By now, there should be many posts about trails and adventures. Hunting season has come and gone and there are few trail reports to make. I did get a chance to go out for a weekend with some friends. They were the hunters and I tagged along. We went to a campground near Fish Lake outside of Wenatchee, WA. I remembered why I did not like camping at a campground. When the music was still playing at 12 midnight, I called the camp host on my cell phone and he came out with the Sheriff and quieted the place down. Wish I had called sooner.
I saw some beautiful country. We were looking for deer, but the deer did not want to be seen. Attached are a few of the photos from the trip.
The beauty of the mountain range in the Cascades.
Enough tracks for track soup. A little dry.
Someone was watching over us. Mr. Buzzard kept his vigil.
Down this trail have walked countless deer, but none when we were here.
The deer did not keep their appointment with destiny, and it would turn out to be my only trip out this season.
I had hoped to have many trail experiences posted this summer. But such was not to be. Things will change now in a few days. I have accepted a teaching position at Grace Academy in Marysville. I will be teaching three sections of Bible. 9th grade will look at the doctrine of Scripture and Interpretation. 10th grade will study doctrine. 11th grade will study the doctrine of the church and missions.
So, the trail I have been pursuing this summer has been the treadmill. Margaret and I have membership at the local 24 Hour Fitness club. That is a misnomer, because very few of the members could be defined by the word "fitness" unless it was in the sentence, "Most members of our club have little experience with fitness."
So we go there in the morning about 6:45 and leave at 8 for a good hour plus workout. As part of my routine, I spend 10 - 12 minutes on the treadmill. Three of those minutes are running and the rest on a high pitched incline.
Some observations I have made on the treadmill. 1) I am in control of my speed, intensity and time. That is quite different from other trails I have been on. There the course is set before me, the time depends on my ability and the intensity depends on my effort. 2) The scenery could be improved. In our club, there are TV's in front of us to help while away the time. I have read of some clubs that project a trail scene in front of the treadmill to keep customers occupied. Some of our patrons read while they walk - I have tried it, but need glasses and don't like to wear the glasses while I sweat. 3) The mental time is stimulating. This is a great time to reflect, recite verses and pray. Margaret hooks up to a portable cd player and listens to books and music while she does her work. 4) When you get off the machine, you are still at the same place you started - lots of energy invested, but not much progress made. The exercise thing is to be cultivated as a regular habit. It is a good feeling to get the heart rate up to a high level for a period of time in order to keep fit and energized. 5) There is a big payoff in the future for me if I maintain consistency with my physical exercise now. I have already seen great improvement in my posture, my back strength, by endurance and my weight.
So, the trails can be grand and glorious in God's great creation, or continuous belts on electric machines in stuffy gyms. The key is: are you walking, and if so, how is that walk going . . . phycially, spiritually and personally? (No photos on this one because cameras are not allowed in the gym.)
Fireweed. One of my favorites along the trail. Blooms reddish pink in early summer. Develops a series of reddish pods through the summer and then fuzzy white seeds in late summer and fall. When the flowers are in bloom, a field of them will look like it is on fire. In the fall, when the seeds are flying in the breeze, a field of fireweed will look like it is smoking. Quite a great plant and beauty from our Creator.
Peter talks about fire. Not the brimstone of judgment, but the welcome fire of trials that purify the believer. I Peter 4:12Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.
1:7 7so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
The imagery that Peter uses opens our eyes to the trials of life. The word is a word that signifies the trial of man's fidelity, integrity, virtue, constancy. This integrity, this fidelity is put to the test by that which is called “firey.”
When the smelter worked metal and wanted it pure, he would bring up the temperature in the furnace to the point where the metal was liquefied. At that temperature, the pure metal was consolidated and any dross or slag was removed. The remaining metal was more pure after the fire than it was prior to it.
When Peter welds these two words together, he produces a concept that ignites our imagination. The tests of life, designed by God, are intended to display purity and fidelity that are only His work. In ourselves, there is only dross and slag. In His fruit-producing life in us, there is only purity and goodness.
Some examples of firey trials:
Financial problems can force me to take my eyes off of my self-reliance and to return them to the Lord who has promised to meet all of my needs according to His riches in His time.
Health problems can force me to depend on God for daily strength rather than on myself and my body for daily strength.
Terminal illness can cause me to consider that there is an eternity I am about to face and that I had better get ready for what comes after while there is still time.
Take the trial you are going through. Look for the purifying fire in it. There is some there, for God has described the testing, the purifying, the purging as a welcome time of fire.
If you see some fireweed along the trail, remember God is purifying your life.
Two people whom I know are having an online discussion regarding sanctification. One (Chris Anderson) is proposing what some Puritan authors of old have taught regarding sanctification: fill one's being with the glories of Christ and there will be little room for sin. The other, (Don Johnson) is saying that such an approach borders on mysticism and is not taking into account the struggle against sin that demands the employment of the human will. (I hope I have summarized this correctly).
This text is one of the quotes debated: "So the path forward is not to decrease one’s affections but rather to enlarge them and fill them with ‘heavenly things.’ Here one is not trying to escape the painful realities of this life but rather endeavoring to reframe one’s perspective of life around a much larger canvas that encompasses all of reality. To respond to the distorting nature of sin you must set your affections on the beauty and glory of God, the loveliness of Christ, and the wonder of the gospel: ‘Were our affections filled, taken up, and possessed with these things . . . what access could sin, with its painted pleasures, with its sugared poisons, with its envenomed baits, have unto our souls? Resisting sin, according to this Puritan divine, comes not by deadening your affections but by awakening them to God himself. Do not seek to empty your cup as a way to avoid sin, but rather seek to fill it up with the Spirit of life, so there is no longer room for sin.’ " Find this quote here under the August 1 post.
This discussion interests me because I taught and preached on this topic a while back. I am including a summary of some of the points taught.
"The thoughts and desires that are at the very center of your life are the things that are important to you. They represent your values and commitments. Things you are willing to die for. Your faith in Christ is found here as the single most important thing in your life. The Bible says, “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life" (Proverbs 4:24), so it is that which is in the very center of life affects the way you think. Your thoughts affect the way you choose and your choices dictate your behavior. Therefore, in order to change your behavior, God must change your heart. There is only one way that your heart can be changed. The things you hold dear in your heart, your inner man, are the things that affect your values and thinking. Proverbs 27:3 says that “As he thinks in his heart, so is he.” Your desires and affections affect your thinking. That is why Paul warns believers to be transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2) rather than to be conformed to the world. Since we have a new nature, our thinking is brought to change. When your thinking changes, then your choices are affected. “I delight to do Your will, O my God, and Your law is within my heart.” (Psalm 40:8) The delight in the will of God comes because your heart and mind are influenced by the Word of God. The final element that changes in life based on what is in the heart are the actions. The deeds others see are not just reactions to the circumstances of life. They are responses made to the deep things that you have placed in your life over the years in the form of values, decisions and desires. There are some practical applications to this illustration. 1) If we simply focus on a person’s actions in order to build change, we may obtain the change, but the heart has not been reached. Lasting change and growth occur when the heart is changed. 2) If we seek to reach the heart of a person, we must take time to develop the kind of relationship that can search the deep things of the heart. 3) When making decisions that seem automatic in your life, they will be based on the years of wisdom or foolishness stored up in your heart. You will respond based on the way you have trained yourself to respond. Therefore, it is necessary that you take time to be careful how you are going to live, how you are going to think and how you are going to choose.
Here is how this is made practical for me. The struggle for sanctification is a warfare. Ephesians 6 is clear about that. Filling my mind with spiritual things, with the excellencies of Christ does crowd out sin.
If I am tempted to have wicked thoughts and vain imaginations, I quote II Corinthians 10:3-5 several times in my mind until the thoughts diminish. Then I fill my mind with the excellencies of Christ by quoting verses that deal with my subject matter so that my mind is renewed. If I am angry and having angry thoughts, I will quote and meditate on the fact that the "anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God (James 1). If I am fighting lust, I will quote Philippians 4:8 and will deliberately bring into my mind things that are good and pure to replace the temptation to think on impurity. If I am struggling with jealousy, I will confess it as sin and work hard to think thoughts of honor regarding the person I am jealous toward. All of this is empowered by the Holy Spirit who is bringing me to perfection in Christ (Colossians 1:28)
When I take trips into the mountains (Don prefers the prairies and God created both) I fill my eyes with the beauty of creation, I fill my mind with praise toward God for what He has done, I meditate on the many benefits He has given me beyond what I can see (see Ephesians 1 for this) I fill my voice with song and give verbal praise and worship to God. All of this activity crowds out sin in my life for the time that I am exercising my will to worship and adore. Now, I will have to fight sin a few minutes later perhaps, when unexpected temptations arise in my mind, but I Corinthians 10:13 comes to play here and I quote it repeatedly and use it as the sword it is intended to be in my fight against sin.
I do not believe that any of this is defined by the word "mysticism." It is practical Christianity that puts into practice what believers have been teaching throughout the centuries. The battle is in the mind (Rom 12:2) and it requires a fully dedicated body (all parts of man - Rom 12:1) to win the battle in league with the omnipotent Holy Spirit, our Comforter.
These are my thoughts from the trail: the trail of sanctification.
Reading the other day a familiar passage in a new translation (ESV) and came across this section in Romans chapter 12: 9Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
I found out that the word "Outdo" has a definition of: to go before and show the way, to go before and lead, to go before as a leader. Our English use of the word suggests a competitive spirit. The New Testament use of the word presents to us the idea that in showing honor (value) for another, we must each take the lead.
Most of us enjoy it when a person is honored for an achievement that is earned. We congratulate the graduate for his academic achievement. We applaud the sports hero for feats of athletic excellence. We celebrate a birthday with enthusiasm and delight.
Perhaps in showing honor, we should consider that while we enjoy it when we are honored or when someone honors another, it takes work to honor someone. I believe Paul is exhorting believers to work hard at declaring how valuable each other is. Look at the paragraph in which this exhortation is found. It is full of imperatives that direct us to avtively involve ourselves in the lives of others. Paul lived in a day in which believers were persecuted for their faith. In that first century culture, if Christians did not look out for one another, no one else would. Not much has changed from that day until now. The nature of our society demands that believers work hard at taking the lead in honoring one another.
1. Take the lead in honoring a pastor, teacher or other Christian worker. Most of these people do not receive recognition for the value they provide to your life. Consider what your life would be like without their input, their care or their sacrifice. Determine how that person understands honor and take the lead in honoring. Some respond to public displays, some to private, some to personal. Some respond to gifts, some to cards and notes and some to shared experiences "let's go fishing", etc. In all of the activity though, be sure to include at least a paragraph of description that outlines the value you place on that person's life.
2. Take the lead in honoring a child. I have tried to make it a point to take my children out for breakfast on their birthday, if they are anywhere near. During that time I try to make it clear that they are people of value and that I consider them honorable.
3. Take the lead in honoring a spouse. Most of us enjoy it when our spouse honors us. Take practical steps to honor, show value, display worth. Recently I was amazed at how honored my wife felt when I took it upon myself to do some things for her that she needed to have done for a while. Checking those things off of the to-do list made her feel that I was paying attention to her and seeking to show her value by investing my time and skill in doing something she could not do for herself.
4. As a practical extension, believers must be people who are always looking for people to honor. According to Paul's exhortation, we should become a people who are taking the lead in our church, our community, our neighborhood, our school, our Scout troop and our nation in showing honor to those to whom honor is due.
Remember that when Paul declared the necessity of showing honor to the king in Romans 13, this would turn out to be the king that would eventually take his life. In that case, Paul would have refered to the honor that the king displayed as being the one whom God had placed in control in order to accomplish for God what only he could do.
Such a perspective will change our homes, our churches, our schools and all relationships when applied. Take the lead in showing honor.
Took in another great trail on July 3, 2007 to Serene Lake. Sign says 3.5 miles to lake. We added a mile hiking to Bridalveil Falls - a trip well worth the steps - so a total of 8 miles for the day. About 3.5 hours to the lake, with plenty of stops and pictures at the falls (4.5 miles to the lake via the falls for those who think we hike at the speed of slugs) and about 2 hours back.
This time Jonathan was with me. Found out that he is able to provide running commentary either in song or random thoughts as we hiked. A welcome change from hiking with just my own thoughts. He was also a great help in clearing the trail.
The hike started out easy on an old logging road abandoned years ago. This took us up to the falls area. After that the switchbacks began and we gained most of our 2000' elevation gain for the trip.
Lots of berries along the way. The salmon berry is ripe now. Raspberries and blackberries will wait until later.
Bridalveil falls was in great form. Still lots of snow melt coming out of the lake.
Lots of steps built into the hillside on the trail. Over 600 of these steps. Great for the calves. I was wondering as I hiked the step section from the falls on, who it was that was the first man up here and why did he come? Also, I was hoping that they were able to get the materials in by heli, or someone would have a lot of packing to do.
This lake is in a bowl. It is what remains of a volcano after it blew its top many years ago. I do not know if God created this volcano with apparant age and put the lake there on the day of creation or if he allowed it to be formed when the mountain blew its top some time since. There are many of these lakes in the Cascade mountains. And they are beautiful.
Great views along the way of the Cascade Mountains.
What is it about the hike? The conquest of the trail? The attaining of a goal? The exertion and challenge of something we do not normally do? The solitude - with God and without the normal distractions. The opportunity to be physically challenged, spiritually recharged and personally driven. Driven to accomplish, to explore, to go beyond personal limits. And to see the handiwork of God in creation. The fingers of the mountain ranges are like the frosting on meringue, where God lifted his palate knife and left ridges with jagged tops.
The trail is a great place to contemplate the Sovereignty of God and the finite nature of man. Get on a high ridge and look down on dwellings, cars, roads, bridges and all of the works of man and see that from just the top of the ridge they all look so small and insignificant. Psalm 19:1 The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Job 11:7Can you find out the deep things of God? Can you find out the limit of the Almighty?
Psalm 104 31May the glory of the LORD endure forever; may the LORD rejoice in his works, 32who looks on the earth and it trembles, who touches the mountains and they smoke! 33I will sing to the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have being. 34May my meditation be pleasing to him, for I rejoice in the LORD.
These are the thoughts that go along with us on the trail. Oh yes, there are many other thoughts running through the mind also, but it is a special time of worship, confession, prayer, planning . . . kind of like taking a walk with God in the garden. I remember something about a man who did that a long time ago - only he did not have any confession issues to discuss with God - and he did not have the thorns and briars we fuss with. Of course, he did not live in the state of Washington either. But when Adam sinned, the change in his relationship with God must have been his greatest loss. That friend with whom he fellowshipped daily was gone. By the power of the hew birth and the indwelling Spirit of God, the relentless pursuer of our souls, we are able to recapture a small bit of that intimacy. One day we will have fellowship like we never knew it on earth.
Come back for another chapter in the hikes of the summer of 2007, i.e. worship experiences.
Thinking of a name for this blog, I chose the title "MYTRAILTHOUGHTS" I am planning to spend a significant amount of time this summer on the trail - literally - walking and thinking through important issues. I am also on a personal trail, an adventure really, of waiting on the Lord, keeping busy with His revealed will, and seeking His direction for life and ministry - so there is a trail there too, although one that I will have to walk with few others.
One of my first trails this year was a hike to Shaw Lake. I came across the existence of this lake last fall during hunting season when I talked with several people who had been there and back. The trail is really an old logging road that has been removed from road use and turned into foot and bike traffic only. Entrance is through a gate that has been erected to keep out motorcycles and cars. However, motorcycle riders have made a trail around the gate and use the roadway frequently.
After half a mile, the road heads uphill for the rest of the 3.5 miles to the lake. Some of the land has been clear cut of logs and replanted with new fir trees. Some of the land is second growth timber - land that was cut about 50 years ago, replanted and now has fir trees that are about 100' tall. Some of the land is covered with old growth timber - forest that has never been cut. All of this land is well managed and one day will be cut again when the trees mature.
When the timber company was done with the most recent harvest, they cut ditches across the road every 50 to 100 yards. Some are 2-3 feet deep and others are 6-8 feet deep. These ditches allow rain and snow melt to head downhill. The rock roadbed is still in place and useable in the future, after the ditches are filled in. In the meantime, foot traffic, and the few motorcycles brought in are the main travelers.
As the road switches back and forth across the face of the mountain, a new perspective of the surrounding land is seen. With each 100 feet in elevation gain, the horizon expands and the view keeps on getting better. The patchwork view of the land shows evidence of the result of long term timber harvest and land management.
I need to stop and rest a few times along the way. I cut a walking stick for myself and use it the rest of the trip. Soon, I pass through a stand of maturing fir trees and hear a drumming sound. It is a male grouse, strutting his stuff and trying to impress his future wife. Another male sounds off, seeking to claim his bride. This is a great sound; one not heard back in the city.
After a couple of hours, I reach the top of the ridge. There I come across a swampy pond area. Lots of visible beaver activity. Many trees have been gnawed on and some have fallen into the water. After a while, I see a beaver ever so briefly as he quickly dives beneath the water.
I continue on to the lake and am pleased to find a beautiful spot. Quiet, peaceful, and filled with small black flies that like to bite. After a few rocks skipped on the surface of the glassy lake and after a few pictures, I tire of swatting the flies and start on the move again. It seems like they stay away when walking but swarm to the victim when I stop.
This has been a great day for reflection. Prayer over needs, people and situations abounds. A time of praising the Lord in song is also a great way to spend the day.
On the way back, the trail is downhill all the way - something that my knees tell me with each step is not a good thing. I am glad for the walking stick I chose at the beginning of the trip.
Lesson: the downhill would seem to be easier. But when the uphill struggle is removed, the downhill "coasting" has its own set of stresses and strains. Do not complain about the uphill struggles of life. The downhill times can be even rougher.