Friday, March 28, 2014

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)

Friday, March 14, 2014

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, March 7, 2014

How to Handle Doubt

Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” Mark 9:24 (NIV)

Doubt is normal. Even Thomas, one of Jesus’ disciples, doubted—and that was after following Jesus for three years. He saw the Savior up close, witnessed countless miracles, and watched Jesus heal the sick. Still, he doubted.

Remember that doubt is not total disbelief; it’s more like a point somewhere between belief and disbelief. It’s normal for even mature Christians to experience times of doubt. You see, faith wouldn’t be faith if there were no possibility of doubt.

The Scriptures tell about a desperate father who brought his son to Jesus to be healed. The son was possessed by an evil spirit. Jesus told the father that all things are possible for those who believe.

The father exclaimed, “I believe; help my unbelief!” What he was really saying was, “I want to believe, but I need your help because I’m really somewhere between completely believing and not believing at all.” If we’re honest, doesn’t that describe most of us at some point in our walk with God?

So what do you do when you find yourself doubting? The starting place is to do just what this father did. Tell God that you’re having doubts and allow Him to meet your need. Beyond that, one of the most powerful tools I’ve discovered for doubt is spending time in God’s Word. When I spend time reading the Bible, God chases away my doubts. Truth has a way of doing just that—removing untruth and doubt. Once, when Jesus was praying for us (John 17:17), He asked the Father to sanctify us in the truth. This happens when we spend time in God’s Word.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV)