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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Some Danger is Difficult to Spot

I have seen more snakes this summer than I care to have ever seen in my whole life. That's just one of the joys of hiking through the woods in the summer. There are snakes!

One thing that I've noticed is that black snakes are pretty easy to spot. For one thing, the ones I've seen have been quite large and long. One of them even had bright yellow stripes down each side. Supposedly, black snakes are harmless, but still, I try to keep my distance from these slithering creatures.

We've also had the "privilege?" to come across two different copperheads. Now, these snakes are very dangerous. I've discovered they are also VERY difficult to spot. Because they blend in so well with the dirt, dried leaves, and sticks, copperheads are almost impossible to see. In fact, both times we've come across them, Tippy and I just about stepped on them. We just didn't see them.

Do you have any idea how scary it is to be taking a step and have someone grab your arm and shout, "Stop! Snake!"? Let's just say you might need a change of clothes! The funny thing is that even after Jason stops me, I have to study the ground carefully to spot the danger. Sure enough! It's right in front of me. It gives me the chills every time I think about it. I've been so close to danger without even realizing it!

In the same way, some of the dangers in our Christian walk are easier to spot than others. Some things are black and white. They are the black snakes of our Christian journey. They stand out starkly against the background of life, easy to spot and avoid.

Other dangers in the Christian life are like the copperhead. They blend into the background so well that we often don't realize they are there until we're upon them. A few examples I can think of right off are: neglecting our time alone with God, allowing bitterness to take root, pride, failure to forgive, etc. We know that these things are wrong and that they are a great danger to our Christian walk. However, they often cloak themselves in their surroundings so that we are not aware of them until it is too late.

The solution? Watch where you're walking! I've found that Jason can spot the copperheads much better than I can, so I've started walking behind him, following in his footsteps. (This also keeps most of the spiderwebs from getting me. Sshh! Don't tell Jason.) We can do the same in our Christian walk. God is our Guide, and He can spot the danger that is lying in wait for us. If we follow Him and walk in His footsteps, we will be less likely to find ourselves inches from danger without even realizing it is there.

The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way. - Psalm 37:23

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Are You Found Wanting?

In Chapter 5 of the book of Daniel, Belshazzar (Nebuchadnezzar's son) hosted a party. As if his party wasn't bad enough, he commanded his servants to bring him the cups that his father had stolen from the temple (God's house). Not wise!

Not long after that, a hand appears out of thin air. I'm sorry, but that would probably scare me to death. Belshazzar was pretty scared too. The Bible says, Then the king's countenance was changed, and his thoughts troubled him, so that the joints of his loins were loosed, and his knees smote one against another. I'd say that's pretty scared.

You know the rest of the story. The hand writes on the wall, "MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN." The king, at the advice of his wife, summons Daniel to translate the meaning of the words. Daniel reminds Belshazzar of the time his father, Nebuchadnezzar, was removed from his throne and made to live like a beast of the field because of his pride. In "Dana jargon," this is what Daniel said next: "And, you, Belshazzar, are doing the exact same thing as your father did, even though you know what happened to him. You've stolen from the house of God. You've drunk wine. You've worshiped idols. And above all, you've failed to praise the God who gave you the breath you need to stay alive. And so, you're kingdom will be taken from you as well. You're done!"

The part I want to really focus on is the meaning of the word "TEKEL" that was written on the wall. Look at verse 27: TEKEL; Thou art weighed in the balances, and art found wanting.
Can you imagine hearing anything more heartbreaking than that? Can you imagine God coming to you and saying such a thing?

I pray that the Lord never has to tell me that I am found wanting. I pray, instead, that He will be able to say of me what He said of Daniel in the next chapter.

Then the presidents and princes sought to find occasion against Daniel concerning the kingdom; but they could find none occasion nor fault; forasmuch as he was faithful, neither was there any error or fault found in him. - Daniel 6:4

Now, please understand, this verse is not saying that Daniel was perfect. Only God is perfect. However, it is saying that he lived such a God-filled life that fault was not immediately evident. It means that he was not found wanting. It means that God was pleased with Daniel's faithfulness and integrity. It means that Daniel was striving to be like Christ. It means Daniel was being a true Christian.

The word Christian means "Christ-like," but we often use the term simply to identify a believer. Sad to say, I've met a few believers who were not at all "Christ-like." If we're going to call ourselves Christians, we need to live up to that title. Otherwise, we are disobeying the third of the ten commandments. We are taking the name of the Lord in vain. At that point, it's just a title with little or no meaning. Let's be careful. God is watching. What will He be able to say about us?

It's time to stop straddling the fence. Are we on His side or not? If so, let's act like it so that when the world looks at us, they'll have to look really hard to find fault. And during that time of observation, who knows, they may be blinded by the Son!

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Warning of Pride

All this came upon the king Nebuchadnezzar. At the end of twelve months he walked in the palace of the kingdom of Babylon. The king spake, and said, Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty? While the word was in the king's mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, saying, O king Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken; The kingdom is departed from thee. And they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field: they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and seven times shall pass over thee, until thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will. The same hour was the thing fulfilled upon Nebuchadnezzar: and he was driven from men, and did eat grass as oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till his hairs were grown like eagles' feathers, and his nails like birds' claws. - Daniel 4:28-33

Okay, how many of us have done the same thing as Nebuchadnezzar did? How many of us have taken credit for something the Lord did? Hmmm. Tough question, huh?

The truth is we all have a pride problem from time to time. Whether it's taking credit for things that God accomplished or thinking that we're always right, pride is a sin, and a very dangerous one at that.

Aren't you glad, though, that God doesn't always punish pride the way He did in this story? I don't know if Nebuchadnezzar turned into a mad man for a while or if he actually turned into a beast, but I do know that his life was miserable during that time. I know that God showed him who was really in control.

The really bad part about this story is that Nebuchadnezzar knew it was coming. God had warned him in a dream, and Daniel had interpreted that dream. All Nebuchadnezzar had to do was heed the warning, and the whole thing would have never happened.

We, too, have been warned about pride. The Bible is full of verses that remind us that pride is wrong and something that the Lord despises. It warns us that destruction follows on the heels of pride. Even Nebuchadnezzar, after his ordeal, warns us of pride. Pay close attention to the last phrase of this chapter.

Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment: and those that walk in pride he is able to abase.

Will we heed the warnings or will we ignore them like Nebuchadnezzar and face the consequences? I don't know about you, but I don't care much for grazing, so I think I'll heed the warnings!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Most Valuable Tool in the Devil's Workshop

Old Fable:

In the devil's marketplace were found many tools. Tools such as deceit, lying, jealously, pride, hatred, envy, etc. were all up for sale at discount prices. However, in the corner of the room, there was another tool, separated from the rest. It was well-protected and encased in glass as a means of protection from the dust. Unlike the other tools, it's price was high. This tool was discouragement. When asked why such a small tool was so highly priced, the devil answered, “It is the most terrific of them all. It can pry open a heart no matter how shielded. It gets inside a heart when I cannot. Adultery, idolatry, hatred, etc. have my labels placed upon them, and so people will know it's coming from me. But not so with discouragement. You see how badly worn it is? Because I use it on almost everyone, and few people know it belongs to me.”

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

On the Right Path

We often take our two dogs out walking at a nearby lake named Lake Wattacoo. It is a secluded place that consists of two or three different trails, a small lake, a distant waterfall, etc. It's really a beautiful place, and because it is secluded, we find that it's a good place to go to "get away from the world." (Plus, the dogs really enjoy it.)

At one point, there is a fork in the trail that leads out of the woods. Our older dog, Tippy, is precious, but not the brightest crayon in the box, if you know what I mean. She constantly takes the wrong side of the fork, and the bad part is that she doesn't realize she's going the wrong way. I think, in her mind, she sees that we're headed in the same direction and so assumes the trails must lead to the same place. What she doesn't know is that a little farther along her trail, the path turns and basically leads back to where we just came from. So, each time she goes that way, we have to call her and literally convince her that she's going the wrong way and to trust us because we know what's best. Many times, she'll ignore our warnings, only to find herself alone, turned around, and headed in the wrong direction. That's when she starts running back in an attempt to catch up with us.

Just like Tippy, I am sometimes not the brightest crayon in the box. I try to do things my own way in my own strength. My ultimate goal is the glory of the Lord, but I try to accomplish this through my own devices instead of the way He has set up for me to follow. Just like Tippy, I am convinced that since the paths are headed in the same direction, they must end up in the same place. I, too, am often convinced that my way is better or easier. And unfortunately, I often ignore the warnings of the Master that I am on the wrong path. Instead, I plod along my trail, allowing the Master to get farther and farther from my view, until I find myself alone and unsure how I came to be back at the place where I started. Oh, if only I would heed the direction of the Master. It would save me from re-walking a lot of trails!

Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. - Proverbs 3:5-6

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

What a Prayer!

I have a lot to do today, so this will be a short entry. I just wanted to share with you a prayer. You see, I've been reading a book that a friend loaned me. The book is an allegory about a little girl named Much-Afraid and her trip (led by the Shepherd) to High Places. I'm only about halfway through, but already, I've seen myself in the character of Much-Afraid.

Anyway, in one of the last chapters I read, Much-Afraid discovered that her two companions for the journey to High Places were Sorrow and Suffering. In a panic, she asked the Shepherd why she couldn't travel with Joy and Peace instead. The Shepherd simply told her that He knew best and asked if she would trust His decision. This was her reply. . .

"In all the world I have no one but you. Help me follow you, even though it seems impossible. Help me to trust you as much as I long to love you."

Wow! What a prayer! I long for that to me by prayer daily, and that I won't just say it, but that I'll truly mean it with all my heart. I just wanted to share that with you today.

If you ever get a chance, I recommend reading Hinds' Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard. It is an interesting read.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Oh, What Love!

Tomorrow, Jason and I will be celebrating twelve years of marital bliss. Twelve years!!! Yesterday, I asked Jason, "How have you put up with me for twelve years?" He replied, "I was going to ask you the same thing."

For any of you who know me, you know I can be really sweet and then, I have my flip side. There are times when my red hair comes out, and I can be a real pain to be around. It seems to me that those are the times when Jason showers more love and attention on me. He doesn't get aggravated at my mood or offended by my fussing, he simply loves me for who I am and accepts that I have bad days. But, as great as that love is, it's nothing compared to the love of my Father.

If I were God, I would have given up on me a LONG time ago. I honestly don't know how He puts up with me. I have failed Him time and time again. I've forsaken Him in my desire for other things. I've doubted Him more times than I can count. I've blamed Him when things didn't go the way I thought they should. I've run away from Him. I've disobeyed Him. And the list goes on and on. Yet, He still loves me. When I get over my "mood of the moment," He's there with open arms and a tender smile on His face. How is that possible? How can He love me that much? How can He put up with so much from me and still treat me like a queen? One day, I'll understand that love. Until then, I will strive to love Him more and more!

Friday, June 19, 2009

To Every Thing There Is a Season

I am quickly coming to the conclusion that hiking is not nearly as enjoyable in the summer as it is the rest of the year. In the fall and spring, I love nothing more than to hike a trail to a remote waterfall or follow along beside a babbling brook. I love to sit and bask in the sunshine as I rest and listen to the water's peaceful flow. It is a tranquility like nothing else.

In the winter, even though the weather is cool, it is perfect for those strenuous climbs where I find myself shedding layer after layer until I'm finally down to my t-shirt. And even though the scenery is not as vibrant, there is a certain beauty in the quiet woods that are rest.

Hiking in the summer is a different story entirely. It's HOT!!! The grass, weeds, and briers are in abundance and love nothing better than to grab at my legs. The bears are out of their slumber (thankfully, I haven't seen any of them yet). The snakes are slithering around, hissing at any who dare pass by (unfortunately, I've seen plenty of these). Every other step I take, I find myself wrapped up in a sticky spiderweb. And then, there's the bugs. Let me tell you, there is not an insect repellent on earth that will keep gnats out of your face. They fly in my eyes, my mouth, my nose, my ears, and anywhere else they can find. And if that weren't bad enough, the mosquitoes bite, the ticks grab hold, and the bees sting. Trust me, I've experienced them all this summer. So, with all these annoyances and irritations, I find that hiking in the summer is just not very enjoyable at all.

You know, life, too, has seasons. There are seasons full of beauty and tranquility. However, there are also seasons full of irritations and obstacles that sap the joy out of the journey. During these times, it is important to focus on the good times of the journey and to know that seasons of peace and joy are right around the corner if only we will remain faithful. Yes, it's hard. Yes, it's discouraging. But, it is worth it. We can't give up on the journey just because of a tough season. Think of all the blessings we'll miss when those good seasons roll in again.

So, put on your sunscreen and your insect repellent. Fill up the water bottles, and let's keep hiking! As for snakes, I've found that they really seem to be more scared of me than I am of them. Go figure!