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prov·o·ca·tion - something that provokes, arouses, or stimulates. pant - to long eagerly; yearn. a collection of thoughts intended to provoke and inspire. these posts are hoping to encourage people to think, especially Christians, and pant even harder for the waterbrooks of the Lord. If you are not a believer in Christ Jesus, I welcome your perspective and encourage your investigation on these matters.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

One Step Behind

I thought I’d share with you some lessons/thoughts I learned/had while backpackin’ in North Carolina. If you are looking to find something fascinatingly deep or theologically profound or intellectually stimulating, you more than likely will not find that here. What I think and learn is nothing new. Yes, I guess you can consider me a mockingbird (Derek Webb), for so I am. If ever I were to present an idea new or unheard of, consider me a megalomaniac whose self-deception and aggrandizement has rendered my thoughts superstitious, absent from reality, and devoid of history. So this mockingbird sings a song you probably have heard, so sing along if you are a mockingbird . . . “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.” 1 Peter 2:21 Because Dan and I made it a priority to catch the sunset on a summit each night, our final hikes were often done with almost no light. Some of the time we had no light whatsoever, and other times we remembered to bring our headlamps. After spending two hours atop Black Balsam Knob, we descended the mountain and made a two-mile hike with all our gear to our Flat Laurel’s Creek campsite in pitch darkness (around 10:00 p.m.). Fortunately, we remembered to use our headlamps which were greatly needed, since we were hiking in and around a creek with slippery terrain, mud, and marsh. Dan often led the way (probably because of my debilitating physical state), and I followed close behind. The path, although directed by the creek, was quite narrow, and the howling wind and freezing temperatures made the hike quite fun. During the daytime, we would often be distanced by several hundred yards or further. The path was easy to see, and it was not hard finding the safest footing. However, in the dark night, everything was just the opposite. During the hike, I would walk literally one step behind Dan. Wherever he placed his foot is where I placed mine. When he jumped across a muddy hole, I leaped as well, not being able to see anything by the light directly in front of me. The goal of my hiking was to keep pace with Dan and simply tread the ground he tread and kept in step with his lead. By doing so, I was able to safely arrive at the campsite have either gotten lost or injured from a fall. It was midstream through the hike that I had a fresh understanding of what it means to follow Christ. He had not left us without a path to follow, without directions, or without a map. More importantly, he was not left us without a One to lead us, a true Trailblazer, a One who has intimate knowledge of the trail and all the dangerous places to avoid. All this is a gift from God. He could very well have left us with revelation, without direction, without exemplification and would have been just, but out of his gracious purposes he fully revealed himself in the person who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. It is his light that illuminates the way and his steps that I must follow. But how often I have been distanced and in the darkness aimlessly and despairingly lost without guidance, groping for the light of day! The goal of following Christ is to be one step behind, for how can we walk in his steps lest we are close enough to him to see where he is leading? The consequences of not following Christ closely is that we are apt to go our own direction. We think that there might be an easier way, a short cut of sorts, only to inevitably find ourselves at a dead end. Sometimes we expect to have enough light to know what lies ahead, yet we are given only the light below our feet. Maybe in providence, we are not to know the future lest we miss the blessings of today. The next step awaits, and it is our preeminent concern to trust our Guide and let him lead the way. “Let your eyes look directly forward, and your gaze be straight before you. Ponder the path of your feet; Then all your ways will be sure. Do not swerve to the right or the left; Turn your foot away from evil.” Proverbs 4:25-27 In following Christ, we first are called to intimacy. To fail to be one with Christ and abide in Him will result in inestimable consequences, not the least of which is self-deception. He has given us a pattern to follow, a path to walk, and a pursuit to focus our lives. See Jesus blazing the path to the different towns and villages (Mark 1:38). Look for him on the unbeaten path to Samaria (John 4:4). If you look closely, you might find him on the road between Jerusalem and Jericho (Luke 10:30-35). And finally, behold him on the Via Delarosa and see him step-by-step fulfilling the purpose which he came for the pleasure of the Father. There will be times that the path is especially dark, and it is then when we will need to be especially close to Jesus! There will be treacherous paths which many have faltered and fallen, and it is then that we must tread the sure ground of our faithful and reliable Guide. There will be paths that are difficult and where we must go alone, and it is then we must remember that he “is with us always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). And one thing is for sure, the path is narrow, hard, and unpopular. Where the well-worn ground of crowds, compromise, and capitulation attempt to allure us to yield to comfort and ease, let us consider Him, who for the joy set before Him, endured the cross (Hebrews 12:2) and not deviate from the way of the cross. Rather, let his word be a “lamp unto your feet, and a light unto your path” (Psalm 119:105). The Christian life according to Jesus is not characterized by a masquerade or labyrinth, but a blood-stained path of sweet sacrifice and solemn suffering. If we fail to be one step behind, we will be led astray by divergent paths and trivial pursuits whose end is destruction (Philippians 3:19). May it never be that we be lovers of Jesus and enemies of his cross! May it never be that we extol the life and sacrifice of Jesus and be found in the cadence or syncopation of carnality! One step behind – that’s where I want to be. Lord, may it be that in this small, short trail of life that I see the goal is not so much to get to the end without falling, but to treasure every moment with you as my Guide – teaching me, leading me, carrying me, and loving me in sweet communion and unending conversation. “Make me to know your ways, O LORD; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation for you I wait all the day long.” Psalm 25:4-5


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