Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Backpacking Devotions 2014

“Spirit Journey”

High Sierra Backpacking

in the

Emigrant Wilderness

“You have been sealed by the Holy Spirit
and marked with the Cross of Christ forever.”

From the Service of Holy Baptism

Community Lutheran Church
Rancho Santa Margarita, CA

Read and pray along with us this week
starting July 26. 
          Day 1
John 14:15-17

     If you love me, show it by doing what I've told you. I will talk to the Father, and he’ll provide you another Friend so that you will always have someone with you. This Friend is the Spirit of Truth.   The godless world can’t take him in because it doesn't have eyes to see him, doesn't know what to look for. But you know him already because he has been staying with you, and will even be in you.

As we begin our journey through the Emigrant Wilderness we are away from home and family, but we are not alone. Even now during our first morning quiet time for devotions, we are not alone.  Our journey here and through life is always with the Holy Spirit. The word Jesus used to describe the Holy Spirit is very difficult to translate into English.  Some translations use, “counselor, comforter, helper, or advocate.”  The word also means encourager, intercessor, and strengthener.
In one language in Central Africa, it is translated “the one who falls down beside us” that is to say, an individual who upon finding a person collapsed along the path, kneels down and cares for his or her needs, and carries that person to safety.
The Message Bible simply uses the word Friend.  The Holy Spirit is all of these things to us.  God promises to never leave us or forsake us.  We are claimed through the promises of God’s Word spoken in Holy Baptism: “You have been sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked with the Cross of Christ forever.”  This week I pray you have some great conversations with God, your Friend.  Enjoy a talk with your Friend now.
Prayer:  Creator of this beautiful world and Spirit of Truth, open my eyes to see you and trust that you are my Friend.  Each day along the trail help me to grow in faith toward you and love toward my brothers and sisters. Amen

Day 2
 Galatians 4:6-7
 You can tell for sure that you are now fully adopted as his own children because God sent the Spirit of his Son into our lives crying out, “Papa! Father!” Doesn't that privilege of intimate conversation with God make it plain that you are not a slave, but a child? And if you are a child, you’re also an heir, with complete access to the inheritance.

This resurrection life you have received from God is not a timid, “be afraid of what people think of you” thing.  It’s a spirit-filled adventure where you get to say, “Papa, Father, what joys do we get to experience together today?” 
God’s Spirit touches our spirit and confirms who we really are.  We know who He is: Our Father.  And we know who we are: children of God.  We know we are adopted into God’s family because the Holy Spirit fills us with God’s love. 
“God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us”  Romans 5:5
We feel God’s love and know it every day because God is working in us – moving in us to reach out in love to others.  If we do not love, God is not in us, because God is love.

As Kevin Peterson says when looking at a topography map, “know where you are.” If you know where you are on the map, and your compass points North, you will find your way. God is our true North.  If you know who you are in God’s eyes, you will always know who and where you are.  You are a treasured child of God, showered with grace.  So look up, see God’s goodness, and trust Him to guide you on the right path.

Prayer:  Jesus, thank you for sending your Holy Spirit to connect me back to my Father in Heaven.  Thank you for adopting me, forgiving me, and not holding my sins against me.  Fill me with your Spirit and help me love like you love. Amen

Day 3
Matthew 3:11-12
 I’m baptizing you here in the river, turning your old life in for a kingdom life. The real action comes next: The main character in this drama—compared to him I’m a mere stagehand—will ignite the kingdom life within you, a fire within you, the Holy Spirit within you, changing you from the inside out. He’s going to clean house—make a clean sweep of your lives. He’ll place everything true in its proper place before God; everything false he’ll put out with the trash to be burned.

Baptism means even more to me now, than it did when I was younger.  My parents did a wonderful job of teaching me how God has adopted me in Holy Baptism to be his child, sealed me with a promise to never leave me or forsake me, and that I have been marked with the cross of Christ forever.  They taught me that I have been blessed to be a blessing to others.
As I have traveled through life, my journey with the Holy Spirit has also taught me how important my baptism is on a daily basis. In college I remember getting down on myself quite often for feeling like I was disappointing God.  I wanted to live my life as a faithful disciple but that I still sinned and felt short.  On any given day I could be selfish, unkind, impatient, and lacking in devotion to prayer and reading God’s Word.
Daily remembering my baptism, I discovered, was God’s way to help me live in tune with the Spirit: turning my old life into a kingdom life.  Pray today for God’s Spirit to drown the sin in your life and change you from the inside out.  Trust today in God’s power to live in and through you.
Prayer:  Holy Spirit, fire of life within me, burn away everything that causes me to stumble, every selfish desire, and change me from within.  Help me live for your glory!  Amen

Day 4
Titus 3:3-8
 It wasn't so long ago that we ourselves were stupid and stubborn, dupes of sin, ordered every which way by our glands, going around with a chip on our shoulder, hated and hating back. But when God, our kind and loving Savior God, stepped in, he saved us from all that. It was all his doing; we had nothing to do with it. He gave us a good bath, and we came out of it new people, washed inside and out by the Holy Spirit. Our Savior Jesus poured out new life so generously. God’s gift has restored our relationship with him and given us back our lives. And there’s more life to come—an eternity of life! You can count on this.

Do you know anyone who makes decisions about how to lead their lives based mostly on what seems best to them?  The Bible calls that living in the flesh.  It means putting yourself at the center and God as an afterthought.  But life looks different when we look through God’s eyes.  Different things become meaningful.  Different things bring us joy and pleasure.  God calls that “living in the Spirit.” 
Worship, is the very act of putting God at the center - giving God the glory instead of seeking it for ourselves.  In John 4:24 it says, “God is spirit, and His worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
Living in the flesh is a dead end.  There is no joy there.  There is no life there, only suffering.  Instead you have been washed inside and out by the Holy Spirit.  Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.  Live in the Spirit and in Truth.
Prayer:  O kind and loving Savior, thank you for so generously pouring your Spirit into me.  This is a pure gift.  I did nothing to deserve it.  Thank you.  Along the trail of this day, live within me  so that I see all things through your eyes and experience joy in your presence. Amen
Day 5
John 14:26
  I’m telling you these things while I’m still living with you. The Friend, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send at my request, will make everything plain to you. He will remind you of all the things I have told you. I’m leaving you well and whole. That’s my parting gift to you. Peace. I don’t leave you the way you’re used to being left—feeling abandoned, bereft. So don’t be upset. Don’t be distraught.

The chief gift of the Holy Spirit is to create within us a beautiful thing called faith.  Hebrews 11:1 says that, “Faith is confidence in what we hope for, and assurance about what we do not see.”

And what flows from faith is a whole treasure chest of gifts that the Holy Spirit produces within us: …the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.”  (Galatians 5:22-25)
But how do we receive these gifts?  How do we experience peace instead of unending struggles?  Take hold of this promise: Jesus sends us the Holy Spirit. Each day the Holy Spirit comes along beside us and brings to our minds everything Jesus taught us – helping us understand God’s Word – and leaving us well and whole. 
Take a deep breath.  Breathe in the life that God has for you today.  Thank God for the gift of faith and the promise to fill you with the gifts of the Spirit.  Pray for the gift you need the most and let that gift be a blessing to others.   
Prayer:  Jesus, send your Holy Spirit to me today. Fill me with faith in your goodness and bring to my mind what I most need to hear from you. Give me the grace to share that gift.   Amen
Day 6
John 20:22-23  and Acts 1:8
Then he took a deep breath and breathed into them. “Receive the Holy Spirit,” he said. “If you forgive someone’s sins, they’re gone for good. If you don’t forgive sins, what are you going to do with them?”
… And when the Holy Spirit comes on you, you will be able to be my witnesses in Jerusalem, all over Judea and Samaria, even to the ends of the world.”

In John’s Gospel, on the day of Jesus’ resurrection, while his disciples were still hiding behind locked doors, fearing for their very lives, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” He showed them his hands and side and immediately they were overjoyed.  That’s quite word, overjoyed.
Their hearts were bursting with a joy they couldn't contain. Jesus was alive!  Jesus had risen from the dead! 
That fact changes everything.  Death and grief have no power. The forces of evil have no power. Nothing can separate us from God’s love.
And then adding to that incredible news, Jesus breathed on them a world changing power: the gift of the Holy Spirit.  Christianity is not a religion – a man-made system of beliefs and rules to follow attempting to get some desired reward.  Christianity is relationship – a life-giving, life-changing experience of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit living within us.  Created, loved, chosen, adopted, washed, redeemed, forgiven, and empowered and called to be witnesses – that’s our story.  Overjoyed, let us share our story everywhere and with everyone.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, may the reality of Jesus risen from the dead and living today, fill my heart with a joy that overflows. Fill me with such joy that I can’t help but share my story.  Amen.

Day 7
2 Timothy 1:13-14
So keep at your work, this faith and love rooted in Christ, exactly as I set it out for you. It’s as sound as the day you first heard it from me. Guard this precious thing placed in your custody by the Holy Spirit who works in us.

Jude 1:20-21
But you, dear friends, carefully build yourselves up in this most holy faith by praying in the Holy Spirit, staying right at the center of God’s love, keeping your arms open and outstretched, ready for the mercy of our Master, Jesus Christ. This is the unending life, the real life!

Today as we take the first steps on our journey home, let us pause and thank God again for the amazing beauty of this place and for our spiritual journey of this past week.
Thank you God for creating such a beautiful world for us to enjoy.  Thank you for walking with me this week as my Friend and life-guide.  Thank you for adopting me into your family and filling me with your love. Thank you for your love I experienced this week through my backpacking family.

Lord, help me each day remember the gift of baptism and the joy of knowing my sins are forgiven and your Spirit changes me from the inside out.

Thank you for the gift of faith.  Help me as I return home to take time each day alone with you.  Help me guard this precious gift of faith and love rooted in Christ.  Let me not take you for granted, but trust and seek you in all things.

Fill me with life and joy over-flowing.  Let me not keep this good news to myself, but show me a person in my life who does not know you, and work through me to share your love.  Build my faith and keep me at the center of your love.  Amen.