Wednesday, August 19, 2009

“Nothing Grows at 20,000 Feet”

In nature the edge of the habitat at which trees are capable of growing is known as the tree line. Once you rise above the tree line only less complex forms of vegetation are able to survive. Just past the tree line small shrubs grow, but as you climb higher and higher the vegetation simplifies until soon you find only mosses and algae. Some mountains are so high that due to the lack of oxygen and the extreme cold, no life whatsoever is able to exist there.

From the top of the mountain a climber is able to see the lushness of the valley below. In the valley, life flourishes with a wide array of species of trees, shrubs, grasses, and flowers. Wildlife of all forms flourish there as well. Although the view from the top of the mountain is great, nothing grows there, and even the mountain climber himself cannot linger at the top very long, for his strength will quickly decay due to lack of oxygen.

In life we love to live in our mountain top experiences. We want to linger where we are happy, healthy, and prosperous. We want to live in that place of peace; where all is well and no enemies are harassing us or bringing us pain and anxiety. But such moments are rare and certainly don’t seem to last long when they do come. Troubles and pain seem to be our constant companions. As one issue is resolved, a new problem follows on its heals; just like one wave follows the next when the morning tide rolls in from the ocean. Pain, heartaches, fears, relationship struggles, financial difficulties, disease and death always seem to be skulking around- stocking us, waiting for an opportunity to strike. And strike they do, on nearly a daily basis.

It is in these times, when troubles are piling up on me and my heart is full of despair, that I am tempted to question God's goodness. I begin to ask God, 'where are you, and why don’t you care about my pain?' It is in these moments that I must remind myself that “Nothing grows at 20,000 feet” The view is awesome from the mountaintop but spiritual growth is absent there. It is in the valley, that abundant growth happens. If I am to become spiritually strong and mature I must use these valley times to allow God to strengthen my faith muscles and bring “beauty from pain.”

It is in the valley of fear, when I’m seeing dangers lurking all around me, threatening to destroy my family, that I can learn that “though I walk through the (deep, sunless) valley of the shadow of death, I will not fear or dread evil, for you (Jesus) are with me. Your rod (to protect) and your staff (to guide), they comfort me” Psm. 23:4 Amp

It is in the valley of lack, when the car is back in the repair shop for the third time in two months, and I don’t have the money to pay for it, that I can learn to trust Jesus for my provision. “My cup runs over. Surely only goodness, mercy, and unfailing love shall follow me all the days of my life.” Psm. 23:5-6 Amp

It is in the valley of sickness and disease, when my body is overcome with weakness, that I must learn anew to trust in Jesus sacrifice and to lean upon the Word when it says, “with his stripes we are healed.” Isa. 53:5

It is in the valley of sorrow that I can learn to say as Job did, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in Him.” Job 13:15

The scripture clearly teaches that Satan comes to kill, steal, and destroy. Yet we are so accustomed to our lives being filled with these things that we seldom recognize their true source. John Eldridge, in his book Waking the Dead writes, "this is a world at war. We live in a far more dramatic, far more dangerous story than we ever imagined. The reason we love “The Chronicles of Narnia” or “Star Wars” or “The Matrix” or “The Lord of The Rings” is that they are telling us something about our lives that we never, ever get on the evening news. Or from most pulpits. “This is our most desperate hour.” …Things are not as they seem. This is a world at war.”

We truly are at war against the kingdom of darkness that is bent on our destruction. It desires to keep us in fear and despair, keep our hearts from being healed, keep our bodies sick, and most of all; keep us from relationship with Jesus who has the power to free us from all these things. The day will come when Satan will be thrown into the lake of fire and God will wipe away all our tears and there will be no more sorrow, pain, or death. (Rev. 21:4) These things are not part of God's Kingdom and are not His will for us. That is why Jesus taught us to pray “Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” Matt. 6:9 Once we recognize that many of our troubles are attacks from our spiritual enemy, we can use spiritual warfare to battle back. “Truly I tell you, whoever says to this mountain, be lifted up and thrown into the sea! And does not doubt at all in his heart but believes that what he says will take place, it will be done for him.” Mark 10:17 Amp “The seventy returned with joy, saying, Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” Luke 10:17 Amp

Remember, “Nothing grows at 20,000 feet,” So tomorrow when another wave of troubles come at you, designed to steal your joy and kill your heart, tell Satan that you are not falling for his tricks and bind him in the name of Jesus. Then pour the fertilizer of God's Word upon yourself and grow your way back to the mountaintop.

“All things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose.” Roman 8:28

Monday, August 3, 2009

“I Touch The Eternal With Gloves On”

I love those moments in life when you are just minding your own business, the mind mostly disengaged and then suddenly, WHAM! Something you hear or read slams you in between the eyes with the jolt of a 100-mile an hour fastball. It rocks you back on your heals as you struggle to figure out where it came from, why it hit you with such force, and why it resonated so true or important within you.

Just such an experience happened to me recently as I was reading my daughter's blog where she had written her “I Am” poem using the same format as the one I posted below. She is very gifted at painting pictures with words, but still I was not prepared for how the Lord was about use them that morning. One line in her poem read as follows, “I touch the eternal with gloves on my hands.” After finishing the poem, I went back and read that line again. Then a third and a fourth time. I could feel the Spirit saying “linger here for I have something to say to you about this.” Why did this line so grab my attention? As I continued to ponder that line, I heard the Spirit saying to me, “The reason that line stopped you is because that is what you do!OK, I thought, but what do you mean? How do I “touch the eternal with gloves on?” Again I hear the Spirit whisper, “You are a God chaser and you desire the supernatural things of the Spirit, but you do so reservedly, and from a distance! Just one toe at a time, so you can cut and run if you’re not comfortable, or if you’re being taken somewhere you don’t understand, or are not yet prepared to go!”

Wow! I was stunned at what I had just heard. Where had that come from? I was just reading a blog, trying to catch up on things. I wasn’t expecting the Spirit to invade my day with such ardor. I knew what I was hearing in my Spirit was true. For I want to see, hear, and experience the supernatural things of God - but from a comfortable distance. I want to observe for a while before drawing too close. I want to be able to wrap my intellect around things before giving myself over to them.

The children of Israel had a similar problem as recorded in Ex. 20:18-19, 21 “And all the people saw the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking: and when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off. And they said unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die. And the people stood afar off, and Moses drew near unto the thick darkness where God was.” The people stood at a distance, content just to hear what God said to them through Moses, for they feared what would happen to them if they were to enter the thickness of God's presence, and hear God's voice for themselves. They feared what would happen if they were to touch God with their “bare hands!”

Touching God under the old covenant was truly a risky thing to do. II Samuel 6 tells of a time when Israel was transporting the ark of God on a cart, (something they weren’t to do) and when the ark rocked when the oxen stumbled, Uzzah reach out his hand to steady the ark, (where the presence of God dwelled) and the instant he touched the ark he was struck dead.

When Moses asks to see God in Exodus 33, God says to him, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.” Tommy Tenney in his book “The God Chasers” paraphrases it this way, “Only dead men can see God.” So if I ever expect to see God, or touch the eternal with bare hands, I must be prepared to die! Die to self. Die to my pride and reputation. Die to having to understand and figure everything out with my mind. Jesus said it this way, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow me. For whosoever will saves his life shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.” (Luke 9:23-24) God’s Kingdom functions upside down from ours. In it, we lose what we try to save but we save what we surrender. In “The God Chasers” Tommy Tenney goes on to say, “It takes death to see Him and all I can say is, it’s a good day to die. The more I die the closer He gets. The God of Moses is willing to reveal himself to you but it’s not going to be a cheap blessing. You will have to lie down and die. He can only come close to you to the degree you are willing to die.”

Now I hope everyone understands that, “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Rom. 8:1) and “it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves it is a gift of God.” (Eph. 2:8) We are not talking about a salvation issue here, however if we wish to see and experience God as Moses did, I believe that we must learn to “do” what Moses did; take our gloves off and touch the eternal “unreserved,” and “bare handed.” We must be bold enough to be like Moses and enter the thick clouds where God’s presence dwells, even when all others cower away. We must be prepared to lay our lives and reputations down, and say as queen Esther did, as she was about to enter the presence of the king unsolicited, “If I perish, I perish.” (Esther 4:16) Though the mountain of God appears to be enveloped in darkness, lightning, and thunder let us “draw near” for that is where God dwells. Thus it is worth the risk.

“Let us come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” Heb. 4:16