Saturday, September 29, 2012

Direction

In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps. Proverbs 16:9 (NIV)

It was mid-morning as our little band of flatlanders arrived at our 6,000-foot trail head. Just a mere 24 hours earlier we had left home at sea level, and it felt great to be breathing the crisp mountain air. We tried to encourage our group of students to pace themselves, but excitement was running high for the five-day hike along the Continental Divide trail.

We arrived at our first night's destination: an easy 4,000-foot ascent, and by 1 p.m. we had finished lunch. We had the whole afternoon to set up camp and explore the area, but against conventional wisdom we let the students convince us to press on toward the top. This would put us a day ahead, I thought, and anyway we were all feeling great.

As we were crossing a snow-covered valley, I noticed one of the girls lagging behind. She said she wasn’t feeling well, but I brushed it off, telling myself that we were almost to the top and we could rest once we got there.

It was nearly dark as we arrived at the 12,000-foot divide—our campsite for the night. There was only one problem: Almost everyone in our group was suffering from altitude sickness.

The next morning the situation was even worse. The other two leaders and I met to pray. We asked God for wisdom and direction. We decided to descend partway back down the mountain to see if that would help. Within an hour or so of descending, the symptoms had all but disappeared. We all sensed God had given us the direction we needed, and we were able to enjoy a great hiking trip without further incident.

Do you need direction in your life? Ask our generous God, and He will give it to you.

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. James 1:5 (NIV)

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Protection

The name of the Lord is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe. Proverbs 18:10 (NIV)

When my wife and I were first married, we spent one Christmas with our extended family that lived across the country. After the holidays, we headed home to Minnesota pulling a trailer on the back of our car. It was loaded up with furniture.

Staring at the snowflakes just ahead of the headlights only worsened my fight to stay awake as we drove through the barren hilly landscape.  I could tell it was getting colder as we drove late into the night. We were both tired and looking forward to sleeping in our own warm bed.

I was unprepared for what lay ahead of us as we crested a steep hill. The pavement on the backside of the hill had been frosted over by a north wind. The car immediately went into a spin, and panic swept over us. The car spun first to the right and then to the left. I could feel the weight of the trailer violently jerking us back and forth. At one point the nose of the car slid just over the shoulder. I imagined we would slide off the road and down the steep embankment. This hill was etched into my memory from previous trips and even though I couldn’t see over the edge, I remembered the bottom was several hundred feet down.

The second we went into the skid, I started praying asking God to spare my young bride and me. Miraculously, the car slowed down. As we neared the bottom of the hill, both the car and trailer were pointing straight down the road in the right direction! The only explanation I have to offer is God’s protection in answer to my prayer.

One of the greatest promises that God has made to the believer is for protection. Thank Him today that we can find protection in Him.

Friday, September 14, 2012

How to Handle Parking Lot Offenders



But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you… Matthew 5:44 (NIV)

Do you have a parking lot strategy? I do. It’s not that I’m protective of my car. After all, it’s a well-worn car with a good number of miles. No, my parking lot strategy has to do with ease of entrance and exit. I like to make sure everyone can open and close their doors without bumping other cars. I like the same consideration from others, too.

So I have parking lot “strategies” I live by. If there’s no curb at the front of the spot, I pull through so I can avoid backing up when I leave. I also park far enough away so I can have empty spaces on both sides of my car. That makes it more convenient to load kids and purchases without giving someone a door ding.

The other day, when I picked up my daughter at daycare, my plan backfired. I parked in my usual spot, with empty spots on both sides. Stepping out of the car, I proudly admired the generous margins on either side of my vehicle.

But when I came out, I gasped at what I saw. A car had parked so close to my driver’s side that it was impossible to enter from that side. Two rows of empty spots, and some inconsiderate Bozo had blocked me in!

I remembered being challenged once to use these kinds of annoyances as opportunities to pray for those who offend us. So I did just that – right after I confessed my vengeful thoughts.

Today’s verse challenges us to pray for our enemies and those who persecute us. Your pet peeves may not include bad parkers, but everyone has expectations on how others should behave. How will you handle infractions to your “guidelines” today? Try praying for the “offenders.” You never know what might be going on in their life that has caused them to be inconsiderate.

Friday, September 7, 2012

How to Handle Greed



He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Romans 8:32 (NIV)

While sitting in the middle school office waiting for my son to arrive, a young man approached me. “Sir, do you have a piece of paper I could have?”

That’s a strange request for a student standing in a school office, I thought. Surely paper must be in an abundance here.

A girl standing nearby jumped into the conversation. “He’s trying to see how much he can collect,” she explained. The boy opened his back pack to reveal that it was stuffed full of paper—more paper than the entire sixth grade would require for a year’s worth of homework. He proudly announced that the rest was being stored in various lockers throughout the building.

Greed is named as one of the seven deadly sins. It’s a common snag for many of us. It shows no prejudice for age, race, or even economic standing. The desire to have more than we need can creep in unannounced, and it can overwhelm our common sense.  

At times I have felt the tug of greed and struggled to shake loose of it. The best thing I’ve found to battle greed is giving. That’s right! When we’re giving generously, we remove the ground where greed takes root. Generous giving is the antidote to greed.

Giving is also a way to share Christ with those around us. Our verse for today shows that God was generous with us by sharing even His own Son with the world. He didn’t hold back in His giving, and when we generously share our resources, we can be an example of what real love is to those around us.

Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:7 (NIV)