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Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Fun Adventures in God's Great Creation in the Hudson Valley

The Hudson Valley is magnificent in the summer! Thousands of down stater's stream into the area attesting to its inviting beauty, though sometimes to our chagrin. Yet some of us locals forget about the beauty and fun God has placed right at our fingertips. Did you say fun? Yes, fun! 

Believe it or not, all of us need time to relax and recharge our batteries, especially those involved in ministries and teaching.  What greater way then to spend time with family or friends in God's amazing creation!

Minnewaska State Park in Ulster County, NY affords great trails for both the beginner and advanced hiker, biker and stroller. The generally flat trail around the lake is accessible for walkers, bikers and baby strollers. There are a few hills, but if you approach from the left of the parking lot there is less uphill and more downhill. The trail boasts some breathtaking views of the lake. Halfway around you can stop and rest for a full view of the lake. There are picnic tables at designated areas. (Use the map to guide you in the beginning near the parking lot.)My favorite place to picnic is the grassy field that overlooks the town of New Paltz and the Shawangunk (Gunks) Mountains. Many picnic tables dot the area and afford another splendid view on a clear day.

If you want to swim in crystal clear waters and appreciate a glacier lake, then Minnewaska Lake is for you. The beach area is easily accessible, though it is small and doesn't have much beach or sand. However, there is a dock to lie on or jump off into the sparkling, cold water. I did say cold, so this is not for the timid and warm water lover. 

If you're a cyclist and prefer more privacy, don't miss the trail to Awosting Lake. The five mile trek has some up hills, but if you're in shape it's easy and if not, you can get off and walk up the inclines. Blueberry hill is a path off the trail for those who savor the sweet taste of wild blueberries. After your respite, you'll need to get back on your bikes if you want to swim! 

As you bike up the trail, you can find some gorgeous views of the lake off to the side with a rock to sit on to have a quick snack. At the end, you will be awarded with crystal clear lake waters that will enliven and refresh you. Afterwards, you can soak up the sun and relax on the flat rocks that grace the "beach" area for there is little sand for the diehard beach addict, but plenty of warmth!

If you're looking for more of a relaxing day at the beach, why not try Taghkanic State Park in  Ancram, NY (Not to be confused with Taconic State park) Lake Taghkanic has an extensive beach area, clean and updated bathrooms and changing quarters. It also has a snack bar where you can purchase burgers for a decent price of $4.00, ice-cream, soda and other snacks.
You can also barbecue at the many available grills or bring a picnic lunch if you prefer. The sand is warm and inviting and the water is cool enough to be refreshing, but warm enough to jump right in. Tubes are not allowed or any flotation devices other than arm floaties or life jackets for children. Rowboats, canoes, paddle boats and kayaks are available for rent at a reasonable cost. You can also bring your own non motorized boats.

For several days in July and August there will be Interpretive Canoe Tours. This tour will include a leisurely paddle around the lake with educators pointing out interesting features, wildlife, and a little information about the local history. The tours will start at the West Beach Boathouse at 1:00 and cost $15 per person. The dates are as follows: July 20th, August 10 and August 24th. Make your reservations at 518-851-3631. Hope to see you there!

Saturday, July 1, 2017

The Walking Dead Challenge

Many today are not walking in the power God made available to believers and don't know they may be, "The Walking Dead." Their old nature, the carnal man, may have been buried in the waters of baptism. Yet instead of being "raised with him through faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead" (Col. 2:12), they stayed down under! I say this not to condemn, but as a warning to  us and a wake up call to those who have slipped into this lingering death. 

You see it every day. Christians who are  defeated, depressed, angry, anxious or on the other end of the spectrum, complacent. They are living under their circumstances instead of above. Perhaps, they overcame the spirit of  death for a while, but Satan made sure to knock them down again or lull them to sleep. Their faith may have shriveled to a point that it bears no fruit. So how can we enliven our faith, stay above our circumstances and avoid mediocrity? If you like challenges keep reading!

Colossians 2: 12 supplies the key to being raised from the dead--"belief in the power of God."  This simple phrase packs a powerful truth. Believing, not just inactively, such as  "I believe, passively, in God, but dynamically. "I posses a faith that believes there is a God who is all powerful and is working on my behalf  to bring good out of everything that happens in my life." Not that everything that happens is good. We know bad things can happen to good people, but we are convinced God has the power to transform everything in our lives: the good, the bad and the ugly.   

This kind of faith is the kind that rips apart hatred, bitterness and pride. It  brings healing between peoples and races, wipes out depression and anxiety. It transforms the desperate and the addicted. It is a dunamis faith that explodes within and changes every sin infested fiber of our being into a Christ like image. The word dunmais is Greek and it is the derivative of our English word, dynamite. Like these powerful sticks of dynamite, the Holy Spirit can come in and blow up our suppositions of how things should be. 

It can happen overnight, in the blink of the eye. The Holy Spirit can invade us and imbue us with powers as the apostles were visited with power on the day of Pentecost, when they were gathered together in prayer waiting for the Holy Spirit. He exploded on the scene, preaching the gospel in every tongue to every nation gathered in Jerusalem at that time. It caused a revolution in thought and action and turned the world upside down.

So how do we acquire this dunamis faith? A power so strong that it can blow up sin and annihilate sickness, disease, anxiety, depression, addiction and the like. As Colossians states it emanates from "faith in the power of God." It all begins with faith and how  we view God. Do we see him as an unjust judge or a loving Father who disciplines us? Do we think He is working for our ultimate good, or out to get us?  Do we believe He has the ability to transform lives and is true to His Word? Do we believe He has the power to conquer sin and death? 

When we believe in our deepest being that His Word is truth, and  He can move any mountain He wills to move, this is dynamic faith. It is the same power, a dunamis power,  that  brought Christ back from the dead, after three days being entombed. The word dunamis is actually used over 120 times in the New Testament and illustrates the importance of walking in this kind of faith--the powerful type of faith the New Testament refers to, not a pallid, sickly faith but alive!

This faith  has the power to lift us from our spiritually dead conditions--addiction, hopelessness, overwhelming sorrow, pride, hatred, bitterness or complacency. And Satan knows this!  He will do everything in his power to keep us from this dunamis faith and suppresses the truth. He is after all, "the father of lies." He will deceive us whenever possible, rob us of truth, kill our joy and destroy our relationships. He knows once a child of God gets a hold of this truth, this kind of faith can hit any problem out of the ball park. It can extinguish any flaming arrow the enemy hurls our way.

Te apostle Paul was well acquainted with dunamis faith. It gave him the power to overcome his weakness' and to endure, "shipwrecks, beatings, lashings, stoning and imprisonment." Yet he was not defeated by any of these things, and he went on to write over 2/3 of the New Testament. His letters are filled with encouragement to new believers and admonition for beleivers to "stand firm." He brought many into the kingdom through his words of truth, his example and in  establishing churches, and he continues to strengthen us in active faith.

Yet we are not all like Paul, nor should we be except in faith. There was also Peter, Nathanael, Thomas, John and a variety of other believers. Though different in personalities and presentation of the gospel, one thing  they all held in common was a vibrant and dynamic faith. One powered by their belief that "God is able." He either removes every obstacle or teaches us eternal truth through our perseverance and forbearance that He supplies graciously as we seek Him. In all things, He works character into our being as we allow Him to work in us His dunamis.   This is what it takes to be a Living Disciple, full of dynamic faith, rather than barely hanging on like the Walking Dead!

If you are trying to break free from a weak faith, here are a few power packed verses to help you overcome darkness and set you free from mediocrity or a zombie like faith.:

 "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose" (Romans 8:28). 

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths (Proverbs 3: 5-6).
"For God has not be given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind"(2 Timothy 1:7). 

"And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus " (Philippians 4: 19).

"So Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing  will be impossible for you" (Matthew 17:20). Mountains of fear, anxiety, depression addiction etc.

"I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me" (Galatians 2:20).
 "In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins  of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ,  buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead" (Colossians 2: 1-12).

If you take one of these verses and focus on it for a day, after one week, you'll start changing your thinking patterns and will be on your way to a deeper, more vibrant faith. Take the challenge and let me know what happens! 

You might also want to check out Dunamis Faith Ministry.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Courage to Conquer Your Fears

What is your greatest fear, the giant in your life that robs you of peace and joy? Is it some physical ailment or mental turmoil?  Is it something that makes you feel ineffective in life? Does it cause depression, anxiety or even addiction. If so, the Bible offers us a great illustration of how we can overcome our fears in the story of David and Goliath.

Goliath was a behemoth of a man, standing 9 feet tall. He was a giant in his day. Clothed with brass mail armor, a shield of bronze, and a helmet that covered a good portion of his head and face, he would daily taunt the Israelis of the Old Testament. Everyone shook in fear when he appeared with his javelin strapped to his back, a huge sword hung from his hips and a thundering voice that defied anyone in the Israeli army to fight him (1 Samuel 7: 8-9). No one would, until a young shepherd boy, sent on an errand by his father, appeared. He heard Goliath's challenge “This day I defy the armies of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other" (1 Samuel 17: 10).   

Courage whelmed up inside David. Why? Because he saw Goliath for who he really was, an unbelieving Philistine. Goliath was small in David's eyes compared to the God he knew, the living God (1 Samuel 17:21)  Nothing that Goliath could hurl his way--no doubts, lies, fears and anxieties could surpass the power of the living God to deliver David. He told Goliath, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied"  (1Samuel 17: 45-46).

So he faced the giant, not with the armor, sword and shield that Saul tried to put on him, but with 5 smooth stones that he was accustomed to using when defending his sheep from a bear and a lion. If we are to have success against our greatest fears, it's important to use tools we are comfortable with using. It needs to be a daily practice, not just a pot shot here and there, but part of who we are, such as praying, utilizing promises from the Word of God, positive affirmations or talking with a trusted friend. These are our tools and weapons, but we cannot stop there.

David then advanced on Goliath, ran to his problem, instead of running away. He stopped, picked up the smooth  stone, aimed carefully and flung it at the head of the giant. It struck him right in the head and Goliath fell over. So we must know our weapons, whether spiritual or earthly, yet we also need to advance on our enemy, our problems and fears. If we do not, they will linger and attack us when we least expect. We need to size them up for what they are, see God as able to help us and able to conquer. Use what God has given us (the tools as stated above) then take careful aim. Train our eye to see the enemies' weakness (which may be our own self doubt and fears) and aim our weapons straight at the problem. Hit the proverbial nail on the head.

While David had perfect aim because he was aided by God and had previous practice killing a bear and a lion, we might need to do this a number of times. We might be required to stand in faith for certain issues and fears to be resolved, but never give up hope. The Bible encourages us to hope in the living God. Though the story doesn't end here. Not only did David topple the giant, he ran up to him and cut off his head.

While this might appear gruesome to many of us, if we look at it figuratively we'll understand the importance. Once the enemy, the problem is stunned, weakened, cut it off completely. Don't let the enemy, such as anger, bitterness or fear, get back on its feet. Take the sword out of its sheath and kill it completely. Know the Word of God and use it like a sword to cut away the fleshly habit, practice or sin. Then like David, let others know the great work God has done for you! Display it for others to see the glory of God. To summarize, here are the key points:

·        See the enemy (problems, fears etc) as small and powerless in comparison to God's great power
·        Arm yourself daily with weapons you can wield-prayer, study, affirmations etc.
·        Practice with them: Use them to destroy lesser issues
·        Run to greet your enemy (problems)
·        Don't turn your back on them, but meet them
·        Take careful aim: know your enemy and its weakness
·        Once weakened, cut it off completely
·        Let your life declare the work of God, show off what He has done for you!

Monday, May 29, 2017

Memorial Day Freedom

Today we remember those who were willing to give their lives for the United States of America in order to protect our freedom. We are thankful to them and appreciate their sacrifice and willingness to lay their life on the line so that we could enjoy freedom. In light of this political freedom, we would do well to remember another who willingly laid down the life of His Son for our spiritual freedom. For freedom is never free, but paid with a high price.

Yet because of what Jesus Christ did on the cross, we can enjoy freedom from the tyranny of sin and its demands. It is as much as a captor as any flesh and blood enemy. It keeps us tied to deception, into thinking we have to do something to earn our freedom, though we are helpless to set ourselves free.

We are born into sin. Just watch any t
wo year old for a few hours and fireworks will soon erupt over something they want to go their way. Why re they like that? Because of their inheritance of the sin nature. As surely as we inherit brown or blue eyes, we inherit this nature of sin, whether you believe this or not. It exists.

We struggle to be set free from it. We do things that we think make us good or acceptable to God. Yet really all we need to do is accept the sacrifice of His Son. If we place our lives in His hands and believe in Him, all our sins will be washed away. We might think ourselves as sinners, but any selfishly motivated action is sin. Anything that lifts ourselves above God or replaces God in our lives, and idol, is sin. Not a popular notion in today's culture, but nevertheless, true.

However, the remedy is really quite simple, but at the same time profound. We hand over this huge debt we inherited, the sin nature, and Jesus, who paid the price for us,  takes it from us. This is the Good News of the Gospel. We exchange our sin for freedom! That's a freedom that will last not only in our earthly lifetime, but into eternity!

How does this divine exchange occur? The Word of God tells us to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and we shall be saved, saved from our sin nature and from condemnation. Yet our belief must be married to faith because belief in itself is not enough. The Bible tells us that even the demons believe and tremble. They know Jesus Christ exists but they don't act on this belief. 

Faith requires action. The action of getting the belief from your mind to your heart. This is true in many instances. I can believe I can lose weight, but until I act on it, start making good food choices, I won't lose weight. So what must we do to enjoy spiritual freedom? Accept the sacrifice of God's Son, Jesus Christ, on the cross.  We don't need to do anything in the physical realm, but accept, believe and have faith. That will start us on our spiritual journey to find true freedom.