Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Ancient Paths

Old trails and paths in the wilds have always been intriguing and beckon me to follow them. This sometimes leads me off course from my original intentions and has lead to a few nasty inhospitable places. Once in a while the path pulls me to a wonderland surrounded by ancient forests; a place I feel close to God as I admire his creation.

Guiding for brown bear one fall in Alaska, I came upon an old bear trail created by these large creatures over hundreds of years. The trail was about a foot wide and worn into the tundra four inches deep. The old path wasn’t just an ordinary trail as you could see the actual footprints of bears as they walked in each others prints through the years. It was a sight that I will never forget and I remember reaching down and running me hands over the worn footprints. This trail had been handed down from generation to generation by the great beasts as they traveled from a brushy lake bottom to this high pass between two mountain ranges. It was a road map of life for the bears.

As men, we often don’t have such a path of life to follow. Broken homes and fathers too busy working to pass on life lessons are taking a toll on men everywhere. If our own fathers didn’t take time to teach us important steps of life and share closeness, we may think God doesn’t care either. Men and boys desperately need a marked trail, not more rules, formulas, or another list of principles.

Even if you were fortunate like I was to have a father and grandfather to guide me on the trail, we still need guidance from our Heavenly Father to make it through life. God intended that in the Garden before Satan entered the scene and told the universal lie that God doesn’t care about us and he is holding back on us. God developed us for an intimate relationship. Jesus death on the cross opened us the opportunity to walk with God personally. Unfortunately, many churches want men to engage in another class or boring program that is about as exciting as going to the dentist. Men need challenged and engaged in real life situations in their community. Guys do best in small platoons or band of brothers because we are in a war and too many men become casualties without someone to guard their back. I’m blessed to have a great group of men to help me grow and fight the battles.

God is waiting to show all of us the ancient path that leads to a peace this world doesn’t know. I suggest men read some of John Eldredge’s books like Wild At Heart, Way of The Wild Heart, Fathered by God, and Epic. Read and study them with some other guys. Remember, it is important which path you take and where it goes.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Peace of Christmas

The Bible states that there will be wars and threats of wars but also speaks of peace numerous times. We certainly are aware of conflicts since our troops are involved in two wars in the Middle East and we have an undeclared war against drugs in Latin America. Then there is the hostile environment created by Iran and other Arab nations against Israel. We know how God will deal with that someday. The Bible is very clear that He will destroy all the nations that go against his chosen people. So, how do we find the peace of Christmas?

Jesus told his disciples about his death when He said, “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Just because we are Christians doesn’t mean our troubles go away. The old ones may but usually we encounter a whole new kind that Satan throws at us to discourage us from depending on God.

Isaiah chapter 9 says,” For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government shall be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government there shall be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.”

We can find total peace in this chapter if we truly believe in the baby born in a manager over two thousand years ago. It just takes having the faith of a child in our hearts. God made it simple for us to have a relationship with Him but we try to complicate it. The Peace of Christmas is only found in our hearts when we let Jesus in. My prayer this Christmas season is that you let Jesus take over your life. You will not be disappointed as you experience the Peace of Christmas forever.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Against All Odds

The cooing of mourning doves was a sweet sound that I grew up with in Iowa. They are a gentle bird that God designed to migrate since they are seed eaters. For the last few years, we have had up to sixty stay the winter. I try hard to get them to move south and don’t put feed out until it snows. This year five doves showed up as soon as the ground was white. I put out cracked corn and now we have over twenty hanging around everyday. These doves appear to be all males as they have a pink and purple hue on their necks and breast.

Without supplemental feeding many of the doves would perish due to starvation. They also face the perils of winged predators like hawks and owls so they still have many dangers. One year a pigmy owl about their size killed many of them. They soon get used to me and will wait in nearby trees for the corn to be placed in a few spots in the backyard. I am their sole source for survival; they are living the winter here against all odds.

Jesus Christ, the baby in the manager, King of Kings, God’s Son is our only source for survival; without Him we will perish. Why do people have such a hard time accepting that? God provided a way for us to spend eternity with Him through Jesus dying for us on the cross. He created us for a relationship yet people reject that offer and perish. Too many people think about the present life and not eternity. Where will you spend it?

The doves and I have a very limited relationship but God wants a real one with us. He pursues us all through the scriptures even when we don’t deserve it. Jesus said, “I stand at the door and knock.” Jesus’ whole time on earth was about seeking people’s hearts. He didn’t come to earth to start another religion; Jesus came to offer us peace and the opportunity for us to know Him personally. He was the sacrifice for all the sins of mankind.

Open up the Bible to Matthew and read about the Christmas story. God is offering an eternal Christmas present to you, don’t pass it up. To reject Jesus is to go against all odds.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Christmas Thoughts

Our house is decorated for Christmas with trees, lights, and garland announcing the birth of Christ. The grand daughters decorated our old artificial tree and they redecorate it every time they are here. We selected a white fir tree this year from the woods that Ardella has nicely adorned with many ornaments that we have had for years. Even my mounted caribou gets outfitted with garland and a Santa hat.

Commercialism has certainly taken over the true meaning of Christmas. The real meaning of this season is all about God’s love for us. He sent his only son to earth so we can have eternity with Him. Too many people do not believe that Jesus is the Christ, our savior. I suggest everyone should watch the Star of Bethlehem DVD which is about an hour long. If you can watch that and not believe in Christ and God’s love for you, then you are without hope.

The greatest gift you can receive is accepting Jesus as your savior and Lord. He wants a personal relationship with us everyday, not just on Sunday. If we let Him, He will transform our lives so His light shines through us to this dark world. You can accept Jesus anytime and anywhere; He waits at the door of your heart.

The most important thing to remember is His great love for you. Jesus is not a religion; He is a relationship because He lives. My prayer is for everyone to have a great Christmas, but don’t miss the real reason for the season.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Wise Old Bucks

The phrase, “With age comes wisdom” certainly applies to hunting old bucks. After hunting for nearly forty days and not seeing a buck, I’m reminded and humbled about what I don’t know concerning deer hunting. They outfoxed me at every turn. I still have a seven day archery season that starts Thursday so we will see how that goes. The weather is supposed to be very frigid and standing still with a bow for hours turns one into an ice cube. I have been so cold in the past that I could not pull the bow back.

My friend Jeff slid into a chair next to me on Wednesday men’s group and whispered, “We have to talk.” He later told me that he never got or even saw a buck and wondered what he had done wrong. I told him he should ask our friend Paul since he harvested a deer and I didn’t. Then I remembered poor Jeff had attended a deer hunting seminar I gave last year and somehow got the idea I was a whitetail expert. Boy did I fool him!

God programs a buck’s brain so when they get about three years old it is like their memory bank expands dramatically. They get very nocturnal, change their bedding sites often, and live in thick brush and timber. These bucks know every inch of their home range.

The Bible is very clear that all wisdom comes from God. It says with humility comes wisdom. God also told us that we should humble ourselves and pray and He will hear our requests. Proverbs says blessed is the man who finds wisdom. Wisdom is mentioned in the Bible with words like knowledge, joy, correction, hidden treasures, discipline, and understanding.

I have noticed that some men get old and some men get wise from age. My Grandpa Swartz lived 97 years and was one of the wisest men I have ever known. I don’t think he attended more than grade school so his wisdom was based on his belief in God and it served him well. Wouldn’t the world be better if we could all humble ourselves and ask God to impart some wisdom to each of us.