good way to develop a regular devotion time with God was to read the fifteenth chapter of John’s Gospel every day for 30 days and pray about what God wanted me to see.”

“That’s the vine and branches chapter, isn’t it?” I asked.

“That’s right.  It’s where Jesus says He is the vine, His Father is the vinedresser, and we are the branches.”

“Did you do what the pastor suggested?”

“Yes.  I read it every morning and prayed.  After about two weeks, I began to write about what I sensed God was telling me.  That was the beginning of my daily journaling that has gone on for many years.”

“After I finished the fifteenth chapter of John, I went on to the sixteenth, and on until I have been through the Bible several times.”

“Always journaling about what you are reading?” I asked.

“Yes, and God is amazingly faithful in what He shows me.”

“That is quite a journey!”, I exclaimed.

“Well put, my friend,” Stan replied.  “That is what I call my journal, now almost 100 volumes long, ‘The journal of the Journey.’”

“I would like to know more about this,” I said.

“Journaling is a real passion for me as it has been my way of relating to God. I will be happy to tell you all I know about it if you are interested, but let’s take it a small bite at a time.”

“I’m ready to eat whatever bites you have for me, whenever you want, but I will leave that to you.”

“That’s another story for another day, but we will get to it.”


And in the early morning, while it was still dark, He arose and went out and departed to a lonely place, and was praying there.  Mark 1:35.

Prayer:  Thank you, Lord, that you want to have an ever-deepening relationship with you through spending time with you.  You know how difficult that is for me some times, but you also know that a deeper relationship is what you want.  I want what you want, and I ask you to move in me to lead and help me to follow where you want me to be.  Amen.

16. Contentment

Stan kind of startled me one morning at breakfast by asking, “Are you content?”

“About what?” I asked.

“Everything and anything.”

“I don’t know,” was my response.  “Why do you ask?”

“It’s real important,” he replied.  “For a long time, I always thought being content meant I would be settling for second best.  Sort of saying that I will just have to be content until I get what I want.”

“Then one day while I was spending time with God in my journal, it became real clear to me that contentment, rather than being a second choice, is the height of what God has for me.”

Continuing, Stan said, “I am to be content in and with Him.”

“If I am fully surrendered to what He wants for me — what He wants me to be and to do — I am content.  No second choice!”

Speaking with a voice of experience, Stan continued, “discontentment is the fruit of the world, the flesh, and the devil.  It is so easy to get dragged down, but it doesn’t have to be that way.”

“All that sounds real good, but how, as a practical matter, do I focus on being content?”

“Keep the proper perspective.  For me it is essential that I focus not on short-term fulfillment that will turn into long-term emptiness.”

“But I have to focus on the long-term fulfillment I have been given by God.  Long-term in the sense of spending the rest of eternity with Him when my time here is done.”


I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am in.  Philippians 4:11.

Prayer:  Lord, thank you for showing me that the height of my relationship with you is contentment.  You know my tendency to be discontent.  Please help me in being content in you, only in you for all you have for me.  Amen.

16A. ETC

“Have I ever shared with you what I call ETC?” Stan asked one day.

“No, I don’t think so.  What does it mean?”

“Well,” Stan continued, “it is an obvious fact that everything I do — or what any of us do — is determined by thought processes.  What I think will determine what I do.”

“So I have to be real careful about what thoughts I allow to influence me.  When I have a thought that is not in keeping with who I am becoming in the likeness of Christ, I need to take that thought captive.”

“One day,” Stan continued, “while I was having a journal conversation with God, I was given the image of ETC, for EveryThought Captive, written on a mental sticky piece of paper stuck on the front of my brain.”

“Every time I have an inappropriate thought about another person, about my circumstances, or about anything, I look and see ETC and take that thought captive to the obedience of Christ.

“It is for me a very useful tool in keeping where the Lord wants me to be.”

“Do you do that all of the time?” I asked.

“I can’t say that I follow that process every time, but I can assure you that every time I do, the Lord makes clear to me what He has for me to be and to do.  And it is usually a lot different than what would happen if I did not take the thought captive.”


We are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.  2 Corinthians 10:5.

Prayer:  Lord, you know my tendency to have thoughts that are contrary to what you have for me to be and to do as one of yours.  You also know that if I act on such thoughts my witness of being yours is damaged.  I need and I ask for all you can provide in helping me to take every thought captive in obedience to you and to your lordship. Amen.

17. GIGO or CICO

“You familiar with computers?” Stan asked me.

“Oh, I know how to do most things on them, but I am lost if something goes wrong,” I responded.

“Sounds about like me,” he said.

“Why do you ask?”

“Well, there was (maybe still is) an expression of ‘garbage in garbage out’ that is shorthand for saying a computer will only do what it is programmed to do.  It has the short name of GIGO.”

“If the program is garbage, in that it is no good, that is what the program is going to produce.”

“I have never programmed a computer,” I responded, “but I am familiar with the term.  What’s the point?”

“One morning during my time with God,” Stan began, “it became very clear to me that I am just like a computer.”

“In what way?”

“If I allow garbage into my mind, garbage is likely to come out.  If I concentrate on negative thinking, negative words are most likely going to come out of my mouth.  And so on.  I think you can agree with that.”

“Sure can.  Or as the expression goes, ‘been there, done that.’ Do you have a way for dealing with it?”

“CICO,” was Stan’s response.

“What’s that?”

“It’s a term that was given to me, it that stands for ‘Christ in Christ out.”

“Or you could call it GIGO” I joined in, “for God in God Out.”  That’s better than the original meaning of GIGO!”

“Exactly!” Stan responded with a big smile.  “What I put into my mind determines what is going to come out of my mouth, and it determines what my actions are going to be.”

“If my mind is filled with thoughts of Christ, He is going to be manifested in what I think, say, and do.  And the only way I can have the mind of Christ is to know what it is and to concentrate on it being an intimate part of me.”


We have the mind of Christ.  1 Corinthians 2:16.

Prayer:  Lord, you know my mind.  You know the difficulty I have in allowing into my mind only what you want.  I need and ask for your help in guarding what I allow my focus to be.  Please help me to focus only on you and what you have for me to be and to do.  Amen.