The Ouachita Trail stretches for more than 200 miles from eastern Oklahoma to central Arkansas. There are many scenic vistas to enjoy along the trail. However, many sections of the trail are showered with large rock. One has to be cautious of the rock to keep from tripping or stumbling while at the same time enjoying the vistas and remaining on the marked trail. In our journey through life, Satan desires to trip us or cause us to stumble by taking our eyes off our Savior and guide, Jesus! Our own self ambition and a number of other things could cause us to stumble. May we be reminded of what the writer of Hebrews shares about running our race of faith and keeping our eyes fixed on Him! "...let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, LOOKING UNTO JESUS, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God" Hebrews 12:1-2 NKJV
I love what I would call a BREAKTHROUGH moment in the wilderness! The sun peeks out after an afternoon rain shower. My thirst is quenched from drinking water from a crystal clear flowing stream or standing in the warmth of the sunlight moments after a frosty early morning! The two words BUT GOD represent breakthrough moments or events in biblical scripture. "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. BUT GOD demonstrates His love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us." (Rom. 3:23, 5:8) "BUT GOD, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ. By grace you have been saved." (Ephesians 2:4,5) I am grateful for the breakthrough moments in my life, when God took over! Because of His grace you can experience a breakthrough moment and have abundant life! Are you in need of a breakthrough only He can provide?
This summer marks the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11 landing on the moon! When I was a kid my brother Ronny and I would set up makeshift tents in the backyard and enjoy the moon, stars, and milky way on warm summer nights. I've often wondered if today's astronauts and the astronauts of yesteryear felt the same as the psalmist David. "The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech, and night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. (Psalm 19:1-3) In his time in the wilderness, David points us to the existence of God. You were created for His purpose. Created to bring glory to God. How is that going?
Things happen in the wilderness experience that frustrate us! Continuous pouring rain, extremely cold days and nights, pestering bugs, or even burning a perfectly good warm meal. THAT was not in the glossy brochure!!
The same is true in the Christ Life. There WILL be difficult days. Unexpected death, career disappointments, and even being ridiculed or persecuted for living out our faith. Is this what I signed up for?
“Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion’ says my soul, ‘Therefore I hope in Him’.” Lamentations 3:22-24
We can use the ‘unexpecteds’ in life in one of two ways: we can allow those difficulties to consume our thoughts and actions so that we are not following the Lord or not being used for His purpose OR we can allow the Lord to refine us and help us grow in our Christ-likeness.
What unexpecteds have you faced? Where will you put your hope?
Video taken from Springs of the Southwest expedition. Jesus said, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him it will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life”!
John 4:13-14 NKJV
As I was trekking across the White Mountain Wilderness this past weekend, I was in the anchor position. I usually chose this position in the group for the basic reason of being able to encourage those who may potentially be falling behind the rest of the group. I have hiked this trail many times and I knew the awesome wonder that these hikers were going to see! I started to get anxious to see the view again and almost started to pass some of the slower hikers so I could experience the beauty. But I stopped as I noticed some of the hikers were getting tired and discouraged. It is hard to keep on going when the trail is steep and you have no idea of how much further you have to go and you aren't even sure it is something you want to finish! I shared with the other hikers the beauty they would see when they reached the top and encouraged them. They found it within themselves to keep going. Once we hit the summit, they shared how it was so worth the effort they put in to reach the top!
As we journey on our Christ life, we go through hills and valleys. In Philippians 3:12-14, Paul wrote, "Not that I have already obtained, or am already made perfect: but I press on, if so be that I may lay hold on that for which also I was laid hold on by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself yet to have laid hold: but one thing I do, forgetting the things which are behind, and stretching forward to the things which are before, I press on toward the goal unto the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." Paul was encouraging us to keep on going!
Hebrews 12:1-2 also says "Therefore let us also, seeing we are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising shame, and hath sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." We all have friends and loved ones who have already joined Jesus in Heaven. My mom, dad and brother are there. They are experiencing the vastness and awesomeness of Jesus' presence and glory!! They are encouraging me to 'press on' as they have already hit the 'summit' and have seen what I am hoping to see one day!
Likewise there are those in our faith families that have already walked where we are currently walking and they have seen the reward of keeping the faith and staying close to the Lord. As a faith family, we should be encouraging those around us who are going through valleys where we have already been and share with them the joy of hitting the summit on the other side!
Take heart and Press on!
LESSONS FROM THE OUTDOOR CLASSROOM!
If you enjoy climbing/mountaineering you know the goal/evidence of climbing many of the US high points is the USGS marker.
What is the goal/evidence of the follower of Jesus? Love God, love others, and live in obedience to Him! How is your quest? Matt. 22:37, Luke 9:23
LESSONS FROM THE OUTDOOR CLASSROOM! This picture is an example of the brittle and broken sandstone and gypsum found in Caprock Canyon, TX. Matthew writes in his gospel, whoever hears His sayings and does not do them is like house that will crumble when the storms of life come. But those who hear his sayings (or Word) and does them, when the storms of life come, his house will remain firm on solid rock! (Matt. 7:24-27) Are you prepared for the storms of life? On whom/what is your foundation?
LESSONS FROM THE OUTDOOR CLASSROOM! ReCreation Adventure Ministries teaches the basics in outdoor cooking as a life skill. M.A.W.L. (Model, Assist, Watch, and Leave) The same is true in teaching (discipling) the Christ life. Model the christian life, assist (help) the new believer by doing life with them, watch them (encouraging them along the way) and leave them to disciple or teach others!
The Grand Canyon National Park, it’s employees and volunteers, have gone before us blazing and maintaining the trail system for hikers to enjoy. So grateful for first century believers (i.e. Peter, Paul, John, James) who blazed the trail showing us how to live out our faith. Thankful to Alan and Lee Seay who mentored my wife and I in early years of ministry. There is always someone watching how you conduct yourself. Who are you mentoring? Proverbs 27:17, "As iron sharpens iron, so does one man sharpen another."
If you are going to trek through an unfamiliar wilderness area a reliable GPS or topographical map is a must to find your way. The same is true maneuvering through life. God's Word, the Bible is your source to navigate each day. The Psalmist writes, "Your Word is a lamp unto my feet, a light to my path." Psalm 119:105
This picture is a thermometer in the direct sunlight at the bottom of the Grand Canyon! Yes, it was hot that day and our group adapted to the temperature. Heard a pastor/friend share recently we need more believers to be THERMOSTATS to change the temperature of our surroundings! Are you a thermostat or a thermometer?
In Palo Duro Canyon, Texas there are a few small caves to explore and enjoy. Being in cave brings a sense of protection and refuge. The young shepherd David fled from jealous king Saul for ten years and many times hid in a cave. David expressed in Psalm 57 that God was his refuge and his soul rest in Him! Where is your refuge? Where is your cave?
When backpacking in high altitudes during the spring or summer months there are times where you may be treking through deep snow. If you are following one of your buddies you will want to step in their footprints because of the uncertainty of what is beneath the deep snow. A tree stump beneath the snow can rip up an ankle or leg. More than a hundred years ago Charles Sheldon wrote a book entitled "In His Steps!" Though we all are sinners we are to trek for purity and holiness. Peter writes, "For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow in His steps." 1 Peter 2:21
This picture is of course the south rim of the Grand Canyon! Backpacking rim to rim in the canyon brings physical, emotional and spiritual challenges to the forefront. Heat, discomfort, perseverance...just to name a few! But the greatest reward is reaching the opposite end of the canyon! Our greatest goal is hearing our Lord and Savior "well done" because of God's mercy and grace in our lives! Philippians 3:12-14.
When I lead groups of people into wilderness areas we typically live in rain flys or tents for several days, sometimes a whole week. There are practical and theological reasons for doing this such as remembering our dependence on God in every way. It is significant for the Jews that the Festival of Booths (Leviticus 23) is annual and last for a week. One would not have the same experience if he were sleeping in the comforts of his home at night. The same is true for people enjoying the wilderness. There is something special about having extended time in makeshift accommodations that forges trust in God. Its actually a biblical idea to plan a weeklong camping trip with your family or friends! Don't feel guilty for taking time off to make this happen-it's biblical!
Early in the summer I was in the White Mountain Wilderness near Ruidoso, NM. I noticed a large tree that leaned as it grew over the decades. It reminded me of a fruit tree in the backyard where I grew up. The pear tree leaned as it grew through the years persevering the south winds. However, it was deeply rooted and bore fruit every year. Success is the ability to persevere under stress and crisis. If we are deeply rooted in Christ, we can withstand the difficult days that may come our way and bear fruit so others may see the glory of Christ in us! John 15: 7-8
Have you ever felt parched? Have ever looked forward to a shower after days without one? Water is such an essential to life. To be able to soak in a creek or pour cool water over your head in a hot environment is exilerating. We cook, drink, clean and bath with it. Jesus spoke about the living water He could provide the Samaritan woman. (John 4:13,14)"...whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks of the water I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him shall will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life." How refreshing, and can be, is the eternal flow of our relationship with God through Christ!
High winds in the Wheeler Peak Wilderness (near Red River, NM) can be a common occurrence. I experienced the high winds recently when it came through unexpectedly in the middle of the night. I wasn't sure what it was when it woke me up so abruptly inside my anchored tent. The Bible tells us that the return of Jesus will come as a thief in the night (1 Thes. 5:2) He will return when we least expect Him. The question we must ask ourselves is "are we anchored in Christ, ready for His return?" If not, accept the gift of grace provided by God through faith in Jesus. (Rom. 10:9,10). If so, come quickly, Lord Jesus. (Rev. 22:20)
If you have ever hiked the Grand Canyon you know the weather can be quite hot within the canyon. Hiking hours are best early in the morning or late in the evening. On day four my team hiked the final seven miles out to the north rim from the south rim this past June. The early morning hike was with head lamp and no day light. Consistent communication with your team was important to make sure they were awake and alert. There was the potential for personal injury with one wrong step. The same is true in the Christian walk. Accountability from loving Christian brothers and sisters is such a must in living the Christ life! We need them to help us be consistent in our walk. As iron sharpens iron so does one man sharpen another. Proverbs 27:17