Trail Guide

The Complete and in order Trail Guide-Directions for the Journey of a Lifetime is available to download on totally FREE.  All I ask is that if you use it please let me know what you think and any feedback so that I can make it useful for aiding new believers and members in those early steps on the journey.  It is available as both a WORD document and a PDF file.  Please let me know if there are corrections or editing things that need to be done as well.

Blessings on the Journey!

Trail Guide–Directions for the Journey of a Lifetime XVI

The Seventh Step on the Trail – Hiking with Your Friends

Understanding The Importance of Fellowship

imageOne of the lessons that I remember from childhood hikes with the Boy Scouts or at church camp is that we should always have a buddy. We had hiking buddies, swimming buddies, and even a buddy who would walk with us to the latrine. We didn’t do anything alone because there was the potential that we might become injured and have no one to assist us. The wisest man and one time king of Israel put it this way:

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

Two people can accomplish more than twice as much as one; they get a better return for their labor. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But people who are alone when they fall are in real trouble. And on a cold night, two under the same blanket can gain warmth from each other. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.

We Don’t Want to Hike Alone

Making the hike of your life all the more interesting and fun is the fact that we don’t have to make the hike alone. We have friends and family who can make the journey along with us. It also helps to make the entire experience more profitable to us spiritually as we grow together in the family of God.

As the early followers of Jesus were just getting started one of the most important parts of their lives was the connection they had with other believers. Read what their early history reveals in the last part of Acts 2 and in Acts 4.

Acts 2:42-47 (NLT)
42 They joined with the other believers and devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, sharing in the Lord’s Supper and in prayer. 43 A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders.
44 And all the believers met together constantly and shared everything they had.
45 They sold their possessions and shared the proceeds with those in need. 46 They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity—47 all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their group those who were being saved.

Acts 4:32-35
32 All the believers were of one heart and mind, and they felt that what they owned was not their own; they shared everything they had. 33 And the apostles gave powerful witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and God’s great favor was upon them all.
34 There was no poverty among them, because people who owned land or houses sold them 35 and brought the money to the apostles to give to others in need.


I once heard the early church experience described as a KOINONIA Stew. Each believer represented one ingredient in the recipe. Alone, the stew would lack substance and flavor, but combined each ingredient added to the savory simmering collaboration, and nothing could compare to it.

KOINONIA is the Greek word that is translated as fellowship. It literally means “partnership.” It is a good description of who we are as we become connected and engaged in the church family. As we looked before at becoming employed in the kingdom of God according to our gifts which He strategically placed within us, we are not meant to simply be “members” of a church on the role, but active participants in the ministry of God’s family. We are “Partners with a Purpose.”

It is in the connection with the church family that we learn and grow as believers. We are given opportunity to demonstrate Christ in our lives in following the commands Scripture. I consider these to be the “One Anothers” of the New Testament.

  • · Love One Another (John 13.34-35)
  • · Forgive One Another (Ephesians 4.32)
  • · Be Kind to One Another (Ephesians 4.32)
  • · Encourage One Another (1 Thessalonians 5.11)
  • · Build Up One Another (1 Thessalonians 5.11)
  • · Live in Peace with One Another (1 Thessalonians 5.13)
  • · Be Hospitable to One Another (1 Peter 4.9)
  • · Submit to One Another (Ephesians 5.21)

This is a formidable list, but it is the list of behaviors, attitudes and actions that should define who we are as believers. I fully expect that when the world sees a church family who are fully committed to living out these principles it will have a dramatic influence and impact on the community and on the world. For that early church it meant that literally thousands of people came to be part of the church.

  • · Imagine what could happen in your family.
  • · Imagine what could happen in your community.
  • · Imagine what could happen in your world.

It begins, however, with the simplest of commitments. You have to determine that you will not be the “lone-ranger” Christian, and instead become a part of the body of Christ. You have a gift—discussed in an earlier chapter. You have a specific place, a church that God has chosen for you to be a part of. You have a specific task, a ministry that God has called you to perform. All of this happens as you get on the trail with other Christ followers. It begins with that commitment.

Families Fight

Note: This section is one that I wish people would have told me when I first became part of a church, and especially when I entered the ministry as a pastor. Please read it carefully and pray for understanding as you read through.

One of the hard and difficult truths that we have to face, and it’s especially hard for people who are new believers and may not be aware that the church is really a lot more like a family that we realize, is that sometimes even the best of families will encounter conflict. People say and do things that, intentionally or not, leave others wounded. This is no less true in the church family. Unfortunately there have been many church conflicts that caught multitudes of believers unaware. The end result has been that many people have left…fled like a scalded dog…and might never become a part of a church again.

In one church I heard about a small group of people who had always held the political power of the church began to see that power eroding away as new families were joining the church. In an effort to maintain their power they began to stir conflict within the church. The damage that this small group of people did will be a scar on that church and on the community for years to come.

A personal story goes back to that trail to Little Rock Pond where my wife and I spent our honeymoon. I think if you were to ask our friends and family that they would have told you that they didn’t know many other couples who were as deeply in love as we were. For nearly three years we had pretty much wrapped ourselves up in each other. So, it would have surprised them to know that on our first full day as a married couple, on the side of the mountain leading up to our honeymoon spot we had a knock-down drag-out fight. The details are not that important, but it could have ended with us both deciding that we were going to go our separate ways. However, twenty years have passed and we continue to be totally in love. There have been times when I have thought it might have been easier to have walked away, but oh what I would have missed out on.

imageI don’t want to scare you away, but to make sure that you enter into this connection with the community of faith knowing that you will not find a perfect church filled with perfect people. You are becoming part of a family, and as with any family there are some family members who…well can be challenging at best. I have a tee shirt that I found a Wal-Mart a year ago or so that tells it like it is. There is a picture of a squirrel with an acorn in his hand and a wild look in his eyes and these words splattered across the front of the shirt: “Most of the people who drive me nuts are in my family.”

That could be the testimony of every church in the world. However, we are only able to control and be responsible for ourselves. I urge you once again, look at the “One Another” passages above. Make them part of your everyday experience, and you will find yourself loving the church and even the nuts that are sometimes scattered within the family.

Review: Looking Back at the Seventh Step on the Trail

Think about your family Reunions. If they are normal then they might sometimes get interesting. What’s been the most interesting family experience in your family?


The Challenges that show up in our families may also appear from time to time in your church family. The benefits of family can sometimes be clouded by the burdens that come along with it. You have to determine to look past one another’s faults and follies and remember that God has loved you so much and He has brought you together as His family.


Jot Down some thoughts and ideas that you have concerning the family of God and your place in the fold.




Trail Guide–Directions for the Journey of a Lifetime XV

Review: Looking Back at the Sixth Step on the Trail

Think about Five People You Know who you Can invite to join you on the trail. Write their names Here:






Now, look at your right hand. For each name above assign one name to each finger on your hand. As you pray in a moment look to each finger and pray for the person that finger represents. When that person becomes a fellow traveler on the trail replace them on the finger with a new name you can be praying for.

Write a few thoughts here about the person that invited you to join the trail and how that experience took place.


Some Simple Trail Formulas

Here are some Scripture plans and other ways you can use to share the Jesus Story with people and how they can become a follower of Jesus.

These are usually available in a number of formats including handouts (tracts) and online web pages.

Roman’s Road

In your Bible mark the following verses. They offer a progression of steps toward becoming a follower of Jesus. Recognizing where we are without Jesus all the way to discovering how we can receive Jesus.

  • Romans 3.23
  • Romans 6.23
  • Romans 5.8
  • Romans 10.9
  • Romans 5.1
  • Romans 8.38-39

Four Spiritual Laws

Law One – God Loves You and Has a Wonderful Plan for Your Life.

  • John 3.16
  • John 10.10

Law Two – Man is sinful and Separated from God

  • Romans 3.23
  • Romans 6.23

Law Three – Jesus Christ is God’s ONLY Provision for Man’s Sin

  • Romans 5.8
  • 1 Corinthians 15.3-6
  • John 14.6

Law Four = We must INDIVIDUALLY receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord

  • John 1.12
  • Ephesians 2.8-9
  • Revelation 3.20

A Simple Prayer of Salvation:

“Dear God I know I’m a sinner, I know I am not where I want to be, and I want your forgiveness! I believe that Jesus died on the cross to pay the price for my sins. Please wash me clean from all sin. come into my life Jesus to be my Lord and Savior.




Trail Guide–Directions for the Journey of a Lifetime XIV

The Sixth Step on the Trail – Getting Others to Join You on the Hike

Facing our Fears

My heart was racing. I was pretty sure it was going to just rupture my chest cavity and escape my body, perhaps leaping off the cliff in front of me. It was the day and location I had chosen to “pop the question” to the girl I had fallen head over heels for. I had been totally certain about what her answer would be, right up to the moment when I was about to ask. I had made the preparations, practiced, and planned, but I had not counted on the terror that came just seconds before the moment of truth.

My Photos by Dave Bentley

Happily, after more than twenty years together, I can report that my beloved said yes. We began an incredible journey together that day, one that has had its share of valleys and peaks. I can’t imagine traveling this trail without her. Hopefully she would say the same about me.


Inviting others on the Trail

The fear that I faced that day at the overlook can be very similar to the fear that comes when the opportunity to share your faith with someone presents itself. We think we know how the person will respond. We might prepare, practice, and plan beforehand. Then the moment arrives and a terror takes over and we find ourselves slinking off to hide instead of inviting them along.

The Importance of Inviting Others Along

Spend just a little time in a Bible preaching church and you will hear about the importance of something called evangelism. Evangelism is a pretty key part of who we are as followers of Jesus Christ. Here is what it’s all about:

Evangelismfrom the Greek word “evangel” which means “Good News.” It is literally the telling of the good news contained in the story of Jesus Christ. The first four books of the New Testament are known as the Gospels and they are literally the evangelists of the New Testament because they tell the story of Jesus.

Great Commission – This is the command which appears in the four Gospels, and in the book of Acts, where Jesus tells His followers, and by connection you and me, to go and tell His story to the world. In your Bible look up the following Great Commission passages and high light them as you read them.

  •  Matthew 28.18-20
  • Mark 16.15
  • Luke 24.45-48
  • John 20.21-22
  • Acts 1.8

Can you see the importance that Jesus placed on telling His story?

Inviting Fellow-Travelers Onto the Trail

Suppose you are hiking along and you encounter someone on the trial who has lost their way. Maybe the compass they have been using was dropped in a lake, or the map they were using accidentally burned up in the campfire last night. Whatever has happened, you find them in a time of desperation. Unsure of how to proceed, they may be wandering in circles, or on the verge of totally giving up. Here’s the awesome thing: YOU KNOW THE WAY! Would you be able to live with yourself if you simply walked on by and left them scrambling about without guidance? I don’t believe you could. Think about this passage of Scripture:

  • Matthew 9:36-38 (NLT)
  • He (Jesus) felt great pity for the crowds that came, because their problems were so great and they didn’t know where to go for help. They were like sheep without a shepherd. He said to his disciples, “The harvest is so great, but the workers are so few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send out more workers for his fields.”

Jesus was moved with compassion when He saw people in the state of confusion and lostness, and He would move you as well. He had His followers pray for workers to go out into the harvest, and there you are in the middle of it all.

How Can You Tell His Story and Invite Others Along?

Look back at the first step on the trail. You should have taken a moment to write down some brief elements of your story at the end of that lesson. Your life before you met Jesus. How you came to know you needed Jesus. What your life has been like since believing in Jesus. Telling what Jesus has meant in your life is a great way of getting the conversation started, and it’s something that you should know better than anyone else.

Some Common Fears

What if they ask me a question I can’t Answer?

No one has all the answers, so don’t be afraid. Simply and honestly respond that you do not know. You can also offer to pray and seek an answer for it. Amazingly, you will discover that God graciously provides us with answers.

What if they are not willing to talk with me about it?

For a long time I felt rejected when someone refused to let me share with them about the Lord. I would get shot down and feel like I had failed in some way to do or say the right thing. In the end, however, I had to realize that they were not rejecting me, but God. That gave me a different perspective on things, and greater compassion for the person turning away.

What if they threaten me or get angry?

Having someone reject is one thing, but facing someone who is angry or threatening is a whole different experience. This can be incredible challenging and frightening. I have never faced a time when I felt like my life was in danger, but I have dealt with people who threatened me with any number of responses. All we can really do is pray during these times. I take courage from the experience of the early evangelists in the book of Acts. Read Acts 4 in your Bible and see the response as they were threatened, paying close attention to their prayer.

Do you notice a common thread in these fears? They are all what I call the “What If” fears. The reality is that we really don’t have any way of knowing what will happen, and ultimately it is all in the hands of God. The One true God, who desires that all men be saved. He’s the one who has promised He would be with us as we go out and tell His story. We can trust Him.

Years ago I was selling KIRBY sweepers door to door. I remember many times walking up to a door convinced that there was a mean and angry person on the other side of the door who would probably be armed and have me down before I could knock on the door. Obviously that was never the reality. There were plenty of doors slammed in my face. But there were also many of those doors that opened up and eventually lead to a sale. I learned to be very careful not to let my fears keep me from at least knocking on the door. And that’s what we need to do…simply knock on the door and see.

How Do We Invite Someone to Join us on the Trail?

Each encounter and experience will be different because each person is different. However, there will be some common elements that we can practice as we go about inviting people to join us.

Pray – Jesus told the disciples that they would receive power and then would be His witnesses. To me this means that we don’t have what we need for this task without Him, so we need to be involved with Him in the process. This happens as we pray.

  •  Pray for Yourself to be Prepared
  • Pray for The Person you will be Telling the Story
  •  Pray for Wisdom and Words to be Provided

Practice – There is nothing wrong with practicing your story. You want to be able to share it naturally and freely. Write it and recite it. A good exercise is to get with another Christian and just tell each other your Jesus’ story.

Press On – Then it is time to go and tell the story. God will provide you with opportunities to invite others along, so seize those opportunities. Go to people with the openness that you will let them know how they can get on the trail.

The Harvest is Plentiful – Head Out Into the Harvest

(to be continued)

Trail Guide–Directions for the Journey of a Lifetime XIII

Discovering Your Spiritual Gifts:

Here are some resources for you:

There are a wide variety of spiritual gift discovery tools. One tool appears beginning on the next page. These tools are simply one way of determining your potential area of giftedness based on your experiences. None of these tools are without fault, and you must never take these results at face value without praying and seeking God.

In addition, you must also answer the questions on these types of surveys honestly. You cannot put down what you wish your answer would be, or hope you answer to be, but what it really is.


A Word of Caution:

Many people have found themselves facing “burn-out” because they get into an area of ministry that was never meant for them, but they are afraid to leave that position. Pressure put on them by other believers, their pastor, and even their own sense of duty, causes them to stay in a place of ministry that drains them and burdens them while they neglect the place God intends for them to serve. Choose carefully where you serve.

Online Resources:

Books for Further Study

What’s So Spiritual About Your Gifts?
By: Henry Blackaby, Mel Blackaby: Published by: Multnomah in 2004

You Are Gifted: Your Spiritual Gifts and the Kingdom of God
By: Ken Hemphill; Published by: B & H Publishing Group in 2009

The Purpose-Driven Life
By: Rick Warren; Published by: Zondervan in 2002

Your Spiritual Gifts Can Help Your Church Grow
By: C. Peter Wagner; Published by: Gospel Light in 2001


Review: Looking back on the Fifth Step on the Trail

Have I made the Decision to become a Child of God through Faith in Jesus Christ?

If I have, then God has placed a special Gift within me that He wants to use in ministry in His Kingdom.

Scriptures to Consider:

  •  1 Corinthians 12 (Whole Chapter)
  •  Romans 12.1-8
  •  1 Peter 4.10

What things can I see myself doing in Ministry?


What needs are there in my church?


Has someone told me I would be “Perfect” for a Job?


Is there an area of service that keeps coming to mind?


Do I find spiritual fulfillment in a particular task?


(Next Part of the Journey: Inviting Others Along)

Trail Guide–Directions for the Journey of a Lifetime XII

The Fifth Step on the Trail – Finding the Perfect Location

The Perfect Spot for a Honeymoon

When my wife and I got married we were little more than two foolish kids totally wrapped up with one another. We had no money for a honeymoon to speak of, so we opted for a hike and camping along part of the Vermont Long Trail. A year before our wedding I scouted out what I believed to be the perfect place. Little Rock Pond was a relatively easy hike, a gorgeous spot, and secluded just enough that we would be able to relax and enjoy our trip.

For me, to locate the perfect place required an investment of my time and effort. I spent several days there on day hikes, fishing, etc. Because my bride to be was not an experienced hiker/camper, especially in rustic settings like this I needed to carefully consider the choice I was making. I would not want our first few days of married life to be spent in misery because I had just haphazardly picked a place that was not the perfect place. It was an investment that paid off.

The Perfect Spot for Ministry

Like the danger of haphazardly choosing a location for a honeymoon, and perhaps even more damaging in many ways, we must carefully seek the place that God has intended for us to serve Him. To do this we have to prayerfully consider several things:

  •  The Location of the Campsite – The Church Where God Wants You
  •  The Contents of the Toolbox – The Gifts that God has Given You
  •  The Employment in the Kingdom – The Job to which God Called You

God Wants to Use You!

It’s an amazing thing to consider that the God of the entire universe has chosen to use me in His kingdom work. Likewise, He has chosen to put you to work as well in His kingdom, and He has a specific plan on how He wants to use you. To that end He has placed within you special and specific gifts that He will utilize to fulfill His plan within you.

Become Part of the Kingdom

The First part of this journey begins when you make the decision to trust Jesus Christ for your salvation. Before God can begin to use you in His kingdom you need to be a citizen of the kingdom—you have to step on to the trail.

Seek the Right Campsite

Once you have made that choice, you have to pick a “campsite.” This is how we’ll refer to the church during this discussion. God intends for His people to connect with a community of faith. You don’t need to be a member of the church to be a child of God, but you do if you want to experience the fullness of what God has planned for you while you are living here on earth. People argue that they don’t want to be part of a church for a wide-variety of reasons, but I believe most of their disenchantment comes as a result of not being in the right place, the right church. We’ll talk more about the fellowship of the believers in a later section, but pay close attention to these following elements as you consider the place God wants you to worship and serve. If you want to be in the right campsite then look for the following:

  •  The Church must preach and teach the Bible
  •  The Church must point people to Jesus Christ
  •  The Church must provide opportunities to serve the Lord

Pray and explore as you seek the right church for you and your family.

Check the Contents of the Toolbox

A couple years ago we went camping in the mountains of Georgia. I had planned and packed everything I thought we would need. I did a pretty good job for the most part. I had almost all that I needed. The only exception was that I didn’t have a mallet to drive the tent stakes into the ground. When I discovered that I thought, “no big deal.” I stepped on the stakes and shoved them into the ground as much as I could with my weight. Then came the night storm. The wind came in and quickly undid my staking job and brought down the shelter we had over the table and food. One little tool not being where I expected it to be and everything came undone. The next trip I had two mallets in my truck.

God has given every believer specific tools according to His plan and purpose for them. Consider the following passage:

Ephesians 4:11-16 (NLT)
11 He is the one who gave these gifts to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. 12 Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ, 13 until we come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature and full grown in the Lord, measuring up to the full stature of Christ.
14 Then we will no longer be like children, forever changing our minds about what we believe because someone has told us something different or because someone has cleverly lied to us and made the lie sound like the truth. 15 Instead, we will hold to the truth in love, becoming more and more in every way like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. 16 Under his direction, the whole body is fitted together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.

According to His plan (direction) He has given each believer the tools needed for the work He has called them to. He wants to use you in His work. This is an incredible privilege and a daunting responsibility. I am always reminded of the weight of this.

It means that we need to spend some time doing an inventory of the tools we have. It means we need to answer some critical questions:

  •  What are the gifts God has given me?
  •  How has God wired my personality and passions?
  •  Where is the need of service that I can best fulfill?

At the end of this section will be several practical tools that provide some ways of discovering what your gifts might be. They are tools that have been prepared and used through the years to help believers on this stage of the journey. However, the most important part of this process is that you seek God’s direction in this process. It is, after all, His plan.

Employment in the Kingdom

  •  Talk with and pray with your pastor about your gifts and service.
  •  Look for areas of need that you can’t get off your heart.
  •  Don’t be afraid to try different things as you are seeking.

Some Areas of Service

Each church has different needs and policies regarding who and where people will serve. Talk with your pastor or other leaders in your church to find out how people are selected or elected for positions of service. Here are some areas that you might consider for service that are common to most churches:

  •  Assist a Sunday School Class
  •  Set-Up and/or Clean Up from Events
  •  Reading in Worship Service
  •  Singing or Instrument Playing
  •  Serving in Nursing Home/Prison Ministry
  •  Driving a Bus
  •  Cleaning Church, Grounds, Buildings
  •  Writing Notes and Cards to Shut-ins, Visitors, MIA members
  •  Encouraging Others
  •  Hosting a Small Group in your home
  •  Teaching/Facilitating a Small Group
  •  Helping people who are in need

This is certainly not an exhaustive list. Look for places to serve and then get to work.

(There’s more to come so keep watching.)


Trail Guide–Directions for the Journey of a Lifetime XI

Sharing What You Have in Your Pack (Continued)


THE WIDOWS MITE – Giving God All We Have

Luke 21:1-4 (NLT)
While Jesus was in the Temple, he watched the rich people putting their gifts into the collection box. Then a poor widow came by and dropped in two pennies.

“I assure you,” he said, “this poor widow has given more than all the rest of them. For they have given a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she has.”

Let’s do a quick study of this passage by picking out three key elements.

  • The Poor Widow
  • The Two Pennies
  • The Lord Jesus

The Poor Widow

We don’t know anything about this widow. Her name. How long she’s been a widow. Why she is a widow. What type of home she lived in. All we know is that her meager gift impressed Jesus, not because of its size, but because of what it revealed about the heart of the giver. She was placing in God’s hands all that she had.

The Two Pennies

Literally these two pennies (Greek word “lepton”) mentioned in the passage would have been more like a shaving from a penny. It was the least valuable of all the coins of the day. In some versions of the Bible the word “mite” is used to identify the minuteness of the offering.

The Lord Jesus

In the middle of the story and overseeing it all is the Lord Jesus. Multitudes of people had come with large sums of money to put in the temple treasury. Jesus, the Son of God was there watching. He wasn’t watching as an accountant, nor as a judge, but as one who was able to see past the earthly treasure being placed in the offering to the heart of the giver and their connection with the Kingdom of God. As He saw the widow—who, by the way, probably came as discreetly as she possibly could—He observed a woman who had a life-altering connection to the kingdom of God.

What is Really Being Offered

The danger as we consider sharing what we have is that we might be tempted to limit the scope of our discussion to the financial resources we put in the offering plate. But I believe that this widow’s gift identified that she had really given much more than her money. Her total devotion belonged to God. She had given Him everything, her time, money, strength. To the world around her, the people with their big jingling bags of coins, her gift must have seemed like little more than an amusement, but it was this gift that Christ recognized because of what was given with the gift.

Looking Back at the Fourth Step on the Trail

There is a difficult and Challenging Question we all need to ask:

What Does Jesus Think of My Offering?

He’s not looking merely to the size of my offering, nor to the frequency of my giving, but how what I give represents my connection to the Kingdom of God.

How Can I offer God…

  • My Treasure?
  • My Talents?
  • My Time?
  • My Totality?

Tithing worksheet – It’s About More than Money


 Total Gross Income ___________________

  • Figure out either Weekly, Monthly, or Annually.
  • This is the amount that God has provided you with.

 Multiply by 10% (.10) ___________________

  • This is the amount of the tithe of your money.


How many hours does God provide you with each day? _________

Multiply that number of hours by 10% (.10) _________

Are you willing to figure out ways to tithe your time?


What is the square footage of your home? _________

Multiply that Number by 10% (.10) _________

Are you willing to dedicate a tithe of your space to God?