A New Journey Begins

“A new journey in life is often the beginning of new and exciting adventures. It may include traveling to other places, and it is an opportunity for a fresh start.” ~Karla Hawkins

These two sentences open a blog post titled, Top 7 Bible Verses for a New Journey,” by Karla Hawkins, a pastor’s wife, mother of four grown children, and grandmother to a “precious three-year-old grandson” at the time of the publishing of her blog post on July 20, 2015, on Patheos.com. She’s written several blog posts on the topic of Top 7 Bible Verses on a variety of topics, and you can access her other blog posts at this link.

Since this blog of mine (Reflections) is specifically focused on the topic of “journeys,” I thought I’d include Karla Hawkins’ post, Top 7 Bible Verses for a New Journey,” on this particular blog post. Here is the rest of her blog post available at this link on Patheos.com

Journeys usually require planning, and it begins with the first step–sometimes not a physical step but a step of faith that occurs when we overcome what may be stopping us from fulfilling our destiny. With this in mind, here are my top 7 Bible verses for a new journey.

Exodus 40:36“Throughout all their journeys, whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the people of Israel would set out.” 

The story of the Israelites in the desert after leaving Egypt is a good place to start a discussion on new journeys. They had been enslaved for 400 years, and now they were finally able to travel and start on a fresh time in their lives and in their history. The exciting part is that God was leading them every step of the way, and all they needed to do was follow the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. Unfortunately, we don’t always have a literal “cloud” to guide us, but as Christians we can pray, read God’s word, and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit in the direction that he would direct.

Judges 18:5 “And they said to him, “Inquire of God, please, that we may know whether the journey on which we are setting out will succeed.” 

This is another great verse to look at in the discussion of new journeys, as it brings up a very important point. It refers to the idea of praying and asking God about whether we should embark on a new expedition or not. We should always want to seek his will for our lives, as he has our best interests in mind. This was certainly the case here in Judges, as the tribe of Dan wanted to know if they should move forward in taking over some land as their inheritance. After asking the Lord if they should move forward, they were blessed with success in their excursions.

Judges 18:6 “And the priest said to them, “Go in peace. The journey on which you go is under the eye of the Lord.” 

Whenever inquiring of the Lord about a new adventure or journey, it is important to be obedient in listening to his directions. We shouldn’t want to do our own will but rather follow the Lord’s leading. In this case, the priest blessed the Danites with an encouraging word from the Lord. He told them to go in peace, and that God would bless them in their journey. That is an exciting way to start a new trip in my opinion.

Ezra 8:21 “Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from him a safe journey for ourselves, our children, and all our goods.” 

In the book of Ezra, we see the Jews fasting and humbling themselves before the Lord, as they asked him to bless their trip. They wanted to be assured of his protection before they even began their journey. They knew that they did not even want to attempt to travel with their children and their possessions if God was not going before them. This is certainly a great example for us as well.

Psalm 91:11 “For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.” 

David’s Psalm 91 is one of my favorite chapters in the Bible, because it is full of wonderful promises of protection and blessings for his people. This verse says that he will command his angels to guard us in all of our ways, and I take that to mean even when we are traveling. He is the one that places us under the shadow of his wings and that keeps us from being harmed or overcome by our enemies.

Psalm 146:9 “The Lord watches over the sojourners; he upholds the widow and the fatherless, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.” 

God loves everyone, but I believe that he has a special place in his heart for widows and orphans and travelers. It says here in this verse that he watches over them all, and he upholds them. In other words, he blesses and protects them, while in the meantime he brings ruin to the wicked. The Jews had strict laws about hospitality, and it is also mentioned numerous times in the New Testament. So the Lord truly cares about the fatherless, the widows, and the sojourners.

3 John 1:6 “…who testified to your love before the church. You will do well to send them on their journey in a manner worthy of God.” 

The apostle John is reminding the Christians of his day to bless any travelers, missionaries, or pastors in a manner worthy of the Lord. In other words, if they were stepping out in faith to go where God was leading them to go, then the church should also show their love by blessing them on their journey. Their voyage requires planning and faith, and they should be encouraged to take those steps of faith directed by God.

CONCLUSION

A destination is usually implied when referring to a journey, otherwise it’s just wandering aimlessly. It also indicates knowing that no matter how well we plan, the unknown still exists and we are required to move in faith. Therefore, it is imperative that we seek God’s favor, blessings and protection over any new journeys we begin. We should also be grateful and excited about all of the new adventures we will experience in our walk with him. New beginnings are a great time to start something you’ve always dreamed about or desired, and with God’s leading all things are possible. (Quote source here.)

It’s never to late for a new beginning no matter what your age and/or your circumstance might happen to be. A 2016 article titled, 10 Bible Verses for a Fresh Start,” by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA), states the following:

Looking for a fresh start? No matter what season you’re in, a new beginning is possible.

Summer is usually a time for vacations and getting away from it all. Taking time off for rest and relaxation is necessary, but it’s not always easy getting “back into the swing of things.” Whether you’re tired of the same routine or having a hard time starting one, these 10 Bible verses can remind you of God’s ability to “make all things new.” Share them with someone today.

“And he who was seated on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’ Also he said, ‘Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.’”
Revelation 21:5 (ESV)

“No one tears a piece of cloth from a new garment and puts it on an old garment; otherwise he will both tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled out, and the skins will be ruined. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins.”
Luke 5:36-38 (NASB)

“Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near.”
Isaiah 55:6 (ESV)

“Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”
Isaiah 43:19 (ESV)

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.”
2 Corinthians 5:17 (NKJV)

“Though your beginning was insignificant, yet your end will increase greatly.”
Job 8:7 (NASB)

“For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God.”
Hebrews 3:4 (NASB)

“Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary. His understanding is unsearchable.”
Isaiah 40:28 (NKJV)

“We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”
Romans 6:4 (ESV)

“I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the hopper, the destroyer, and the cutter, my great army, which I sent among you.”
Joel 2:25 (ESV) (Quote/article source here).

I don’t know where you might be on your journey through life, but if you’re looking for a fresh start and a new beginning, I hope these two articles give you some inspiration to get you moving in the right direction if you’re feeling like you are “stuck on hold” and have been for a very long time. I know that feeling, too. And remember that . . .

With God . . .

All things . . .

Are possible . . . .

YouTube Video: “Nothing is Impossible” by Planetshakers ft. Israel Houghton:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

Enjoying the Journey

“A journey–whether it’s to the corner grocery or through life–is supposed to have a beginning, middle, and end, right? Well, the road is not like that at all. It’s the very illogic and the juxtaposed difference of the road–combined with our search for meaning–that make travel so addictive.” ~Gloria Steinem in My Life on the Road 

For the Christian, this life is both a physical journey and a spiritual journey. On the spiritual side of the journey, GotQuestions.org states the following:

“Spiritual journey” is a phrase used by many different religions to mean the natural progression of a person as they grow in understanding of God, the world, and himself. It is an intentional lifestyle of growing deeper in knowledge and wisdom. But what is meant by a spiritual journey toward Christlikeness is vastly different from a journey toward some kind of “spirituality” that does not include, and is not based upon, the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.

There are several differences between the Christian spiritual journey and the New Age version. New Agers say to chant mantras for several hours a day. The Bible says to have daily conversations with God through prayer (1 Thessalonians 5:17). New Agers believe that people can choose their own path in their journey and that all paths lead to the same destination. The Bible says that there is only one path—Christ (John 14:6). New Agers believe a spiritual journey will result in harmony with the universe. The Bible teaches that the universe is at war (Ephesians 6:12) and part of the journey is fighting for other souls and our own walk (1 Timothy 6:12).

Another difference is that the Bible actually talks about a spiritual journey and the steps through it. A Christian starts as a child (1 Corinthians 13:11), still seeing the world through naïve eyes, still influenced by the flesh, and in need of basic education about God and their position with God (1 Corinthians 3:1–21 Peter 2:2). And new Christians are given work in the church appropriate to their position as young in the faith (1 Timothy 3:6). As Christians grow in understanding about God and the world, they learn more about how to act and how to relate to the world (Titus 2:5–8). A person further along in his spiritual journey becomes an example to the younger (Titus 2:3–4) and, sometimes, a leader in the church (1 Timothy 3).

At the heart of the spiritual journey is the understanding that it is a journey. None of us are perfect. Once we become believers, we are not expected to achieve instant spiritual maturity. Rather, the Christian life is a process involving both our attention (2 Corinthians 7:1) and God’s work in us (Philippians 1:6). And it has more to do with opportunity and intentionality than with age (1 Timothy 4:12). Author John Bunyan, in his book The Pilgrim’s Progress, pictured the spiritual journey as a road full of trials, dangers, and blessings, starting with the cross and ending at the Celestial City.

A spiritual journey filled with empty chanting will only lead to an empty heart. A journey filled with studying the Bible, obedience to what it says, and trusting God is a lifelong adventure that will bring true understanding of the world and a deep love for its Creator. (Quote source here.)

In The Pilgrim’s Progress,” originally published in two parts in 1678 and 1684, both the spiritual side and the physical side of Christian’s (the main character) journey through life are described in an allegory. SparkNotes.com notes the following knowledge that is gained through travel in The Pilgrim’s Progress:

“The Pilgrim’s Progress” demonstrates that knowledge is gained through travel by portraying Christian and his companions learning from their mistakes on their journey. Pilgrimage depends on travel, and so a pilgrim must be a voyager prepared to go far and wide. Yet in Bunyan’s book, voyage in itself does not make a traveler a pilgrim. The pilgrim must advance spiritually as he or she advances geographically. The key factor is knowledge, which must increase as the pilgrim proceeds forward. Christian never makes the same mistake twice or meets the same foe twice, because he learns from his experiences. Once he experiences the “Slough of Despond,” he never needs to be despondent again. Other pilgrims who lack understanding may advance fairly far, like “Heedless and Too-bold,” who almost get to the Celestial City; however, they do not understand what they undergo, and so they only babble nonsense and talk in their sleep. They are travelers but are not pilgrims because they cannot verbalize or spiritually grasp what they have been through. (Quote source here.)

On the physical side of the journey (which also includes spiritual elements), Derek W.H. Thomas, PhD, senior minister of First Presbyterian Church, Professor of Systematic and Practical Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary, a Ligonier Ministries teaching fellow and dean, and author of numerous articles and books, states the following in his article, The Christian Life as Pilgrimage,” published on Ligonier.org:

The Christian life is a road trip, a journey of the most exhilarating kind. It has a starting point and a terminus. It is a metaphor of movement. Christians do not stay in one place too long, for they are set for another location. Early Christians were referred to as the followers of “the Way”—a reflection that they seemed determined to follow a different path (Acts 9:224:14).

Several issues arise. First, there is the idea of an adventure. Yes, adventure. If Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit initially shunned adventure because it upset the equilibrium of his routine way of life in the Shire, he would later record his extraordinary journey in a breathless tale bearing the subtitle, “There and Back Again.”

Christians explore a somewhat different journey—Here to There perhaps. But it is nevertheless a journey equally as exciting, fraught with tales of valor and danger. There is something exciting about the Christian life. New glimpses of God’s provision, intervention, and rescue await at every turn. We have no idea what a day may bring forth (Prov. 27:1), but we may be assured that nothing happens without our heavenly Father willing it to happen. We are called to follow our Master wherever He leads us—in green pastures beside still waters, as well as in the presence of enemies and a valley of shadow and death (Psalm 23)….

Second, pilgrimage is evocative of the transitory nature of this life. “Here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come” (Heb. 13:14). “The things that are seen are transient” (2 Cor. 4:18). What does it mean to refer to this life as “transient”? The answer lies in the tension evoked in the New Testament between the “now” and the “not yet.” Christians are those upon whom “the end of the ages has come” (1 Cor. 10:11). Something of the world to come has already perforated our space time existence and has claimed us as citizens of another realm (Phil. 3:20).

This perspective raises fundamental tensions. In one sense, we live here with a variety of responsibilities as citizens of this world. The reclusive life of withdrawal and abstinence is not a biblical worldview. . . . Christians get involved in society. Christians reshape society. They are lights in dark places. A new affection has overtaken Christians that makes everything else seem paltry and trite. In the words of Thomas Chalmers, the Christian life is ignited by the “expulsive power of a new affection.”

A third aspect of pilgrimage is a sense of direction, a goal, an end point. The journey has a destination. Christianity provides a shalom, a sense of wholeness and completeness. Christians know who they are and where they are going. Aimlessness and drift characterize so much of life without the embrace of Christ.

Christians “look” for “things unseen” (2 Cor. 4:18, where the Greek verb “to look” suggests an intense, steady gaze). It sounds like a paradox: we look for something that cannot be seen. Glory awaits, and Christian pilgrims maintain a steady but determined discipline of facing forward. What lies ahead fills our vision and keeps us expectant. What awaits steady pilgrims surpasses expectation and defies explanation. (Quote source here.)

In a sermon titled, We Are On a Journey with God,” preached on a Sunday morning in June 1997 by David Chadwell, retired pastor (since 2010) at West Ark Church of Christ, he ended his sermon with the following words:

We become Christians to begin that journey. We continue to be Christians because we refuse to abandon God or the journey. We understand that this journey with God has no earthly destination. We are not traveling with God only until we find a place to homestead on earth. The destination is God’s house. When we become Christians, only God’s house is home.

I appreciate the words of Paul in Philippians 3:13, 14: “Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

We can always quit the journey. We can always homestead on earth. But the person who walks with God continues the journey and continues to be changed because of the journey.

Are you still walking with God? (Quote source here.)

To stay on the journey requires perseverance. Various trials big and small, long and short, come our way throughout this life and are very much a part of the journey. James 1:2-8 (NIV) states: Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.”

Our journey as Christians through this life isn’t about what we want; it is about the “testing of our faith which produces perseverance.” And the finished work of perseverance is that we “may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” No matter where our journey takes us through life, that is the end result. So . . . .

Stay the course . . .

No matter the test . . . .

And enjoy the journey . . . .

YouTube Video: “Stay the Course” by Megan Hamilton Morgan:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

It’s All About the Journey

“Do the difficult things while they are easy and do the great things while they are small. A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” ~Lao Tzu (Quote source here.)

In the past several years I’ve traveled thousands of miles by car. At the beginning of my road trips in May 2012, they were job related as I was still searching for that very elusive job that has never shown up. However, as I mentioned in my previously blog post, Traveling Light,” it became much more than just a never-ending search for a nonexistent job (apparently, since I never found it). I discovered a part of America I was never able to take a really good look at during all of the years I worked, and it’s definitely been worth both the miles and the trips.

I ran into a very interesting article based on Psalm 32:8 which states, I [God] will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.” The article is titled, 9 Road Signs of the Christian Journey,” by David Fitch, senior pastor of River Ridge Neighborhood Church. Here is what he had to say about these 9 road signs:

It’s 100 AD and you’re driving your chariot down a Roman road. You come to a crossroad and see a sign that tells you to stop to wait for passing traffic. Amazingly, even in Roman times, traffic signs were useful and very much a part of the culture of the time.

Fast forward to the 21st century when a modern the highway is decorated with green interstate signs, orange construction signs and even electronic signs that tell you what’s ahead. Signs are such a common part of the American roadway infrastructure that we may take them for granted. But it all started in the Roman Empire.

The ancient Romans used tall columns called “milestones” to relay information to travelers on its roads. They indicated how far away Rome was, and gave travelers directional information, and were some of the earliest road signs in the Western world.

In the very near future, it’s likely we’ll begin to see more digital road signs. The advantage of these is that through a wireless connection, the information provided on the sign could be updated automatically and instantly from a central location.

A little further down the road of the future we might use “augmented reality” devices, such as Google Glass, to provide real time maps, messages, and traffic alerts. Imagine having instant information about a crash that happened just moments ago on the road up ahead so you could slow down or take an alternate route.

9 Road Signs Of The Christian Journey

God has placed road signs along the Christian journey to give us direction, to keep us safe, to warn us, and to keep us on the right path until we reach heaven.

Sign #1 – Stop

One of my least favorite signs is the Stop sign. It means that I have to stop my progress and sit motionless. It is inconvenient but it also keeps me safe.  It protects me from moving into a potentially dangerous situation.

Jesus often commands us to “stop” moving ahead and think about what we are doing. A Stop sign from God is an opportunity to think about what we are doing and consider the consequences.

John 5:14: “Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.”

John 6:43: “Stop grumbling among yourselves.”

John 7:24: “Stop judging by mere appearances, but instead judge correctly.”

John 20:27: “Stop doubting and believe.”

Sign #2 – Yield Right of Way

When driving, the Yield sign means that we must give priority to another person. This bothers us because we all feel that we are more important than anyone else. But God calls us to give priority to Him and to humble ourselves to serve others.

James 4:7: “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

Ephesians 5:21: “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

Hebrews 13:17: “Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority.”

Sign #3 – No U Turn

U-turns can be helpful when we are driving and suddenly realize that we are heading in the wrong direction. But Christians can be tempted to get off the right road and return to the life they left behind. God is pleased when we follow Him by faith and do not give it to doubts. Once we have committed ourselves to God there should be no turning back to our old way of life.

Hebrews 10:38: “And my righteous ones will live by faith. But I will take no pleasure in anyone who turns away.”

Luke 9:62: Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”

Philippians 3:13: “Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead…”

Sign #4 – Wrong Way

Freeway on-ramps and one-way streets have large red signs that warn drivers that they are heading for danger if they keep driving in the wrong direction. Even though the road seems safe and the way is open, it will lead to a disastrous accident God’s Word also warns us when we go the right direction, to keep us from harm and danger. We are wise when we obey His warning signs and keep out of a sinful path.

Proverbs 14:12: “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death.”

Psalm 119:104: “I gain understanding from your precepts; therefore I hate every wrong path.”

Proverbs 4:14: “Do not set foot on the path of the wicked or walk in the way of evildoers.”

Sign #5 – Detour

A Detour Road Sign can be the difference between being late to a meeting and being on time. It means that there is road construction or an accident on the road that we intended to take and now we have to find an alternate route.

God often puts a Detour sign on our path. It may be because we are on the wrong road. It might be that God has something different in mind for us than what we had decided to do.

God’s Detour might be a change in career, a change in schools, a delay in the timing of when you expected to start a family, or a sudden illness that puts you on the sidelines. Take courage, God knows what He is doing and His plans are always best for you in the final outcome.

Proverbs 16:9: “The mind of man plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps.”

Jeremiah 10:23: “I know, O LORD, that the way of man is not in himself, that it is not in man who walks to direct his steps.”

Acts 16:7: “When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to.”

Sign #6 – Road Construction

I enjoy newly constructed roads. They are smooth, there are no potholes, the paving is clean and the lane markers are distinct.  But I just don’t like the process of road construction. It seems like it takes CalTrans forever to bulldoze the roadbed, lay the gravel, and pave the road. There are clouds of dust, ruts, and lane changes that slow my drive time.

God is at work in our lives also and the process is messy and slow. We are “under construction” for most of our lives and it seems that it will take forever. Will I ever be the person that God has in mind?

Philippians 1:6: “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

Philippians 2:13: “for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.”

Sign #7 – Speed Limit

There is a four lane divided road that I drive every day on my way to the church office. It is rarely crowded with traffic and it is feels like 50 miles per hour is appropriate. However, I often see drivers getting tickets from police officers for driving 45-50 miles per hour. They might complain to the officer that their speed was not excessive and seemed appropriate. Why do they get cited? Because there are two schools along this road and there is a speed limit of 35 miles an hour!

In a similar way, God often places speed limits on His people. Often for no apparent reason, God will command us to “slow down”.  But God has a purpose in mind for the delay, that we might not be able to see. Be patient. Trust the plan of God when He asks you to slow down and wait.

Psalm 27:14: “Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.”

2 Peter 3:9: “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

Sign # 8 – No Parking

It doesn’t matter if it’s the grocery store, the airport, or an arena, I can never find a parking spot in a convenient place.  If by a miracle I do see an empty space and pull into it, I usually see a sign that says, “No Parking” or “Reserved for the Employee of the Month.” When I want to stop and park, I am obligated to keep going.

The same can be true in the Christian life. There are times when we want to stop and park, when God intends for us to keep moving, to get busy, and to make progress. Keep moving!

Proverbs 6:10-11: “A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest and poverty will come on you like a thief and scarcity like an armed man.

Philippians 3:12: “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.”

1 Corinthians 9:24: “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.

Sign #9 – Exit

No matter how long our road trip takes, there eventually comes the sign that we have been waiting for–“Exit.” We feel relief that our journey is over, we have reached our planned destination, and that we can enjoy times of relaxation and refreshment.

One day your earthly journey will be over and God will call you to exit this life. For believers this is not a dreadful thing but a relief. Our long time away is over and we arrive safely at home.

2 Peter 1:13-14: “I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me.”

2 Timothy 4:6-7: “the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

Watch The Signs

The next time you are driving, pay attention to the road signs. Could God use a simple road sign to give you direction for your journey through life? (Quote source here.)

Isn’t that a great article? I loved finding it as it gives us new meaning when we see these signs along the roadways. And what better way to end this blog post then with these three sign… 

Stop . . .

Yield Right of Way . . .

Exit . . .

YouTube Video: “Traveling Light” by Joel Hanson & Sara Groves:

Photo #1 credit here
Street sign photos here

The Road Less Traveled

“I shall be telling this with a sigh. Somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” ~Robert Frost (Quote source here.)

Those words are written in a poem titled, The Road Not Taken,” published in 1916 by one of America’s most celebrated poets, Robert Frost (1874-1963). The entire poem can be read at this link“About Frost, President John F. Kennedy, at whose inauguration the poet delivered a poem, said, ‘He has bequeathed his nation a body of imperishable verse from which Americans will forever gain joy and understanding’” (quote source here).

Many years later, M. Scott Peck, (1936-2005) an American psychiatrist and best-selling author, wrote the book, The Road Less Traveled,” published in 1978. “Peck began his trek down “The Road Less Traveled” as a Buddhist when he wrote his best selling book by that title. By the time his second book was published [another bestseller titled, People of the Lie,” published in 1983], he claimed a conversion to Christianity. However, his Buddhist teachings remain a vital part of his writings, along with… process theology, Mormonism, New Age doctrine, and the secular humanist values of psychotherapy” (quote source here).

The Road Less Traveled was wildly popular, and Peck “made millions with his first book by advocating self-discipline, restraint, and responsibility–all qualities he openly acknowledged were notably lacking in himself. “The Road Less Traveled” was first published in 1978. It eventually spent 13 years on the New York Times bestseller list to create a paperback record, sold 10 million copies worldwide and was translated into more than 20 languages” (quote source here).

From an interview with Dr. Peck which was published in Psychology Today on November 1, 2002, and titled, M.Scott Peck: Wrestling with God,” by Robert Epstein, PhD., author, editor, and psychology researcher and professor, Epstein writes the following:

Epstein: Most people struggle with issues of spirituality in one form or another. Sometimes they arrive at a place of peace, and sometimes they don’t. Must we go through this struggle, or can you point us to a shortcut?

Peck: I do not think that everybody has to struggle. But to probably at least half of the people, it never seems to enter their minds that they might be engaged in a struggle or that there might be something to struggle with.

One of my shticks is about why we need to do hard scientific research on religion. A study shows that if you ask people whether they believe in God, probably 95 percent of Americans will say they do. And there is nothing particularly great about their mental health. But if you ask them whether they have ever had any personal experience with God, only about 15 to 20 percent will say “yes.” Those few have also been judged as more mentally healthy than the others. And the experience is not necessarily one we choose. Everyone is different, so your spirituality is not going to be my spirituality; your wrestling match is not my wrestling match. But right off the bat, the wrestling match has been a gift of God to you. (Quote source and full interview is available at this link.)

Peck is not without his critics. In an article titled, M. Scott Peck: Traveling Down the Wrong Road,” by H. Wayne House, Research Professor of Biblical and Theological Studies at Faith Seminary, and Professor of Law, Trinity Law School in Santa Ana, House writes:

While studying world religions at the Friends Seminary, Peck encountered and later embraced Zen Buddhism. This was the beginning of his spiritual journey. Peck remembers himself as a “freakishly religious kid,” but he was not at all taken with Christianity, which he considered mere “gobbledygook.”

His purported conversion to Christianity occurred in 1980 prior to the publication of his second book, “People of the Lie.” He had a nondenominational baptism, and was discipled by a Roman Catholic nun. “I entered Christianity,” he said, “through Christian mysticism. I was a mystic before I was a Christian.” In “People of the Lie” he provides an account of his conversion: “After many years of vague identification with Buddhist and Islamic mysticism, I ultimately made a firm Christian commitment . . . . My commitment to Christianity is the most important thing in my life and is, I hope, pervasive and total”. . . .

Since Peck now says that “Christianity is the most important thing” in his life and is, he hopes, “pervasive and total” within it, it is important to ask what he means by being a Christian. When a patient asked him this soon after his claimed conversion to Christianity, he remarked that at the core of the Christian faith is some “strange concept of sacrifice.”

Even now, more than 15 years after his supposed conversion, Peck admits that he doesn’t know what it means to be a Christian. The best definition he has been able to give is that a Christian is one who “will be for Jesus a pleasant place of shelter.” The “who” includes just about anyone of any religion, whether Muslim, atheist, or agnostic.

One of Peck’s strengths is his attempt to be honest and open. Certainly this reflects a biblical perspective. The willingness to lay one’s life open to others is commendable—but only when honesty is joined with repentance. The latter is not the case with Peck.

Peck rejects most of the moral standards of biblical Christianity, not to mention even conventional societal standards. He calls himself a “hard-drinking, hard-smoking, hard-swearing” evangelist. He clearly lives up to this reputation, since many believe that he is an alcoholic, and he admits his addiction to cigarettes and “uppers.” He also takes pride in his use of profanity and pornography. Peck also believes that homosexuality reflects God’s love for variety. . . .

M. Scott Peck presents an important challenge to those concerned with defending the Christian faith. Certainly it would be rare for Christian magazines, churches, colleges, counseling centers, and individuals to defend the heretical teachings of a cult. Yet Peck, who shares the same heretical teachings as the cults, has been touted as a hero. This poses a conundrum in the minds of those who are committed to presenting God’s truth. How can we confront the cults when the church embraces a heretic? The fact that Richard Abanes and my recent book is the first major analysis of Peck’s thinking shows that the Christian community has not taken him seriously enough. Certainly I wish for Peck to come to know the Savior, but I also desire for the Christian community to gain spiritual discernment and maintain fidelity to the Word of God. This the Christian community has failed to do by promoting someone who manifests neither the proper understanding of orthodox Christian doctrine nor basic Christian morality. (Quote source here.)

Years ago when “The Road Less Traveled” and Peck’s second book, “People of the Lie,” were published, I read them both. And like most people who read a lot (or even a little), I don’t remember anything in particular about either book. The only thing I remember thinking was that of the two books, I liked “People of the Lie” the best. I didn’t read any of Peck’s later books, but he was definitely an icon in the culture at that time.

In a 2017 article titled, Why I Choose to Take the Road Less Traveled,” by Melissa Dawn, life and business coach, and founder of CEO of Your Life,” she writes:

It’s only by trying new things, pushing your limits, doing things differently that you can truly change your life and get rid of what is blocking you or no longer working for you. Doing things differently makes you stronger.

In my life and business, as in my travels, I like to enjoy the journey. My journey is mine. I will not let people tell me which way to go or how to do it. Even if a path has proven successful to others.

To some, I might be going the “wrong way.” I might be going backwards. I might even be crazy. I do what feels right for me. I connect with my inner voice and let it guide me. I ensure that every thing I do, every step I take, is aligned with my big picture vision, values and heart. My mission is to help as many people as possible do the same. It’s the only way to live a life where you feel good from the inside out.

Sometimes, you start off doing things the way that feels right to you, and end up caving to pressure when everyone else is doing it another way. . . .

I decided to stick to the path I chose. In the end, we had an amazing experience [a recent hiking trip mentioned in the article]. Choosing the ‘wrong’ path [on the hiking trip] was right for me. When your gut, your inner voice, tells you something is right (or wrong), listen to that voice. It’s your instinct. It’s speaking to you for a reason and it knows, better than anyone, what’s best for you. (Quote source here.)

If a person is a Christian, it’s important to listen to what Jesus had to say on the subject. In an article titled, Narrow is the Gate: What Did Jesus Mean?” by Cecil Maranville, retired pastor, on Life, Hope and Truth, he states:

Surprisingly, all but a relatively small number of disciples turned away from Jesus by the end of His ministry. The thousands that once chased our Savior like a celebrity apparently dwindled away to a few hundred after His death (Acts 1:151 Corinthians 15:6). How strikingly different the true picture is from the supposedly easy path to becoming a Christian by just giving your heart to the Lord.

In Matthew 7:13-14 we read of Jesus saying, “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.”

[At this point in the article the author gives several examples of Jesus’ encounters with others that challenges any of his would-be followers to count the cost of what it means to follow him. Near the end of the article is this statement]:

On the surface, it again appears that Christ’s approach seemed illogical, because His words did not entice people to join Him. Clearly, Christ did not want just numbers. However, He wanted all who became His disciples—students or learners and members of the spiritual body called in Scripture “the Church of God” (Acts 20:28)—to make it through to the end. They needed to know that they would encounter the most difficult challenges of their lives. He would have been irresponsible had He failed to prepare the disciples.

By analogy, failing to counsel them on the challenges they would face if they became Christians would be like taking a group of average citizens and sending them on a military mission meant for an expert team such as the U.S. Navy SEALS or the British SAS. Without proper training, the people would not likely survive such a mission. And it would be disastrous for the mission itself. God wants all to achieve their potential, and He wants Christians to understand the serious nature of their commitment to follow Him.

Of course, warnings about the challenge of becoming a Christian is not the only counsel Christ gave. He also promised those who did commit to this way of life, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5). The NKJV Study Bible comments, “This quotation is one of the most emphatic statements in the NT. In Greek it contains two double negatives, similar to saying in English, ‘I will never, ever, ever forsake you.’ Jesus uses the same technique to express the certainty of eternal life for believers” (see John 10:28).

You may have heard the military saying “Never leave a man behind!” Similarly, the Father and the Son are fully committed to those who respond to God’s calling. Jesus made a similar promise at the end of Matthew 28:18-20 saying He would never stop being with [genuine followers] at any time throughout the ages. (Quote source here.)

We all choose a path in life. . . .

Which path . . .

Will you choose . . . .

YouTube Video: “Backseat Driver” by TobyMac:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here

Traveling Light

For almost four years, I did a lot of traveling by car. It was during the time I was still in a major job search after losing my job in Houston in April 2009. However, the traveling didn’t start until May 2012.

It started with a road trip to Atlanta in May 2012 to check out a couple of universities where I had applied for Student Affairs positions. Previous to this trip, I had been applying for higher education positions all over America since April 2009, and I stopped counting the number of jobs I had applied for in early 2011 when it hit 500. I didn’t want to be discouraged any longer by the number of jobs I had applied for up to that point in time, so I just stopped counting. During the first year and a half of my job search, I came very close to finding another job, but something always stopped it from happening. Even today I’m still at a loss to know what that “something” was after a successful twenty-year career in high education before I lost that job in Houston.

What started me on my road travels was a new set of tires after the original set showed signs of significant wear (bald is a good way to describe them) on my then seven-year-old car. I bought the new tires in April 2012, and they gave me the push I needed to hit the road in search of a job, at least in locations within a few hundred miles of where I was living at that time in Florida.

What I discovered once I started “hitting the road” was just how much I loved driving long distances on the open highway. In the four years starting in April 2012 when I did most of my traveling, I traveled as far north as Washington D.C., and as far west at Houston, Texas; and in October 2015 I drove back to my hometown of Des Moines, Iowa, to attend my youngest nephew’s wedding. I also traveled all around Florida, and including a week long stop near New Orleans to check out a few universities where I had applied for jobs, and another week and a half long trip back to Houston (where I lost my job in April 2009). I liked living in Houston during the year I lived there back in 2008-09 despite the rather dismal job experience.

While I have never found that very elusive job in my career field, I did discover a part of America I was never able to take a really good look at during all of the years I worked. For one thing, I never had the time. However, a long bout with unemployment gives one plenty of time to discover other things, and my love for long road trips was one of those things I discovered.

Since my finances were very limited due to being unemployed, traveling by car was the least expensive way I could travel, and I found that the “journey” getting to any place in particular was more exciting then when I actually arrived at my destination. There is something about the “anticipation” while driving on the open road that trumps, at least for me, the actual end result of arriving somewhere. And I have never felt as free as I do when I’m on the open road driving, but not yet arriving, at my destination.

After I lost my job in Houston in April 2009 and my one-year apartment lease in Houston was up at the end of September 2009, I ended up back in Florida where I had left a year earlier to take that job in Houston. I found a cute little furnished apartment with utilities included in December 2009 that was affordable on what I was receiving from my unemployment benefits, and this apartment was my “base,” so to speak, where I always returned to after my road trips began in May 2012. Unfortunately, the house where my apartment was located was sold in early 2014, and the new owners wanted to use my apartment for their own purposes. So I lost my apartment and my base that I always had available to return to after my road trips.

It’s amazing how a long road trip (if one enjoys long road trips) can take the burdens of life off of one’s shoulders for a while, which is most likely why I loved being on the road more than I liked arriving at my destination. Arriving at my destination meant I had to take those burdens back again, and after several years of looking for work, I was at a total loss as to what to do with that burden since no “door of opportunity” ever opened up to me to find employment.

As a Christian, I was (and I am) aware that the Bible speaks to the issue of our burdens in many verses throughout the Bible, and one verse that comes to mind is Psalm 55:22 that states, Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you.” During this time of my lengthy job search and my road trips, I was sure the end result was going to be that I would finally find that very elusive job, and my life would get back to normal again (e.g., career, church, social activities, and having a decent income to live on again–that was my goal). I “cast my burden” on the Lord so many times during this time that I’ve lost count (sort of like how I stopped counting how many jobs I had applied for early on in my job search). 

In hindsight, what I didn’t realize was that my will (my goal) was not necessarily His will for my life (even though as a single, self-supporting woman I saw no other choice in the matter), and during the times when the burden to find another job was really great, which was quite often and almost to the point of being overwhelming, I’d end up taking a road trip, and those road trips turned out to be God’s gift to me in relieving the burden for a while. It was when I was on the road that my burden lifted and I felt free from it and revived again, even though I did not know when my search for a job would finally come to an end.

In a 2013 article titled, How to Cast Your Burdens on the Lord,” by Steve Fuller, lead pastor at Grace Church Abu Dhabi, Steve gives us some great advice regarding our burdens:

A Painful Phone Call

I just finished a phone call with a close friend. He faces problems. Big problems. He’s fearful. Worried. Hurting. He can’t see any good options—any good outcomes—and He doesn’t know what to do. And when I finished the phone call I felt burdened.

What Are Burdens?

We know what burdens feel like. They make our hearts feel heavy—like something is weighing them down. So what causes this? I think it’s usually because we see something painful in our future. And that fear of future pain is a weight—a burden—on our hearts.

Think about your own heart. Are you feeling burdened? If so, identify what pain you are fearing. Maybe it’s the pain of a broken marriage. Or a lost job. Or wayward children. Or poor health.

The reason you are burdened is because you are fearing that pain. But what can we do when we feel burdened?

Good News

Look at what David tells us to do with our burdens in Psalm 55:22“Cast your burden on the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.” Whenever we are burdened, God promises to sustain us and not let us be moved (which means to be shaken or totter). But there is something we must do to receive this promise. We must cast our burden on the Lord.

What Does That Mean?

We often talk about casting our burdens on the Lord. But what does that really mean? After my phone call, when I felt burdened, I quoted this verse. I told the Lord I wanted to cast my burden on him. I asked him to take it. I said I didn’t want it. I asked him to lift it from me. But there was no change. My heart was still burdened. I did not feel the Lord sustaining me.

So what does it mean to cast a burden on the Lord? I went out to the creek trail and prayed about it. And I ended up taking four steps that powerfully helped me.

First, turn to God through Jesus

Don’t just say “it will be fine,” or “it will all work out,” or “God will take care of it.” None of those involve you actually meeting with the Living God. So turn your heart to God Himself. Come to God, cleansed by Christ’s blood and clothed with His righteousness. Turn to God and know that through Christ—he loves you, welcomes you, and promises to help you (Hebrews 4:16).

Second, ask God to keep this painful event from happening

Ask God to save your marriage, keep you employed, save your children, give you good health. To strengthen your faith, think about times when God delivered His people—Israel from Egypt, Joseph from his dungeon, Bartimaeus from his blindness.

Strengthen your faith, and then pray that God would deliver you from this painful event (Psalm 50:15). God may choose to deliver you, which would be a great mercy. But the Bible also teaches that He may not, which is why at this point you probably still feel burdened. So this next step is so crucial.

Third, trust that if He allows this painful event to happen, it’s to bring you more joy in Him.

Your greatest joy is knowing God, beholding God, loving God (Psalm 16:11). And God promises to orchestrate everything—including every pain, sorrow, and trial—to bring you even more joy in Him (Romans 8:182 Corinthians 4:17).

So take time to set your heart on God. Use His Word to help you see His love, majesty, glory, and grace. Use passages like Genesis 1:1Isaiah 6:1-7Mark 15:39Romans 5:1-10. Pray over God’s Word until the Holy Spirit helps you see and feel the all-surpassing worth of God the Father and Jesus the Son.

Now—look at your future. You see that this painful event might happen. But now you also see that if it does, it will mean not just pain, but gain—the gain of more joy in God now and forever. This is when the burden will start to lift—when we see and feel the worth of God, and that all future pain will bring us even more of God.

But there’s one more step to completely remove the burden.

Fourth, trust that if He allows this painful event to happen, He will take care of every need it creates.

He will. He promises. He will provide…

–all the wisdom you need to make tough decisions (James 1:5)

–all the finances you need to fulfill His call on your life (Matthew 6:33)

–all the comfort you need for your heartaches (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

–all the grace you need to keep faithful to Him (2 Corinthians 9:8)

–all the strength you need to persevere (Philippians 4:13)

–all the joy in Him you need to make this all worth it (Romans 8:18)

Pray over these promises until the Holy Spirit strengthens your faith. Pray until you trust that God will take care of your every need.

Cast your burden on the Lord

When you trust— really trust—that He might deliver you from this painful event, or that if He does not, He will bring you even more joy in Him through it, and that He will take care of every need it creates—your burden will be gone, because you’ve cast your burden on the Lord.

That does not mean it will never come back, but when it does, it’s because you’ve stopped trusting His promises. So go back through the steps, and fight the fight of faith until you are once again trusting His promises.

Why keep your burdens?

Understand that whenever you are burdened, God wants to take the burden from you. So don’t keep your burdens. Cast your burdens on the Lord. (Quote source here.)

We all have burdens that come at us from all directions. However, Jesus gave us an invitation in Matthew 11:28-30 when he said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” So . . .

Cast your burden . . .

On the Lord . . .

And He will sustain you . . . .

YouTube Video: “Mercy Came Running” by Phillips, Craig & Dean:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here