Pastor’s Corner

My daughter Heidi and I went backpacking last week. It was the first time in 25 years. Heidi and I went to the Bighorn Mountains west of Buffalo, Wyoming. It took us about 3 hours to hike from the trailhead to Lake Helen where we camped for three nights. That lake is located in the Cloud Peak Wilderness Area and sits at an elevation of about 10,000 feet.

From my previous backpacking trips about 25 years ago, I remembered that it was nice to have a walking stick as you hike. My Dad has a nice selection of walking sticks that he let us borrow. A walking stick is helpful in several ways when one is hiking.

First, it helps steady a person as they walk. The trail that we walked on was well traveled. Most of the time, it was a nice dirt trail, but stretches of it were covered with rocks or had exposed tree roots sticking up. Sometimes, because of fatigue, my legs and feet would not lift high enough to clear those things and I would stumble. The 40 pound pack on my back made such stumbling more of a challenge, but my walking stick helped me to stay upright.

Second, I would use my walking stick to check out stones that I was thinking about stepping on when I was crossing streams. I learned the importance of that as I shared in my sermon last Sunday. (If they didn’t move after being poked with my stick, they would most likely not shift if I stepped on them.)

Third, I used my walking stick to brace myself when coming down the trail from Lake Helen. Descending the mountain is a challenge mostly because it feels like you are constantly bracing yourself against the pull of gravity against your own body weight and the weight of the pack. The walking stick helps with that—especially when you need to take a bigger step down from a rock onto the trail.

In thinking about the different ways that the walking stick was helpful to me for steadying, checking unsteady rocks, and for bracing oneself, I realized that God’s word is like a walking stick. How? First, the Holy Spirit uses it to steady us when we are tempted. In his letter to the Ephesian Christians, the Apostle Paul talks about the putting on the whole armor of God that we may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. (Ephesians 6:11) One of the pieces of armor that he mentions is “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Ephesians 6:17)

The devil, the world, and our old sinful nature tempt us to think that sinful behavior is okay. When we experience the consequences of our sins, sometimes they tempt us to think that our sins put us out of the reach of God and His forgiveness and love. With the law in His word, the Lord steadies us when we are tempted to think sinful behavior is okay. He uses His word to call us to repentance when we’ve been going astray. With the Gospel, He steadies, reassures and comforts us with the certainty of His steadfast love for us in and because of Jesus Christ when, in the face of our own sins, we are tempted to doubt that love.

Second, God’s word is like a walking stick in that it helps us to evaluate what other people are telling us about God to see whether it conforms to what He has revealed about Himself and His ways. John talks about doing this in his first epistle. “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” The word “spirit” here is a reference to people who are talking about God. When someone makes a claim about God, we should compare what they say with God’s holy word, the Bible. Does it fit or conform with what God says or not? If it does, that’s great! If it doesn’t, we should reject what they say because it is unsteady and may cause great harm to our faith.

Third, when we are being pulled down by the weight of our guilt or the gravity of grief, the Holy Spirit uses the Gospel like a walking stick to brace us. That’s what God uses the good news about Jesus and His death and resurrection to do—to encourage and comfort us that in Christ, through repentant faith alone in Him, we are forgiven all of our sins, we are spiritually alive and we have a heavenly home awaiting us. With that good news, the Holy Spirit enables us to continue and grow in denying ourselves, taking up our crosses, and following our living Savior Jesus in faith no matter the difficulties and challenges and potential stumbling blocks that we encounter in this earthly life.

As we begin a new program year, I pray that you and I will grow in making use of God’s word certainly on Sunday morning with worship and Bible study, but also in our everyday lives. It would be great to carry your Bible with you wherever you go. I would certainly encourage you to take it along with you as well as a devotional resource such as Portals of Prayer when you go on vacation or when you travel for work.

Because it’s not always convenient to do so, I encourage you to commit God’s word to memory. Start with the “Verse of the Week”. There’s one printed each week on the back of the bulletin. You can use the activity sheets to help you prayerfully reflect on the verse as well and apply it to your life. Don’t see this as a memory assignment like you experienced in confirmation instruction. See it instead as food that the Holy Spirit uses to feed your faith and keep you following your living, loving Savior no matter the challenges that come your way on the “trail” of this life.

God’s continued blessings to you!

In Christ,


Colossians 3:16, ESV: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God”

Download Full Copy:  Labors of Love August 2016 - September 2016

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