Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Holy GPS! Part I

     Last time, I told you of a prayer walk at a retreat in the mountains that turned into a Faith Hike.  The whole time I was out there in that forest, I was thinking how this was an enormous lesson from the Lord.  I kept saying to myself, "What is the Lord trying to teach me in all of this?"  Here is what I gleaned--I will never forget my time in that forest.  My prayer is that I never forget what He taught me.
     No map, no compass, no GPS. Up in those mountains, I became a true modern, post-Christian person, making my way through the forest of this age. “Make your own trail” sounds so alluring, so appealing to our “Yeah, I’m an individual” kind of mentality. I go where I want, do what I want, say what I want and at the end of the day, It’s All About Me. Who needs a map, anyway?   It was exhilarating to be up in the forest, following paths and yet being so free.
     But over time, with the trails destroyed by new logging roads, me with no water, and a sense that I was getting lost, that "Hey, I'm free" was slowing being eclipsed by "Hey, I am lost, I think."  Exhilaration was giving way to fear.
     Isn't that the way it is today?  In our exhilaration of tossing out all the old notions of morality, and saying, "We are free from such unenlightened thinking!" we are equally experiencing niggling doubts about this all working out.  People have a deep sense that all is not well these days; the solutions range from more government to no government; hide out in the hills or take to the streets; care for the planet or care for yourself. 
     These ideas work for a while.  My hike was "working" for a while.  I was moving.  I saw the trails.  It wasn't dark yet.  I hadn't seen any wild animals or sketchy people.  Yet, somehow, what should have been a walk under an hour had now turned into almost two hours.  I saw houses I hadn't not seen when I started; I saw a lake I didn't even know existed and I was increasingly aware that my walk was no longer pleasurable. 
     For centuries, Christians have seen the Bible as a divinely inspired guide to navigating through life. It tells of sin, our need for salvation and how Jesus Christ came and died to set us free. It tells of how His resurrection power enables us to live the life we are called to live; it states emphatically that we cannot do it on our own. It tells of God’s faithfulness to His people, and to us.
    Yet, today the Bible is denigrated by believers and non-believers alike.  Its prohibitions seem to antiquated and hostile to modern life and modern thinking.  
    We are now running into things that were inconceivable twenty years ago:  Gay marriage is now legal.  Polygamy is seeking the same recognition.  Many couples are seeking to legitimize incest.  The family is now a fluid unit, with moms and dads coming and going.  Younger and younger people--children--are having sex, viewing pornography and trying to make sense of it all.  Kids are killing adults, and kids are killing kids.  Suicide rates among the young are staggering. 
    As a culture, we may, in an off moment, wonder, "Wow, we didn't see that coming."  No, we didn't.  Why?  Because we are not consulting the Road Map.
    But isn't that Road Map a hindrance to people's self-esteem?  Let me give you an historical example.  Britain, in the 18th century, wanted to send its criminals to the colonies in America.  They argued that the new climate and new surroundings would reform them.  Ben Franklin shot back a suggestion to the British government:  Fine, you do that.  We will send to you , in exchange, our rattlesnakes.  Put them in Hyde Park and see how well they reform there.  
    My point?  A rattlesnake is a rattlesnake.  D'uh.  But what if you don't know that?  What if you have never encountered one and think that rattling sound is an invitation to pet it?  How do you learn what a rattlesnake is?  You find a authoritative source and identify it with pictures and descriptions.  Now, you know.
     What if those reptiles books are seen as discriminatory to younger readers, who need to embrace the planet's creatures equally?  A shark is as valuable as a zebra; a rattlesnake is as beautiful as a butterfly. 
     We teach and warn our children based on knowledge that guides us to live discerningly in this world. 
     So, if the Bible is viewed as an impediment to modern living, how do we discern right from wrong?  Even the idea itself of "right and wrong" is up for grabs if we do not have a standard whereby to make that judgment.  The Bible identifies what a "rattlesnake" is:  sin.  Sin may blend in well with the modern environment but woe unto you if you get too close.  Its "venom" will course throughout your system and paralyze you, rendering you unable to react to the changes going on around you.
     Children today have no real basis for living.  They are an accident of evolution; they really don't matter in such a huge universe; the planet they are on takes precedence over them; families are collapsible structures, meant to house what only works for the adults in their lives. 
     Yes, the modern person may say, children are free to be who they are.  Sounds lovely, doesn't it?  To an adult, maybe.  But can you hear those kids asking, What does my life mean?  What is my purpose?  Why am I even here? 
     The forest was lovely at first as I was walking.  But over time, it took on a darker hue. 
     Our society has taken on a darker hue.  We have 9/11.  The Boston Marathon.  Columbine.  Sandy Hook.  The list now goes on and on.  Self rules the day.  No other standard except, Hey, that makes me happy!  
     Look at the world we are  handing off to our children.  We pursue the self, not the Spirit.
     I had to rely completely on the Holy Spirit to guide me in that forest.  His words echoed what the Bible says about not fearing but trusting God; that He will never leave nor forsake you, and He will guide you in all your ways, just cling to Him.  Those promises, brought to my mind from the Lord, guided me and sustained me. 
     The Spirit's guidance brought me to a door.  That door, opened up by that sweet couple, got me home.  Jesus is our Door, and He will lead us home.  He gave us His word and His Spirit to be our holy GPS. 
     It is to our peril if we as individuals and as a culture ignore the Map.


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