Holy Spirit, Trail Guide

We are really going to need our Trail Guide in 2019.

Esther's Petition

TrailGuideWho are you, Lord?I asked again recently, recalling other times I’d asked him that.

Trail guide, he answered. The Holy Spirit is your trail guide for the journey you’re taking.

Over the next few days, I thought about that. Now and then I asked him why he used that particular title – I don’t find it in the Bible anywhere, I said. At least, not in those words.

Here’s how our back-and-forth conversation and my meditations went, more or less.

About the trail…

A trail is not a paved road. It doesn’t lead through cities or towns. If you’re taking a trail, it’s because you’re not going through civilized country. It may meander, lead uphill sometimes and downhill sometimes.

A trail is for travel. It makes traveling easier through woods or wilderness. It doesn’t destroy the woods or wilderness, only disturbing them a little. More than a rough path…

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Why a baby?

christ_childWhy did the Creator of the universe choose to become a baby?

“… who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be a grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. ” (Phil. 2:6-7 NASB)

“For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. ” (Heb. 4:15)

Babies can’t sin, I’ve heard people say. Surely they aren’t tempted like adults are – after all, they don’t even reach the age of accountability until 12 or so!

Have they ever been around little kids? Toddler tantrums? Terrible twos? Self-willed children? Full of selfishness, greediness, me-me-me-itis? Did you ever tell a little child No, No, over, and over, and over?

As young as they are, and as trusting of mom and dad that they are, children are indeed tempted to disobey. Determined to get that thing, do that thing, apt to stomp their foot, yell and break into angry tears when told No for the umpteenth time.

While those early behaviors may not qualify to some folks as sinful, they still need correcting. Training. Discipline. Guiding. Teaching. Lovingly, lovingly, firmly and consistently.

Children can be led astray. They are susceptible to being misled, mistreated, deceived, cheated, and abused. Susceptible to being lied to, and also lying to others.

They need to know the savior, the rescuer, the teacher, the guide and constant companion from an early age.They need to be taught right from wrong and how to tell the difference. They need to learn the word of God, and know the Word of God.

Children need to know that Jesus went through childhood himself with all its scrapes and bumps, all its hazards, and he knows what that’s like. And so he came as a baby.

Jesus loves children. When the disciples wanted to shoo the kids away, Jesus rebuked the disciples, not the children.

“Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. ” (Matt. 18:3)  “Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matt. 19:14)

Was it because the children were so innocent? So charming, so sweet, so trusting, so loving – so innocent? Hmmm. Maybe. Maybe there’s more to it.

Children are curious. They are always attracted to something “new and shiny,” something different and fun. They are full of energy, running, climbing, investigating everything. Wanting to do it themselves. “Me do it! Me do it!” Wanting to have it for themselves, no matter who it may belong to.

So, why did Jesus come to earth as a baby, and not a full grown man? In order to be tempted in all points as we are, he had to.

(Originally published on 12-22-15.)

 

Who doesn’t like Christmas?

This is a re-post from November 2010… still appropriate for many people, I think.

That rhetorical question from a movie blurb has played over and over in the last week – Christmas movies have arrived on cable TV. But it’s not rhetorical for me. The answer is, “Me.”

Christmas used to be a happy time of year, before the 1968 one where my severely depressed mother took an overdose of pills and washed it down with vodka. I found her unconscious in her bed, after she didn’t show up for work one morning.

The family took turns Christmas day sitting with her at the hospital, then after she was stabilized, my husband and I drove her to MUSC. Still clad in a hospital gown and robe with thin foam slippers on her feet, she huddled up in a hospital “blanket” (folded bedspread) on what seemed to be the coldest day of the year. Transfer by ambulance was unavailable, and our driving her to be admitted was the only other solution.

Our car wasn’t up to the trip so we had borrowed an uncle’s VW beetle – and soon discovered the heater was broken. It’s a miracle we didn’t all have pneumonia by the time we got there.

There have been several other really bad Christmases since then, including the one 10 days after Tim died in 2006.

Yes, I know it’s the time to celebrate our Savior’s birth. I know it’s the time to sing Joy to the World. Knowing that and feeling that are two different things.

So some years I just don’t pull out the decorations, don’t watch the holiday movies, don’t send Christmas cards. It’s not that I don’t think that’s appropriate, because I do. Some years I actually do all of that.

But right now I’m thinking about other people who don’t consider it a rhetorical question, either. I pray for others like me, struggling against memories of a much less than joyful holiday season.

I pray that the reason for the season – the baby Jesus, crucified Savior and risen Christ – will flood all our hearts and minds, overcoming those bad memories this year.

Class Notes – weeks 1 through 18 uploaded

To access any of these notes, click on the page (above) Principles of Intercession Class Notes: Introduction, and a drop-down menu will appear.

These notes appear in the order in which they were presented and discussed in class. No subject titles are listed for individual weeks, and frequently our discussion of a particular topic took up several classes.

Class Notes 11: Summary will give you an idea of what information was being covered for weeks 1 through 10. A lengthy Expanded version of the Summary is also available.

Questions and/or comments are welcome.

Principles of Intercession: A new section added

Beginning in the Fall of 2016, I began teaching an adult Sunday School class, Principles of Intercessory Prayer (intercession).

I have begun uploading my notes from those classes to this blog.

If you decide to read or study using these notes, please take the time to read the many Bible passages that are mentioned. Topics covered in the study include:

  • Definitions of intercession and prayer; not the same thing
  • Why pray? Prayer is God’s idea, his command
  • Authority of the believer in prayer
  • Knowing and praying the will of God
  • God’s faith needed to pray in faith
  • Hindrances to answers: doubt, unbelief, sin
  • Power of your words, before, during and after prayer
  • Gifts and work of the Holy Spirit
  • Intercessors of the Bible
  • History of revival – Great Awakenings / Outpouring of the Holy Spirit

Over the last 40 plus years I have collected, read and studied many books on prayer and intercession. At some point I may try to list those as an addendum. Many of the thoughts, ideas and principles contained in my notes have been prayerfully assimilated over the years from quite a few of those authors. Thus they may seem familiar to you.

One book that I purchased in bulk and gave away to class members and others is “Authority in Prayer, Praying with Power and Purpose” by Dutch Sheets (published 2006). I highly recommend it to anyone serious about participating in intercessory prayer.

 

Distractions: weapons against you

Still appropriate; the distractions are getting worse for many people these days.

Esther's Petition

“We are not ignorant of the devil’s devices.” (2 Corinthians 2:11)

Or are we?

When you’re distracted, your attention changes. Your focus  shifts. Suddenly you’re side tracked, off target.

This doesn’t just mean an annoyance; if you’re a soldier in a for-real war, a distraction can be fatal. Wounded or dead, distractions prevent your objectives from being accomplished.

Enemies use distractions like slick magicians, but the result isn’t just a laugh or two, the result is death. Think suicide bombers dressed like pregnant women. Think Trojan War. Distraction is a well-known, well-used warfare strategy. (See below.) How is it that the church at large isn’t recognizing that fact?

If he can’t kill you outright, the devil will try to nullify your faith, thus your effectiveness. An attractive con man, Satan can be an enemy spy in the camp (i.e. the church, or in the mind of an individual). He’s pretty…

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What is it about shepherds

Esther's Petition

Photo by Sara Branstetter, April 2008. Used with permission.An angel brought an unusual message to a group of shepherds in the night, somewhere near Bethlehem.  They were watching a flock of sheep who were bedded down in a field, not in a stable or sheep cote.  A little history lesson – sheep were allowed in cultivated fields twice a year, after the fields had been harvested and after the poor of the community had gleaned the fields.  Other times they were elsewhere, either in the hilly uncultivated countryside or in the caves that doubled as stables, where feed and water troughs carved from large stones could be seen (otherwise known as mangers).

In any case, these sheep were in the fields with the shepherds watching them.  One minute they were alone in the darkness, the next minute the night sky lit up with a blast of light.  One minute there were only sheep and shepherds, the next minute…

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