On Monday, Dec. 9 I went hunting with Joe, Damon, Coop and Kenny, some friends of mine. We got up at 3 a.m. (first mistake) and drove to the Wayne National Forest. We met a friend of Joe’s at his hunting cabin which is situated on 40 acres that back up to the forest. After deciding who was going to hunt where, we left his cabin in the darkness, and climbed one of the steepest hills I have ever climbed at 5:30 in the morning. (I don’t usually go hill climbing at 5:30 in the morning. As a matter of fact, I don’t hill climb at all.) At any rate, we climbed this humongous hill and about a quarter of the way up, I am gasping for breath. I could not get enough air into my lungs to meet the demand. So after about a two minute “break” we take off climbing again. I estimated that we were about half way up the hill and I need another break. And then another break about three fourths of the way up and finally we were at the top of the hill. To which Dwight (pronounced “Dee-wight’) told us it was level ground for another half mile and then another “little” hill and we would be there.
Since he knew these woods like the back of his hand, we didn’t turn our lights on or mark the trails. (Second mistake. Did you know things look completely different in the dark than they do in the light of day?) Another 15 minutes of walking, me sucking air like a freight train on a cold winter’s morning, and we had reached our destination. Or so I thought. Dwight told me to take the left branch of the trail and beyond the “dark wood” there would be a little dip in the trail and anywhere around that area would be fine. Come to think of it, I never did see the “dark wood.” Well, I go off walking for about another 10 minutes, and where I thought was a dip in the trail, I found a really nice oak tree to sit down and lean against.
Did you know that once you sweat (because of mountain climbing at 5:30 in the morning) and then sit down, the sweat will cool you down? And…if it’s already 15 degrees outside, and you cool down even more, all of a sudden you are cold. I was cold. Luckily, I had packed a windbreaker and a small blanket in my backpack. So I pulled those two things out, put them on and sat back down. For the next four hours, I did a slow freeze. I didn’t see any deer, or squirrels, or birds or turkeys or any type of animals at all. I figured it was either too early or too cold for them to be out too.
Dwight told us to meet back at camp around noon, and since I wasn’t seeing anything, I decided to leave about 10:30 a.m. so I packed everything up, put on my backpack and headed back to camp. I walked for about 25 minutes and things didn’t look right. (Did you know things look completely different in the dark than they do in the light of day?) I couldn’t find any footprints in the snow, or anything that looked like we had been there. So, I did what anyone would do…I turned around and headed back. About 100 yards back, I saw that there was a fork in the trail and maybe I had taken the wrong trail. So I took the other trail. Once again, after about 25 minutes, nothing looked familiar. I checked my phone — “no service” — now what? Well, I walked for about 10 more minutes and found a place where I had phone service, sent off a text to Damon and told him I had no idea where I was. He had gone about a mile past me and said he would be there in about 15 minutes, that I should wait for him. No problem — I am married — so I am good at waiting. (Don’t show this to Beth.) Sure enough, in about 20 minutes, Damon yells at me from yet another trail that I had failed to see and we were able to return to camp safely. I was lost in the Wayne National Forest and had no idea of how to find my way out. I needed help.
Did you know, that spiritually, each one of us is “lost?” The Bible says we are lost because of sin in our lives that separates us from God. We cannot go to Heaven with sin in our lives, so “God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) In just a few weeks, we will celebrate the birth of Jesus. He came to earth to die a substitutionary death to pay for our sin debt and if we will accept His free gift of eternal life, we can be “Born Again” and spend our eternity with Him. Just like I was “lost” in the forest, I needed someone else to help me find my way. We each need someone else to help us find our way and His name is Jesus. And that’s what Christmas is all about — without the cradle, there would have been no cross. Without the cross, there would have been no payment for our sins and without that payment made by His blood, we cannot be saved from our sins.
I hope you will receive the free gift of eternal life. Acknowledge that you are a sinner (Romans 3:23). Believe that Jesus died for your sins. And ask Jesus to come into your heart/life and save you. (Romans 10:9-10;13) Your prayer could be like this: “Dear God, I know I am a sinner. And I believe that you sent Jesus into this world to die for my sins. I accept Jesus as my Savior and ask Him to come into my heart and save me. Thank You for the free gift of eternal life. Thank You for saving me, and help me to live for You. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.” Find yourself a Bible-believing, Bible-teaching church and get involved with it so you can grow in your new found faith.
Pastor Thad Gifford is the founding and lead pastor of the Crossroads Community Church, 62 E. Second St., London. He can be reached at (740) 852-7800, e-mail him at m.thad.gifford.com or at their website www.3c-church.org.