Categories
C.S. Lewis Christianity Gospel Heaven Randy Alcorn Recommended Reading Zion

Heaven. Zion. My home country.

“I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now…Come further up, come further in!”
― C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle

I finished listening to the audiobook for “Heaven” by Randy Alcorn. What started as merely a book that I had heard about to download from audible.com because I had a credit became easily one of the best reads (listens?) that I have gone through.

I have been a Christian for over 7 years now, and much of that time has been spent discouraged, condemned, depressed, confused, self-righteous, and mired in sin. There have been uncountable talks with fellow believers about fighting sin, sinning less, understanding the Gospel, “putting on” good works, etc. “Is THAT what being a Christian is all about?” you may be asking if you are seeing the stained glass windows from the outside. The answer is NO. That’s not what being a Christian is about. Being a Christian is about Jesus and his kingdom.

I’m not a good person, let’s just get that out there. There is so much in my life to be condemned for, and I believe the devil, who is called the Accuser, lives up to his name in every regard. I know the law of God, and I agree that it is good. I also know that I do not live up to the law of God, which allows for plenty helpings of condemnation. The Accuser will take every opportunity to remind me of this, reminding me of my shame. The Gospel, which is the good news of Jesus Christ that the Son of God lived in a way that fulfilled the law perfectly yet he was put to death as a criminal and bore the wrath of God that sinners like you and me deserve so we can stand clean in front of the one Holy God, sets people free from the chains of sin. From the chains of condemnation.

Here is the good news: you can be free to live in a way that brings you ultimate joy in every circumstance, even though sorrow will sometimes walk beside you as well.

I am convinced that there is indeed a slumber among the ranks of Christians (to borrow from Ted Dekker), myself included. We are so caught up with being offended, being lazy, self-focus, self-help, setting up securities or stressing over the lack of security, sinning secretly, watching the clock, what’s going on with Israel, not being religious, worrying about what to blog about, enjoying “Christian liberties,” or droning away on Facebook and YouTube that we are not jazzed for what we are really meant for. We are meant for Zion, brothers and sisters. Setting up our own tiny kingdoms or white-washed tombs will only result in ruins.

If we set our eyes to Heaven, the New Earth, Zion, New Jerusalem, our home country, we will be less intoxicated with the trappings of the world we live in that lies to us, even as we know deep down that it is a lie, that life here and now is what we were meant for. But, are we to be intoxicated with thoughts of clouds, harps, and hymns?

Perhaps a couple sections from Scripture (which are good places to start reading if you’re unfamiliar with the Bible) are helpful here: (Psalm16:11) You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
(Luke 23:42-43) And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

So let’s break this down. Heaven is where God is. In God’s presence is the paradise of extreme joy and endless pleasure. As humans, we are sinners thanks to our forefather Adam, and are at war against God. God sent Jesus to live the life we couldn’t ever live and die the death that we deserve, so that is we may believe and trust in Him and enter peacefully into the presence of God as sons and daughters, instead of traitors to the crown of God. Spending eternity in the presence of God is an eternity of ecstasy, not boredom.

I am one such traitor, who was made a son, who has fallen into a slumber. O Christian, awake. Do not doze off with silly things that rob you of the joy that is to come. Let us restore each other in gentleness, reminding one another that we are meant for Zion, the great city of King Jesus, who is surrounded by marvels we could not fathom fully in our wildest dreams. Failure to give our minds to the joy that is set before us will beckon and hasten our slumber. Allowing thoughts of Heaven, opened to us through Jesus, to flood our minds will get us even through the most miserable day. Fear not, today there is sorrow, but soon there will be joy forevermore.

I have heard it said that for Christians, this life is as close to hell as they will ever get. For those who do not place their trust in Jesus, this life is as close to heaven as they will ever get. Do not take eternity lightly.

One day, we will close our eyes, only to awaken face to face with Jesus. Do you long for the day when your faith will be made sight, and are welcomed by Jesus himself into paradise?

“The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle

Randy Alcorn’s “Heaven” will jazz you up for the morning. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Categories
Heaven hiking http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post Jones Gap Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area Rainbow Falls Trip report Waterfalls Zion

This place is like a picture

 

Every time we go on an adventure, I am always the guy who lags behind. True, I am a slowpoke. Perhaps a better name would be a lollygagger. I’m not out to set any distance records. I’m not on some trail to march (although I do enjoy trail running on occasion… like the occasion I actually go running). I’m out to enjoy the scenery. I’m out to be awed and enamoured with what lay before my eyes.

I was made to marvel.

And marvel I did on our recent hike to Rainbow Falls in the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area of Northern South Carolina. We parked at the entrance to Jones Gap State Park, in Cleveland, SC. About 2.5 miles one way, we pulled ourselves 1000ft in elevation up the side of the gorge to get to one of the most magnificent waterfalls I have seen. This was along semi-gentle contours, and it is a well cut trail with erosion control on it. The rainbow Falls Trail takes you past flowing creeks, small waterfalls, granite cliffs, good views, and finally dead ends at Rainbow Falls. It allowed for some great scrambling along slippery rocks, and I was even able to get right beneath the waterfall to feel the power and strength of water as it impacts after a 100ft fall. I took several pictures.

One of those pictures is somewhere on this post.. My friend Eric is at the base of the 100ft waterfall, which is at the point in a large canyon on either side. We are surrounded by water and cliffs and rock and greenery. What makes Rainbow Falls one of my favorite is the sense of being consumed by what is in front of you. The scene is all-encompassing, you become IN it, instead of going TO it. Instead of, “That’s cool,” you become speechless. You are in awe. You are marveling.

This is what I was made for, and experiences like this are what I aim for on every adventure into the wilderness.

This is also what a picture does not capture. Sometimes, if someone is standing in the picture, the viewer can get a sense of scale, like how big the waterfall really is. But it’s not just about the waterfall, it’s about the experience. You can’t feel the spray of the mist, the power of the falling water, the closing in of the canyon walls, or the satisfaction of making it to your destination, or the fun of rock hopping your way to the base of a waterfall, or the sense of being lost in something bigger than you are. This is the kind of thing that makes a man feel small and insignificant. I love this.

Coming back around, a picture cannot capture being there. How much more will this be true of Heaven? When we read in Scripture about the City of God, do we read thinking we have absolute clarity on what Heaven will be? It is far better to think of our view of Heaven as a picture of an amazing waterfall, mountain, canyon, ocean or river. If what we behold on this side of the glass thrills us, can you fathom what it will be like to actually stand guiltless in Heaven, where we see with eyes unveiled, the glory of what has been prepared for those who trust in Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins and adoption as sons and daughters as heirs into the family of God?

View these photos of waterfalls and gorges, and desire to be lost in their midst. As you stand marveling, imagine what Zion, a Christian’s home country, must be like.

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. (1Corinthians13:12 esv)

Indeed.

Perhaps reading the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S.Lewis can aid you in this.

Categories
backpacking camping hiking http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post Panthertown Valley Trip Planning Yosemite of the East

Panthertown Valley is this week!

Panthertown Valley.

I’ve waited quite a while to go here, and now I’m only a few days away from leaving. I have heard about this “Yosemite of the East” for a good while. I’ve heard about a confusing mess of trails, a land ripe with waterfalls, and 300 foot granite domes. The time is finally coming.

Looking at the weather, it has cleared up to 0% chance of precip on Friday and 10% on Saturday, partly sunny with a high of 66F. This will be perfect weather!

Looking at our route, I intend to keep it pretty much the same as prior planning, but instead of summitting Big Green Mountain, perhaps we will just make a loop up to Little Green Mountain instead of making a figure-8 route back towards Granny Burrell Falls (although we will still pass these falls as we hike the valley). The decision won’t have to be made until we climb the southern end of Big Green Mountain, which looks to be just short of a 500ft climb from the base of the valley if we go to the highest elevation of the summit.

Looking at the companions, as of today, two guys are planning on going with me. One new to our adventures, and one who has shared my “spacious” Marmot Limelight 2P tent with me in TurkeyPen area near Brevard.

Looking at gear, I have an ENO DoubleNest, but no bug net or tarp in the unlikely case of weather.. although there is a shelter there I could hang in. If not, the Marmot Limelight 2P may come, or possibly a Coleman 4P (not sure the model). I will likely pack my Gregory Z35r pack with whichever shelter, The North Face Green Kazoo sleeping bag, Therm-A-Rest Trail Light pad. I’ll likely wear either Timberland hiking boots or Five Ten Guide Tennies, REI Sahara cargo pants, The North Face vapor wick T shirt, bandana, and SmartWool socks. Bear Grylls Ultimate knife will be making its debut.

Looking at food, probably frozen hotdogs packed in that will hopefully be thaw by dinner, not sure on breakfast, beef jerky and Clif bars for trail snacks. Bears are a possibility, so I need to freshen up on how to tie a bear bag.

Looking at going, I’m pumped. Hopefully I can get out of work a few hours early to spend time with Jenny and the kids before I leave for the evening. I hope to rendezvous in Greet and leave from there.

Looking at coming back, I’m shooting for 3pm on Saturday, but that is subject to change depending on how we explore. That’s always a penciled in return time.

If you want to go, you need to contact me ASAP so we can work it in the plans.

Looking to the future, I am anticipating an exploratory trip to Bonas Defeat, possibly hammocking in Big Pisgah near Dismal Falls the night prior. This is all preliminary speculation on routes with very little research beyond knowing the areas exist and are somewhat close to one another. I anticipate this would not be for the feint of heart, though. Bonas Defeat is supposed to be some of the best canyoneering in the southeast. We’ll see what a scrambler can do without the gear.

Categories
cycling Greenville http://schemas.google.com/blogger/2008/kind#post Race running Swamp Rabbit 5k Swamp Rabbit Progress Swamp Rabbit Trail Traveler's Rest walking

Swamp Rabbit Trail progress

The Swamp Rabbit 5k is tonight, and I’m excited to be participating in it with my wife, Jenny.

The race, however, is not where most of my excitement for this trail is. Last year, I started biking the Swamp Rabbit from Traveler’s Rest to Greenville. Recently, there has been progress on Cleveland St and it’s almost done! A 170 ft bridge that crosses the Reedy River near the entrance to Greenville Technical College is getting it’s finishing touches as of this morning. From there, the trail continues all the way to S Pleasantburg Dr. From tip to tip, I believe the length is approximately 14.5 miles now. This will be a great trip once this stage is completed!

In Lake Conestee Nature Park in Mauldin, there is already a network of walking and iobiking trails. One of these is the Swamp Rabbit. It goes from Lake Conestee to the I-85 ptytlppoverpass on Parkins Mill Rd. Eventually, this will be connected to the main artery of the Swamp Rabbit. I’ve speculated about routes it will take. I know there has been some controversy over the trail going through private land, but I’ve also heard that a compromise is coming along well. Perhaps it’s already happened and I don’t know the results. As I can see it, best result is to take the Swamp Rabbit along the golf course and the Reedy River, following it under Pleasantburg near the South Pleasantburg Nursery (which has a TON of stuff, if you’re into plants and gardening and all that) and finally connecting at the overpass on Parkins Mill. But who knows.. I’m just speculating.

I have only been on the Swamp Rabbit once this year, but I’m itching to get back on it. Hopefully that will be the next excursion after Panthertown Valley. It really is a great way to get outside and enjoy Greenville if you haven’t done it already.

But until then, we’ll be joining 4500 other participants in the race tonight.

See you on the Swamp Rabbit, Greenville!