The Breath of God

entrance to old mine

Curiosity and zeal for adventure provoked a small band of teenagers to succumb to the urge to explore an old mine they knew about on the side of a large mountain. The mine had once been the center of much activity, but when the quantities of ore began to dwindle, so did interest in pursuing it any further. Many past reports had told how huge the mine had become over the years, having branched off into many tunnels that sprawled over several miles. This proved to be the lure that these young teenagers could not resist. Their plan was to get into the mine somehow, and then go only a short distance, just to see what it was like. Before they realized it, they ended up traveling further and further away from the main air shaft where they had so carefully come in.

After about three hours of climbing throughout vast stretches of the mine, the group encountered a junction where the tunnel they were hiking in forked into three more tunnels. They were wary of splitting up, unsure about what they might encounter ahead. So they finally decided to remain together and take the tunnel they thought might lead them back toward the entrance. By this time, they were getting hungry and growing tired from all of their exploring in such a huge place.

partially lit cave
unsplash-logoMatt Kochar

Step after step after step, they trudged on. They had started with one flashlight each, but now had only two left between all of them that still worked. One of the units had reached the dimmest point since they began, and they had already used up all their spare batteries. Then the other light was dropped accidentally when they almost fell off of a small cliff. Now the tunnel they were in seemed to wind on endlessly, with no exit in sight. After another hour of wandering, the lone flashlight finally quit shining, leaving them in utter darkness. All hope of escape began to fade away. Weary from all their wandering, one by one they slumped down onto the floor of the mine. One girl began to tremble and sob almost uncontrollably, succumbing to the fear that she would never to be found again and would die there. Two others tried to hold her and console her. The oldest boy began to question himself out loud, wondering why they had ever dared to go this far in the first place. Another boy began angrily throwing various sized stones and rubble at the walls and down the tunnel in frustration.

Then the girl who had been consoling the sobbing girl remembered something she had heard her grandfather once say. He had worked briefly as a coal miner decades before. In one of the many stories of his life, he mentioned that if he ever got lost in the mine, or if his light quit working, he knew that he should stop and remain very still. Then he would try to feel what direction the air was moving, since the air always moved upward toward the air shaft, and ultimately, the way out. Although the others were skeptical when they first heard this, one by one they began to just sit still and wait. They continued to wait and wait for some time in hopeful anticipation, not really knowing what to expect. Then one of them suddenly jumped onto his feet and shouted, “I felt it! I felt it!” Moments later another burst out, “Me, too! I felt it on the side of my face!” Then another and another said the same, until all of the teens had sensed the gentle waft of air.

They determined that the air was actually coming from the direction that they had thought would bring them to the way out. So they turned around and began to walk in the opposite direction, heading back where they had come from. Even though they had lost the main source of light, they were still able to slowly find their way, guided by the gentle glow of their cellphones and other assorted small electronic devices they had in their pockets. Whenever they became unsure of their way, they would stop and wait again until they felt the ever-so-gentle movement of air, and then continue in its direction. Finally, they arrived back at the air shaft and scrambled up out of the mine, back to the remaining light of day.

people leaving mine

In life, there will be many points where you will also find yourself in the darkness and lost at times, with no apparent way out. It might be that your source of light has gone out, and you are not able to find the rest of the way to go. You may have been wandering and your light has not yet gone out, but you don’t know what direction to take next. Your life may have been progressing just fine, and then suddenly, everything goes into confusion and you do not have a clue as to what to do. Does any of this apply to you? Don’t fall apart in despair. Don’t succumb to a fit of needless anger, or collapse into a pool of tears.

It is in times like these that a gentle and sweet breath from God will come to you. Sometimes it is so subtle and discreet that you hardly notice it is there. Most often, there will be a time of sitting still and waiting before you sense its presence. When you do, make sure you don’t ignore it and turn to follow your own way. Don’t feel that it is too insignificant to be of any value. Instead, yield yourself to God and be led by it. He wants to bring you out of the darkness and confusion that you are in, but it takes desire and effort on your part for the breakthrough to happen. “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5). The Lord wants you to stop trusting in what you think is the best way out, and to learn to lean on Him for guidance. While it may seem contrary to you, by doing so you will find yourself being led out of your hopeless dilemma into “joy unspeakable and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8). Even though you don’t see Him, God is always there with you. “Our soul waiteth for the Lord: he is our help and our shield. For our heart shall rejoice in him, because we have trusted in his holy name” (Psalm 33:20,21).

Fading Footprints

shoreline with footprints

Children like to play the game of following another child by trying to step in each of his footprints behind him. The child who follows will do his best to keep up, but he may let his attention get distracted while the leader keeps walking and gets too far ahead. Before long, the one following will lose sight of the leader and become lost. After making attempts for a while to find the missing track of footprints, he may stumble across a different set, mistakenly thinking that he has rediscovered the missing tracks instead. He will be likely to follow the new prints immediately, without stopping to consider that they may belong to someone else. Only after he has traveled quite some distance will he come to realize that they are not the right ones. By then he will be nowhere near where he began and will have also lost the leader altogether.

Apply this illustration to following in the steps of Christ. When we first give our lives over to Him, everything is so wonderful, and we are willing and eager to follow Him anywhere He wants to lead us. Our intentions start out good, but when following in His footsteps becomes more difficult and challenging later, we tend to lose our zeal. Then we are likely to become distracted and lose sight of where He is heading. Sometimes we rediscover His path and return to following Him again. Other times we become lost by wandering around in places where He did not go, hoping to find Him there. But all too often, we end up following the wrong footprints and are never able to find Him again.

multiple footprints in the sand

Jesus gave us an essential command that would help us keep our focus on Him and keep us following His steps. He told us to “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41). Our “flesh” (physical self) is prone to getting distracted from God and tends to wander and fall for almost any temptation that may come its way. So we can’t depend on our flesh to find the way; we need to keep our focus on Jesus, especially concerning His victory at the cross. If we get distracted, we have stopped watching where He is going, and we often fail to pray. Even if we regularly seek God for forgiveness for the sins we have committed, we are still not necessarily watching and praying. We need to continually look to Jesus and stay prepared for what is coming. Don’t lose sight of His footprints due to the distractions all around us. Immediately after a victorious moment, our adversary, the devil, likes to come to steal our victory away, along with our joy. He’ll try to use a time like this to bring a heavy dose of doubt and unbelief into our lives. We therefore need to continually watch concerning our victorious moments, while being sure to seek God in prayer at the same time.

footprints in sand along surf

Success in keeping up with the footsteps of Christ only comes from maintaining our desire to stay with Him. But, if we lose interest in His Word, or in the desire to communicate with Him in prayer, we make ourselves vulnerable to distractions instead of following Him. As a result, we won’t notice that His footprints are fading, and will either end up detached from Him, or following another set of footprints that are not His—thereby leading us farther away from Him.

How much do we really want to be with Him? So much that we make sure we will follow close enough to Him that His footprints are never out of sight? Are we continuing to watch and pray so that we will not get distracted or be led away to follow the wrong set of prints? Does our focus continue to be on Christ and Him crucified, or has it turned to some distraction we have encountered along the way?

Trusting Your Way

old library

Trapped of his own accord, he suddenly found himself captive in a strange world of literature, caverns, and old, scratched tile floors. While this new world would seem very warm and humid to others, he found it quite pleasant, no different than the land he had become detached from. He determined that an extremely tall, thin, flexible mesh obscured his passage to freedom. He carefully crawled across to another panel of the same mesh. Was there hope for freedom there? Of course not! In fact, this side harbored even less of a chance of escape—if only he had known it. He observed the world that lay on the other side of this flexible surface, a world he had once been part of. He breathed in its fragrance and longed for more, but with less hindrance. Making a sudden glance in the opposite direction and a quick maneuver, he sprang back to the other side. Seeing no improvement in his situation there, he pondered some more and made his next move to the painted wood surface adjacent to his current position.

Inch by inch, he scaled the towering white wall. Upon reaching a small landing, he carefully traversed it while surveying his newfound domain. It was a vast (and not necessarily inviting) continent with odd structures in the center. Did he find any part of this unusual world appealing? No. But he did ascertain a need to explore the odd cliffs and caverns just a crumb’s throw beneath where he was stationed. His appetite and thirst beckoned him to find some means of satisfaction. After lurking around and behind the works of Lescroart, Macomber, Meltzer, and Patterson, he grew dissatisfied and returned to his post to observe the world below him again. It seemed little had changed in his brief absence. Oh, how he longed to be in his own familiar world again, with its abundance of delectable morsels and refreshing afternoon showers!

Then he descended back along the narrow painted wall and onto the mesh surface again with exquisite agility. Had there been any improvement in detecting a means of a retreat from this land of captivity? Following another routine search, he came to a negative conclusion. Think. Think. Think, he told himself. There must be a way to return to the joyous land of no restraint. His sharp eye spotted a small hole in the mesh. Could it be? He knew he was of the lesser variety in terms of size and diameter, but definitely not that much. Disappointed again, he turned, and with much haste, journeyed back up to his elevated observation post on the top of the towering wooden wall that lay next to the great bulwarks of Coulter, Crichton, and Cussler.

This time, he realized he was not alone. But the huge living creature he spotted seated in the center of this vast land was not of a variety that he would choose to enter into fellowship with. His monitoring of both the strange surroundings, as well as the strange, almost motionless giant proved uninteresting. Yet he sensed that he was being observed as well. After an extended period of lingering, he concluded that this immense territory needed to be explored in areas far beyond what he had previously investigated, not to mention the fact that he was now quite hungry. After a momentary pause, he quickly returned down the wooden tower and rechecked the mesh surface for any changes of its impenetrability. After seeing that it was still not possible to make an easy exit, he then proceeded to scale the vast caverns and corridors of the opposite side of this challenging (and very dry) world of paper, ink, and wood.

Meanwhile, back in the center of this “vast land,” the “giant” continues to write his narrative about a little gecko lizard that managed to slip in through an opening in the frame of a window screen of a warm, cramped library. He noticed how easily and innocently the lizard managed to get himself into the room, but could not figure out how to get himself out again. Then the “giant” pondered how easily people also get themselves into a predicament, and then try to figure out on their own how to escape. He noted that, like this lizard, they often search and search for the exit, never realizing it is only a short distance away from where they had been looking. How often they travel all around the exit, but never actually to the exit itself.

gecko on computer mouse

The lizard tried to find its way out, yet all it did was retrace its steps over and over again. When it branched out into what it thought was another way out, it only moved farther from its entry point and a way of escape. It would very likely never escape if left to its own devices. When someone makes a commitment to God, they have chosen to follow and obey only Him. They have no right at that point to chart their own path, because they now belong to Him and have come under His direction and care. Those who surrender their life to God cannot go off into just any place on their own initiative.

Many people seem to think that they can agree to surrender their life to God while continuing to chart their own course without Him.

This is what happens when people refuse to seek God for direction in their life. They let self be lord over their life, and not God, through His Son, Jesus. While they may not do this intentionally, they still hurt Him when they want to continue on without Him. It is not that God desperately needs them—God doesn’t need anyone! Rather, everyone needs God. What is the point of having a relationship with someone else if one person goes off in his own direction while the other goes the opposite way? When a person surrenders his heart and life to God, then God wants love and companionship and obedience to Him and what He says in His Word, the Bible. “Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him…” (Psalms 37:5).

arrows graphic

This lizard thought it knew where it was going. How right it seemed, yet it was still trapped and could not find the way out. How many times does this happen in your life? How often do you simply let go and let God order your steps? When was the last time that you determined that you were going to trust in God, and then actually trusted in Him? You need to “trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not unto your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5). The more you trust in God, the less you will want to trust in yourself. Then you will begin to see just how helpless you really are and how helpful He is. This lizard may never find his way out, but this does not have to be the end result for you. It did not have the means to have a personal relationship with God and His Son. But you do! Put your trust in God and keep it there. Let Him be your guide to lead you in the right path, instead of yourself.

Lost in the Dark?

man with dog on dark path
Have you ever eagerly wandered off into a deep, dark forest, only to find yourself lost? Or taken a walk down a path and had the sun go down earlier than you had anticipated, leaving you to find your way in the dark? Maybe you have driven down a road and had dense fog suddenly move in, or had snow begin to fall heavier than you expected. Have you traveled where the way was so dark you could see only a short distance ahead, only to have your source of illumination quit working?

We all have to face situations like these at some point in our lives. I once read about a man who traveled a considerable distance in the midst of a Saudi Arabian desert to view a rare cluster of “desert roses” (a flowerlike collection of mineral crystals found in very arid areas of the world). While his effort to find them in the daylight was not much trouble, his return at sunset proved to be of significant concern, since his car would not start! Being lost in a Middle Eastern desert at twilight is challenging enough, but to try and find your way overnight with no light is even worse. In the end, this man had to sleep in his car. He barely managed to get a ride back to civilization the next day with a man hauling goats! But not everyone has that option.

There are times when we can’t stay where we are until the light returns. There are even times when the light does not return.

Most try to press forward, groping in the darkness, proceeding slowly step-by-step, not really knowing exactly what lies ahead. Is there a tree, a large rock, a steep ravine, a poisonous snake, a hole, or a parked vehicle ahead?

Does the road continue to go straight or does it turn sharply? Is there a precipice ahead? How much farther do we have to travel to reach something recognizable? But the nagging question always looming in the back of our minds is, are we going in the correct direction?

Some have never experienced situations like these, since they have always lived in well-lit urban or suburban areas and were safely inside whenever power outages occurred. Others have never had a malfunctioning light source. Yet they continue to live a life regularly filled with darkness. Even as you read this, you may be experiencing darkness in your heart and life that you can’t seem to eliminate or even control. So you go along, groping in this darkness, grabbing at this solution or that. But each seems to brighten your path or dispel the darkness no more than a flashlight with weak batteries could do. You may try some religion, or you may have dropped all religion. You may try praying more, or you may stop praying altogether. And still the darkness refuses to dissipate. Have you done something good for others, or maybe traveled to a distant land on a pilgrimage, and found that the darkness lifts—but only for a season? Then it returns to haunt you even more than before.

I have been there too. In fact, all who have overcome being lost in the darkness have been there. Those who have overcome still have darkness all around them. While the particular darkness we have been through may not be identical to what you are going through now, it is still darkness and no light can be seen. But the difference is, that we have found a source of light that is always with us which will never dim, flicker, or burn out. That light is Jesus Christ.

Jesus said, “…I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life” (John 8:12).

Have you ever been led somewhere by someone holding a light? You followed him because he could see the way, since his light illuminated the pathway. But you had to follow closely behind because the light only covered a short distance. If you hesitated or lagged behind, it would get farther and farther away, and you would find yourself in the dark again. We must draw near to Jesus when we follow Him, and let Him be the light that lights our way. When cares or pleasures of this life distract us, when we start looking around or behind us, the path becomes darker and harder to see, since the Light gets farther and farther away. Just as the moon only reflects the light of the sun, having no light of its own, we also have no light of our own to light our way. We must let Him be our light and guide us.

“In the way of righteousness is life; and in the pathway thereof there is no death” (Proverbs 12:28).

How did Jesus become the light of the world? through His victory over sin and death, which came through His death on the cross. Throughout the period of the Old Testament in the Bible, thousands and thousands of sacrifices were made by the Jews to cover their sins. But they only covered them for a time. When Jesus died on the cross, He became the ultimate and final sacrifice. Then there was absolutely no need for another sacrifice for sin, since He paid it all. This was further cemented when He arose from the grave and returned to His Father in heaven. By accepting His sacrifice for us and turning completely from our sins in faith, allowing Him be our only light source, we can have the Light to see through the darkness continually! But if we reject Jesus as our light, we will only continue to grope and stumble in darkness, never having everlasting light.

“O send out thy light and thy truth: let them lead me; let them bring me unto thy holy hill, and to thy tabernacles [dwelling places]” (Psalm 43:3).

For more information about the path or way to everlasting life, click here.

Lost at Humbardy Drive and Wakins Lane

roadmap of northwest U.S.

I got up early this morning to get ready for my trip. After packing the car with clothes, food, and reading material, I head out. As I leave the driveway and start heading down the main road, I begin to list in my head some of the things that I might have forgotten:

  • Did I cover the trashcans? No, I couldn’t; the trash guys threw them away by accident last week.
  • Were all of the faucets turned off? They should be off—they make so much noise when they are on that I could never forget them! What about the sprinkler? Well, after six inches of rain, I’m truly certain I did not turn it on! Wait! The leaking faucet in the laundry room! I don’t think I—that’s right—the plumber eliminated that faucet months ago when he fixed the drain on that sink! (Note to self: ask plumber why that faucet was eliminated months ago.)
  • Did I adjust the thermostat? Think, think, think! Of course I did—it was set so cold last night that I had to turn it up.
  • Maps! Where are the maps (I’m too frugal to buy a GPS unit)? They are not in the glove compartment. They are not in the map holder on the door! WHY are they not in the map holder and WHERE did I put them and WHAT is this lump I’m sitting on? Oh. Never mind! The maps are found! I’m sure I put them on the seat so I wouldn’t forget them! Hey, what do you know?—it worked!
  • Did I remember to give the neighbor the key to feed the dogs? Oh, no! I left the keys in the kitchen drawer! No, no, no—I brought the dogs over to the neighbor instead!
  • Were the lights turned off? Definitely! This one I know I did!
  • Did I turn off the lawnmower and put it away? OK, brain—why would I be using the mower at 5 o’clock in the morning on the day I leave for a trip in the first place! (Not to mention, why would I leave the mower running unattended, anyway?)
  • Were the clothes removed from the dryer and folded? (Hmm, why did that thought occur?) I had to pack them last night for today’s trip!
  • The iron! I forgot to turn off the iron! I knew I’d forget something! It seems like everybody forgets the iron.

I am only several miles from home, and I am turning around and heading back already for one little iron! Wait! Wait! Wait! Stop everything! I don’t own an iron! The last one quit working after it fell out of the second floor bedroom window onto the sidewalk below (don’t ask why) and I never bothered to replace it (again, don’t ask what I am now using for an iron). Well, now, with all of the potential concerns mentally resolved, I turn back around and head on my way.

folded road mapLet’s see—I turn left onto 24th Street and then right at Dunkirk, or was that left at Dunkirk and 23rd Avenue? Wait—I just passed the expressway! I wasn’t supposed to pass it; I’m supposed to be driving to it. (Or was that another expressway!) OK, what city am I in anyway? There goes a 3rd Avenue, now I’m crossing Humbardy Drive, Wakins Lane, Harvest, Crumfeld. Humbardy? Crumfeld? I don’t remember any seeing ANY of these streets! It’s time to look at the map again! I pull over at the outskirts of the city and start scanning the maps. After looking through several maps in bewilderment, I get out and start looking around, trying figure out where I am. Following what seemed like a few moments of somewhat aimless wandering, an older man approaches me.

“Ya look lost,” he says in a hesitant tone.

“I am,” I reply without much enthusiasm.

“Where ya headed?” he casually inquires.

“I don’t know,” I reply, this time with a bit of bewilderment in my voice.

“Well, ya must’ve been going someplace. Where ya from?” He seems a bit upset in his response now.

“Home,” I said, without much thought of what I am saying.

“Son, you ARE lost. You’d better find some REAL help soon!” And with that, while shaking his head and muttering to himself, he walks back toward where he had mysteriously appeared from.

At this point, I interrupt this story to ask if you have ever felt like this. Or do you feel like this now? We all reach this point in our lives, sometimes early in life, and sometimes near the end. We become lost in our way. We get confused or disoriented. We plan out our life, often to the finest details, only to have it fall apart later on. We search and search for answers to the confusion that is all around us, yet the results are either short-lived with little satisfaction, or they cause us to be even more lost.

We may hear someone tell us, with great flamboyancy and optimism, how wonderful we are, or that we just need a little boost in our self-esteem. Yet, just a short time after hearing this, after we have our self-worth all pumped up, everything goes sour again.

We become deflated like a flat tire. Depression sets in and despair begins pulling us down. We go to a church, or stumble across a program on TV, and hear a phrase from the Bible like, “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” Or the person speaking tells us that “we are hopelessly lost.” We travel on and on looking for that expressway or road that was supposed to bring us away from all of this, and yet we get farther and farther away. It seems like the maps are all wrong, or there is no map for where we are. Our GPS unit keeps repeating “recalculating…” and never gives us another route. We get to the point that we don’t really know where we are going, and we hardly know where we came from.dead end road sign

Do you know that this is just where God wants us to be? Huh? God wants me to be lost and at the point of no hope? Yes! He wants you to see that you can’t make it on your own abilities or with your own ‘self’. If you don’t give up and let Him take over, He will keep on pushing and pulling and prodding. We think we can run down the middle of the road with God on one side and the Devil on the other. But it doesn’t work that way. You are either on one side or the other; there is no middle road. The Devil is a very hard taskmaster who makes only one payment for your toil and your self-gratifying pleasure—death!

On the other hand, God pays wages of eternal riches and eternal life!

“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23).

God is not some sadistic dictator who gets great pleasure from seeing us beaten around, struggling and kicked about, or bound by depression and despair. He sent His only Son to pay the penalty that we deserve, death. And not only was He sent, His Son also chose to die in our place!

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

This is like a lighthouse operator seeing a small ship struggling and floundering in a narrow and shallow strait, with waves crashing upon sharp, jagged rocks on either side. He can tell that the ship’s captain is determined to get through that strait on his own. It is obvious to him that the captain is focused on himself, not on the passengers or the cargo. The captain refused to believe that something much larger than himself could take his life soon.

traffic-sign-yield_to_god

God knows you are lost and confused, and He knows your future. He wants to lead you through it, if you will let Him. He knows what is best for you, but, at the same time, He will only push so far. It’s your choice whether to have faith in Jesus and surrender to Him, or not. Will you give your life to Him right now and let Him guide your path, or will you just keep traveling on with no real hope or direction? It doesn’t take a college degree or a pilgrimage to a foreign land to find Jesus. Just admit to Him that you are lost and a sinner (wrongdoer), that you can’t make it on your own. Let Him know that you accept His sacrifice (His death at the Cross) as the payment for your sins, declare to Him that you will forsake all of your sins totally, and let Him be the head or ruler of your life (not you or the Devil) from now on.

If you want to know more about yielding to God, or if you want additional information, click here to find out more.