Tuesday, November 09, 2010

How Hiking is Like Walking With the Spirit

Author:  Susan L. Prince

Recently I vacationed in the Smokies with friends who invited me to come with them.  I was blessed beyond measure in so many ways during that vacation, but one particular thing struck me while hiking the Abram's Falls trail in The Great Smoky Mountains, and the thought I had is what developed into this post.

I was walking the trail and now and then would be tripped up by rogue rhododendron roots or rocks jutting up out of the dirt of the trail.  It was rough terrain in some places and I started thinking about how amazing it is that God so made our brains that when I stumble, my brain sends messages to my entire body; arms, legs, ears, eyes, so that it will correct itself in order that I don't completely fall over and get hurt.  My equilibrium is kept by fluids in my inner ear and when thrown off kilter, my arms flail, but only to gain balance as my feet readjust and find footing again.  It bloggles the mind when you think of all the physiological processes that must take place whenever we trip, in order for the human body to react and correct itself.

Then I started considering something else.  I started realizing that as my eyes observed the trail I would make a mental note of where certain obstacles were; rocks in the way, troublesome roots sticking up, sticks obstructing the path, and then I noticed how often my body automatically maneuvered itself to avoid tripping to begin with.  I was able to keep my pace, see an obstacle and duck, or swerve to the side, possibly lift one foot higher off the ground to avoid a rock, or simply lengthen or shorten my stride momentarily to miss a slippery spot on the trail.  My eyes would see the obstacle and immediately my brain sent all the right signals and the appropriate body movements took place to avoid even a stumble.  I didn't have to see the obstacle and conscientiously react; watch my leg, think about lifting it higher so that my foot would avoid the obstacle, no, I simply saw it and my body did what it had to do to avoid danger.  It really happened so quickly that I didn't think about it, I just kept right on walking.

Then it occurred to me that this is something similar to what it is like to walk in the Spirit.

For the believer, the Holy Spirit's purpose is to "guide you into all truth." (John 16:13)  The Spirit "will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you." (John 14:26)  The Holy Spirit's guidance is of utmost importance as we read God's Word and learn the Truth from it, and equally as important is when we yield to the Spirit; He helps us apply the Truth we learn to the life we live.  This is a mystical process and in I Corinthians 2, we are told why, "we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory....The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God."  To those who have not the Spirit of God in them, this is all foolishness, but to those of us to whom the Truth has been revealed, we are guided through life by God Himself.

As we walk through life in the power of the Holy Spirit, we can apply the truth we've learned through God's Word to life, so as troubles arise, we are able to adjust accordingly and overcome the obstacle.  Sometimes we are able to see trouble on the path ahead because the Holy Spirit nudges us to pay attention and see the danger, and then we can completely avoid the problem by staying on course and not veering to the left or the right.  For the most part, walking in the Spirit is that automatic adjustment that happens as we go about our day to day lives, avoiding pitfalls and choices that take us away from the path we are following.  Following the Holy Spirit is not always something we consciously do, but it is putting into practice the precepts we have learned as we walk with God day after day.

Sometimes, like on the trails of The Smokies, the road is bumpy and we get tripped up. The pitfalls and bad choices are always because we choose to believe the lie; the lie that more money will make us happy so we choose this job over that, the lie that alcohol will take away emotional pain, the lie that you need to be married to be happy, the lie that success in your career will be what makes you happy, etc. We may have ignored the warning signals from the Holy Spirit; mystical unctions or maybe warnings fellow believers pointed out, and fell flat on our face because we sought things that would bring only temporary happiness. We may have chosen to fill the emptiness in our lives with something other than God. We may have chosen the way of sin, and then found ourselves suffering terrible consequences.  Eventually, the Holy Spirit will convict us.  The Holy Spirit will woo us back onto the path of the righteousness, and we can readjust our lives again and live according to the Truth.  This often requires a much more conscientious choice to be obedient to the Holy Spirit and get back on the path that He is guiding us to.

While walking those trails in the woods, at some point, I became conscientiously aware of the fact that with every step I took, I was making adjustments in my stride.  Some of the adjustments were hardly noticeable, and others required a lot of maneuvering, but I was always able to stay on course.  I was picturing how the Holy Spirit works in my life when I allow myself to be guided by Him and for the most part, the adjustments I make are daily, but minute and hardly noticeable. Now and then, an obstacle is thrown into my path and because I am a student of the Word, the Holy Spirit reminds me of that truth and then I deal with the issue, adjust my walk and continue moving forward.  Sometimes the problem causes a detour in my life and I stray from the path, but because the Spirit of the Living God resides in me, He is always calling me back to the path that leads straight to God.

Walking in the Spirit is like walking a hiking trail, we need to be attentive at all times and constantly adjust our stride to make sure we always remain on the correct path, because the pay off at the end is much too important to miss!

Wednesday, November 03, 2010


Author: Katie

I am learning that being emptied of my "self" is not a one time thing or something that happens every now and then. It's not anything that will ever be over. It's moment by moment day by day and usually happens to me in the middle of the night.

I struggle with insomnia and take medication to help but obviously the meds are not enough tonight (as I am beginning this at about 3:30 am). As a Christian, my spirit is always going against my natural human tendencies. I am fighting a battle for my mind on a daily basis. When the Spirit is in authority, I have peace of mind but otherwise...my mind is focused on me. When I gave my heart to Christ and asked Him to become Lord of my life I was unaware of the warfare I had declared on the the enemy of my soul..the ruler of my "flesh". I only knew that I came to a place where nothing on earth mattered enough to me to sacrifice having a relationship with my Creator. In the moment of total surrender, I surrendered "self". I died to an old way of life and began to walk in a new direction. This new direction began a very difficult but glorious journey into a relationship with Jesus Christ.

2 Corinthians 5:16-20
"So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God." (NIV)

I love the way that this passages is interpreted in The Message:

"16-20Because of this decision we don't evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don't look at him that way anymore. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it! All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. We're Christ's representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God's work of making things right between them. We're speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he's already a friend with you."

I see these verses in a whole new light and it actually speaks to me in regards to the things that have kept me up tonight (aside from a reoccurring case of the hiccups of which I also battle yet again).

I never realized how overly analytical I can be. I don't analyze things from a "scientific" or an "intellectual" perspective. I analyze people, behaviors, personalities, things that are said to me, circumstances, the meaning of life! I can't not do it. I'm always trying to make sense of things and always seeking to do what is right and beating myself up for the things I do wrong. My mind just never seems to rest. This is part of the reason I have so much trouble sleeping. I am not at peace. God is not on the throne.

Often when I awaken at night like this, with my thoughts drawn to the negative. So I have learned to overcome this by holding my thoughts captive to Christ. This means to redirect my thoughts according to the truth of God's Word. So, when I am thinking about the things that make me miserable, I try to redirect my thoughts to the blessings of God. At first this was helping but it seems as though I have come to a cross roads. As I redirect my thoughts to the blessings, they end with "yeah but..." and head right back in the wrong direction, at which time I redirect again and I just keep going in circles all night long.

I have kept it no secret that I have had a very difficult and dysfunctional past but God set me free from that past. The problem now is that I have found myself in captivity again to the very things He set me free from. In a nutshell, I am captive to me...not Christ as I should be.

So, I am taken to the scriptures I spoke of earlier in this post. It has been my thinking that when I gave my heart to Christ the old is dead...gone. A new beginning has come. I took off my "old self" and put on the new person that God had made when I was reborn as His child. So, this means that the past is the past. I should leave it there. God has...but I keep dragging it back up in my thought life.

On the other hand, I think I see 2 Corinthians 16-20 in a new light now. Before I saw people through the eyes of being human. But then I met Christ. I began to see myself and others in a new way. Salvation is about reconciliation. First, we are reconciled to God through Christ. Then, through Christ we are also to be reconciled to others. This means we are to live in peace together. I don't see this enough in the Christian community...and I have had my struggles living it as well. That's because I try to live in peace according to my own strength. I try to do it the way I think it should be done. Often I become very legalistic in how I seek reconciliation with others and it just doesn't work...because I am doing it...not God. In reality...when God is in first place and I just focus on getting that relationship right...that is when peace comes. I keep saying this..when will I live like I believe it? That is when I am able to love others...by loving Him first. It always come back to this! It always comes back to Mark 12:30-31. No wonder my King made these the first and greatest commandments!

I know the condition of my heart. I know that I battle daily to stay above being self centered. Although I have had some amazing mountain top experiences and great moments of peace, I am not experiencing lasting peace...the peace which God has been speaking to me over the last month in my travels (of which I still plan to write about). It is a peace that surpasses all understanding. I know the moments when I have peace like a river and why. It is because I am staring in the face of my Redeemer and at peace with Him. The war...the battlefield of the mind...the flesh rising up against the Spirit...this is an ongoing battle that finds its victory in Christ alone.

I have realized that I am always trying to do what is right. I am always trying to fix me. I am my own idol! I keep trying to do what only God can do through me! I do this by being overly critical of myself. I criticize myself even to others because it is what I expect from others...to be criticized. I figure if I put myself down before they do then they can't hurt me. But, this does not glorify God nor does it magnify Him to others....and worst of all, it destroys my peace. I do not have peace with Him...and therefore no peace within or with others. As a result the very thing I do to protect myself from pain, brings me the greatest pain of all.

Luke 12:27 tells us that even the lilies are clothed in beauty. All of their needs are met by God with no effort on their part at all. . They are so beautiful yet often never even seen. If God cares so much for that which is never seen...how much more He will care for me if I just stop trying to do things myself and let Him provide and make me beautiful? This is not to condone laziness...but to encourage complete trust that God will guide his beloved and provide all we need to be all He has created us to be. We will be a display of His splendor!

When I stop stressing and stop trying to take things into my hands that I am supposed to lay at His feet...when I stop trying to analyze and control things; when I stop holding on so tight to what He is wanting me to let go of; when I stop trying to be perfect in my own power (because that is impossible) but let His strength be made perfect in my weakness; when I start being anxious for nothing and I start letting Him labor and toil over the things that are not mine to labor over...I will be like the lilly. I will live in peace and total trust in God. I will magnify His glory.

He is in the business of restoring beauty from ashes. This is my life. He has done it before and He is doing it again. My life becomes a mess when I take Him off the throne of my heart and put me in that place (whether by pride, control, false humility, bitterness or any other such thing). I have learned about the enemy disguising himself as an angel of light. I have at times allowed myself to be deceived into following the enemy away from God when I thought I was following God.

Several years ago a theme God gave me called for me to pray to be emptied. God has really been doing that. I am thankful for the sleepless nights I have had (although I would like to be done now lol). They have been such a great teaching tool. I have learned that I am constantly seeking to fill the emptiness with things other than God. I pray to be emptied so He can fill me. But I truly believe that sometimes he leaves that place vacant just long enough to give me an opportunity to choose to be filled with Him...or to fill the empty place with things that don't belong there.

Every day, every moment, every trial is an opportunity to choose to let God fill the emptiness or to fill it with something else that will only need to be emptied again. So, when that thought comes to my mind, when my peace is shaken...the first thing I need to do is drop to my knees and give the thing I want to put in my God shaped hole...to God...and let allow Him to fill me to overflowing.

A friend posted on facebook to look at Psalm 23 in the negative. This is the result of filling the emptiness in my life with the wrong things.

The Lord is not my shepherd
Therefore I can not rest
I do not have peace
My soul cannot experience restoration...I am drained
I go down a path of unrighteousness and cannot bring Him glory
I fear and am anxious about everything because I am not aware of His presences
I have no comfort from His presence
I have no protection from my enemies, no honor
My cup is empty and dry
Goodness and mercy are far from me
I can not dwell in His house if He is not my shepherd

But when the Lord is my Shepherd

I will be satisfied
He will make me lie down in green pastures and lead me beside still waters where He will restore my soul (peace and rest).
He leads me in the path of righteousness for His glory and my good.
Even when I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil
Because He is with me. His rod and staff give me comfort.
He prepares a feast before me in the presence of my enemies!
He anoints me with the Holy Spirit above and beyond what I could imagine..spilling over everywhere I go.
His goodness and mercy will follow me all my days
I will dwell in His house forever.

If there is no peace...then God is not leading me. If there is an absence of peace then I have filled an empty place with something that will not satisfy...something that does not belong there. I need to fill it with God and God alone. I need to dethrone the idol and put God in His rightful place. I need to love HIM FIRST!