I recently took a chance on a new spot for ducks in the valley of Montana that I call home. It was a slough that was doing its best to ice over, shutting down all use by the local mallards. I did my best to break away the ice from around the banks to reclaim what I’d hoped would be the only water open in this particular area. When my work was done, I found a spot to hunker down in the brush with my legs submerged in the knee-deep water. With the outside temperature holding steady at 12 degrees, the slough actually felt more like a lukewarm tub. I had just settled in and was waiting for legal shooting time to arrive when a flash of black caught my eye. I snapped my head to attention to see a monster owl, talons down, headed for my face! I flinched one way, the owl flared the other. The owl had obviously seen my eyeballs moving or my white face among the grass and decided to dive-bomb its prey. I ducked so quick I got a crick in my neck! I honestly don’t know whether it was the owl, or me, that came closer to a heart attack! The crick in my neck lasted for much of the next 24 hours, serving as a reminder of how quick and stealthy the predator works on its prey.
1 Peter 5:8 says, “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.”
Predators are constantly on the prowl to make the kill. It’s how they make their living…the way they survive. Satan also remains on the prowl. He is constantly looking for lives to destroy and marriages to break up. It’s what he does best. He comes to kill and destroy. You’ve probably seen his efforts in your life many times. And likely, there have been times when you never saw the attack coming. I want to encourage you to stay alert! Watch out for these constant attacks from the ultimate predator. We can, and will, overcome when we hold close to Jesus.
My eyes popped open this morning and quickly scanned the clock beside my bed. It was 5:30am, and my body was still in the groove of waking early to hit the woods in pursuit of whitetail deer. But with my buck tags punched, and the month of November now behind us, I could hardly muster up the mojo to rise long before daylight. The big show was now over. My heart and soul was longing for something else. I was ready to move on to other things. Chasing mountain lions, waterfowl, or wolves would now be the new focus of my time in the outdoors.
But isn’t it interesting the effect the month of November has on deer hunters?
I mean, it was just a few weeks ago that I was anxiously jumping out of bed, even before the alarm clock began to blare country music at my bedside, to head out for a few hours in the treestand. It was in those few, choice weeks of November that I would scramble to get my work done each day quick enough to run back to the woods to be in the stand for those last few hours before dark in the afternoon. The month of November brings the big show, the whitetail rut, for deer hunters and nobody wants to miss the big show!
But there I was lying in the bed, an hour and a half before the break of day, and the thought of punching one last doe tag wasn’t enough to pull me from the warmth of my bed. The big show was over.
At the church where I pastor, I just preached the last sermon in a series on being a true follower of Jesus. The text was a follow-up to the miracle of Jesus feeding the 5,000 in John 6. In that passage, Jesus has this huge crowd following him around because they were blown away by the fact that he fed them…thousands upon thousands of them…with just 5 loaves of bread and two fish. It was crazy! Had it been today, it would have been worthy of pay-per-view. It would have gone viral on Youtube. It was huge! It was the big show…and lots of people wanted to be a part of the big show. The passage goes on to state how Jesus later called the people out for being guilty of following Him just because He was feeding them and because they enjoyed the spectacle. He shared that they indeed needed more than just perishable food. They needed more than the big show. They needed Jesus. But the part that freaks me out the most is what comes in verse 66 of that chapter. After Jesus shares that He is the bread of life and that He is what they are really searching for, verse 66 says, “From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.”
Many no longer followed him. Sad! They were only after the show. When it came down to it, Jesus alone wasn’t enough for them. They moved on to the next big thing.
Is Jesus enough for you today? If you lose your job, your marriage, your kids, your home, your friends….is Jesus still enough?
When you get to the point where Jesus is all you have, you realize He is all you need.
My buddy, Dave, recently killed his first deer with a bow. It was a proud moment for him, as well as the rest of us that had been cheering him on. I was particularly impressed with Dave’s persistence in the midst of obvious frustration. You see, the landowner for the property on which Dave hunted had one stipulation, “Don’t shoot the buck!” The landowner was “saving” this one particular deer for his own son. The buck was off limits to Dave. And of course, guess what deer showed up for Dave with every trip to the field? Yep! The buck that was off limits!
The buck seemed to know he was safe. Not only did the deer appear each time, but he was also guilty of deliberate tempting and taunting as he leisurely strolled past Dave’s stand location. The buck seemed to smile at Dave each time he walked by, within easy bow-range for a shot. Dave swears that at one point the deer even stuck his tongue out at him! It was tempting…but Dave withstood the pressure from doing what he would like to have done and stayed focused on what the father had instructed.
The young buck at just 10 yards was an easy target. It would have been simple to slip the silent arrow into the buck while the landowner wasn’t around. But Dave did right. He was soon rewarded with a big fat doe for his family. For the hunter, few things on this earth are as rewarding as that first bow-kill and a freezer full of meat at the end of a long hunting season.
There’s a question well worth our consideration….What are we tempted by the most in this life? There are times when temptation floods our minds and hearts and the right choice is clear and obvious, but our personal preference begs a different way. We are easily enticed by the easy way. We want the way that provides immediate fulfillment. And that, more often than not, flies in the face of what is right. The Father (God) has given us simple instructions.
Will we follow what we know He wants for our lives, even when we are overwhelmed with the temptation of a more attractive option? Great is the reward at the end of this long season of life for those who endure the temptation of this present world.
“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13
I recently spent a beautiful, cool and crisp morning in the treestand. It was the kind of morning where you just know deer are going to be on the move. With the whitetail rut about to break loose, I was determined to sit until at least noon. But despite the perfect day, and the ample hours spent in the stand, I didn’t see squat! Not one deer! The woods were dead. Around lunchtime, my excitement for a perfect morning in the deer woods turned to frustration. Irritated at the lack of activity, I climbed down from my stand and headed for the truck. “Maybe the deer just didn’t move this morning,” I thought to myself as I made the drive home. About that time, I approached a small SUV on the two-lane in front of me with something strapped to its roof. I sped up to get a closer look. Sure enough, on a morning when I woulda swore there wasn’t a deer in the world, the hunter in front of me had found success on a nice buck. A mature deer strapped to the roof of a tiny Honda SUV is quite a sight. It looked huge!
The sight brought a smile to my face. I couldn’t help but think of how excited this hunter must have been to experience success on that morning. I laughed as I thought about how entertaining it must have been to watch that hunter wrestle that buck up on top of that little truck. The proud hunter swerved all over the road as he did his best to steer with his left hand and work his cell phone in his right hand. Texting success photos to friends just couldn’t wait! I found myself proud for this hunter. As I traveled down the road, tailgating a little too close, I shared in the excitement of the hunt for this individual. It was his moment of glory…and it was pretty cool to watch.
But there was a time when things would have been different.
There was a time when jealousy would have washed all over me at the sight of another hunter’s success when I experienced only struggle. Have you been there? Do you share in the joy of your buddy’s success when a kill shot pops up on your cell phone or email…or do you cringe with a feeling of jealousy? Jealousy often makes us say stupid things, act in inappropriate ways, and do things that ought not be a part of our character.
James 3:16 says, “For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.”
I recently read a letter from one hunter to another that was riddled with jealous accusations and absurd untruths. One hunter’s struggle for success led to more than they could handle. Bottled up bitterness and jealousy had spilled over into inappropriate actions.
Whether in the woods, or your daily routine of life, I want to encourage you to leave no room for jealousy in your life and in your relationships.
With the skies across our valley beginning to lighten, I found myself rushing down the two lane highway that leads from my house to one of my hunting spots. I had a few emails to send before heading to the woods, and I was now running behind and racing to beat daybreak. I was in the middle of questioning myself on the integrity of passing a school bus in front of me when out of nowhere, a huge cow elk flashed across the road in front of me. It happened fast…and close. Before I could move my foot from the gas pedal to the brake, she had come and gone. My adrenaline went nuts through my body as it often does when a quick and ugly crisis catches me off guard. My heart raced as the near reality of such a large beast meeting my windshield sunk in. I was on a highway that routinely sees critter collisions. Deer die by vehicles along this highway nearly every day during the whitetail rut. I knew the potential…yet I was caught off guard.
As I continued on down the road, thanking God for pushing that cow out of my way in a hurry, I was reminded of how suddenly the return of Christ will be. The Bible is clear that regardless of the fact that we have been told, warned, and prepared for His coming, we still have no idea when it will happen. It will happen in a flash. The Bible says, “For as the lightning flashes in the east and shines to the west, so it will be when the Son of Man comes.” (Matthew 24:27) In the blink of eye, as quick as lightning flashing across the sky, Christ will return! 1 Thessalonians 5:2 says, “For you know quite well that the day of the Lord’s return will come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night.”
On the way to my treestand that morning, I asked God to help me not get so consumed with the rush of life that I fail to realize that there is so much more to life than the here and now. This little vapor of life in which we now live is fleeting. It will soon be gone…and then true life begins. I want to be ready…I want to stay ready…Knowing that in a flash, He’ll be back!
On a recent afternoon, my son, Aidan, and I made our way through the woods as we headed to a ground blind for an evening of hushed excitement in deer country. I figured it would be the perfect spot for us to share a little man-time together and hopefully punch a deer tag. Despite not really knowing where we were going, Aidan did his best to lead the way on the hike in to our spot. Bold and confident, he walked ahead of me in an effort to be the first to find the ground blind.
It was good to be back in the woods with my son. It was his first hunt of the year and while the encounters with deer were slim, we enjoyed cuttin’ up, eating snacks, and making memories. At one point, as the sun began to sink toward the mountaintop, we heard the sound of crashing and thrashing in the brush behind us. The sounds of a rutting bull moose brought a smile to my face…and panic, fear, and dread to Aidan’s. He covered his ears doing his best to drown out the scary sounds of “something big in the bushes.”
Later that evening as we stumbled our way back to the truck, following the glow of a headlamp, I found Aidan right at my side, holding tightly to my hand. With darkness settling in and big critters making noises in the thicket around us, my bold and confident boy had suddenly realized his need to hang on to his daddy’s hand. He had come to the realization that there was something out there bigger than he was and he wanted to hold on to the hand of the man that would protect him and keep him safe.
It was a simple reminder to me of the many times that I’ve been a part of a similar scene as I’ve trudged through life. Countless are the times that I’ve boldly and confidently run into situations in life, without a care or concern of where my life was in relation to Christ. I’ve often run ahead of God’s plan…or parked it on the side of the road when I couldn’t understand what He was up to, or felt defeat in the midst of tough circumstances.
Regardless of the day and no matter the situation, I am reminded that I need to hold on to the hand of the one that will lead me, protect me, and hold me up.
“Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
Aside from his family and faith, Jeremy Taylor has few things that occupy his mind like chasing elk and deer when the season rolls around each year. This season has already proved to be a unique season for Jeremy, to say the least. Most any hunt presents its fair share of challenges and obstacles to overcome in order to find success. On this day however, Jeremy found that this particular hunt brought trials and a brush with death unlike any hunt he’s yet to experience. Fortunately, he was able to walk away from the experience and look back to truly see the mighty hand of God watching over him.
Vehicle trouble nearly kept me from this hunting trip, and it also nearly took my life on our return, says Taylor. We were hauling hay to a rancher where we hunt but the truck was overheating and we were pulling over every 20 minutes to cool the engine. At our fourth stop, we decided it just wasn’t going to work. A rancher training a horse in a corral next to the road needed hay and we needed to get rid of the 8 ton on our trailer so we could get hunting. Sure enough, out came the rancher’s checkbook and he bought the hay! He even agreed to keep our trailer for a few days! Our 6 hour trip took 10, but we finally made it just hours before dawn. We slept for a couple hours and headed up the mountain in search of elk. After a couple unfruitful setups, we started for a new area. Suddenly I realized there was a buck bedded in the middle of a meadow right in front of us. My hunting partner Jeff decided to make the stalk and I swung around to cover a possible escape route. I heard an arrow buzz through the morning air but the buck only trotted a few yards towards me, looking back where the sound came from. I ranged him at 58 and drew my bow. The arrow made contact and the buck ran the opposite direction. We waited for a couple hours by hunting the elk drainage we were headed for and then returned to find my buck. We boned him out and stuffed him in my badlands day pack and returned to our camp. After a couple more days of hunting elk without success, we headed home. We were driving along the interstate at 75 mph, reliving the hunt on our cell phones, when the rear end of the truck slammed to the ground. I threw my phone down and wrestled the steering wheel, managing to get us safely to the side of the road. The left rear wheel had come off the truck and passed us, rolling 800 yards down the highway! Eight hours and one tow-truck ride later, we finally made it home. God truly provided and protected us on this hunt.
Don’t set foot in the woods this fall without asking God for His provision and protection!
This past weekend brought the arrival of bowhunting season for a number of states across the country. As always, it was a time of great anticipation of what’s to come in a new season of encounters with wild critters. As you may have seen, there were countless Facebook friends that chimed in from the woods on opening morning via their smartphones. I always get a kick out of the number of camo-clad friends that sit perched in their treestand or groundblind and make comments on Facebook like, “Back in the treestand…fingers crossed!” The optimism in these guys is admirable. But what I really like to see are the posts that I saw from a few other friends. Their posts were strikingly different from the wishful thinking of some. Their status was, “Hunting season is here once again…something’s gonna die this morning!”
You see, there’s a big difference in optimism and the confident hope and assurance of what is to come. While some simply hang a treestand, cross their fingers, and wish for the best, others have done their homework. They’ve played the game enough to know what to expect. They are confident in what the ultimate outcome will be.
A passage from the Bible in Lamentations chapter 3 finds Jeremiah looking ahead with great confidence and hope for what lies ahead. Even after walking through a dark time in life and being in a place of despair, he says, “Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness.” (Lam. 3:21-23)
Do you find yourself in the midst of life’s mess right now? Do you try to look to the future with optimism yet feel bound by the struggles that keep you from moving on? Do you feel like you’re on the verge of being consumed by the crisis that surrounds you? I want to encourage you with the fact that we have more than wishful thinking and optimism to cling to. We have a confident hope in a God that is so great and merciful that regardless of the circumstance, we are not consumed. He will not leave us or abandon us. Great is His faithfulness! Do you find your hope in Him?
As hunting seasons begin to open up all across the country, I want to encourage you to take a minute to ask yourself, “How much am I willing to sacrifice this season?”
We often see and hear lots of hunters talk about all the sacrifices they make to kill an animal. And while this may sound heroic or worthy of praise…it’s really sad. It’s sad because at the heart of the sacrifice are children without their daddy. There are wives that are ready to call it quits on their marriage. All because we lost perspective and failed to remember what truly matters the most.
So how much are you willing to sacrifice this season?
Is the pursuit of bucks and bulls greater than the moments spent with a child or spouse? Like a vapor from our lips, the moments are gone. Don’t miss it!
Below is a trailer for Mark Seacat’s film, “Searching for West.” Check it out, and then go watch the full length film at http://searchingforwest.com It’s a great example of one man’s revelation about how much to sacrifice.
Antelope season is officially underway and bowhunters across the northwest are hitting the plains in search of one of God’s coolest critters. While some will pursue these “speedgoats” through spot-n-stalk methods, others will patiently sit at a waterhole in hopes that an antelope buck will stop by for a cool drink. I’ll be honest, us antelope hunters are a weird bunch. The fact that some will sit in a smokin’ hot ground blind for a dozen hours at a time, with temperatures exceeding 100+ degrees, is hard to fathom. Heck, I struggle to sit through a 30-minute sermon on Sunday morning! But, somehow I can sit all day in a ground blind in hopes of an antelope encounter at a waterhole. Crazy indeed!
The reason we endure such hunting hardships is that we know sooner or later antelope will come to drink from the water source. Limited water is the secret to early season success when hunting antelope. They simply have to have water. And when they get thirsty enough, they will march back in to the pond or stock tank to quench their thirst. It’s an unquenchable desire that often leads to their demise. The hunter that endures will be rewarded.
Have you been there before? So thirsty you could hardly stand it? You chug down the water or Gatorade, and for a moment you are satisfied. But it’s not long before you thirst again. Maybe minutes, often hours, you soon find yourself in need of a drink.
In our never-ending search for satisfaction in life, it’s good to know that God promises to meet our needs completely. He won’t leave us lacking spiritually. He’s more than enough to meet every spiritual hunger and thirst we ever encounter.
The Bible says, “Jesus replied, Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.” John 4:13-14
Psalm 42:1 says, “As the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God.”
What are you so desperately in search of today? My prayer is that you long for the God that will meet your every need and quench your every thirst.