LifeLink Devotions (Click here for Apple podcast)

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Several years ago I was on a trout fishing adventure with my sons. We had hiked about a mile downstream to a place called Michigan Rapids on the Peshtigo River. Earlier in the day we had talked to a group of guys who were going canoeing, and they had asked us if we knew the river. We had warned them about the rapids downstream where the river narrows around a tiny island. It formed a real white-knuckle whitewater. Maybe an experienced kayaker could get through but it was certainly no place for a canoe.

Well, down the river came the three canoes, each with two guys and all of their camping equipment. We were several hundred yards below the rapids when we heard the first yell for help. We saw bags of potato chips float by, followed by hotdog buns. Then came a red canoe on its side, with two guys hanging on. Huge duffel bags and a cooler were lashed to the canoe. The lid of the cooler was open and the contents were floating down the river. The former passengers of the canoe were now at the mercy of the river. A huge rock in front of them caught the front end of the canoe and slowed it down enough for one of the guys to steady it and turn it towards shore. I grabbed the front end and pulled them in. Meanwhile, the second canoe floated by with two more guys hanging on. The man in the back let go and got to shore where the first canoe had landed, but the other guy kept going, and he wasn’t wearing a life jacket. Later reports by another witness in our group said that the man had almost drowned when the canoe landed on top of him and knocked him under the water. He was able to maneuver the canoe into a fallen tree and stop it, and from there they were able to get onto shore. We knew there had been three canoes and asked where the third one was. The drenched, cold, and shaken men of the first two canoes said they thought they had gone ashore before they hit the rapids and were portaging. They were right. At least two of the guys had decided that we had not spoken empty words to them.

These canoeists believed that they could navigate those rapids. One of the guys said that they had looked at several maps and none had any warnings about what to expect at that point on the river. We chose not to argue with them, but every map and web site labels all the rapids on the river by a classification from I to IV, with IV being the most difficult to navigate. Here’s what the official National Parks Service web site says about that section of river – “The rapids begin shortly after the mouth of Armstrong Creek and continue for 3/4 mile. While rated a Class II rapids in summer and Grade III in high water, this is a long challenging run at any water level. A short Grade II boulder field is followed by 200 yards of relatively calm water. Take out on the right before a sharp right turn in the river. The steep drop following the take-out rates as Class III-IV rapids. Open canoes are not advised during the spring due to high waves. The large haystacks in this area can cause an open canoe to fill with water, and the continuing Class II-III rapids below the haystacks make immediate rescue difficult. There is a Forest Service trail along the right bank that can be used for scouting or portaging.” 

Some people just don’t listen. They have it in their mind what they want and no matter what kind of warnings they hear, they choose to do it their own way. These canoeists lost supplies and equipment, and almost lost their lives. They had ignored the truth and lost. That’s what happens every time we ignore the truth – we lose. And a lot of people are losing. That’s because a lot of people are speaking empty words. Words that deceive even those who claim to know the truth.

Ephesians 5:6  Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient.” 

My friends, we are approaching a white-knuckle class VI rapids on the river of human existence. We are in open canoes. All our supplies are lashed to the seats and thwarts. We have our paddles in hand, and our life jackets on. But once we are on the river, enjoying the thrill of the ride, we forget the truth we have learned about the dangers of the river. We just keep paddling, thinking the people on shore who are waving their hands and yelling are simply encouraging us to keep going. We can’t really hear them because of the noise of the river, but even if we could we are so enamored with our experience that we would choose to keep going anyway. Soon, there will be a serious capsizing of our lives.

As Christians – the people who are called out by God to be His true and faithful followers – we have an obligation to stick to the truth, and to proclaim it boldly and loudly.  But three things are happening that will end in catastrophe. First, we who know the truth have stopped telling the truth. We see suffering in the lives of those who do speak out and choose to be silent so se can avoid such suffering. Second, we have started listening to the empty words of the world, offering seemingly enjoyable rides down the river of life. And third, we have chosen in many areas of our lives to get in their canoes.

My friends, don’t be deceived by the empty words of the world. There is no truth in them. That’s what empty means. Stick to the truth – in EVERY area of your life. The rapids are coming, and you will not survive in the world’s canoes. You will only survive when you listen to the truth and portage around the dangers.

Pastor John

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