A Good Walk Shared

Mark Twain is reported to have said that the game of golf is “a good walk spoiled.” John Feinstein wrote a book about golf and gave it that title. This piece is not about golf. It’s about walking.

Our progress through life is like a journey on foot, a long walk, a pilgrimage. It is one in which we may walk in the company of God himself. This is a word picture that is used frequently in the Bible. “Noah . . . walked faithfully with God” (Genesis 6:9, NIV).

The Old Testament has well over 200 references to walking. Some of these refer literally to walking from one place to another. Most of them, however, are figurative uses of the word “walk” as a metaphor for living life. “Blessed is the one who does not walk in the way of the wicked’ (Psalm 1:1, NIV). Sometimes contemporary versions of the Bible translate the word “walk” as “live” or “behave.” “Teach them his decrees and instructions, and show them the way they are to live” (or walk, Exodus 18:20, NIV).

This lifelong walk is seen as a purposeful, resolute trek, with God as a faithful guide and companion on the journey.

For the people of Israel, this was serious business. This meant that they were to walk (live) in accordance with God’s laws. “You shall not do as they do in the land of Egypt, where you lived, and you shall not do as they do in the land of Canaan, to which I am bringing you. You shall not walk in their statutes. You shall follow my rules, and keep my statutes, and walk in them. I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 18:3-4, ESV).

Living this way was for their protection from tyranny, disease, and moral confusion. Living this way insured civil order, happy homes, and economic justice. This was called “walking in God’s ways.” (This phrase is used repeatedly in the Old Testament to illustrate how the Israelites were to walk in the direction and on the path that the Lord God had chosen for them as his people.)

Living (walking) this (in his) way also insured that the Lord himself would accompany them on their journey. “I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people. I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 26:12-13, NIV).

In my hikes on the Appalachian Trail, I relied upon white blazes (two inches wide by six inches) painted on trees, rocks, or fence posts to mark the trail. These markers, usually about a quarter mile apart, are for hikers’ guidance and safety, to help them stay on the path. That was the function of God’s law for Israel. His “way” for them to walk was always good. “Teach them the good way in which they should walk” (1 Kings 8:36, ESV).

Like warning signals, the Lord also issued cautionary words to inform his people of the consequences of resisting his will. It was a dangerous thing to oppose the Living God. In Leviticus 26, he gave his people a litany of terrible things that might happen to them if they “walk contrary to” his way.

The worst result would be this: “If you will not listen to me, but walk contrary to me, then I will walk contrary to you in fury, and I will discipline you sevenfold for your sins” (Leviticus 26:27-28, ESV). Those words are more stark and disturbing then a bomb scare or a tornado warning.

It is better to walk with God.

His presence is wisdom. “For wisdom will enter your heart . . . Thus you will walk in the ways of the good and keep to the paths of the righteous” (Proverbs 2:10, 20, NIV).

His presence is guidance. “Whether you turn to the right hand or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it'” (Isaiah 30: 21, NIV).

His presence is peace.  “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me” (Psalm 23:4, NIV).

His presence is blessing. “Blessed are all who fear the Lord, who walk in obedience to him” (Psalm 128:1, NIV). 

All these advantages, and more, were true of Abraham, to whom the Lord said, “I am God Almighty; walk before me faithfully and be blameless” (Genesis 17:1, NIV). He was later able to testify of “The Lord, before whom I have walked faithfully” (Genesis 24:40, NIV). This meant that every step Abraham took through life, he was conscious of God’s presence. He experienced the Lord close at hand in personal fellowship.

Is this a possibility for us today? If the Old Testament is foundational to our understanding of the New, then surely the theme of walking with God will be expanded and explained more fully there. In the weeks to come we will examine some New Testament passages that show us how to walk through life in fellowship with God.

Pastor Randy Faulkner

Enoch’s Long Walk

“Enoch walked with God; then he was no more because God took him away.” (Genesis 5:24)

Genesis chapter 5 is an historical summary of the generations before God judged the world with the great flood. It is a genealogy of the descendants of Adam down to Noah. The recurrent theme of the chapter is death. It describes a fulfillment of God’s verdict on Adam and Eve: “You shall surely die.” The last enemy, death, was at the end of every life, even those very long lives. Eight times in the chapter we encounter the phrase, “then he died.”

One man, Enoch, stands out. He breaks the pattern.  His story is an exception to the death and ungodliness in his time. He escaped death. That’s right. He didn’t die. The New Testament comments: “By faith Enoch was taken from this life so that he did not experience death; he could not be found because God had taken him away. For before he was taken, he was commended as one who pleased God” (Hebrews 11:5). 

In this respect, Enoch is an illustration of the rapture, or “catching away” of the church before the future tribulation Jesus spoke about in Matthew 24. In that passage, Jesus compared the tribulation judgment of the last days to the flood (Matthew 24:35-39). Enoch’s translation to heaven pictures what will happen to the living believers who will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11).

Enoch pleased God because he walked with God. Or did he walk with God because he pleased God? Either way, he stands out in his generation as one who lived in close fellowship with his Creator. He walked with God for 300 years! That’s consistency. Living for God in this world — living with God — is like a walk. My experience as a long-distance hiker on the Appalachian Trail has taught me the value of steady progress over a long haul. It is not a sprint or a dash, nor is it a casual stroll.

Enoch’s walk with God implies long-term obedience to the will of God. They were moving in the same direction. Enoch and God were on good terms. Abraham was called the friend of God. So was Enoch. I don’t think it an exaggeration to say that they enjoyed each others’ company. Enoch did not allow anything to interfere with his relationship with God.

It was said of Charles Haddon Spurgeon that “he felt perfectly at home with his Heavenly Father.” Perhaps that could describe Enoch’s relationship with God, too. It was based on faith. For us it is living by faith in God’s word, and the guidance of God’s Spirit, not trusting our own understanding. “We live (literally ‘walk’) by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). Enoch was commended for his faith in Hebrews 11:5-6. There it tells us that his faith “pleased God,” and that without faith it is impossible for us to please God.

Genesis tells us of three men who walked with God, Enoch, Noah (Genesis 6:9), and Abraham (Genesis 17:1). Scripture also tells us that we, you and I, here and now are invited to walk with God. Listen to the prophet Micah: “He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).

I want 2023 to be a year in which I walk humbly with God. I am not talking about physical walking. With Parkinson’s disease, I am a little less steady on my feet than I once was. I think my long-distance hiking days are over. But spiritually, in my relationship with the Father in Heaven, I can keep walking in faith and faithfulness. For the next few weeks I will use this space to explore what that looks like.

Pastor Randy Faulkner


Are We Paying Attention?

I read through the Bible in 2022 using the One Year Bible: New Living Translation. In 2023 I intend to do the same thing following the reading plan in the Ryrie Study Bible. This year it will be the New American Standard Bible. (Reading different translations of holy scripture heightens my respect for the inspiration and preservation of God’s Word, and sometimes prompts fresh perspectives and questions as I read.)

Reading though the Bible in a year is not as daunting as it may seem. You can do it in as little as twenty minutes a day. It’s not too late to get started. Do a Google search of Bible reading plans, choose one and go for it!

I was saddened to read in the current issue of Christianity Today a report from the American Bible Society that regular Bible reading declined in 2022. It is unclear why. “That means that amid record inflation, threats of nuclear war in the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the ongoing debates about the state of democracy, there were about 26 million Americans who stopped reading the Bible.” Is this one of the indicators that the U.S. has become a post-Christian nation?

There is a wonderful story in the Book of Nehemiah which gives us some of the benefits of Bible reading. The teaching priest Ezra led the people of Judah in a solemn assembly to revive their interest in the written Word of God. In Nehemiah 8-9 the “people came together as one” to hear the reading of the scriptures “which the Lord had commanded for Israel” (Nehemiah 8:1).

A great crowd of men, women and children listened attentively as Ezra read all morning long (8:3). The readings were punctuated by expressions of praise to the Lord (8:6). Then Ezra sent other teachers out among the people to explain the scriptures and give clarity in understanding what was being read (8:7-8).

What followed were outcomes we might expect to see in our own lives when we read the Bible with humility: (1) conviction and confession of sin (9:1-4), (2) worship and praise to God (9:3), (3) remembrance of and thanks for the great works of God (9:5-37), (4) heartfelt surrender to God (9:38-10:39). In other words, their lives were regulated and shaped by the holy Word of God. These are reasons why we should be reading God’s Word every day.

I heard Warren Wiersbe say, “When I open my Bible and read it, God is speaking to me.” The Old Testament prophets thundered, “Thus says the Lord!” They were given the conviction that what they wrote and preached was the very Word of God. God had called them to be his human messengers, conveyors of his Word.

So if God speaks though the scriptures, shouldn’t we be paying attention?

Dr. Bruce Waltke was invited to bring a series of chapel lectures at a leading church-related university. His assigned topic was “What do evangelicals believe?” (This was before the label “evangelical” was hijacked by political opportunists!) He began by saying that “evangelical” is related to the “evangel” or the good news of the gospel. The evangel is based upon the Bible. He noticed that nobody in the room had a Bible.

He said to the president, “I won’t continue to teach until you have Bibles!” Naturally the president got upset. But he dispatched a search party to find Bibles for the members of the audience. The janitor found a quantity of unused pew Bibles in a basement storage room. The next week they brought these Bibles to the chapel for Waltke’s lectures.

Why did he do that? Because the Bible was the basis of authority for his teaching. It is the Word of God written, and the source of any truth we can know about God and his will for us. Maybe your Bible is not gathering dust in a basement storage room. But where is it right now? I suggest that you open it and let God speak to you.

Pastor Randy Faulkner


Freedom and Confidence in Prayer

My parents served in Christian higher education. My mother was on the college music faculty and my dad was in administration. His office as vice president was usually a busy place, with people waiting to see him. As a boy, I knew that if his secretary told me there was no one with him, I could pass through the outer office and go right in. He always welcomed me.

This reminds me of the access to God that Christians have when we pray. We are encouraged to go right in to the throne room of our Heavenly Father with confidence and candor. “In him (Jesus) and through faith in him, we may approach God with freedom and confidence” (Ephesians 3:12).

This year in my morning devotional readings I have been going through a book on prayer by Tim Chester, The Message of Prayer. It is helping to strengthen my prayer life. I was especially encouraged by the author’s reminder of the intercessory ministry of Jesus at the right hand of God. The knowledge that I have an advocate in heaven gives me greater confidence in prayer. Here are three reasons for that, based upon the book of Hebrews.

Jesus feels what I feel.

In his humanity, Jesus identifies with us and sympathizes with us. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet was without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). He knows my struggles and failures. Though he was and is without sin, he understands how it feels to be tempted. In my weakness, it helps me to know that Jesus experienced human weakness, to the point of death. He understands.

Because of this, I am invited to pray to God. “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).

Jesus speaks to the Father on my behalf.

Hebrews 9:24 says that Jesus, our great high priest in heaven “appears for us in God’s presence.” As our representative before God, Jesus defends our interests and pleads our case. John the apostle wrote, “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense — Jesus Christ the righteous one” (1 John 2:1).

Tim Chester, commenting on this fact, wrote, “By his presence he reminds the Father — as if the Father needed reminding —  of the finished work of the cross. Jesus, as it were, says by his presence, ‘I am here in heaven and my people are united with me — they have access to God.’ . . . He is before God with his wounded side and his pierced hands as if to say, ‘These are the reasons why you should hear my people and show them mercy.'”

Jesus opens the way for me.

The New Testament tells us that when Jesus died the curtain or veil in the temple in Jerusalem was torn in two from top to bottom (Mark 15:38). This symbolized how the way into God’s presence was now being opened for believers. Through Jesus we may have access into God’s presence. He bore the judgment for our sin. He shed his blood to cleanse us. Through his perfect sacrifice we may come close to God.

Tim Chester reminds us that this is why we pray in Jesus’ name. “The name of Jesus is not a talisman or invocation. Rather it is a reminder that we have access to God through the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus.” It is not, he says, “because of our goodness, or of the style of our praying or the length of our prayers.” We cannot add anything to the value or sufficiency of Christ’s death and resurrection. We pray in his name and for his glory alone.

“Our only claim before the throne of God is the blood of Jesus,” writes Chester. “But what a claim that is!” In Hebrews we are told that in confident prayer we “enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is his body, . . . Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and full assurance of faith” (Hebrews 10:19-22).

In 1863 an Irish lady by the name of Charitie Lees Smith wrote a hymn based upon these truths, titled “Within the Veil.” It was a favorite of the famous English preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon. Shortly before he died, Spurgeon quoted a part of that hymn in his last public address. The song has been popularized in the U.S. in recent years as “Before the Father’s Throne Above” to a new tune by Vikki Cook. It is a great comfort to me at this time in my life. It expresses beautifully the reason why I may have confidence and freedom in prayer.

“Before the Father’s throne above/ I have a strong and perfect plea/ a Great High Priest whose name is love/ who ever lives and pleads for me./ My name is graven on his hands/ my name is written on his heart/ I know that while in heaven he stands/ no tongue can bid me thence depart.

“When Satan tempts me to despair/ and tells me of the guilt within,/ upward I look and see Him there/ who made and end of all my sin./ because the sinless Savior died/ my sinful soul is counted free/ for God the Just is satisfied/ to look on Him and pardon me.

“Behold Him there, the bleeding Lamb/ my perfect, spotless Righteousness/ the great unchangeable ‘I AM’/ the King of glory and of grace./ One with Himself I cannot die/ my soul is purchased by his blood/ My life is hid with Christ on high/ with Christ my Savior and my God.”

Pastor Randy Faulkner