Choosing the Better Path

path_through_the_woodsProbably my favorite vacation activity is hiking through a forest. I love the way the trees and mossy floor soak up sounds, the cool of the shade, the anticipation of discovering what’s around the next bend.

Of course, there is an inherent danger of getting lost if you go too deeply into the woods. That’s why I also appreciate path markings or maps that tell us where our path leads and, if the path divides, which fork to take.

Our spiritual journey is similar. We don’t know what is ahead of us. We encounter many paths from which to choose. Unlike a forest hike, there’s no going back; we can’t re-trace our steps. We must move forward, knowing there is an end to the path, but not knowing exactly what we will find there.

Often when we think of being spiritually “lost,” we’re describing an ultimate destination: eternal punishment, separation from God. But in his book titled Renovation of the Heart, Dallas Willard makes this insightful observation : “We are not lost because we are going to wind up in the wrong place. We are going to end up in the wrong place because we are lost.” We have chosen the wrong path.

Which Path Do I Take?

Most people will choose their own paths, with no clear destination in mind. They follow the path that makes sense to them, the easy, wide path that’s easy to navigate. They know the path we call life will end, but they expect nothing at the end but a sheer drop into nothingness. A guide or a map seems too restrictive.

Others believe in something better at the end, but they follow a path of their own choosing, confident that somehow things will be all right. Still others have a clear picture of their destination, but they follow a false or blind leader who is just as lost as they are. Some may realize they’re lost but refuse to admit it because the path is so well-worn and well-known and so many others are on it.

When we follow Jesus as the Way, not only do we have a clear destination (John 14:1-4) but a trusted Guide to lead us; He’s been there before (Psalm 119:105, John 14:6). Even though His way is narrow and sometimes treacherous (Matthew 7:13,14), along the Way we receive and believe promises that motivate us to continue.

Though we have never seen Jesus in the flesh, we walk by faith in Him (2 Corinthians 5:5-7). He has promised He will be with us to the end (Matthew 28:18-20) and has sealed us with the Holy Spirit of promise (Ephesians 1:13); the Father knows which ones are His (2 Timothy 2:19). We are also blessed by the companionship of other Christians who love and care about us, warn us when we begin to take the wrong path, and pick us up when we stumble (Galatians 6:1-2).

The End of the Way

In his first letter (1:3-9), Peter describes the end of the path for those who have been “born to a living hope through the resurrection from the dead.” Their inheritance is “imperishable, undefiled, and will not fade away.” At the “revelation of Jesus Christ,” they will rejoice with inexpressible joy.

May we all very carefully examine the path we’re on, making sure we are following in the path of Christ and not an impostor. May we all realize the inexpressible joy of seeing Him in His glory.

God’s Unseen Power – In Us

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Our Helplessness vs. God’s Strength

To describe power is like describing the wind: We can’t see it; we can see only the results of it.

You know the power of a train locomotive because you’ve watched it pull dozens of cars filled with heavy black coal. You’re awed by a lion’s massive head and muscular frame because you’ve witnessed its relentless power in pursuing its prey.

You’re also aware how helpless we all are against the power of torrential rains, earthquakes, and hurricanes – even the sun, which is millions of miles away.

While we remain helpless, God not only commands these forces, He created them. David writes in Psalm 50:1 that “the mighty one, God the LORD, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting.” Isaiah describes God (51:15) as “the LORD your God, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar – the LORD of hosts is his name.”

Daniel ascribes to God wisdom and power. “He changes times and seasons, deposes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding. He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what is in the darkness, and light dwells with him” (2:20-22).

The Power of Sin

Just as we are helpless against the powers of the earth, so are we helpless against the powers of sin and death, the ultimate consequence of sin (Romans 5:12). In Romans 5:14, Paul writes: “Death exercised dominion from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who is a type of the one who was to come.”

But the power of God is greater than the power of sin. Whenever Jesus confronted Satan’s demons, Jesus won every time (Mark 1:34-34; 5:1-20; 7:24-30). He overcame Satan’s ultimate weapon – death – in His resurrection from the dead. In Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost, he declared that It was impossible for Christ to be held in the power of death (Acts 2:24).

The Power in Us

Through the grace of God, we have access to the unseen power that stills a storm (Mark 4:39) and overcomes death (Romans 5:21). When because of our faith in the power of God over sin and death we are buried in baptism, we also are raised to live a life free from the fear of death (Colossians 2:12).

We have no power over the elements of this earth. We have no power over the destructiveness of sin. But God does.

Each time we feel helpless against an earthquake or a tornado or the withering of crops from drought and heat – let us remember that though we may not be able to overcome those forces, if we’re in Christ, sin and death have no power over us. In that we can have complete confidence.

Never an Orphan

It was only in February this year, shortly after my mother passed away, that I heard the word orphan applied to an adult. Before that, I thought of orphans only in terms of children, destitute without parents to care for them. Even though both of our parents were gone now, my sisters didn’t feel like the term applied to us, either.

Yet there stayed with me the concept that my siblings and I stand – next in line, so to speak – without the parents that had been there from the moment we were born. No one else can take their place. They had always been there, and somehow – even though I knew better – I thought they always would be. Their abiding presence was my only experience. When mother died, I did feel orphaned, or at least abandoned.

Now I have no one around who knew me the way they knew me. My older siblings knew me from when I was a baby – but they were children then, too. They weren’t the ones who watched me grow – they were growing as well!

Are We Orphans?

I realized the other day that there is someone else who was with us when we were born, watched us grow up, knows us better than we know ourselves, has always been available to us, is available to us even now. He has a quality our parents could not have. He will always be there – not just because He wants to be, but because He can be.

We have a Heavenly Father, to whom we can talk any time, night or day – who was, is, and will be with us yesterday, today, and tomorrow. He has promised to be our Father. He has all the qualities of a caring parent, and more.

He provides for us. “Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?” (Matthew 6:26)

He is always ready to hear from us. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Philippians 4:6

He is our Eternal Father, always there through the Son. “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders. And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6

He will always welcome us back, even when we fail him. “And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his slaves, ‘Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’ And they began to celebrate.” Luke 15:21-24

He loves us unconditionally. “I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.” John 17:23 “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

Because He’s Eternal

He can forgive our sins. “…giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light. For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” Colossians 1:12-14

He can provide us with all spiritual blessings. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.” Ephesians 1:3

In the absence of our parents on earth, it’s now up to us to continue to build a relationship with our Heavenly Father through prayer, through acknowledging our total dependence on Him, through faith in His Son, and through studying His written Word to discover how to live a better life here and to bless our children with an eternal legacy.

“Show us the Father”

It wasn’t enough that Philip had been chosen by Jesus to walk with him during his ministry, witness his miracles, watch him heal and care and serve. Philip wanted to see God the Father for himself.

Jesus had just told his disciples that he would soon have to leave them to go back to his Father. He was going ahead to prepare rooms for them in his Father’s house. He told them there was only one way to that house — Jesus himself.

“No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

Then Philip makes a request: “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.”

You can almost hear the frustration in Jesus’ voice in his reply,

“Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” (John 14:8, 9)

Philip was like so many of us at times — we would really like to see God for ourselves — up close. We want him to show himself. But God has shown himself — in the person of His only Son. If we want to see the Father in the flesh, all we have to do is open our Bibles to the first four books of the New Testament.

There you see God’s compassion as he heals the sick, gathers the children to him and mourns for the city that will soon crucify him. You see his power as he calms a raging storm, opens the eyes of the blind and raises a young girl from her deathbed. You see his wisdom as he instructs the simple and confounds the scholar. You see him face temptation without sin, cruelty without revenge and rejection without depression.

You see him wrongfully accused, humiliated, tortured, and crucified. You see him rise from the dead and ascend back to heaven.

You realize you have seen God in the flesh.

And that is sufficient.