Friday, October 5, 2012

Spiritual Lessons Off the Beaten Path

Heron Pond in Winter
I have been out of commission for a couple of weeks concerning this blog. My family and I went on a vacation to Southern Illinois where we experienced an adventure in the Lord that will be forever memorable. There are times like these that God gives us wherein reflections can teach us a lot about His forever presence and guidance.

On Tuesday the 25th of September, we started a 6 mile hike toward a place called Heron Pond in the Shawnee National Forest. It is in this place that is normally swamp-like where cypress trees have grown in very large proportions. A floating dock allows visitors to walk throughout the pond and admire the beauty of God’s handiwork. However, the summer drought of 2012 had taken its toll on the area causing the dock to rest upon the bottom of the swamp at angles rather than flat. Nonetheless it was a beautiful sight. But the pond was only an afterthought of what happened on the way there...

After about 5 miles we were stopped in our tracks by a large 6 foot long snake. It straddled the path and quickly coiled up to attack as we approached. Blocked by the reptile and what it could do if it were poisonous, I prepared to protect my family. My disgust for the creatures took me back to my childhood where I came face-to-face with a whole nest of these things. I was playing about 10 feet skyward in a hollowed out tree at about age 8 or so when the standing floor I was on gave way. It was made up of old bark, rotting pulp and foliage built up over the decades. I was jumping up and down in childlike manner when swoosh the floor gave way and I fell down into the tree. This tree was one of those old trees you see in cartoons that had an opening near the ground of about one foot by two foot. I hit the bottom of the tree and spilled out into the daylight amongst a new and very squiggly, squishy, gooey, transparent and bug-eyed slithering morass of yuck!! I had about 100 or more baby snakes crawling all over me! I screamed and disrobed as fast as possible fearing for my young life! But I digress, since then I have never been real fond of these reptiles. So a six foot long diamond backed snake blocking the path quickly brought my male defenses to bear. I stepped off of the path to get a large stick to prod the snake back into the forest. At first he did not want to go and I did not want to antagonize him—so I waited. Yes, I waited off the beaten path. Soon the snake moved on and I threw the stick back into the forest but not before I was greeted by a new host of God’s creatures—chiggers!!

Yes, chiggers. Over 150 chigger bites surfaced under the sock line on my ankle the next morning as I desperately tried to keep from itching. One other thing to note is that I am allergic to these little critters. My ankle swelled up and each bite became a blister. God definitely has a sense of humor. When Paul stated that the creation was subjected to futility not willingly but in hope... (Rom. 8:20) I am right there with him. It is the curse of these little creatures that gives me hope of a place where they will no longer bite, itch and conquer.  But not all was bad. After we left the pond and found a map we expected we may have circled back around on the trail to a nearby location of where we parked. Wrong again! We were 6-7 miles away from it and it was getting into the evening. So my lovely wife, two young daughters and I trudged through a parking lot toward a highway after asking God for some assistance with a ride. We had only gone about 100 yards or so up the road when a car pulled up with a smiling face and a question on her lips. “Are you lost?” Maybe the exasperated look on our faces gave us away but we saw it as an angel from heaven. We said yes and she confirmed we were 6-7 miles away from our vehicle. But the evening had just began…

Meet Max and Sharon and their lovely granddaughters, Daniela and Olivia. This family not only gave us a ride to our car but also invited us back to their house for the evening! Sharon had cooked chili, fajitas, vegetables and many other things in advance of our meeting. It was an amazing act of hospitality and grace. We topped the evening off with Ice Cream and of course, prayer. What a wonderful time it is when fellow believers meet together for sweet fellowship in all things common to the Lord. It is my sincere desire and prayer that God will pour out His Spirit in a mighty way in the days, weeks and years to come on this lovely God-Honoring family!!

During this trip there were three things that God spoke to me about.

When we determine to be obedient to God in the purpose He has chosen us for we will always find a snake in the path

Just like the serpent in the garden confronted Eve and tempted her and Adam to sin so we must always be aware that there will be spiritual opposition to face. Satan and the world do not want to submit to God and His sovereignty which sends him into fits. So he lives to fight against God and against His children, Matt. 5:11, John 15:18-19, John. 16:33, 1 John 4:4. So too we must always be alert—ready to stand against the wiles of the devil

If we get off the spiritual path He has chosen for us we will get bit by chiggers

For a weak believer it doesn’t take long to ponder in fear the things the world throws at you before you are thinking about being quiet about your faith. But remember God never promises to grow you and bless you if you are on the sidelines. It is there that you will encounter His disciplining fatherly touch… and that is not much fun. It’s kind of like standing in a nest of Chiggers. (see 1 Peter 1:6-7, 4:12, Heb. 12:11) I remember being gospel-shy after being made a spectacle in front of other unbelievers on my work shift early in my 20’s. Like Jeremiah I determined to keep my mouth shut because the harassment and determined attacks were more than I wanted to bear, see Jer. 20:9.  But I grew up fast. I stayed hard in the word and I soon was able to withstand the attacks and in the end Christ was glorified. A few years after I left that job a current employee told me after I left that one by one the shift members became Christians. What a glory it will be to see them in heaven. Standing off to the side wasn’t much fun for someone who really loved God and I could not do it for long. If you are truly a Christian in love with God you will not be able to either.

If we continue on the Spiritual Path Christ has ordained we will experience pure joy

My wife and I ended a day of trial and perplexing navigational abilities with a night of pure fellowship. Not once did we not trust Christ and not once were we disappointed. Just at the right time He sent His blessing and so the nights and days go on. We have learned like James 3:16-17 and Heb. 12:11 teach to trust Christ and inherit the state of peace and joy that God promises to all who will faithfully and determinedly trust Him in all things.

What hinders you in trusting Him for all things and in every circumstance of every day He gives you?